Archive for the ‘ALATCO’ Category

The Old Roads Of the Naga-Legazpi Corridor and Dialectal Variations Along Its Way

November 18, 2008

When I was growing up I always wondered how come there are big barrios in our upland areas with a labyrinth of roads connecting them. Later I learned that the revered Naga-Legazpi road with its long straights and sometimes running in the middle of rice fields was not the original artery in the early days. I came to know that it was the secondary roads and the mountain roads that were the original roads of the past. With that I began to understand better the dialectal and sub-dialectal variations along the Naga-Legazpi highway.

The old road connecting Camalig and Guinobatan is the road going to Tagaytay, Camalig. In the areas along this way a spider-web of roads connects the upland barrios of Daraga and the “S-3” area of Sorsogon (which refers to Donsol, Pilar and Castilla). The upland roads also connect Jovellar and Pio Duran [Malacbalac]. These upland areas were then serviced by the yellow-orange CAL buses until the late ’60s. All these areas speak the Eastern Miraya sub-dialect. That was when I began to understand why these areas speak the same tongue.

I have long wondered how come the Bicol of Polangui is so similar to Eastern Miraya when along the way Ligao and Oas speak the Oasnon dialect. The centro of Polangui and its northern portion (the Napo and Ponso area) speaks the Western Miraya sub-dialect. Some eastern barangays of Buhi along also speak the sub-dialect and so do portions of Libon (the triangular area from Matacon to centro and back to Polangui).

I only understood this when I knew that there was an old secondary road connecting Guinobatan (the western terminus of Eastern Miraya) that passes through the major barrios of Masarawag and Muladbucad in Guinobatan, Nasisi, Herrera, Barayong and Busay of Ligao, Balogo of Oas and exiting into the Napo-Ponso area of Polangui which is then connected to the centro of Polangui. This road was serviced by ALATCO through its Consolidated Auto Lines (CAL) subsidiary up to 1968 when mudflow (lahar) damaged the bridge connecting Muladbucad and Nasisi. This secondary road is now passable again to motorists and is asphalted.

It must be noted that instead of curving westward there’s also an old road that passes through Maninila, Guinobatan that passes through Quirangay and Sua of Camalig before exiting just east of the centro. This is the old northern connection of Guinobatan and Camalig.

The old road that connected Ligao and Oas passed through the low hills of Tula-tula in Ligao and Pistola in Oas. And the old road that connected Oas with Libon bypassing Polangui is through the barangay of Mayao. Aside from Oas and Ligao portions of Libon speaks Oasnon. However its mountain areas up to the coast speak Rinconada.

Whatever, since the road that connects Ligao to Oas to Polangui and even Libon and Matacon all passes through rice fields it can be assumed that it is probably a road of recent vintage. The Matacon road that directly connects Matacon to Polangui which bypasses the town of Libon was only constructed in the mid-60s.

From Libon there is an old road that connects to the barrios of Bato along the southern shores of the lake. This same road connects through Nabua via Tandaay. Here the predominant dialect is already Rinconada.

I do not know if the road that connects Nabua and Bula is an old road. I am also not sure if the Masoli road connecting Bato and Iriga is the old road and not the current road that connects to Nabua to Bato. But it is entire possible since it was all rice fields that separates Iriga from Nabua and majority of Iriga’s old barrios are at the foot of Mt. Iriga.

Whatever, it is the Rinconada-speaking peoples who inhabited the rice-growing plains drained by the upper reaches of Bicol River from Lake Bato up to Minalabac. Aside from rice this is also the areas famous for carpa and talusog. The foothills of Mt. Iriga defined the upper reaches of this dialectal area and this stretches up to the coastal area from Pantao to Balatan up to Jamoraon Bay. It is possible that it is the river and the lakes that connected the Rinconada-speaking areas.

The road connecting Iriga and Pili is probably an old road skirting the shores of Lake Baao and hugging the foot of Mt. Iriga. Pili is a melting pot of Central Bicol and Rinconada dialects though in the old days it is predominantly Rinconada-speaking.

I am not also sure if the current Pili-Naga road is the old road. It is possible that the old road is the Pacol road since the current road passes through old rice fields and haciendas.

