When in Antique: Take a dip at Sira-an Hot Springs

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It’s overwhelming that for a quiet province like Antique, there is so much to offer. Lying in Western Visayas, this quaint and humble place is slowly making headlines now. Millions of tourists travelling to Boracay Island bypass it, rerouting into a shorter route. But if you have an ample time for an extended stay and for worthy exploration purposes, then Antique is waiting to be relished.

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I actually made an itinerary which lasts for three days because there are just too many places which I’m dying to visit. Sadly, I was only able to go the nearest ones and hopefully, I can go back to this place to explore the rest.

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Going to Antique was the most unplanned trip ever as I was originally going to dive at Apo Island with friends. The morning I woke up, my parents asked me where I wanted to go so the first thing that went to my mind was this. As numerous plans were already postponed going here, I thought that this was the best time.

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Travelling from Bacolod, we took a RORO going to Iloilo. Travel time is 2 hours excluding the waiting time. From the Iloilo Port to Anini-y, Antique, taking the southern route, lasts you to about 3-4 hours depending on your car speed.

Points of Interest:

Sira-an Hot Springs

While scanning on Google, I came across a folklore about this place. There was once a forbidden love affair involving the daughter of the Malayan chieftain named Anini and Nogas who was a former slave and a farmer’s son. Since they belong in different statuses, their love story ended badly when Nogas was killed and his body was casted into the open sea. An island formed which is presently named after him. Devastated by the death of her lover, Anini died and left her remains by the rocky shore facing the island. On her burial site there appeared a mini hot spring representing her tears and a sleeping volcano making her heart still beating for her true love.

There lies now the refreshing hot springs in the southernmost town of Anini-y making it a public go to place of the locals and now the tourists. This irresistible view is made of sulfuric pools which are believed to heal diseases and skin disorders, making it a health resort.

Heading your way from the entrance lies a small mound that is said to be a dormant volcano and placed at the top is the grotto of Mama Mary. There presents a cliff that sits you on the edge witnessing the panoramic view of the humbly picturesque Nogas Island.

On the left side is a big swimming pool, filled with natural sulfuric waters which are turquoise to deep moss green in color. Getting further is another small pool, not an infinity one but is placed on the edge of the cliff with a great view of the pure shores.

What catches the tourists’ attention are the perfectly placed hot spring pools in miniature sizes that only allow one to two people. With your own tub of health spa, you can stay as long as you want and lounge until sunset.

Opposite lies the natural beach that is unlike any other. The beach front is filled with medium sized stones making it similar to Dauin beaches in Negros. It has black coarse sand which sets it apart from the rest. Cottages and private rooms line up facing this gorgeous scenery.

Near the entrance is their mini bar and restaurant. Cheap seafood and videoke are available. The humble vibe reflects the availability to the public.

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Nogas Island

For just 500 pesos boat ride, you can spend the day in this enchanted yet majestic island. It takes about ten to fifteen minutes from the resort to get to this place. With high expectations, the beach is not as fine as Boracay but can be likened to the beaches of Siquijor and Guimaras. The sand is coarse with tiny pebbles but perfectly pearly white. Its water is crystal clear, without a tinge of pollution and exposes naturalness. It is relatively small wherein you can finish touring in just under 15 minutes.

Nevertheless, there are small cottages made of nipa huts wherein you can have lunch and just chill. The setup actually reminds me of Dako Island in Siargao. There are no canteen or restrooms so all in all it is a virgin island.

Nogas Island Lighthouse

Making your way to the lighthouse, you are welcomed with calachuchi trees lined up in opposite sides of the path. It extends to about 150 meters which is just a perfect backdrop for picture taking. The lighthouse is closed to the public but the caretaker let us in and climb up. It is a two storey staircase and to be frank, it was very steep. The lighthouse, situated at the the center, makes a panoramic view of the small island. Non functional but well preserved.

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Century Old Balete Tree

On the other side of the island, with a 3 minute walk from the lighthouse is the century old balete tree. Like any other balete tree, “lunok” the native term for it is believed to be home of enchanted people coming from other world dimension. It creates a spring water amidst the island filled with saltwater and cannot be explained where the water comes from. Going further, you get to witness numerous mangroves.

We didn’t get to stay long, and we decided to head back to the resort after exploring the beautiful Nogas Island.

Assemblage Point

If you want luxury in your stay in this quaint province, try to book into this newly opened resort in San Joaquin. The rooms are very spacious and you get the option for a seaview or a pool view. You can enjoy relaxing on their bar and restaurant overlooking the stony beach of Antique.

All in all, I can say that if you like Siquijor then you would be a fan of this place. There is just so much to do and see and I’m surely coming back for more.

How to get there:

From Aklan: from international airport, take a tricycle to Kalibo bus terminal then take a Ceres Bus or van for hire heading to Antique

From Iloilo: from international airport, take a van to Molo terminal, then another van, bus or jeepney to Antique

From Bacolod: take a RORO to Iloilo, then follow GPS
Dumangas RORO reservation: 034 493 0414

 

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Where to stay:
The Assemblage Point Resort and Convention Hub
Lawigan,San Joaquin – Aniniy Road, Antique
033 503 3477 / 033 336 2147
0998 541 4511
http://www.facebook.com/TheAssemblagePoint/

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Travel tips:

If you have ample time, stay in Nogas Island and wait for the high tide so you can see the true beauty of the islet.
Soak in the sulfuric mini pools as you watch the sunset.
Don’t forget to pass by Miag-ao Church. It is a UNESCO heritage site.
If you’re in groups, it’s better to bring a car with you so that you can tour the whole province without hassle as public transportation is limited especially if not at peak hours.

Budget: 8000 all in (2666 each)

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When in Batangas: Hike to Taal Volcano Crater

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So we were on our trip to Manila for the Maroon 5 Concert and we were planning a day tour to the nearby places just to get the most out of our stay.  If you’re a traveler, I suggest you would skip Manila.  Because of the hustle and bustle of the traffic, your time will just be put to waste commuting the whole day.  Go outside and explore what the nearby provinces have to offer.  You’ll just be surprised that there are plenty of adventures lined up for your choosing.  If I could recommend a place that’s exciting and an easy reach at the same time, it would be a trip to the Taal  Volcano Crater.

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Just 50 kilometers from the south of Manila lies the second most active volcano in the Philippines and the smallest in the entire world.  Taal Volcano is indeed a geological wonder.  Imagine a volcano within a lake within a volcano within an island.  If that doesn’t confuse you, technically the Vulcan Point Island is within Taal Volcano Island which is within Taal Lake sitting within Luzon Island comprised within the Philippine Islands.  I guess that makes sense now.

Imagine hiking to one of the most dangerous places in the country.  Then if you think that’s an adrenaline rush with its profoundly perfect panoramic view, picture yourself lavishly plunging in Taal Crater Lake.  Yes, you can actually freaking swim there.  Well, this is definitely one for the books.

IMG_2700To make our trip easy, I already arranged a tour with one of the cheapest I found.  It’s around 900 pesos per head which is from Bryan Gonzales Malvataan at Talisay Batangas.  Depending on your point of origin and whether you commute or have a private service, Bryan gives directions for an effortless way to their boat station.  He even texts you just to get an update of where you are specifically.

We left our hotel at seven in the morning.  After a series of bus and jeepney rides, we arrived at the Taal Boat Station around 9:30 am.  We were briefed on their cottage made of nipa huts; we registered ourselves and signed a waiver.  Few minutes passed and we were ready for the boat ride which lasted for about 15 minutes.  The waves were calm and the weather was great so we were ready for the time of our lives.

With five minutes of walking, we reached the registration office.  However, we booked a tour so our boatman arranged everything for us.  The horses were all lined up partnered with their horsemen.  The number of the horses were just as many as the number of tourists visiting this tourist spot.

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Going up to Taal Crater takes up about 30 minutes of horse riding and about an hour and a half of trekking.  The trail to the top gets steeper while overlooking the panoramic view of the Taal Lake.  You have to make sure to hold on to your horse very well or your might fall.  Good thing, Saring, my horse, knows how to follow instructions from my guide and I was in good hands.

