Bantayan Island, Cebu, Part 2 (Apr. 10-15,'07)

What happens in Bantayan Stays in Bantayan…

…Or not, as I’m obviously about to share the things we did during our 4-day 3-night stay at Kota Beach. Here’s a day-by-day account of our list of activities, which as I’m sure you’ll find out after reading, will tell you that you won’t get bored in Bantayan Island.

Day 1: Of Beaches and Bonfires

It took us the entire morning to get from Cebu City to Bantayan, so we only had the rest of the afternoon and the evening of our first day on the island. After settling down, some of us took a nice afternoon nap, while others (like Rissee, Bert and I) went for a swim and took a walk along the sandbar. The water was nice and warm (and also cold at times), and very clean. Eventually all six of us were in the water, where we stayed until sunset.

That evening we had our first massive dinner of fried fish, pork, and shellfish (they looked like oysters but not quite, hehe), courtesy of Kuya Remy, whose wife also made this sauce that we put on everything - it was made of soy sauce, tomatoes, and onions. And as true-blue Filipinos, naturally we had heaps of rice. I’m from Batangas and I’m not sure I’ve seen rice the way it‘s cooked in Bantayan – they had the rice inside woven banana leaves, and they called them “puso”, which cost about PhP 2.00 / piece. It was a great, satisfying meal, to say the least. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen my friends eat so much except for the time we had shotgun lunch at Tong Yang.

Oh! And let’s not forget the most fun part: we ate on huge banana leaves, laid out on the table, with our hands. Now how often can you do that in Manila?

After dinner we hired one of Kuya Remy’s friends to set up a bonfire for us at the sandbar. We bought some alcohol and ice from town, brought our purchases along with a few mats to the sandbar and settled down around the fire. We drank, took pictures, watched the stars, listened to music from Jen’s phone, and talked a lot. The boys and Rissee (having been a girl scout) managed the fire, and would put dried leaves, branches and wood every so often to keep it going. By the time they had run out of stuff to throw into the bonfire, we decided it was time to pack up and call it a night (but not before briefly considering throwing in the leftover alcohol into the fire – we didn’t, however). It was midnight by the time we got back to our cottage.

Day 2: Snorkeling on a Sanctuary

I woke up early the next day and took a long walk along the shore with Rissee (the others were still asleep in the cottage). We checked out the resorts on both sides of Kota Beach and picked up some shells along the way. I also discovered that my friend Rissee, known Ice Princess and TFB (a.k.a. Trust Fund Baby, hehehe…love you Rissee!) had a penchant for picking up small crabs, turning them over and determining their gender. By the time we got back to our cottage there was a pleasant surprise waiting, literally, on our doorstep. A huge hermit crab was walking by, and Rissee, the crab-grabber that she was, bravely picked it up, no squirming or anything, and we proceeded to observe it more intently. After a while we kept him in a little enclosure so our other friends could see him when they woke up. Eventually the crab bit Kinns and we figured he was already getting too crabby for our taste, so we finally let him go.

Once all of us were up and about, we had adobo, eggs and rice for breakfast, after which an outrigger boat arrived to pick us up. The day before, Kinns had made arrangements for a boat to take us to a marine sanctuary and to go island hopping. We packed our lunches, brought them to the boat and by noon we were off.

We had to pay a PhP 50.00 / head entrance to the marine sanctuary, and rented snorkeling gear for PhP 75.00 a piece (I don’t know how sanitary renting snorkeling gear is, but I must say none of us contracted any kind of disease afterwards).

Our snorkeling / island-hopping trip then proceeded to become just a snorkeling trip. Much to my delight, all six of us were fairly good swimmers and apparently enjoyed snorkeling, so we decided to devote the rest of the trip to exploring the marine sanctuary. The water was 20+ feet deep and the sanctuary housed a massive expanse of coral that played host to various colorful fish. The fish was a bit disappointing as there were very few large ones, but nevertheless it was an enjoyable experience. Bert and Tiff discovered this huge, fort-like structure of coral that was a couple of yards away from the boat, so we all proceeded to check it out and take some pictures. It was so huge and weird-looking it was easy to imagine it as an alien space ship that sank millions of years ago. Gnarly.

