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Magnificent in Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte July 29, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, I, Lawyer, Idiocy.

“I’ve been standing here
waiting for the bus on a Saturday
laundry on my back, ultraviolet rays
like I’m posing for a shot in a magazine
what the hell does it mean?”

Dipolog behind a habal-habal
The lyrics of Eraserhead’s “Waiting for a Bus” always comes back to me everytime I arrive in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte, as I haggle with a motorcycle driver to take me to my regular hotel in Dipolog City. The ride sets me back around P130 to P150. That’s a short 10 minute motorcycle ride with me holding on to some random stranger with, strangely enough, Ely Buendia’s voice squealing in the back of my head. Yep, it’s habal-habal for me all the way from Dapitan Wharf to Dipolog City. My other option is actually to take the really slow bus going there but I would much rather take the dangerous and more expensive route going to Dipolog, and really, who wants to live forever?

This coming from a man whose motto in life is to “Live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse.” The other variant is to “Live fast, die young, leave a trail of broken hearts.” And the other still less popular variant is “Live fast, die young, leave dirty underwear”

(And to think my motto in life used to be “Study hard, beautiful wife ahead.” Blah to that.)

I’m going to be doing a lot of travelling in the next few weeks. Tomorrow, I take the Fastcraft passing by Tagbilaran and Dumaguete until I reach the port of Dapitan, in the newly-created province of Zamboanga del Norte where the aforesaid motorcycle ride will take me all the way to Dipolog City to my hotel.

The week after, I will fly off to bonny Manila where I will scour the streets looking for Tondo’s Civil Registrar in order to correct some hapless civil servant’s incompetence when he/she mispelled the name of a client’s daughter in her Certificate of Live Birth. (I mean really, why do we need these things? To prove that we were successfully born? Like duh. I can just imagine some poor schmuck showing up at school and being refused enrollment all for the reason that, “Oh I’m sorry sir, you don’t have a birth certificate. How do we know that you were really born? For all I know, you could be just a hologram from the future transmitted through satellite rays by the Transformers.”)

Then the week after that, I will hie off to nearby Bohol where I will both (a) pay my client’s real estate taxes and (b) get some Bohol beach lovin’. Hooray for me!

But tomorrow, it’s to Dipolog that I go.

This will probably be my 5th or 6th trip to Dipolog City, courtesy of an ongoing case involving the contract of carriage between a family that missed passage on a certain boat trip, against the company that owns the boat, i.e., my client. I have very mixed feelings towards this trip. In the first place, the boat trip going to Dapitan can be a pain in the posterior, literally. We’re talking about a 6-hour boat ride from Cebu to Dapitan, with agonizingly slow stopovers in Tagbilaran and Dumaguete. My boat trip misfortunes include (a) sitting with a man who had the worst case of B.O. in the country and (b) choppy waters from Dumaguete to Dapitan. (Emptied my stomach, I did. At one point after a good strong puking, I had to ask myself, “Wait a minute! I don’t remember eating THAT!!”)

Compound that with the crappy in-house movies. Sometimes I get lucky and they show Jackie Chan films that I have never seen. And then sometimes, I get that really sordid B-movie about people getting locked out of a boat in the middle of the ocean and slowly drowning to their miserable deaths while swimming around a yacht that they don’t know how to get back on. Ah yes, it takes a sick genius to show that kind of movie while you’re riding a boat in choppy waters seated to a man with a bad case of stinkyarmpititis. Brilliant. Needless to say, the only thing entertaing in that 6-hour boat ride is counting how many old white farts are travelling with their mail-order Filipina brides and spending their hard earned dollars in the woman’s hometown province. Thank God for desperate old white men. Without them, we would be relying solely on Koreans for foreign currency.

Dipolog is beginning to be a nice place though. I used to hate it because the hotel I was staying at has crappy amenities and even crappier service, but ever since that same hotel opened up a second branch, I’ve been enjoying my trips there. I enjoy the solitude of being a stranger in a strange land. I enjoy walking about and enjoying the semi-rural ambiance of Dipolog City, reminding me of my hometown in Bantayan Island, and the old department stores in downtown Cebu.

In my last trip, I amused myself by looking for unusual purchases and came up with (1) A cheap-ass notebook that has some teen celebrity that I don’t recognize, looking so gosh-darn cute in an ambiguous sexual orientation kind of way; (2) a chinese tetra-pak milk thing that tasted quite yummy. I just don’t recognize the writings on the box, so I hope it doesn’t contain formalin…. or cat meat!; (3) the ugliest pair of shorts ever made on God’s earth, all for the price of P40!!! I swear, the store should have paid ME to get it out of their hands, it was THAT ugly! It was colored green with bright orange tiger stripes that wrapped around your butt and turned into flourescent pink flames towards the rear end. I felt so selfish for buying that pair of shorts, because it was made of so much synthetic fiber that I swear, if you melt it down to its component material, we would solve the Earth’s energy crisis for the next 30 years. And just as I was about to wear it at our hotel’s pool, I noticed the tag attached to the crotch portion of the shorts: “Government Warning: Wearing this pair of shorts has been known to cause random bouts of incurable blindness in the vicinity. Wearer is advised to proceed with caution and with due regard for the sanity of his fellow Filipinos.” I looked out the pool and all I saw nearby were Koreans and dirty old white men, so I went ahead swimming. I’m sorry, Philippine tourism economy! The Dipolog police is still investigating what happened that fateful April night.