Whatever, further research is needed and it must be done soon since old people who can be primary sources are no longer numerous. There aren’t too many people now who were born in the 1920’s that are still alive.

The Buses And Bus-Makers of Bicol

November 7, 2008

Once upon a time one bus company dominated the landscape of Bicol.  The combined ALATCO-BITRANCO-CAL completely dominated all the lines, from the major to the minor including routes going to the far-flung barrios.  In almost every town it has a terminal where buses and crew lay down for the night.  In anticipation of the next day’s market, the bus consortium even lays over buses in the interior barrios.  There were no jeepneys then.

ALATCO stood for A.L. Ammen Transportation Company, the first bus company in the country. BITRANCO is Bicol Transportation Company and CAL means Consolidated Auto Lines. ALATCO and BITRANCO sported near-identical red liveries while CAL used a yellow-orange livery. While ALATCO and BITRANCO mainly used full-sized buses, CAL used mini-buses and it concentrated in the barrio and minor routes.  The consortium was headquartered in Iriga City.

But before the end of the ’60s the consotium floundered.  It was bought by PANTRANCO (Pangasinan Transportation Company) whose reputed beneficial owners are the Marcoses.  It was renamed PANTRANCO South and later Philtranco Service Enterprise, Inc. (PSEI).  

PANTRANCO South and Philtranco never lived up to the legacy of ALATCO.  It withdrew from the minor and barrio routes then slowly concentrated on the Manila run.  Later they fully abandoned the local Bicol routes.

From a legend in maintenance and service, PANTRANCO South and Philtranco began fielding unsafe and shoddy units.  It was associated with taking forever on the road and poor service. Bicolanos started to shun the bus company.  With that, new Bicol bus companies began emerging starting with JB Lines.  Soon the so-called “colorums” of Bicol began sprouting.  Its main weapon was its low fares.

For a while Philtranco made a comeback with the entry of Pepito Alvarez, who re-capitalized the company.  But soon the former “colorums” started easing out Philtranco in more and more routes.  It was offering a flat rate to Bicol which was only half of what Philtranco is charging. Even today with high fuel prices, it is offering fares in the range of P300-350 (ordinary class).  It is now the bus of the masses and in this role it supplanted the moribund Philippine National Railways (PNR) trains.

Its buses are now much improved.  From “fly-by-night” and TOP (Temporary Operator’s Permit) operations, it slowly legalized itself.  It even bought old franchises from defunct bus companies.

Was is their secret? One, they are able to pack in their buses and it is good in looking for passengers in the highway.  It even uses “hustlers” for this.  It also assembles most of its units using mid-sized but thrifty engines.  This gave rise to the Bicol bus-making industry which is centered in Tabaco City.  Its RMB and JYQ brand of buses are among the most prominent and it is even “exported” now to other regions like the Eastern Visayas.

Its operations are low-cost, no-frills.  To comply with terminal requirements, it just make arrangements with carinderias (food joints) so passengers will have a comfort room to use and chairs to sit on.  Many do not even have inspectors.  And they have no expensive terminals and depots to maintain.

Now some of the old “colorums” can even buy new units including air-conditioned ones while Philtranco is content with rehabilitated/re-bodied units (but factory-done so it still looks good).  Among the former upstarts that upset Philtranco are St. Jude/Buban, TAWTRASCO, Antonina, JVH, A. Bragais, Barbosa, I. Bea, R.U. Diaz/RJ, N. Bolanos and A. Arandia.  Most of it came from the 1st District of Albay whose center is Tabaco City.

At the top end, Philtranco is squeezed by quality operators like Isarog, Penafrancia, RSL, Cagsawa, Executive Carriers and Gold Line.  But looming on the horizon, with ever-increasing shadows is Raymond Transportation.  More and more it is being called as the “new Philtranco” of Bicol.  Not bad for a former mini-bus operator in Calauag, Quezon some 20 years ago whose first Bicol route is a line to Ragay, Camarines Sur.

Good that Bicol is a deregulated area like Eastern Visayas.  Without it these upstarts might not have made it.  Bicolanos enjoyed choice and lower fares as a result.  

PANTRANCO South and Philtranco abandoned the local Bicol routes and ALATCO’s legacy.  It is where their challengers emerged.  Karma?