Pamboat (Pump Boat)/ Lantsa / Bangka

Out of the Philippines’ 7,641 islands (based on a geographical survey done a couple years back but only acknowledged in 2017), only a little more than 2,000 are actually occupied by people. As for the rest? Untouched and untampered by human hands. However, some have been turned to tourist spots with minimal modernization, with the owners preferring to present the islands as they are. But with the Philippines’ archipelagic structure, there’s no other way of getting to these islands except by sea. (While there are a few who could and would probably travel by air, given that these islands are intentionally underdeveloped, a proper landing site may not be present on all, or if any, of them.)

And so we have the pamboat, which is actually Pump Boat but Filipino-ized. Also known as lantsa/bangka, it’s a small boat that usually seats about 10 people, excluding the operators, powered by a motor engine and a small propeller and steered by a rudder. While it’s mostly used by fishermen, it has become a form of public transportation in some rural areas.

I’ve had the chance to ride one when I vacationed at Sambawan, a small island in Biliran. While there was a lack of life-vests (there were only 6 available for the 9 passengers on-board), it was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. We boarded at a small private harbor in Kawayan, Biliran belonging to the owner of a line of boats in Biliran on a small plank. Like, literally a three-feet plank, just to keep our feet from getting wet. We were assisted in by the operators, taking our bags and piling them in front of us. I heard they do that to even out the weight in the boat. With everyone settled down, we were slowly steered away from the shore and turned about before the engine roared to life and we were off.

I could taste the salt in the wind and feel the sun smiling down on me as the boat rocked gently all while I was soaking in a scenery that took my breath away. There’s nothing quite like it, really.

It took us about an hour to get to our destination and the whole trip including the sail back to Kawayan (we stayed overnight in Sambawan and they came back for us in the morning) cost PHP 3000 (USD 60 | AUD 85 | CAD 75). Of course, this isn’t a fixed price for every pamboat out there; the fare will still depend on the distance to be traveled. You could probably even go lower than PHP 3000 if you could strike a deal with the operator. Perhaps PHP 2500-PHP 3500 is a safe range for this particular setting. You can get in touch with the operator of the pamboat we rode in if you ever find yourself around Biliran through this number: 0906-679-1276

Godspeed, Manong!

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