We brought with us a loaf of bread for the fish, but when that ran out, we proceeded to feed them with the rice we were supposed to eat for lunch. It was so much fun watching the bits of rice trickle down to the bottom while schools of fish hastily approached and fed on them. We also spotted blue starfish and hermit crabs.

For most of the trip we were on the water, but we would take occasional breaks and get on the boat to eat what remained of our lunch, grilled chicken barbecue and a bottle of Coke. After eating, we’d put on a new layer of sunscreen (tanning oil for some) and jump right back in, snorkeling as far away as we can from the boat (and no floaters or life vests!)

On our way back from the marine sanctuary our boat passed by Virgin Island, one of the places we were supposed to visit had we gone island hopping. Apparently it was a beautiful beach perfect for swimming, but from what we saw, it wasn’t very spectacular. To begin with, it was far from being a “virgin island”, as I spotted a number of concrete structures lining the shore. For the most part, I think we made the right choice by using the whole day to swim and snorkel.

By the time we got back to Kota Beach we still had the energy to frolic in the water and only got back to our cottage early evening. We again had a massive dinner, this time with sinigang, grilled fish, crabs, and the put-it-on-everything-sauce. We also ran into a former teacher of ours at UA&P, who was staying at Kota Beach with her other colleagues.

After dinner we played the totally crazy “name game” on the sand (if you lost, the punishment was you had to do the crab dance along the beach, for all the guests to see), and afterwards, were off to bed.

Day 3: Bike Ride to Ogtong Cave

We woke up bright and early on our third day at Kota Beach, had a quick breakfast, brought our backpacks and met Kuya Remy, who was going to be our guide for the day. We were to go resort-hopping around Santa Fe and check out Ogtong Cave. We rented out bikes and began our journey. I hadn’t ridden a bike in ten years, so I started all wobbly and scared for my life. But the figure of speech holds true, I suppose, as pretty soon I had the hang of it and was riding like a pro (well, not really, but I was doing okay). Our first stop was this tiny, exclusive resort, where it cost PhP 5,000 a night to rent a fancy villa with a jacuzzi. It had nice, landscaped grounds and the villas did look amazing, but the beachfront wasn’t very pretty.

We then visited Santa Fe Beach Club, the resort immediately visible from Santa Fe port. The resort seemed nice and clean but too "resorty" for our taste, which led us to believe that we really did the right thing staying at Kota Beach.

Our last stop, Ogtong Cave, was located within a resort (aptly called Ogtong Cave Resort. Duh. Hehehe). On our way there we stopped to buy Sparkle from a sari-sari store and asked if anyone did henna tattoos in Bantayan. Kinns made arrangements for the henna guy to meet us at Kota Beach later in the day.

We had to ride our bikes through paved and rough road to get to Ogtong Cave resort, which made for a rather uncomfortable but otherwise enjoyable trip. The scenery along the way was of simple provincial life: humble houses, sari-sari stores, kids playing on the side of the road, a far cry from life in Manila, or even in Batangas. All the while Corrine Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On" was playing in my head (Remember the video for that song?).

When we finally got to Ogtong Cave Resort, we had to pay an entrance fee of PhP 90.00 to be able to use the resort’s facilities. We then proceeded to check out Ogtong Cave.

A flight of stone steps had been paved on the entrance to the cave, where there was also a natural spring. Unfortunately the cave didn’t look so “natural” anymore because of the spotlights that had been installed in its various areas. But it was still slightly dark inside the cave, so we treaded slowly and carefully across it. We soon discovered, however, that it was a very small cave and there wasn’t much to see, so we hung around for a while, took some pictures, and got out.

That night, Jen would find out from a local that the cave was actually very long and used to opento a small barangay. The spring was also connected to a spot along the shore, where spring water would come out from among the seawater, and one would actually be able to drink it. Apparently, the cave also saved a lot of lives during World War II, when the locals would stay in the cave to hide from Japanese soldiers. We don’t know the accuracy of this account but it’s pretty interesting.