 

The top of the volcano consists of a viewing deck for a scenic view of Taal Crater and Taal Lake.      A number of vendors were selling souvenirs and snacks right at the entrance.  On the right side of the terrain is what they call the red lava area.  There is an additional payment of 50 pesos for its entrance fee but it’s definitely worth it since you get to be closer to the crater and have a perfect backdrop.  The area can be reached within a 10 minute hike.  Remember to be cautious as there are no railings on the side so watch every step as the path can be steep and dangerous.

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As usual, we stayed for a little while to do some picture taking.  Thankfully, our tour guide knows the best shots and angles.  He even choreographed some of my poses.  Now satisfied with our takes, it was time to head back to the mainland.  Unfortunately, it rained hard so we had to secure our raincoats which were freely given by Bryan.

The tour was a little tiring.  The weather was a bit crazy.  Luckily, we had free coconut drinks when we returned.  We changed clothes and decided to have lunch in Tagaytay.  Bryan was very accommodating and he even arranged our transportation and gave us some tips on our travel.

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How to get there:

Batangas route from Manila:

  1. bus bound to Lipa or Batangas which passes Tanauan
  2. jeepney from Tanauan to Talisay
  3. rent a boat from the public market

Tagaytay route from Manila:

  1. bus bound to Tagaytay, Nasugbu or Balayan
  2. jeepney to People’s Park (before rotunda)
  3. alight at Ligaya Drive
  4. jeepney or tricycle to Talisay
  5. rent a boat to volcano island

Where to stay:

Hilik Boutique Hostel

2nd Floor 7844 Mavenue Building, Guerrero, Makati, 1210 Metro Manila, Philippines
http://www.hilikboutiquehostel.ph
+63 2 519 5821 / +63 915 379 3917 / +63 999 768 4375

Bryan Gonzales Malvataan Tour: +63 917 203 2792
You can rent a boat directly to Precious Boat Station
325 Sitio Gulod, Brgy. Banga, Talisay, Batangas (in front of Talisay Mini Cockpit)
https://www.facebook.com/ilovetaalvolcano/?fref=ts

Budget:

Taxi 100
GOCS bus to Tanuan 285
Tricycle to Jeepney Stand 45
Red Lava Entrance 150
Tour Guide Tip 200
Tricycle to Tagaytay 300
Lunch 1200
Tricycle to Bus Stand 30
Bus to Buendia 267
Taal Tour 4000

Total: 6577 = 2192 each

Travel tips:

  1. Eat breakfast before starting the tour.
  2. The best time to start is early morning to prevent the scorching heat of the sun and the crowd.
  3. Bring face mask to protect you from the dust from the volcanic ashes.
  4. Bring plenty of water and extra clothes if you’re planning to hike.  If you change your mind in the middle, don’t worry as you can have the option to take a horse to follow you while you hike.
  5. You can always ride a horse for an easier means to go the crater lake.
  6. Don’t miss the red lava area.  Other tours will tell you that the view is just the same with the viewing deck but it’s definitely different.
  7. There are plenty of food vendors at the peak.
  8. Take lots of photographs and don’t forget to put on sunscreen.
  9. If you finish early with your tour, take a sidetrip to Tagaytay and visit Skyranch.

When in Negros: Kayak at Lake Balinsasayao in Sibulan

I never knew I was looking for a different kind of place until I came across Twin Lakes as I search on Google the best places to go when in Dumaguete.  We were heading to a small town of Dauin which is just minutes away from the capital. We were spending a night there at a certain resort and I wanted to squeeze one worthy place to visit on our itinerary.  From that moment I saw pictures of it, I knew I was in for a total adventure.  It was a break from the aquamarine beaches and the hectic city life.

Lying on Negros Oriental, Sibulan is just a five hour drive away from Bacolod.  Prepare to get intrigued at these two deep crater lakes filled with fresh water that can rise up to 1000 feet above sea level.  Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park is comprised of three lakes namely: Lake Balinsasayao, Lake Danao and Lake Kabalin-an.  Now a part of a protected area, it encompasses a wide range of flora and fauna.   With the two lakes separated by four mountains, Lake Balinsasayao can be found at northwest while Lake Danao is on the southeast.

Driving to about 20 minutes from Dumaguete is a small town of Sibulan.  There is a big signage to the entrance on the left side of the national highway.  Notice the antique lamp posts on the bay, then you’re near the route.

After a 14 kilometer drive, you can witness the majestic view of Lake Kabalin-an.  You have to stop to register at their office just at the right side of the road.  But you don’t have to be asked to get out of your car to fill up the forms because the view is so bewitching that you truly need a stopover.    Encircled by the ridges of the mountain, Lake Kabalin-an is a view that I enjoyed the most in my visit.  It’s like it just came out of an Avatar scene.  Catching your view are the trees growing from the water that are so enchanting.  A range of medium to large rocks wreathe the small lake.  Small huts are also situated near it for you to spend the day.

After a twenty minute drive, you can now reach Lake Balinsasayao.  Welcoming you is a large kubo, where you pay the respective fees.  It serves as a restaurant and a souvenir shop.  As an added bonus, you get a panoramic view of the lake from their viewing deck.

Just about a 100 meter walk from the descending pathway which is frankly very tiring for an unfit person like me, you arrive at your destination, Lake Balinsasayao.  Surrounded by a tropical lush of greenery, one can find the Almagica Tree which is the tallest tree in the Philippines.  You can enjoy kayaking or you can rent a small boat if you’re travelling in groups.  The boat ride ends in a viewing deck with a panned view of the twin lakes.

Truly, it was an exciting experience overall to witness a magnificent crater lake view which can be likened to the the Pinatubo crater in Luzon.  It is indeed a beauty waiting to be appreciated.

How to get there:

From Dumaguete:

head to Sibulan (6 km away)
watch for the big signage at the left
follow the road to Lake Balinsasayao

From Bacolod:

ride a bus bound to Dumaguete via the Mabinay route
drop off at Sibulan (town after San Jose and before Dumaguete)
watch for the big signage at the right
follow the road to Lake Balinsasayao

Fees:

  • Entrance – 10
  • Vehicle – 30
  • Kayak – 100
  • Boat – 250 per hour
  • Tour Guide – 200
  • Habal-Habal from Highway to Twin Lakes – 200
  • Ceres Bus from Bacolod to Sibulan – 350

Where to stay:

Sea Dream Resorts
Sea Dream Drive, Masaplod Sur, Dauin, 6217 Negros Oriental
http://www.sea-dream-resorts.com/index.html
+63 917 863 4866

Harolds Mansion
205 Hibbard Ave. (corner Hibbard-Lo-oc), Dumaguete City, 6200
http://haroldsmansion.com/
harold@haroldsmansion.com
+63 917302-4455
+63 35 225 8000

Travel tips:

  1. You can bring your own packed meals but light snacks and drinks are served in their canteen.
  2. Activities at the lake include kayaking, swimming, trekking, fishing and boating.
  3. Check out Azalea Restaurant on your way back from the Twin Lakes if you are not planning to spend the whole day.
  4. If you are commuting, habal-habal or a motorcycle is the best transportation as the roads are underdeveloped; however, for comfort, a private car is preferred.
  5. There is no commercial place to spend overnight at the lake.
  6. Tours to this place are also offered at certain hotels and resorts such as the Harolds Mansion.

When in Pangasinan: Relish the View of Bolinao Rock Formation


Want a paronamic view of the West Philippine Sea?  Make the small town of Bolinao in Pangasinan your next domestic haven.  Still unexplored by many, you get to see this natural wonder.  Boasting its clashing features of having rugged terrains of rock formations and long, polished stretch of cream sand beach on opposite ends, you’ll be amazed of what it has in store.

Honestly, I’ve never heard of Bolinao.  My friend was the one who arranged our itinerary for our trip and we were aiming for the Hundred Islands in Alaminos.  She came across an info about Patar Beach and we decided to check it out because we would never miss a trip without going to our ever special place, the beach.

We left Zambales after lunch and it was later than we expected when we arrived at Bolinao.  We thought it would just take 3 hours to get there when we checked Google Maps.  Unfortunately, our travel time was doubled because we were commuting.  We had dinner at a restaurant near the terminal and checked in at Casa Almarenzo at almost eight in the evening.  We had night swimming because we thought it would be a waste not to make use of their pool.  That evening, we already arranged our day tour with the owner.  There are numerous tourist spots at Bolinao but we were so pressed with time and we had to make our itinerary fit for only three hours because we had to visit the Hundred Islands in Alaminos  that day too.  Thankfully, the driver was very punctual and recommended the great places worth our visit even with our limited time.

