Friday, June 26, 2009

Bantayan Island - a slice of paradise

Bantayan Island has always been one of our dream destinations. However, time and money constraints have always prevented us from going there. Finally, last March my officemate and I planned about going there with my family and her siblings. We searched the airline websites and checked out the only available long weekend after holy week, June 11 - 14, 2009. We will be applying for a one day leave in order to have a 4-day weekend. We finally booked our tickets with the Philippine Airlines: The first flight going to Cebu and the last flight returning to Manila in order to maximize our time in Cebu.

Day 1 (June 11)

We woke up or rather got up at around 2 AM in order to prepare to go to the airport. We took our car and parked it at the airport parking lot where it will stay for four days (parking fee is P50/night). Upon checking in, I was told that they cannot process my booking because the credit card that I used was reported stolen. Geez, I told them that I was the one who reported it stolen and it was I, together with my family, who are checking in. And besides, the tickets have already been paid for already. So, what's the problem? The man at the counter cannot decide and told me he will have to wait for his supervisor who will be arriving at around the time the plane will be leaving. He suggested that I go to the PAL ticketing office to clear things out. It was a good thing that we arrived 2 hours prior to the flight, which gave me time to fix the problem. At the ticketing office, they had to call the credit card company to verify if I am really the person who owns the credit card. And upon clearing with the card company, I was fnally given our new tickets. We are finally on our way to Cebu. When we got in the departure area, my officemate and her three siblings were already there.

The plane left at exactly 4:30 and the flight took a little more than an hour. As we were booked on econolight fares (about P2000 for a return ticket), we were seated at the end of the plane. We were not served snacks nor offered the complimentary newspapers, which was fine because it was too early for that and we preferred sleep over those things.

After arriving at Mactan International Airport, we got our checked-in luggage and proceeded to the taxi stand. You have to climb a flight of stairs to get to the waiting taxis. We got into two taxis and proceeded to the North Terminal in Mandaue where we will be taking a bus to Hagnaya Wharf in San Remegio. The taxi fare costs around P110. When we got to the terminal, people immediately swarmed us offering to take our things and bring it to their bus for Hagnaya. Two bus companies ply the route: Aerobus and Ceres. We decided on taking Ceres as it was about to leave. The fare costs P80 per person for an almost 3 hour ride. There is a stop midway for some snack and a chance to go to the toilet. When we go to Hagnaya, the ro-ro ship was just about to leave. We only had time to buy our tickets (P120/adult and P60/children below 12 years old) and terminal fee (P10 each) and boarded the boat right away. There were limited seats on the boat which left some of us without seats. The sea was calm although it was a little bit cloudy that day. After about an hour and a half later, we were disembarking off Sta. Fe, one of the municipalities on Bantayan Island, the other two being Bantayan and Madridejos.

Upon arriving, if you do not have an arranged transfers to the resort like us, you will be swarmed by pedicab and tricycle drivers offering their services to take you to your chosen resort. The pedicb drivers tried to haggle with us the fare which started at P20/head but eventually settled to P10, which was the normal fare.

Since it was raining prior to our trip and it was no longer peak season, we decided not to book at any resort and decided instead to look for one when we got to Bantayan. Unfortunately Budyong, which was our choice resort can only offer us a night stay (Thursday) and told us that they are fully booked the following day. Our driver suggested we try out a private house which is just behind Tristan Resort. So off we went. The caretaker told us that the room downstairs of a two-storey house would cost us P800/night which is good for 2 persons with an additional P150 per extra mattress. It was airconditioned, had a ref, tv, two fans, a living room and dining area. You can also cook your food in a common kitchen. The airconditioned room upstairs cost P700. My officemate, together with her three siblings, took the downstairs room and my family and I took the upstairs room. After settling in and since it was already noon, we bought our food from a carinderia about two blocks away and ate it at the dining area downstairs. After lunch, we decided to take some rest and go to the town of Bantayan later in the afternoon.

At around 4 PM, we took a tricycle bound for Bantayan (P25/person). These tricycles can hold up to 12 passengers: 10 at the back and one on each side of thd driver. The driver told us that he will just wait for us there and take us back to Sta. Fe (again P25/person). The trip took about 30 minutes along well paved roads. We went to their public market to check it out and buy some provision for our trip to Virgin Island the following day. After doing the shopping, we went to their parish church, reputedly the oldest parish in Cebu. After offering some candles and prayers, our tricycle driver brought us back to our accommodations.