By noon we were again riding our bikes and were on our way back to Kota Beach. We stopped at a roadside barbecue to have lunch and Sparkle, and rode back to the resort. The henna guy was already waiting for us when we arrived, so we freshened up and had our henna tattoos done. Afterwards, we rented out a kayak and hung out at Kota’s beachfront. We stayed in the water until sunset, and afterwards waited for dinner to be served.

That night dinner was splendid as usual, and eating was accompanied by lively chatter. Jen had hired someone to give her a massage so we had to clear out of the cottage. Tiff stayed in with Jen and slept, while Rissee, Kinns, Bert and I went to stay at the beach. We brought some mats to lie on and eventually got some pillows and blankets and decided to sleep on the beach - a fitting idea as well, seeing as it was our last night at Kota.

I love sleeping on the beach, looking up and watching the stars in a massive expanse of sky. We settled comfortably on our sleeping spots and talked about anything and everything while we watched the night sky, waiting for shooting stars (we spotted a number of them throughout the night). Eventually the chatter piped down until it was replaced by complete silence. "Chasing Cars" ("If I lay here, if I just lay here...") played on my iPod until, like the rest of my friends, I drifted off to sleep.

Day 4: Bye bye, Bantayan

The silence and the sleep were shortlived, however. It was still a bit dark when Ris and Bert woke me up – we were going to wait for the sunrise. Eventually Kinns woke up too, and Tiff joined us from the cottage. We headed for the sandbar and looked for a nice spot to catch the sunrise.

I find it's rather difficult to describe the sunrise we witnessed that day, but we took loads of pictures, so you might want to check them out on my Multiply site. It was a perfect way to begin our final day in Bantayan Island.

We didn’t really have much time to do anything else on our last day except pack our bags and prepare to head back to Cebu City. We had brunch at a roadside barbecue in town, took some last pictures at Kota Beach, and soon after, we were on our way to Santa Fe port.

When we arrived at Santa Fe port a ferry was already about to leave, so we hastily bought and drank our last bottle of Sparkle, after which we finally boarded the ferry. We spent the hour-long trip back to Hagnaya Port looking at our pictures and sleeping, which made the ride seem like it lasted for a lot less than an hour. At Hagnaya port the only bus headed for Cebu City was already full, so instead of waiting for the next one to arrive, we opted to ride a van that charged PhP 100.00 per head. The trip back was pretty uneventful and after three and a half hours, we were back in Cebu City.

I’d love to go back to Bantayan Island soon. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more activity-filled vacation. Everyday there was something to do, and I was never bored. The island was beautiful beyond words, the food was amazing, and the locals were extremely friendly and wonderfully welcoming. Of course, it also helped that I was with an amazing set of friends who were equally game to try out new things and participate in a lot of activities. All in all, it was a great vacation and a great adventure.

Check out more pictures from our Bantayan Trip on my
Multiply site.


Amadeo said...

Nice choice for a trip destination.

Tasted any dilis or danggit?

BTW, there is also Daan Bantayan in the mainland.

Daene | Filipina in Flip Flops said...

Hi Amadeo! Thanks for the visit!

My friend managed to buy me danggit before she left Cebu (I left for Manila ahead of them). But I didn't get to buy chicharon!

What's Daan Bantayan? Sounds interesting :)

Amadeo said...

It is another island close to and similar to Bantayan Island, except that it is connected to the mainland by a bridge making it look like part of the mainland.

Daan in Cebuano means old. Thus, it is the old Bantayan island.

Daene | Filipina in Flip Flops said...

Oh I never there was such an island. I should go there next time I visit Cebu! Thanks for the info! :D

Unknown said...

i remembered my yaya, who's from bantayan. danggit and dried pusit!

you're lucky with the weather. i blogged about going to the beach the other week and it was still too cold to swim here.

Daene | Filipina in Flip Flops said...

Hi Erasmusa,

Gotta love danggit and dried pusit! Perhaps you can come and visit the Philippines again soon for some local treats, warm weather and lots of beautiful beaches! Take care and thanks for visiting Filipina on Flip Flops! :D


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