Points of Interest:

Bolinao Rock Formation

First on our tour is the best stretch of rugged coral formations at the Patar Rock Beach Resort.  Originally, this wasn’t included in the itinerary but the driver insisted that we should check out the place as one of the famous celebrities shot some scenes there.  Welcoming you are the simple nipa huts lined up at the beachfront and we thought this was nothing new.  Much to our surprise, we saw the best view of Bolinao just in front of the coast.  Only a few people knew about this place as this is not much advertised by their tourism.  The gorgeous view extends to about 20 kilometers of rocky formations and on the left end, there is a small shed providing a gorgeous backdrop for photographers.  You will never get tired of this beautiful landscape.  You can also spend the night here at a minimum fee of only 300 pesos.

16th Century Cape Bolinao Lighthouse

On our way to Patar Beach, we made a stop at the famous lighthouse in this town which is the Cape Bolinao Lighthouse.  Standing to about 100 feet, this makes it the second tallest lighthouse in the Philippines.  Constructed on top of Punta Piedra Point, you get a great view of the South China Sea.  Sadly, tourists are now restricted to come up the lighthouse.  But when you get to climb the top, you can overlook the white sand beaches, mesmerizing rock formations, and lush greenery.  Now being a cultural heritage site, it is carefully preserved and has garnered a lot of tourists with its amazing architecture.

Cape Bolinao White Beach

Being the hidden jewel of the North, Patar Beach is considered a treasure as it is situated where the Lingayen Gulf meets the South China Sea.  The stretch of the tan to creamy white sand beach and its aquamarine water make it one of the best beaches of the town.  The sand is not so fine but grainy, which is similar to the texture of the sand in Pundaquit, Zambales.  But what makes this place unique is its natural and unexploited beauty.  Even if it’s a public beach, the place has maintained its cleanliness and it is uncrowded.  If you want a tranquil break from your work and bask under the sun, then this beach is just a 4-5 hour drive from the capital.

Enchanted Cave

There are three caves that you can visit on your tour namely: Cindy’s Cave, Wonderful Cave and Enchanted Cave.  Of all the three, the driver recommended the latter to be the most beautiful.  It is indeed enchanted with so much to see.  According to our tour guide, the place was submerged under water ten million years ago as you can identify the limestone coral rocks and huge fossil clams around the area.  Its charm wins you with its crystal clear and jade fresh water that can rise up to six feet.  As an added attraction, there are monkeys on the trees who are able to roam around freely.  So don’t miss this enchanting place as it allures you with its magic.

How to get there: (travel time up to 6 hours from MNL)

  1. private car – SCTEX route and pass by Alaminos and Bani to Bolinao, refer to google maps
  2. public bus – Five Star Bus Line (http://www.5starbus.co/contact-us/), Victory Liner and Dagupan Bus Line
    ride a tricycle from the Bolinao Terminal to the resort

Where to stay:

Casa Almarenzo Bed & Breakfast

Patar Road, Brgy. Estanza, Bolinao, Pangasinan, Bolinao, 2406 Pangasinan

+63 922 858 8455

http://www.casaalmarenzo.com/

Travel tips:

Beware of tricycle tours who would overprice with their charges.  Ask locals for the normal rates.

If you have an ample time you can visit other attractions:

  • Balingasay River
  • Bolinao Falls
  • Tara Falls
  • Bolinao Museum
  • UP Marine Sanctuary
  • Church of St. James the Great

Buy their local delicacy, Binungey, as your pasalubong.

Deal a travel tour with the tricycle drivers to maximize your time and for a cheaper expense.

Travel Expenses:
From Zambales to Bolinao : group of 4

  • Fare to Sta. Cruz 760
  • Sparkle 40
  • Sta. Cruz to Alaminos 308
  • Alaminos to Bolinao 204
  • Dinner 780
  • Tricycle to Hotel 120
  • Hotel Room 3000
  • Tricycle Travel Tour 600
  • Rock Formation Entrance 200
  • Enchanted Cave 420

Total 6432 (1608 each)

Itinerary:

Day 1 – Capones Island, Zambales
https://wengwengwanders.com/2014/08/23/backpacking-in-zambales-day-tour-at-capones-island/

Day 2 – Bolinao, Pangasinan
https://wengwengwanders.com/2015/07/02/when-in-pangasinan-relish-the-view-of-bolinao-rock-formation%E2%80%A8/

Day 3 – Alaminos, Pangasinan
https://wengwengwanders.com/2015/08/06/when-in-pangasinan-cliff-jump-at-marcos-island-hundred-islands%E2%80%A8/

When in Negros : Soak in the Crystal Clear Waters of Panal Reef in Sagay

I’ve been searching for the best beaches in Negros and I’ve definitely found my one true love.  Just a short road trip from the capital of Bacolod City, the rich marine life of Sagay City is just an easy reach.  Unlike any other beaches where its remoteness and virginity can only be experienced with the hustle of long travel time, this place has maintained its quality due to the strict rules implemented by its tourism and through the cooperation of the tourists to limit overcrowding and unmanaged waste disposal.

Sagay City has the largest marine reserve in the Philippines enveloping 32,000 hectares.  With its main attraction, Carbin Reef, it has caught the attention of beach bummers craving for white sand and clear waters.

However, what has intrigued us is the unplugged attraction in Panal Reef.  When the famous Carbin Reef reaches its maximum capacity, tourists are then directed to this amazing destination.  In our case, our target area from the tourism office is this place.  If ever you wish to visit the other islands as well, just inform the boatman and negotiate some additional fees.

After 40 minutes of travel, you can witness a long stretch of white sand bar reflecting the transparent and clean waters of Panal Reef.  Even on low tide, the beach is submerged in water but only to a minimum level of about half inch.  The only thing that protrudes is the fine stretch of white sandbar that is so thin, the waters in opposite ends meet. Its sandbar is similar to the Bantigue sandbar in Islas de Gigantes but with clearer waters and whiter sand.  It is a coralline island so one can expect the sand not to be fine but to have little corals instead.  It is with pure luck that we got to take a glimpse of this attraction on low tide because otherwise, everything is submerged and you can’t appreciate the beauty it has to offer.

My friends went for a swim as I wander around to take pictures because I had my period.  There were plenty of sea creatures under water.  It was just amazing to know that you can enjoy snorkeling and watch the colorful fish even when you’re just near the beach.

At the end of the white sand stretch, there is a watch tower with two floors wherein you can stay for the day.  They charge at a minimum fee of only 300 pesos.  One must be careful in going up to the tower because the surface of the stairs can be slippery.  There are railings for your added security.  On the first floor, there is a bench circling the area and there are comfort rooms and a small kitchen for the two watchmen.  The topmost level is a wide area for your panoramic view of the island.  There are also tables and chairs where you can eat in and enjoy the day.

We borrowed a one-eyed binocular from the watchmen and we spotted another island.  It was so beautiful at long distance and upon negotiations with the boatmen, we had a good deal so we decided to check it out.

It was a twenty minute boat ride going to Maca Reef. But God, it was by far the best white sand bar I’ve seen in my province.  I have found the Naked Island of Siargao in Negros.  The bar extends to about 250 meters and curves on the edge forming a picturesque view of the island.  The sand is finer and whiter than Panal and Carbin Reef but it is grainier than Naked Island in texture.  The beach is surrounded with corals and other water living things that you can see against the clear water.  The water level is very low and you have to go far from the beach to get a good swim.

Similar to the previous reef, there is a small tower at the end of the beach.  There are no cottages in the island and you can enjoy the candor all to yourself.  We had some sunset session before we bid goodbye to this stunning semblance.

Other Attractions:

Carbin Reef

This tongue-shaped, white sand island situated in the center of the largest marine reserve in the country has definitely garnered tourists.  The beach has maintained its simplicity with only five cottages of makeshift wooden sticks.  Each cottage is provided with a table and few chairs.  What makes this beach special is its cleanliness and natural vibe.  Tourists are only limited to 70 persons a day so the environment and crowd is controlled.  The water is very glaring and blue and the sand is white with a touch of beige mixed with little coral rubbles.  Snorkeling can also be enjoyed with a tour guide in the nearby waters.

