The Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag at 4:30AM ala Christmas dawn masses lighting drama.
Just went to the famous Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag or simply called Manaoag Church in Pangasinan last November 6, 2017. My first time in xx years of existence. I and a travel buddy originally planned a DIY Ilocos Norte-Pagudpod-Ilocos Sur trip this coming APEC holiday week, Nov. 11-15, however due to budget constraints and “afraid of where to sleep next” dilemma, we cancelled it and pushed a weekend earlier day trip to Manaoag Church instead.
1-day preparations cum misadventures (What I did prior the trip):
• I read a couple of travel blogs to have an idea of how to go, where to ride, what to expect and do, etc. However, these blog entries are dated 2011 and 2014.
• Upon suggestion of a friend, I initially considered riding Victory Liner Dagupan or Baguio route. I placed a call to Victory Liner Cubao terminal to verify if said bus routes passes by Manaoag, the dispatcher said “NO”, we’ll either get off in Urdaneta or Dagupan and ride another transpo going to Manaoag.
• Based on blogs, Dagupan and Five Star are bus companies that have direct routes going to Manaoag. Dropping Dagupan bus, I searched online for the contact number of Five Star bus Cubao terminal. Encountered a cut line, a busy one and finally on third number someone answered. I asked for weekend schedules going to Manaoag. Sat-Sun scheds are 1AM for first bus and 9PM last bus leaving PASAY terminal, as they don’t have buses going to Manaoag in Cubao. I also asked the time of the last bus leaving Manaoag for Manila, the person on the other line advised me to call the CISCO dispatcher based in Pasay terminal for more accurate response. CISCO is Five Star bus’ that has routes going to Manaoag.
• Estimated travel time going to Manaoag from Manila is a 4-5 hours by bus. Bus fare (Cisco/Five Star) for Pasay-Manaoag-Pasay is Php650 (roundtrip, Php325 each).
• Always know the last bus leaving the place you will be visiting especially when you plan to leave in the late afternoon or evening. In our case, we agreed to leave Manila using the first bus going to Manaoag at 1AM and arrived at around 4:30AM just in time for the first Sunday mass scheduled at 5AM. We planned to leave Manaoag at about noon time or early afternoon, so there is no need for us to know the time of the last bus going to Manila.
• Upon getting off the bus, go straight to the church grounds. Be prepared to be bombarded by sellers as you are heading your way to the church itself. Just in case you’ll have a close encounter, just like I did, be warned. You will be made to believe that all stuffs given to you are free, welcoming gifts to a first timer church visitor (I really looked like one, an easy target). In my case, I was handed down rosaries of different designs, a stampita, a prayer booklet, etc. Then, I was told to pay for it in any amount just like a donation. I only have Php28 left in my pocket as I wasn’t able to withdraw (thanks for my buddy who paid for my bus fare, it was a loan really). I gave the Php28 and the seller told me that all of the stuffs she handed me costs more than what I gave and insisted to give more. Confused with payment and donation, I refused and returned said things back. The seller told me not to deny blessings from Apo Manaoag, pertaining to the things she sells and Our Lady of Manaoag. Just to cut the drama, I just gave my Php28 to the seller and in return she handed me a prayer booklet which apparently cost at around Php10. Ha! There you go with Php18 donation.
• We bought candles from a different local seller at the church patio for Php5 each. Candles of different colors, sizes, intentions are also available at various stalls at the back of the church where candle stands are also located.
Candles we bought from outside vendor comes in Blue and Red printed logo. Blue for petitions and Red for thanksgiving.
• The mass usually run for about an hour. The church is full house even if it is only 5:00AM. Luckily, we managed to grab seats 5 pews from the front facing the altar. There is a blessing of religious items every after mass.
• Paid Restrooms: Php 5 and Php 10 depends on which call of nature you will be responding to. Worth mentioning that men’s room also serves as opposite sex’s restrooms whenever available. I was shocked when I entered to take a pee, a woman is standing in front of a mirror and it is a real lady not a horror story.
• Travel light but travel smart. Please don’t bring a luggage if you are only up for a day trip. You may bring with you a backpack for extra clothing, toiletries and dizzy meds, jacket (as you will be needing one while inside the chilling bus ride of 4-5 hours), phone, camera and of course wallet.
• You may also bring light snacks and water, if you have decided to become a budget traveler but I encourage you to eat at local food stalls just like what we did. Patronizing local businesses isn’t a bad thing and you get to taste what they have to offer. We ate breakfast at around 7AM in a local eatery. Thanks to non-stop raining that day as we were obliged to dine in at a local cafe (Happy Rain) to save ourselves from getting wet. We ordered hot coffee with our own packed biscuits as what the weather is telling us to try and ordered more to secure our lengthy stay against the bad weather. We got to try combi flavored fries ala potato corner (by special request only, and glad that it was granted as they don’t serve fries in two flavors on one plate, in one order).
• There is no Cisco/Five Star bus dispatcher at the time we visited Manaoag. We were told by a vendor stationed at the bus stop that buses headed to Manila arrives every hour. It is raining that day and no waiting shed available except for municipal hall alley which is a few meters from the bus stop. We just opted to stay at Chowking which is on the other side of the road while waiting for the next bus to arrive. We left Manaoag at around 2PM.
• As I wasn’t able to withdraw prior the trip, I looked for available ATM where I can withdraw cash. Landbank ATM is located in the municipal building facing cisco/five star bus stop. I was a cardholder of different bank so I expected to be deducted by a reasonable service fee for using other banks ATM facility. After I entered my card’s PIN, a prompt containing the following message pop out: Seriously? Php200.00 convenience charge? My eyes also pop out upon reading. I even counted the number of zeroes and where the decimal was placed. No tricks, it is really Php200. No thanks, we asked around for other ATMs and was directed to a supermarket adjacent to Manaoag Church. ATM available there are of Metrobank and BPI, whom I am a cardholder and saved me from convenience fee, thank you Lord!
• Chowking incident involving a nice senior citizen who offered us a seat though we didn’t have intention to order as we were only there to kill time while waiting for the bus headed for Manila. She waited for about half an hour before the food she ordered were served. She requested for a spoon and fork as she wasn’t able to get one before heading to her seat at the second floor. The crew didn’t came back and after 5 mins of waiting she call the attention of another crew and the same happened. I offered to get the utensils on her and chowking’s staffs’ behalf but she refused telling that she’ll just take the food out and eat those while in the bus going home. She waived again at one of the staff and once again ignored her call for assistance. Got up with her 2 bowl meals, a noodle where she just sipped the soup base and a chowfan, approached the staffs, shouted at the top of her lungs while relating her story of dissatisfaction on the experience. I was not surprised at all because I also had the same experience with other chowking outlets. Hey you JFC, I am a stockholder. Kindly give your chowking crew members a rigid training on customer service.