One thing you can be sure of though, Dipolog City is on its way up, as within its very own ranks I discovered two indicators of progress. One is the numerous Kimberly-Clarke table napkin/toothpick dispensers on top of the table, looking so spiffy in in their Kimberly-Clarke goodness. The other is the fact of not one, but TWO!!! Yes, folks, you heard me right… Dipolog City has TWO Sunburst Fried Chicken restaurants, and both of them are found at the hotel where I reside. As every bona fide native of the Visayas and Mindanao knows, Sunburst Fried Chicken is the mark of progress. When one town has its very own Sunburst Fried Chicken, prosperity in the local economy could not be far behind. (Cebu City should know… it has, as of last count, not one, not two, but FIVE! FIVE Sunburst Fried Chicken branches, serving crispy fried chicken goodness to the entrepreneurial populace!)

But the truth of the matter is, I’m getting a bit sick of Sunburst Fried Chicken in Dipolog because it’s the only place I eat in when I’m there. I’d like to try out their other restaurants but all I see nearby are carinderias and the ocassional Jollibee and Greenwich Pizza, which I detest even more than Sunburst Fried Chicken. Since I only know 2 people in Dipolog, namely Popoy Mah and Paul Legorio, who are, unfortunately, both living in Cebu, I guess I’m limited to eating at Sunburst until I can find a better place to dine.  And although I really do eat in carinderias, I only do so when I am in Cebu, where my dad, who is a doctor, is easily accessible in case I get stomach cramps or worse.  Would rather not risk getting hospitalized in a strange town where I don’t know anyone, wouldn’t you think?

Well, this blog is getting quite long so let me close it by saying that Dipolog will always be noteworthy to me for its glut of motorcycles and tricycles. P6 for trips within the city, and a haggle-stress price of P130 to P150 for trips to Dapitan Wharf. But the habal-habal charm has grown on me. Where else can I truly feel like a travelling cowboy lawyer than when having the wind blast through my face, whipping my hair and barong about as I ride behind the back of a speeding motorcycle driver through the empty streets of Dapitan with nothing but beautiful rural foliage and smiling children waving past by as I return back home to Cebu….

“I’m a travelling man, straight from the can
I’m a thousand miles away from my number one fan
my folks are getting tight
won’t let me out at night
you can’t avoid the complications when there’s no reason at all…

When lightning strikes we cry!
I’ll drink my beer, I’ll wash my tears,
southbound in the SKY!!!…”



1. thecapricornbeartakeshi - July 29, 2007

In Mindanao, I should say that the mark of progress for now are either Jollibee or MacDonalds. I’ve gone as far as Tacurong last week as well as Kidapawan several months back. And they have Jollobee branches there.

Riding a habal-habal is a humbling experience. Take it from me, I rode a habal-habal 3 times during my recent visit to Davao and GenSan. I couldn’t help but think that I actually survived the ride. I was seated between and pressed by the driver and my female dealer. Not to mention that i brought along my laptop and some important documents and brochures.

Imagine that you have to cooperate in the balancing while you are in transit. And the road was rather dusty and bumpy. It’s a sheer horror indeed if you wear your business attire.

2. northwolf - July 30, 2007

Hehehe… you’re a more widely-travelled person then 🙂 Habal-habals are fun.

3. tinuod nga botbot - July 31, 2007

kerek… kantahan dayon

“gustong mosakay, sa iyang likod
habal-habal hangtod sa ikapitong bungtod”

hehehehe dili ko kabalo sa lyrics

4. yi - August 13, 2007

just 4 houses/establishments/stores from your hotel is where my mom resides… she can cook for you your hometown’s products…
eggs and danggit! 🙂


5. northwolf - August 13, 2007

Oy, really? Does your mom have a restaurant/carinderia/eatery in Dipolog? I would really like to try that. (And which hotel are you referring to? Camila One or Camila Dos? I’m staying at the latter)

Bai, you have very beautiful pictures! Would it be alright with you if I use those every now and then in my blogs?

6. Flisha - October 23, 2008

My favorite restaurant in Dipolog is Big Joe’s, they serve great pork steak. 🙂

7. Taga_estaka - January 12, 2009

Habal-habals are a quick way to “move around” a vicinity in many rural areas in the Philippines. It also has spurred a little microeconomy of its own among its operators. Albeit dangerous, many residents risk their lives using the service to get to their destinations. I have heard so many mishaps involving habal habals where the “passengers” were either run over by buses/trucks, decapitated, crushed to the bone, or simply fall into ravines.

Inspite of all these, government has not made any action to make transportation in the rural areas safer, if not more pleasant. I was born and raised in Dipolog city, now living in California. Every other year I visit Dipolog and Cebu ( I went to school in cebu by the way ) and reminisce my ‘good ol days’. I can say there are a lot of progress done, and a lot more need to be done.

8. G. Wayne Schwitz - July 20, 2009

Attorney Perez:

Now you can know an additional person who lived in Dipolog and now in Ohio, USA. I taught for Atty. Concha at his school for nurses and married LANI VELASCO in Mr. Tan’s Mediatrix subdivision.
Believe it or not, I cannot wait to get out of the crazy USA where the news covered the idol worship at the golden casket of a pill popping pervert for five days running. I miss my Fernando Poe movies and the simplicity of just killing all the bad guys as soon as you see them…let God take care of the justice.

9. rizzy - June 30, 2010

suggestions for the best places to eat in dipolog are big joes restaurant,grandma’s best,and jo’s chicken inato….big joes has the best burgers in the city…grandma’s also is great when it comes to desserts..they also sell some yummy cakes and fantastic dishes…you should try also the chicken barbecue with atchara of jo’s chicken inato and their halo2x that is being serve in a coconut shell…

10. john - March 3, 2014

who wants to live forever ? well on the other hand who wants to be dead forever

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