Suyac Island

If you’re looking for a different experience, then head on to Suyac Island Mangrove Eco-Park.  It’s very cheap and just adjacent to Carbin Reef.  Plus, you get to see the oldest and biggest sonneratia alba mangrove in Negros.  If you’re from the jump off point then it’s just an estimate of about 20 minutes travel time.  There is a mini beach area from the docking point and you have to walk for at least 5 minutes to reach the entrance area wherein you need to register.  We had a little tour as we walked around the mangroves on their wooden path.  Near the boundary are the cottages wherein during the summer the water level becomes high and the mangroves are submerged in water.  Thus, a mini dipping pool is naturally formed in the middle of the cottages.  This place is best to visit during high tide.

How to get there:

Travel time : approximately 3 hours

From Bacolod: private car or bus bound to Sagay
from terminal ride a yellow trike bound to Old Sagay Port
drop off at Sagay Tourism Office

From other countries and provinces : flights bound to Bacolod- Silay Airport

Rates:

Reefs

Entrance

Non-Residents – 100
PWD/Senior Citizen – 82
Children <12 – 40

Residents – 30

PWD/SC/Children – FREE except Port Fee (10)

Sagay Island Pumpboat
1-10 pax – 1200
11-15pax – 1500

Shed – 300 (single), 500 (double)

Suyac Island

Terminal Fee – 10
Entrance – 10
Cottage – 500
Paddle Tour – 300/pax
Pre-Nup Filming – 500/day

Snorkeling

Package of 2 – 600 (Inclusive of snorkeling guide, SMR snorkeling fee, complete snorkeling gear and life vest)
One Pax – 400
Gears Only – 250
Guide Only – 250

Contact
sagaycityinfo@yahoo.com
+63 34 488 0649 / +63 908 811 6815 (Bebe)

In case of emergency : +63 999 318 2837 (Bantay Dagat Head) / +63 919 259 3489 (Rescue)

Travel tips:

  1. Make Carbin or Panal Reef your jump off point from the Tourism Office instead of Maca because it will be more expensive otherwise.  Paying for additional fees to visit other islands will be cheaper.
  2. You can just stay in your boat if you opt not to take a cottage to limit your expenses.
  3. Plan your trip ahead of time or make reservations because the number of tourists are limited: 70 pax for Carbin Reef and 100pax for Suyac Island.
  4. Staying overnight is not allowed in all the reefs.
  5. Don’t take anything and don’t leave anything. Garbage-in and garbage-out policy is strictly implemented.
  6. Maximum of 15 pax are allowed to snorkel at a time.
  7. Please don’t step on the corals.  It takes a year for a centimeter of corals to grow.
  8. Apply sunblock liberally on your skin.
  9. Observe smoking only in the approved areas.

Travel Expenses

Panal and Maca Reefs

Bus to Sagay 168
Grocery 127
Lechon Manok 175
Rice 30
Trike 21
Trike to Old Sagay 27
Port 1730
Maca (additional) 800
Trike 30
Trike to terminal 14
Bus to Bacolod 381

Total : 3503 / 3 pax (1167 each)

Carbin Reef and Suyac Island

Bus to Sagay 200
Grocery 211
Rice 40
Boat with Cottage 1900
Fee 40
Trike 200
Bus to Bacolod 508

Total : 3099 / 4 pax (775 each)

When in Negros: Cool off at Mag-Aso Falls in Kabankalan

If you’re thinking of checking out other places aside from the overrated beaches this summer, then Mag-Aso Falls is your perfect destination. Located in Sitio Dug-anon, Barangay Oringao, Kabankalan City; it is only a two-hour car ride from Bacolod City.

Get drenched in the powder blue water coming from the unsoiled and enchanting place of Mag-Aso Falls. This body of water can be likened to Cambugahay Falls in Siquijor where it allures the travellers of its bewildering aura.

As you arrive in the resort, you are welcomed with this stony backdrop in the entrance.

Inside is a manmade pool filled with fresh water originating from the falls where you can enjoy swimming next to the cottages. This is ideal for children to swim since the water in the falls can be deep and dangerous for them if left unattended.

When getting into the falls, you will pass by the nipa huts where you can spend the night here.

If you want security, then you can reserve the room for overnight only at a minimum fee.

On the edge of the path there is a staircase and you have to descend to about 150 steps going into the falls.

On the ground, there lies a viewing deck where you can take pictures as the featured falls become your perfect background.

Behind the viewing deck, there is a mini pond of powder blue water wherein you can swim or climb on the huge log connecting the two sides of the area.

Walking into the falls, you can feel the cool summer breeze as the temperature gently drops. Just by getting your picture next to the falls, you get little tingles as the frosty mist touches your skin and add glitters to your eyes as you watch the breathtaking scrim.

Mag-Aso falls will never fail to amaze you. With its near location and cheap expense, you get so much more than you can ask for. So take a dip and enjoy another beautiful place in Negros.

How to get there:

From Bacolod City :
private car

  • head to Kabankalan City and follow the Mabinay Route
  • 
on the left side, you can see the sign going to Mag-Aso Falls
  • 
drive to about 5 kilometers and your reach the entrance

commute (estimate total 500 pesos each)

  • 
catch a bus bound to Kabankalan City from Bacolod South Terminal
  • ride a tricycle and head to Mercado
  • ride a jeepney or bus heading to Mabinay Route
  • 
ride a tricycle going from the highway to the falls

From other provinces and countries : fly to Bacolod-Silay Airport, Philippines

Contact:
Mag-Aso Leisure Camp
Sitio Dug-anon, Barangay Oringao, Kabankalan City, 6111 Negros Occidental
+63 34 471 2291 / +63 928 594 6275
citytourism@yahoo.com
https://www.facebook.com/kabankalanmagasofalls

Rates:

  • Entrance 50
  • 
Nipa Hut Rental 200
  • Room 1000
  • Shower 2

Travel Expense Estimate good for 2 pax Day Tour

  • Transportation (private car) 500
  • Entrance 100
  • Shower 4
  • Lunch 400

total: 1004 (502 pesos each)

Travel tips:

  • Prefer to go there on a sunny day because the water becomes less appealing when it’s raining.
  • We went there during the Sinulog Festival, and you can just take a glimpse and enjoy the place even just for two hours.
  • If you just want to take pictures and have a little plunge then you don’t have to get a cottage to stay in.
  • Rates will be cheaper if you bring a private car.
  • If with private car, ask google maps for help in your directions.

When in Siquijor: “Tarzan” Jump at Cambugahay Falls



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The smallest province in the Visayas region, Siquijor, has stimulated the curiosity of most people.  The idea of magic, witchcraft, and love potions either progressed the tourism industry of the island or give hesitations for the adventure seekers.  No matter how scary visiting this enchanting site, nevertheless; we still had the guts to see this magical place last summer without any regrets.

I really prepared myself before heading off to the island.  As I’m a little bit of OC, I did a lot of checking if the myths were really true and how to avoid certain spells against black magic just for prevention purposes.  I interviewed people if certain “aswangs” really live there and a friend told me that they already transferred in Bantayan Island and almost all of those who were practising witchcraft usually reside in remote areas and reserved mountains.  I admit I was in paranoia that I even brought with me a lot of ginger and incense just to drive away negative spirits.  My father kept on threatening me that witches usually put a spell on you even just by staring at you just to make a profit as they are the ones who can only undo it.  But all these hearsay and legends are all fiction.  Siquijor is one of the most unique places I’ve been to and it has amazed a lot of travellers with its otherworldly setting.  Well, for the record, I’ve never met an “aswang” or “mangkukulam” there but only the many humble and receiving people of Siquijor that I’ve come to love.

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We finished our trip for a total of two days.  We caught the bus from Bacolod to Dumaguete and left about 12:00 am.  Thankfully, there weren’t a lot of stops so we arrived at the port around 4:30 am and rode the ferry.  Even when we were half awake during the whole trip, the dolphins kept us excited as they swam next to our ferry while on our way to the island.  The tempting and pristine blue waters of Siquijor welcomed us after an hour of travel.  There were a lot of tricycles lining up outside the port offering tours of the whole island.  After making a great deal with the driver, we first checked in with our resort, Villa Marmarine, near the pier and started on our coastal tour.

Our first stop was the century old church of St. Francis of Assisi.  It is made up of white coral stones.  This facade has stood since 1783, receiving the tourists, as it is situated near the pier with its large sign in front of the church that says ‘Welcome to Siquijor’.

