No question about it: Victory Liner’s Manila-Baguio deluxe trips are one of the best transportation deals in town.
(Below is a slightly edited piece I’ve written for a blog that has gone offline for more than a year now and was posted in 2012 when I was still working for InterAksyon.com.)
Jim Libiran, director of the critically-acclaimed independent film Tribu, was contradicting himself.
“The revolution will not be posted on Facebook,” he said on Friday [April 13, 2012]. [See: Tribu, Jim Libiran]
If true, then the group of media people he brought together wouldn’t be in SM Megamall that evening in the first place.
Let’s say you plan to visit Baguio, the Philippines’ summer capital.
Except you’re unwilling and/or physically unprepared for the long drive to the city (a pity, especially if you don’t have a car.)
What to do?
Easy: You can buy or rent a car and hire a driver.
But that’s only if you make as much money as a good-for-nothing corporate vice-president, a useless government executive, or a corrupt jueteng lord.
For mere mortals, the only remaining option is to take the bus to Baguio.
But what kind of bus?
Will you take the one that leaves every half-hour, forcing you to scramble madly for seats while burdened with luggage heavier than your teenage daughter’s romantic angst?
Or will you choose a pricier but more convenient alternative?
Depends on your priorities and resources.
If you have cash to spare, you can hop on a Victory Liner Manila-Baguio Deluxe bus, which charges more than half for its regular aircon trips that cost P400.
But is P700 worth the whole trip?
For some passengers, it is.
Wider seats, faster trip, bragging rights, and yes, toilets. [See: Five reasons to take Victory Liner’s Manila-Baguio Deluxe Buses]
But some may disagree, especially those with limited supplies of cash.
After all, why pay extra for convenience that may last for less than a day? Why indeed?
Here are three reasons why you may want to reconsider the decision to hop on that bus, Gus.*
(Disclaimer: No arrangement, financial or otherwise, has been entered into by Victory Liner, its competitors, and this website.)
1) Prehistoric ticket reservation process.
Has Victory Liner ever heard of the Internet, that nifty gadget invented by former US vice president Al Gore (who also created the myth of climate change)? If it hasn’t yet, then the company should call up the US Embassy and request a free briefing. But seriously, if an airline company which arguably has more complicated operations can allow passengers to book their tickets online, why can’t Victory do the same?
To this day, Victory’s system is laughably prehistoric.
To book a reservation onboard the Manila-Baguio Deluxe Bus, passengers are required to personally pay a visit to its Cubao terminal at least a day before departure date, fall in line at one of the windows, and hope that the clerk gets the time and seat number right.
And passengers better make sure that their dogs don’t eat their tickets. Because if they do, little old Brownie better cough it up.
Since clerks don’t ask for your name during booking, showing proof that you actually paid for a seat is going to be more difficult than taking a crap inside the toilet while the bus is on Kennon. (Fortunately, none of that has ever happened to me yet.)
2) Buses have different standards.
Different buses serve the route.
Therefore, each bus has a different feature.
Others have electricity outlets useful for juicing up your iPod or your netbook. Some do not.
Having said that, only three things stay the same: comfort room, television, and free bottled water and snacks onboard.
Next time you climb onboard, don’t count on charging your phone and/or gadget while en route. After all, you don’t want to miss that incoming spam text message, even while sleeping.
And since cellphones have been brought up: Stewardesses onboard trips – stewardesses, yes, that’s what they call themselves – would do well to ask passengers to put their cellphones on silent mode during the trip. Hearing cellphones go off can ruin perfectly good B-movies shown onboard.
3) Buses lack features and suffer from poor upkeep.
Although seats offer more space, some may not work at all.
As a result, whenever passengers need to recline or push the seats back up, they almost always require staff assistance.
Which actually happened to me on the very first time I got on a deluxe bus to Baguio.
For some reason, the knob that controls my seat’s leg rest was broken off from the whole mechanism.
Whenever I felt the need to put my foot up, I had to call the attendant, who didn’t trust me enough that she kept the knob to herself.
Good thing I’m not a finicky passenger – reader alert: I am talking about myself here – so I let that whole inconvenience issue slide.
That same bus also didn’t have those basket-type wire bags attached to the back of the seat in front of you. (The bus that I took on the way back to Manila did have this though).
As a result, items I wanted to have easy access to during the whole trip was stored improperly.
The book I was reading was squeezed into one of the handles while my bulky, overused smartphone was able to withstand my heft as it snuggled beside me.
I’m happy to report that both items – a Vintage UK trade paperback edition of Martin Amis’ Money and a Treo 650 – survived the trip.
And yes, one other thing: Since the bus provided internet access anyway, is a lap desk for each deluxe passenger who can use them for their laptops too much to ask?
*From the No Need to be Coy, Roy Dept. The phrase was borrowed from the lyrics of Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover as sung by Paul Simon.
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.