Everyone pays a visit to Baguio.
Whether taken during heat wave or high water, typhoon season or tropical depression, the excursion to the summer capital has become a Filipino rite of passage that must be experienced at least once in a lifetime, much like sex, death, and correct income tax declarations.*
This is understandable.
After all, Baguio offers what others can’t: the Philippine version of winter, allowing local visitors wishing for snow to wear stupid jackets warm enough to melt fat.
Despite increasing urbanization, traffic congestion, and worst of all, tourists, Baguio remains a city that even the most jaded, cynical Filipino will have difficulty being ashamed of.
Its arts scene is lively and dynamic, its business prospects never had it so good, and its residents remain too colorful for words.
And just about the best way to visit the country’s summer capital is on a private vehicle driven by someone else (i.e., a hotttie in a halter top and microskirt behind the wheel of an SUV).
However, if you neither have access to Tony Starke’s resources nor to Hugh Hefner’s bunnies, the best way to Baguio is on Victory Liner’s De Luxe Manila-Baguio buses.
The no-stopover service offers three roundtrips daily, probably making it the quickest, most convenient way to and from Manila and Baguio.
But the service does come at a premium.
The current one-way fare is P700 per passenger, nearly twice the price for the aircon bus ticket on the same route which costs around P400.
Is the 300 peso difference worth it? Depends on your expectations.
Here are five reasons why it’s worth paying extra. Other reasons for disliking the Baguio De Luxe Express will be posted in another blog entry for the purposes of fairness and whatever closely resembles objectivity these days. [See: Three reasons to skip Victory Liner's Manila-Baguio Deluxe buses]
(Disclaimer: No arrangement, financial or otherwise, has been made between this blogger and Victory Liner, its owners, representatives, and/or its affiliate businesses. Or at least not just yet. Hehe. To the ethics police: The previous remark was uttered in a jocular fashion, an example of what is commonly referred to as a joke.)
1) One word: Space.
Those accustomed to flying coach will be happy to discover that the bus seats are larger — slightly smaller than a regular La-Z-Boy recliner — and spaces for legs and elbows are roomier. No elbow contest will ever take place for the dominion of the armrest because — guess what? — everyone gets two of each, a provision made possible by cutting the number of seats per row to three from four and installing only 30 such seats in a vehicle designed to carry 50.
At any point during the trip, you can stand up, do the Twist, and not touch anything.
However, dancing should be kept to a minimum to prevent any untoward incidents (i.e., forced ejection, murder, etc.) on the Baguio De Luxe Express.
2) Buses leave and arrive on schedule.
And sometimes, even half an hour earlier than expected.
Which is a good thing, especially for those known for always failing to arrive on time.
None of the buses I took during a recent two-day visit to Baguio was delayed.
On the overnight bus back to Manila, we were on warp speed.
During a short but failed attempt at sleep, I closed my eyes, making a mental note that we were in Pangasinan. A few minutes later, we were already making a left toward the SCTEX in Tarlac, a realization that woke me up.
Had our bus not been slowed down by the repair of a viaduct bordering the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga, the whole trip would have just taken us a record four hours. Despite the delay, the trip took four and a half hours, just long enough to keep anyone from actually falling asleep.
3) Buses offer Wi-Fi.
At least on day trips. (No such provision was announced during a midnight trip I once took.)
But I was unable to test the stability of the connection or the stewardesses’ ability to assist those who might have net access issues because I didn’t bring my laptop.
What I do know — at least from stuff off my Twitter feed — is that certain motorists stay close to Victory Liner buses because doing so helps them filch a free yet temporary connection whenever needed. So next time you find yourself cruising along the North Luzon Expressway and you’re itching to tell your Facebook friends about it, you know what to do. Tip: buy life insurance beforehand.
4) Free bottled water and snacks.
Anyone will accept anything as long as its free. (Which explains why online porn is so popular. But that’s another story.)
In any case, refreshments offered onboard are nothing to scoff at since it’s better than the crap served on local airlines.
Free bottled water is served ice-cold (reminding tipplers of their favorite drinks) and the snacks — medium-sized packets of Bread Pan or biscuits depending on supplies — are just right for the trip.
Refreshments aren’t exactly free lunch though. Don’t risk an ulcer onboard by expecting a feast if you’re famished.
5) And best of all, buses offer restrooms.
If, at any point during the trip, you happen to feel like doing either numbers one, two, or worse, both, you can walk — very casually, just like the experienced tourist you pretend to be — to the toilet, located in the middle or at the end, depending on the kind of bus you’re on.
Buses with toilets at the end are better than those with ones at the middle.
Toilets at the middle are located three or so steps below the passenger cabin.
Have you tried to climb down a flight of stairs — however short — located inside a vehicle moving at 100 kilometers per hour while in a hurry to get the pressure off certain unsavory organs ready to burst on any given second?
Easier said than done, my friend, easier said than done.
In any case, built-in toilets are a relief for the diarrhea-prone, those with weak stomachs, and gifted individuals who pee enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool after drinking a glass of water.
On both trips to and from Baguio, I tried the facilities out.
Good thing the bus wasn’t on any of the long and winding roads leading to and from the city.
Because if they were, my aim would be severely weakened, much like the guys with guns during the Manila hostage crisis. [See: Manila hostage crisis]
And the toilet would suffer a different kind of massacre.
*From the Give Credit Where It’s Due Dept. That was paraphrased from a Woody Allen joke.