We made our way to the Capilay Spring Park, San Juan.  It is a natural spring but it has been renovated into a manmade pool.  You can cool off with its natural and fresh water and even take a small climb at Mama Mary’s grotto next to the area.

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We interviewed our driver about the best resorts in Siquijor and he brought us to one which is Salamangka Beach and Dive Resort in San Juan.  The resort has an entrance fee for the visitors of 250 pesos each which is consumable for our food.  It a very luxurious feel and the villas are situated near the pool and beach.  If you want the ultimate relaxation then this is definitely the best place to splurge in.

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Instead of white sand, San Juan beach has a stony texture which is comparable to Dauin beaches.  As a traveler, you have to catch sight of this unique characteristic of the beach.  Moreover, its clarity of the waters still remain throughout this coralline island.

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There are only three century old creepiest Balete trees in the Philippines.  One can be found in Lazi which is said to be four hundred years old.  According to folklore, balete trees are believed to be home of fairies, elves, giants, demon horses and other mystical creatures.  Natural spring water flows from the tree which is a little enchanting since people don’t know where the water originates from.  They have constructed a mini pool of spring water where you can enjoy a fish spa for a minimum donation.  You can also buy your souvenirs where the stands are lined along the entrance.

One of the oldest convents in the Philippines, Lazi Convent, is in Siquijor.  Situated next to it is a parish church of San Isidro Labrador.  It is considered a national cultural treasure and UNESCO world heritage site candidate as one of the Baroque churches in the country.

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Making our way further to the circumferential road of the island is the Cambugahay Falls.  You have to descend to about 200 steps on your way to the falls.  Welcoming you from this exhausting decline is the unbelievable and decadent backdrop. Of all the places in Siquijor, this is my most favorite.  The water is powder blue, not transparent, but very soothing.  Cambugahay is a multi-level cascading falls and I’ve only climbed up to the 3rd level where you can find mini waterfalls.  On the bottom, there is a large rope tied to a huge tree where you can jump to the water to about 10 feet just like Tarzan.  It’s not that scary and the water is not too deep but just make sure to get the perfect timing and release your hands when you jump because a friend of mine got a fracture because he wasn’t able to let go.

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The best beaches in Siquijor can be seen in Salagdoong.  On your way, you will pass through a gorgeous path of colorful trees.  It’s like you’re in the Beautiful Creatures movie.  When you reach the resort, you can witness the beautiful waves of Salagdoong with its deep blue waters.  The sand is not very fine and white but it is made up of little pebbles and it’s quite tan in color for the island is a marine reserve.  The beach is very clean and there are only a few tourists so the place maintains its humility and preserved charm.  In the center of the resort lies the spot for cliff jumping.  There are two levels for diving: ten and twenty feet.  The slide was still under construction when we went there.  Upon reaching the top, the scenery can be overlooked and you can witness the most instagrammed picture of the beach where it is enclosed in wonderful terrain.  We had our late lunch at the cafeteria and we even met a famous instagrammer, ninjarod with his girlfriend.

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We had a chance to see the Tulapos marine sanctuary, mangroves, and the oldest surviving house in the island, Cang-Isok, a century old home built in the 1800s in the town of Enrique Villanueva.  We passed by Larena so that my friend could withdraw from his ATM.  We were in a hurry to go back so that we could still view the amazing sunset.

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As we got ready to eat, my friend went to the “manghihilot” because of the pain and the suspected fracture he earned from jumping at the falls.  We had dinner and drank sake by the beach and enjoyed our free homemade icecream.  The next morning, we took pictures at the beach and had a quick morning dip.  Thankfully, we were able to ride the 9am ferry trip just in time to catch the aircon bus at 12pm bound for Bacolod.  It was time to kiss goodbye to this amazing wordliness here in this charming island of Siquijor.

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How to get there:

  • From Bacolod to Dumaguete: Ceres bus (Aircon) 12 am and 12pm daily
  • From other provinces and countries: Manila,Cebu, Davao, Iloilo International Airport – Dumaguete Airport
  • From Dumaguete: ferry to Siquijor

for a list of ferry schedule : http://www.siquijordirectory.com/ferryshipping.html

Where to stay:

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Salamangka Beach and Dive Resort

Siquijor Circumferential Rd, San Juan, 6225 Siquijor

+63 917 588 6873

info@salamangkaresort.com

https://www.salamangkaresort.com/

rates at least 3480

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Villa Marmarine

Candanay Sur, Siquijor, Siquijor, Siquijor Circumferential Road, Siquijor

+63 035 480 9167

http://www.marmarine.jp/en/

rates at least 800

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Salagdoong Beach Resort & Hotel Agripino

Olang, Maria, Siquijor

+63 035 344 2088 / 344 2015

tourismsiquijor@yahoo.com

rates at least 800

For a list of all the resorts with rates and contact no. :

http://www.visitmyphilippines.com/index.php?title=Hotels&Resorts&Page=1&pid=1211

 

Travel tips:

  1. You can have a day tour at Siquijor.  When you’re in Dumaguete and have at least 6 hours to spare, then you can already check this charming island.
  2. If you want to explore the whole island like trekking and diving or have a coastal tour, you can spend overnight at any of the numerous resorts.
  3. There are two kinds of tours: coastal and mountain tours. If you are staying for 3 days 2 nights, you can have the option to take the mountain tour and  trek at Bandilaan National Park which is the peak of the island.  You can also swing by Butterfly Sanctuary and visit the caves namely: Cantabon, Dacanay, Eugenia, Tagmanocan and Baljo.
  4. There are two ports in the island: Siquijor Pier and Larena Port.  Both have trips to and from Dumaguete.
  5. There are no cellular signal there except near the ports.
  6. ATMs are also available at Larena.
  7. According to the locals, the best beach in the island is at the Coco Grove Resort.
  8. Don’t forget to buy souvenirs near the Siquijor Pier.  They are selling charms, body ointments  and other witchcraft necessities.  Love potions are for sale for only 250 pesos.

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Travel Expense Estimate: good for 3 pax overnight

  • Ceres Bus back and forth 2100
  • Ferry back and forth 1260
  • Room 1850
  • Food 3000
  • Coastal Tour 1000
  • Entrance Fees and Tip 200
  • Souvenirs 500total: 9910 (3303/pax)

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When in Cebu: Laze around Bantayan Island

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The first time I ever set my eyes on the perfect imagery of Bantayan Island, I could not ask for more. It is the perfect epitome of my dream beach and I keep on going back here everytime I get the chance. With its fine and powdery white sand likened to White Beach in Boracay, and its crystal clear and unpolluted blue waters, there is no denying that Cebu is very blessed to have one of the most beautiful beaches in the country.

Due to its remoteness for being one of the isolated towns of the northern part of Cebu, Bantayan Island is a little exhausting for some travellers because there is no easy way like having direct flights going there and you have to commute from the city proper taking up to six hours travel. Sure it will all be worth it once you take a glimpse of this picturesque heaven. It’s very lucky for me since there are scheduled boat trips directly to Bantayan Island from Cadiz City in Negros so it’s one hell of a shortcut for this paradise with only a three hour travel from my hometown.

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Bantayan Island owns unexplainable white sand with the consistency of that of a flour. It is rich with aquamarine waters and when it reflects the warming sunlight, the water becomes so luminous that it’s like you’re swimming in the pool with nothing but water and a flat sandy surface. This paradise conveys a sense of serenity and lavish relaxation. Even the world renowned beaches like Kauai Island could not be compared with the pristine waters of this jewel as it has maintained its naturalness and purity. Moreover, there are only a few tourists and resorts lined up at the beach and this has exempted the island from overdevelopment.

Activities:
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Beach Bumming
It is undeniable how the beach of Bantayan Island is one of the best I’ve been to. When you just want to get a tan or relax with a drink in your hand at Sta. Fe Beach, then it’s the perfect place to laze around and think happy thoughts.

Swim at Ogtong Cave
Ogtong Cave can be found in Ogtong Cave Resort. It is a small cave which extends to about fifty meters filled with freshwater. With its crystal clear aqua waters, it is definitely soothing for the intense warmth this summer. One must be a guest of Ogtong Cave Resort or its sister company, Sta. Fe Beach Club to swim in this beautiful wonder of Bantayan. The resort itself is the most luxurious in the island but for a hefty price, it’s definitely worth it once you get to swim in the mystical cave. Natural rocks surround the resort and it is lined with white sand and picture worthy scrim.