Dinner was prepared by almost everyone and we had fried galunggong, fish sinigang and adobong pusit. Being hungry after a whole day of travel, we at last had a our first "normal" meal of the day. The caretaker offered to clean our dishes, so after dinner we just cleaned our table and placed all our dirty plates, etc. in the kitchen for our hosts to wash. After a little talk, we called it a day since we will have to leave early the following day for our trip to the Virgin Island, which had previously arrange for a boat to take us there.

Day 2 (June 12)

I woke up at about the break of dawn to check if everyone is up and about for our trip to Virgin Island. To my surrprise, my office mate who is usually late in our office, was already on the beach with her sister taking pictures of the sunrise. The boatman, together with his mate, were already there waiting for us. The rest were just waking up and having breakfast. We bought some shrimps to cook and bring to our picnic. This together with some marinaded liempo, adobong pusit, mangoes and softdrinks were given to the boatmen to be brough to the banca. At past 7 , we all waded to the banca at it was low tide and it cannot go near the beach. We were off to Virgin Island and after about 30 minutes, we arrived there.

There was only a couple who got there ahead of us. The beach was still clean and almost all the cottages were still empty giving us a choice to pick any hut we fancied We chose a picnic hut which is away from the rest of the huts. The boatmen helped bring our things and offered to grill the liempo and cook the rice that we brought early. They said that it would be better to cook early because when the rest of the people arrive, there will be a cue at the cooking area.

Sure enough, just about an hour after we arrived one banca at a ,time started to arrive bringing with them vacationers like us. The water, which was clear just a few minutes earlier, turned a little bit murky due to the number of people swimming. We brought some bread to feed the fish near the beach. At first, we only saw a few juvenile fishes. However, once we started giving some bread, a number of juvenile fishes started approaching it and carefully taking some bites. We did this for quite some time as it was really cool seeing fishes eat the bread you're giving them.

After an hour or so, the rice and liempo were already cooked and although it was still a little bit early, we justified eating right away that food would not be good to eat when it's cold. The brunch was great as ate with our hands. We lied on some of the empty benches and the hammock we tied to the posts of the hut. Wish every day can be like this. Some of us dozed off, while some went swimming and the rest went exploring the island.

We left Virgin Island at past 2 PM as some of us planned to visit Ogtong Cave in the town of Bantayan. We went back to our accommodation to return our things. Our companions went ahead to check out Ogtong Cave. The ride going there costs P20 each while an entrance of P50 is charged just to see the place. An extra charge is added if you plan to swim inside the freshwater pool inside the cave. About an hour later, we followed the rest to Ogtong Cave. Ogtong Cave is owned by the Sta. Fe Beach Club and if you're staying there, you get to check out Ogtong Cave for free.

After a few moments of photo taking, we left and returned to the town proper of Sta. Fe and checked out the place. My family went to a computer shop to download some of my photos as the memory card is almost full. We headed out to the beach after and found ourself infront of the Marlin Resort which is just walking distance from Kota Beach Resort and Budyong Resort. My daughter and I decided to take a dip in the warm waters of Bantayan. A lot of people are either sitting and talking on the beach or also taking a dip.

As the sun was setting, we decided to head back to town where we have dinner. While waiting for our companions, who went home first to change, we checked out a barbecue stand where they sell chicken, pork and chorizo with puso or rice wrapped in coconut leaves. We bought Angel, who was hungry by then, a barbecued chorizo and a puso, which she ate on a table right on the sidewalk.

After a few moments, our companions arrived and we had dinner at the Portuguese Restaurant just across the D' Jungle Restaurant. Both offer buffet dinner but since there were a lot of people at the D' Jungle, we decided to try the other one. Since all the tables inside were also filled up, we were seated just outside. where tables were also set up. Just after dinner, we stayed there while some of us played billard inside the restaurant. A few moments more, it started to rain. To avoid getting wet, we took pedicabs going back to our accommodation.

Day 3 (June 13)

I woke up at 4 AM to take a shower and when I peered through the window I saw the tricycle driver whose services we used the previous day and who we also made arrangement to take us to the pier. He told us that the ship was to leave 30 minutes earlier than what he told us the previous day. I had to wake up everybody and inform them of the change in schedule. We all had to hurry to catch up the ro-ro. Just as when we took the ship to Bantayan, we reached the pier just in time as the ship was almost leaving and in fact we were the last to board it. Finding our seats, we tried to catch some sleep during our 1 1/2 hours trip back to the mainland.

For more pictures, check out our bantayan page

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