Hop at Virgin Island
Picture the perfect beach of Bantayan Island. Then imagine a finer and whiter sand and transparent waters that glitter as the sun touches the calming waves of the sea. There are nipa huts at the beach front to give you shade and enjoy the alluring landscape. Rocky formations can be found at the end of the white beach that make this terrain a wonderful backdrop for the name of Virgin Island that welcomes the boat upon docking. Sumptuous lunch is served on the island at a very worthy price. With their seafood fresh and abundant, tourists can definitely enjoy eating there.

So much has changed at Virgin Island with my recent visit there.  Before, it was all barren and just an island and some huts.  Now, tourists flock them and several boats line up on the shore.  There are numerous tables and rooms you can spend the night in. Or you can bring a tent to indulge in nature.  Irregardless of the development, although I am deeply saddened, it still remains a beauty.

Discover Sto. Nino Cave
Little do people know that there is another cave at Bantayan Island worth seeing.  When I saw a picture of the cave from a friend, I found a way to revisit this gorgeous island to check this out for myself.  Found at Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort, Sto. Nino Cave is named as that since a statue of the beloved Sto. Nino was spotted inside upon its discovery.  It is a larger cave compared to Ogtong Cave.  Similarly, it is filled with freshwater that one can lavishly swim in.  With its gorgeous lighting, it gives the impression of yellow to orange luminescence that one can stare in awe.  If you choose a day tour in this resort, the cave is open until ten in the evening.  Moreover, the resort offers an overnight stay, fish spa, swimming pool, mini zoo and garden.  You will never get bored.  Just a 40 minute drive from Sta. Fe Beach, there is definitely no hustle.

Move In to Kota Beach Resort

Have you watched the famous movie Camp Sawi? Well, they shot almost all of their scenes here in this resort.  After having seen the most exquisite beach and unpolluted water, I don’t wonder why the producers picked this as a prime location.  With two beautiful sandbars within your reach at the beachfront, you are definitely in for some natural rehabilitation.  If you’re not planning to check in, you can pay 50 pesos as entrance fee just to see and swim on the beach.

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How to go there:

From Bacolod: go to CADIZ City port (1 hour)
take a ferry to Bantayan Island at 9:00am daily (2 hours)

From Cebu: take a bus from North Bus Terminal near SM city
bus leaves every 45 minutes at 150 pesos (3 hours)
head to Hagnaya Wharf in San Remigio (30 mins)
take a ferry to Sta. Fe Port (1 hour)

Super Shuttle Ferry
+63 916 905 2348 / +63 919 525 1388
Hagnaya to Sta. Fe – 4AM / 7AM / 8AM / 10:30AM / 12:30PM / 2:30PM / 4:30PM
Sta. Fe to Hagnaya – 6AM / 8:30AM / 10:30AM / 12:30PM / 2:30PM / 4:30PM / 6PM
Island Shipping Corporation
+63 922 284 5892 / +63 922 875 9769
Hagnaya to Sta. Fe – 5AM / 6:30AM / 9:30AM / 11:30AM / 1:30PM / 3:30PM / 5:30PM
Sta. Fe to Hagnaya – 5AM / 7:30AM / 9:30AM / 11:30AM / 1:30PM / 3:30PM / 5:30PM

From Leyte: take a bus from San Ildefonso and Tacloban to Bogo City in Cebu via RoRo
take a bus from Bogo City to Hagnaya Wharf
take a ferry to Sta. Fe Port

From other provinces and countries : take a direct flight to Cebu City

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Where to stay:

Ogtong Cave Resort
Santa Fe, Cebu
(032) 438 0165 / +63 920 899 9456 / +63 932 433 6282
info@stafebeach.com
http://www.ogtongcave.com/
*rates for 2 pax at least 2500

Sta. Fe Beach Club
Sta. Fe Beach Club Rd, Santa Fe, Cebu
(032) 438 9090 / +63 928 778 7770 / +63 932 541 2954
http://www.stafebeach.com/
*rates for 2 pax at least 900


Anika Island Resort
F. Roska Street, Santa Fe, 6047 Cebu
+63 917 701 4168
http://www.anikaislandresort.com/
*rates for 2 pax at least 1500

Beach Placid
F. Roska Street, Sta. Fe Beach, Cebu
+63 32 406 5686 / +63 32 438 9070
+63 917 722 2993
beachplacid@gmail.com
contact@beachplacidresort.com
http://www.beachplacidresort.com
*rates for 2 pax at least 1600

Virgin Island
Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island, Cebu
+63 917 322 2115 / +63 922 726 6579 / +63 920 118 3521
*rates
entrance: 500 for 2 pax and 100 per additional pax
cottages: 300, 500, 600, 1000
tables & chairs: 300
overnight: 1500 for 2 pax (bamboo house) 1500 for 5 pax (open cottage)

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Kota Beach Resort
F. Duarte St. Sta. Fe, Cebu
+63 32 438 9042
+63 956 276 4410
*rates for 2 pax at least 900

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Travel Expense Estimate: for 3 days 2 nights good for 2 pax

  • Bacolod to Cadiz – 140
  • Terminal to Cadiz Port – 40
  • Ferry Fare – 500
  • Trike from Port to Resort – 100
  • 
Resort – 1800
  • Meals – 2400
  • Island Hopping – 1000
  • Entrance to Virgin Island – 500 (2pax); 100 additional pax
  • Trike from Resort to Port – 100
  • Ferry Fare – 500
  • Cadiz Port to Terminal – 40
  • Cadiz City to Bacolod – 140

Total: 7260 (3630 each)

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When in Negros : Snorkel and Swim with the Pawikans at Apo Island

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They say the best memories always happen with bad decisions but there is no such thing as regret when you enjoy it with your partner in crime. The most spontaneous trip that we’ve done so far was deciding to go to Apo Island. The first time I went there, I never got to enjoy the underwater world since I was still a child.  When I discovered how the island made some great reviews from its visitors for being a popular dive and snorkeling site then it has been on our travel list to visit this awe-inspiring scenery. We went to Dumaguete for official business but we finished earlier so we opted to have a sidetrip to this place. Thankfully, my friend brought her GoPro cam with her since I just dropped my phone in the toilet and had nothing to use to cherish the memories. With little money that we had, we took a risk of pursuing this travel as cheap as possible.

“Apo” came from our dialect which means grandchild. The island is situated in the southeastern part of Negros. Named as one of the top diving sites of the world, this marine reserve should definitely be at the top of your travel list this summer. It has become a habitat of more than 650 fish species and 400 kinds of corals. The richness of the marine life is indeed incomparable.

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How to get there:

  • From Manila : flight to Dumaguete
  • From Cebu: take a ferry from Liloan Port to Dumaguete
  • From Bacolod City : Ceres Bus to Dumaguete
  • From any coastal point in Negros: Ceres Bus bound for Zamboanguita

From Dumaguete:

  • Jeep Route to Zamboanguita
  • Ceres Bus to Bayawan
  • Private Car or Rent a Van

Make sure you drop off at Malatapay Wednesday Market at Zamboanguita which is around 45 minutes travel from Dumaguete.  From the highway, walk or drive to the end of the market road which is around 50 meters long, then you can find the boat post.

Travel Boat Fees:
contact number : +63 9263658260

Medium (good for 4) = 2000
Large (good for 8) = 3000

Excess pax per day = 250
Excess pax per overnight medium = 200
large = 400

Where to stay:

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Apo Island Beach Resort
+63 910 219 3359
http://www.apoislandresort.com/
https://www.facebook.com/apoislandbeachresort

If you want to have luxury in the island then you can stay in this resort. With its rooms situated at the beachfront, you can definitely relax easily especially with their exclusive view of the island. If you are not a guest of this resort, you have to pay 50 pesos for the entrance fee if you choose to take pictures with the amazing backdrop of Apo Island.

Liberty Lodge Resort
+63 9176039987 / (035) 424-0888
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Liberty-Resort-and-Dive-in-Apo-Island/216770895005643

There are only 2 resorts in the island and if you want cheaper rates then you can opt to stay here. With only 2000 pesos per room good for 2 people, you get your breakfast, lunch, dinner for free. Imagine how cheap is that.

Activities

Scuba Diving

I’ve always wanted to try scuba diving just to have another exciting experience being underwater. Sadly, we haven’t had enough cash and time since the trip was unplanned. Hopefully, I get to visit this wonderful place again. I always thought scuba diving was very costly because rates can be at least 3500 pesos per dive and up to 15000 pesos for the lessons and I was shocked to see how cheap it was for the Mario’s Scuba Diving and Homestay to offer 1100 pesos per dive inclusive of everything. With a good price like this, there is no excuse not to try.

For more info about diving courses : http://www.apoisland.com/index_files/Page370.htm
For the cheapest diving rates: Mario’s Scuba Diving and Homestay
+63 9063617254/ +63 9196223671 / http://mariosscubadivinghomestay.com/

Snorkeling

This offers a preview of the abounding marine resources this place exhibit. There are a total of eight reefs lining the island namely: Coconut, Largahan, Balay, The Chapel, Katipanan, Kan Oran, Mamsa, Olo Reefs and the Apo Island Marine Sanctuary. We made our way to the Apo Island Beach Resort where we started our route for snorkeling in the Largahan Reef. You have to be a good swimmer to go snorkeling since the water current can be very strong and part of the reef waters can be deep. It took us about an hour and a half to complete our route. At the end of our path, we witnessed the bubbles from the sandy bottom the volcanic island was making. It was very tiring but the experience was very worth it.

Swimming with Pawikans

After we had lunch at Liberty Lodge Resort, we went to take a dip with the sea turtles. These lovely creatures can be found near the beach and you don’t have to swim across the deepest sea to find them. If you want to take a picture with them, you have to be speedy since they don’t like to be near humans. You have to make sure they don’t see you or it will be a hard time for you to chase them to get a decent “selfie” based on my experience. Swimming with the endangered species is definitely a once in a lifetime experience for me.

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Travel tips:

  • If you want to go snorkeling, make sure you have a tour guide because it is not safe to be alone in the shore and if you’re not familiar with the route.
  • Apo Island can be enjoyed as a day tour if you have a limited time.
  • For cheaper rates, contact the resorts directly in the island. Resorts in the mainland tend to overprice but if you want the island tour as package without any trouble going there then they also provide a good deal.

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Budget Breakdown: good for 2

  • Ceres Bac-Dum vice versa 1400
  • trike to Robinson’s Mall 18
  • jeep to Zamboanguita 40
  • boat good for 4 2000
  • Apo Island fee 200
  • toilet 10
  • snorkel 200
  • booties 200
  • entrance to Apo Island Resort 100
  • tour guide 200
  • lunch 400
  • wash 10
  • shower 20
  • jeep to Dumaguete 40
  • trike to hotel 18

total: 4856 (2428 each)

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When in Siargao: Surf at Cloud 9

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It has come to my surprise that Siargao is hailed as one of the best surfing places in the entire world, landing on the number eight spot.  Best known as the surfing capital of the Philippines, locals and international tourists alike are definitely allured with this paradise.  It is the most gifted with its monstrous waves as it faces the most vast body of water, the Pacific Ocean.  Surfer or not, it may be irresistible to waive on one of the most treasured secrets in Asia.

We visited Siargao around late August but the ideal months to come here is around October to April when the waves are most consistent and originating on the north eastern swell.  With this, its waves can barrel up to 7 feet on the average and can take you to a long distance of 100 to 200 meters.  However, you can revel in surfing all year round especially if you just want to give this sport a try. Surfing competitions already start around September so you can expect a lot of people coming in to General Luna which is home to the world renowned surfing spot in Cloud Nine.  If you’re really hooked into surfing, there are available surfing schools in the area to enhance your potentials.

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Resorts are lined up around the beaches in General Luna.  They offer surfboard rentals and provide surfing instructors for newbies at a very cheap price.  In our case, we checked in at Ocean 101 Cloud 9 Beach Resort which is only a five minute walking distance to the Boardwalk.  While scouting for the best place to stay here, make sure to find the nearest to Boardwalk which is a tourist spot and a perfect place for your totally instagram worthy photo op.  It is made of a wooden path where it will be easier for you to access the surfing spot of Cloud 9 or just enjoy watching the surfers tackle the unforgivable and powerful waters.

The best time to learn surfing is early in the morning as it gets already crowded in the middle of the day especially if you head to Siargao just in sync with surfing competitions.  We had a call time with our surfing instructors around five am but we were so exhausted from the previous day and ended up waking up later around six instead.  Thankfully, when we arrived at the Boardwalk, there were only a few people so we enjoyed a few selfies in the area.  We found a spot at the beach to practice the stances and the proper position on the surfboard.  Our instructors also gave us tips on the easy way to paddle and ride the waves.  After a few minutes, we were ready to conquer the famous waves of Siargao.  We initially planned on doing it for just an hour but we were so obsessed and were able to extend for another thirty minutes.  For a newbie, an hour or two can already be exhausting especially if most of the time you need to paddle.  As our surfing instructor said, you can never be a good surfer if you don’t make an effort to paddle.  Surfing totally gives you the adrenaline rush that will make you come back for more.

There are different surf spots around Siargao Island that can cater surfers depending on experience.  I’m not very familiar with the places so if you want to try these breaks, you can definitely ask help from the locals to point it out to you.

Beginners:

  • Llorente

Experienced:

  • Cloud 9
  • G1
  • Rainbows Left
  • Rock Island

Both:

  • Barrio
  • Boulevard
  • Cemeteries
  • Dako Island
  • Doot Poktoy
  • Jacking Horse
  • Stimpy’s
  • Suicides
  • Sulingan Beach

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Tips:

  • Rent some booties.  The beach has plenty of corals.  It can be painful when you’re on barefoot.
  • If you have a GoPro camera, they offer surfboards with mounts.  Just make sure you have a string to secure your camera into the mount.  With the powerful waves, the camera can surely be washed away.
  • Schedule your surfing time with the resort staff the night before.
  • Never miss the sunrise and sunset at Boardwalk. 
  • Be early to avoid crowd.
  • If you’re not into surfing.  You can enjoy paddle boarding or kayaking.
  • Watch the surfing forecast before you head on to the beach.  http://magicseaweed.com/Cloud-9-Surf-Report/637/
  • There are no ATM machines in General Luna.  You need to head to Dapa to make bank transactions and sometimes there are no available cash in the machine.  Make sure to bring enough cash to sustain your trip.  Only a few foreign currencies are accepted at the resorts. 
  • Other resorts offer cheaper rates for surfing lessons if you’re in groups.  Just ask Google for help.

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Expenses:

  • Surfboard with instructors: 400 – 500 per hour
  • Surfboard (Long): 300 per hour, 650 half, 1000 whole day
  • Surfboard (Short): 250 per hour, 500 half, 750 whole day
  • Booties: 100 half, 150 whole day

When in Siargao: Island Hopping at Naked, Dako and Guyam Islands

I just have a thing for beaches and island hopping to these three beaches of Naked, Dako and Guyam Island added excitement to my decadent trip in Siargao.  There is just something about the aquamarine waters and powdery white sand that I couldn’t get enough.  The sound of crashing waves and the relaxing warmth of the sun give tingles down to my spine and you know that you’re in love with summer forever.  And you, too, would fall in love with Siargao.

On our second day, we went on a tour to Bucas Grande Islands in the humble town of Socorro, Surigao del Norte and on our way back to the mainland of Siargao, we passed by these three equally gorgeous islands situated near General Luna which is hailed as the surfing spot in Siargao.

Naked Island is named as it is because there is nothing you can find there but white sand and clear blue waters.  There are no trees to give you shade or even cottages built to host tourists.  The rawness of the beach gives simplicity and quality appreciation to the eye.  The bareness of the island however must not be overlooked because its uniqueness is comparable to the best beaches in the Philippines.  If you have visited Boracay Island in Aklan and Virgin Island near Bantayan, Cebu, then Naked Island is likely similar to these.  If you have walked barefoot in the said beaches especially in Station 1 in Boracay where the sand is most fine and powdery then imagine wandering into finer and whiter sands of Naked Island.  The beach remains to be untouched and swimming in its transparent waters is refreshing and ultimately picture worthy.

Next stop was Dako Island.  Dako came from the word “daku” which means big as it is the biggest of the three islands.  Our boat docked into the white beach.  We arrived there almost sunset and it was low tide, half of the beach was almost elevated and you had to climb against the exquisite pearly sands to get to their cottages made of nipa.  There are also available “bahay kubos” or stilt houses for tourists to spend overnight in.  The rest of the island is filled with coconut tress, probably about 80% of the area and that just give you the best natural shade from the scorching heat of the sun.  The sand in Dako Island is the most beautiful among the three in my own opinion alongside with its clearest waters making it the most ideal beach to swim.  An added attraction to the island is that you can practice surfing here.  The waves are calmer and much smaller compared to the surfbreaks of Quicksilver and Cloud 9 in General Luna.  If you’re a newbie, then you can definitely try to learn surfing here.  Even just practicing the right stances and balance is already an advantage when you try to conquer the unforgivable waves of Cloud 9.

Guyam is the smallest among the three.  But size doesn’t really matter when you get to seek this wonderful islet.  The setting provides the usual island vibe but what makes it different is the stony formations that are covered with mosses giving it a foamy texture.  During low tide, natural pools form with these corals and stony structures that create a naturally rustic version of Magpupungko Pools.  Guyam Island is highly similar to Dako Island wherein it also has cottages that visitors can lounge in.  In addition, corals are also widespread along the reefs for marine explorers.

Tips:

  • Go on snorkeling along the reefs of Guyam and Dako Island.  Enjoy the lovely views of the corals, seaweeds, seasnakes, etc.
  • Do sunbathe on Naked Island.  Dare to go topless.  It’s not called Naked Island for no reason.
  • Stay overnight at Dako Island and lounge in the white sands.
  • Practice surfing at Dako Island.
  • Explore the whole island if time permits.
  • The three islands are bereft of electricity so make sure to bring your powerbank with you.
  • Drink coconut water to experience the island vibe.

Island Hopping Boat Fee – 1500 for whole day

When in Siargao: Island Hopping at Bucas Grande

Of all the places we’ve been in Siargao, this is definitely the best part of my trip.  There were so many activites to do and so many places to visit here in these wonderful group of islands.  If Philippines could be comprised in one place, it would be Bucas Grande Islands or otherwise known as Socorro which is a lone island municipality in Surigao del Norte.

To be honest, our tour to this gorgeous island wasn’t included in the itinerary because this would consume one whole day.  I was kind of hesitant then to go here because I prioritized the three adjacent islands in General Luna namely Naked, Dako and Guyam Islands in our planned journey.

We were scouting for a place where we can enjoy half day because the other half would be spent to the three islands.  We thought of Caob Lagoon due to its excellent reviews and privacy of the place.  However, our tricycle driver insisted that we should go to Bucas Grande because he said the view was so worth it and people said it’s better than in Palawan.  He also added that they can fit it into our hectic schedule. 

Bucas Grande is not cheap when you travel in small groups because an average tour rate to this place is 8000 pesos and we were only three.  Imagine the price of paying 2600 per person which would eat up our target budget of spending only 6000 on this trip.  With luck and kind negotiations, we were able to reduce our tour to only 4000 pesos.

We already arranged for our food for island hopping with the driver the day before our tour.  We gave a budget of 800 pesos and they were the ones to buy from the market, cook and serve our breakfast and lunch for the next day. 

Bucas Grande Tour

IMG_7742We met the driver at the port and we were just amazed of how clear the waters are despite that there were inhabitants situated near the area.

The tour took about two hours and here our driver, Francis, was entertaining us with the right humor and guiding us throughout the day.

We passed by the mangroves which were very abundant in the area.  Coconut trees are widespread in the island.  Even while we were still in the plane, we had witnessed how numerous the trees are here in Siargao. Imagine the whole mountain plainly filled with coconut trees.

The view reminded me of The Hundred Islands in Pangasinan but these were different in terms of its beauty and greenness of each islet.  The stony vibe of the islands made me think of Survivor.

IMG_7746We entered into the islands of Bucas Grande.  Before heading to our first stop, Tiktikan Lake, we passed by Club Tara Resort.  We were planning to check in here.  Thankfully, we didn’t because we would end up in isolation and it would be difficult for us to follow our itinerary.  But if you want some privacy and luxury, then this is one of the places you can stay in aside from the famous Dedon Island.

We decided to have our breakfast at Tiktikan Lake.  The driver brought us here instead of the common staff house that tourists eat in.  He said he wanted ours to be private and it was just a walking distance to the Lagoon Lake.

While the boatmen were preparing our breakfast, we proceeded to Lagoon Lake.  You will take a little hike to get there.  When I say little, you don’t need to make an effort.  It’s more of like a 5 minute walk to the top. The lake evoked me so much of Twin Lakes in Sibulan, Negros Oriental.  However, Lake Balinsasayao in Sibulan is bigger compared to this.  The Lagoon Lake adds another dimension to the uniqueness of these islands in Bucas Grande. If you want to see the panoramic view of the lake, you can stay on their viewing staff house.  It’s like a mini open function hall where you can eat in or just chill out.  You also have the option to stay here for the night.  They offer cheap rates as low as 150 per head and you can already enjoy nature at its best.

We returned to Tiktikan Lake as our breakfast was already ready and we were astonished that they were able to fit our mere and cheap budget into a breakfast feast. The small cottage we stayed in is built on top of the lake.  They had a “tiangge” wherein you can buy some grocery items in case you forgot something.  They also breed lobsters which are very pricey.  They can sell up to 2000 per kilo and they are export quality.  So just in case you have an extra budget, you have the option to splurge for it for breakfast.  What’s amazing is that you can swim and do some cliff jumping.  My life stopped, literally, having flashbacks while jumping from a 15 feet or a 2-storey high building and plunging myself in the pretentious and deep blue waters of the lake.

Next on the itinerary was the Crystal Cave.  It’s a 5 minute trip from the Tiktikan Lake.  We were given flashlights upon docking and did an easy hike towards the cave.  At first I thought it was just like the usual caves that I got to see with my previous trips and never had I imagined that it was the most unique and creepy in some way because it felt like a real cave.  The rawness and the brilliance of the stone formations reflected like crystals.  The fact that it wasn’t developed and left untouched gave it a sense of realness and a natural experience.  There were two paths in exploring the cave. The first path which we took is the Crystal Cave where it only involved walking and a lot of selfies and groupies.  We wanted to try the other option which is the Bolitas Cave, but we weren’t prepared for it because you need to do a lot of crawling like in the usual cave exploration done in the movies.  Spelunking to this narrow path would be exciting but we just couldn’t do that in our bikinis.  Before heading back to the entrance, the boatman made us turn off our flashlights so that we can really experience the cave, of being in the dark and hearing its nothingness and it was just tranquility for me.

It was almost low tide, about ten o’clock in the morning, and it was time to go to the Sohoton National Park.  We docked in their main cottage.  We registered and paid for the entrance, boating and environmental fees. 

We transferred into a small boat.  It could only carry one passenger and the boatman so we did kayaking or paddling towards the Jellyfish Sanctuary.  Another name for this is Tojoman but it’s popularly known as Jellyfish Lagoon.  The place was by far the most magical thing I have ever seen.  The water was so blue that you need no filter to make it beautiful.  I wanted to stay here forever and have this in my backyard. Haha!  Another bonus to complete this experience was being able to witness and interact with the cute jellyfish.  There are many varieties of jellyfish you can find here and they become very abundant during the summer season.  If you have an ample time, you can swim in the awe-inspiring waters and take underwater selfies with these grand marine creatures.

It was now time to go the most awaited trip ever which is the Sohoton Cove.  We were led back to the reception area and transferred to a bigger boat.  The reason why it’s important to wait for the water level to come down is you can never get inside the cove unless it’s low tide because there is only one entrance. The limestone rock formations reflect the green natural waters and seclude the place amidst the welcoming vibe of the scenery.  The tour guide even added that during the storm, fishermen tend to hide here because of its isolation and the calmness of the waves.  In order to get into the cove, we had to pass by the “underground river”.  It’s around 50 meters long.  We had to wear hard hats and dock ourselves since the water level is too close to the ceiling.

IMG_7785As we went along with our tour, we passed by the horse’s foot rock formation which is made of stalactites and it barely touches the water. This serves as a landmark into the Sohoton Cove.

IMG_7787Making a turn right before our first stop, our tour guide pointed to us the rock facade which is believed to be unearthly.  It’s popular known as the Church Not Like Ours.  The guide added that during Holy Week, mass songs and praises are heard by passersby.