Philippines, Visayas, Bantayan ~ 11th March – 14th March 2016

Bantayan.

This island rank one of the lowest in my to-go list. The impression I have about this island has nothing for me to look forward to.

However I need to find somewhere to go. Somewhere new. After looking at the map of Cebu, all the familiar names have been crossed out; leaving Bantayan and Camotes Island.

So I chose Bantayan Island after my friends in Dumaguete and Manila recommended it. However I am still hesitant.

Bantayan has been often compared with Malapascua. Malapascua being a dive haven, is more well-known and mentioned more especially among divers.

Cebu Pacific is like Air Asia; their favourite past time is to change flight schedules. I do not know how many emails has Cebu Pacific sent me regarding the change of flight schedule.

Day 1

The flight leaves on time and even reach Cebu 15 minutes before schedule.

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When I arrived at the immigration, I found that the layout has changed. The immigration area is brighter.

Immigration clearance is fast and even the baggage area has been renovated. It is brighter and more spacious unlike the old and dingy look.

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Now there are telco companies; SMART and Globe having kiosk in the baggage claim area.

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I bought a 5 day data plan for P300. I think it is limited to 1.5GB. They have regular SIM card only but do not worry, if you require nano SIM or micro SIM, they will just cut it for you. All is done in 5 mins.

Exiting the terminal, the taxi stand have been moved to the right side. There is a proper yellow airport taxi stand now. Even the white taxi stand is now just beside the yellow airport taxi stand.

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The queue is short and there is a constant flow of taxis. Obviously the white taxis are doing a better business than their yellow counterpart.

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There is also a bus service that will bring you to SM Mall

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I took a white taxi to the North Bus terminal. The traffic is quite bad actually and I need almost an hour to reach the terminal.

The bus terminal still collect P10 for taxi entry.

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The next bus to Hagnaya port is 0800 hrs and the fare is P132. Along the way, the bus pass by plantation and hills. It is actually an enjoyable ride. However the bus seat is very small and with big ass people like me, it can be quite squeezy if there is a passenger sitting beside me.

The bus conductor is very friendly and helpful towards all passengers.

The ride to the port is almost 4 hours.

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There are actually aircon bus but I did not see any. There are also buses that travel directly all the way into Bantayan via the RoRo.

There are two major shipping lines that serve the Bantayan-Hagnaya route; Super Shuttle Ferry and Island Shipping.

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These two shipping lines schedule complement each other. So you need not choose which ferry to take next.

The ferry fare is P170 and you will have to pay P10 terminal fee.

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There are many food options at the port and also there are actually several bus companies serving Hagnaya.

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The ride is about 90 mins and the boat hardly leave on time.

You must keep the tickets because the ticket is only collected in the boat and also just before you walk up the stairs to the seats.

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The ferry is slow travelling about 16km/hr only. If the vessel is a catamaran, you can reach Bantayan in an hour.

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The beauty of Bantayan is clearly shown when the boat approach the port. The water is so clear and beautiful.

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Upon reaching Bantayan port, many porters and trike drivers will approach you.

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Philippines - Bantayan - Mar 2016 - 052

I look around the water in the jetty and found that the water is very clear.

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A trike to the Santa Fe area will be P20 per person.

I walked all the way to the entrance of the port to get a trike. The ride to Anika Resort is just like 5 mins only.

Check-in is pretty fast but they will insists on you showing them the transfer slip. When booking with Anika directly, you will be ask to transfer 50% of your stay. You will need to show them the transfer slip in order to check you in.

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Also not all rooms are available for booking in 3rd party site like Agoda. For the Courtyard room, you will need to book directly with Anika.

The booking process is quite simple. You get a quote, you pay and once they receive the money, they will confirm your reservation via email.

The room is actually made out of shipping containers. I would say this will shorten the construction process by a lot but looks “cheap”. The shipping containers will then be carved out into several small rooms.

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The room is sufficient for two. Water pressure is decent and the cable TV channel is limited. The TV signal is also very erratic.

The aircon can be a little noisy and vibrate. The aircon is also weak and it need a long time to cool the small room.

One important thing to note is that there are no power points for you to charge your gadgets. The only 2 power points have already been used by the TV and also the decoder. So you had better bring a multi-plug.

I then walk to the beach and was very impressed by the beach around Anika.

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It is very beautiful. The sea is so blue and as a matter of fact, has a different hue of blue.

It is obvious that the resort did maintain the beach front of the resort. There are very little trash and seaweeds on the beach.

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I also walk around the resort and the resort is actually compact. There are toilets even outside the rooms and there is a wash area for the sand on your foot before you enter your room.

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There is a small playground for the kids.

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The sun deck chairs are of better quality compared to the neighbouring resorts.

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The surrounding of the resort is very pleasant.

I walk out of Anika resort beach further north.

There are some kids flying their kite and also saw 2 little girls sorting out the fish net used by one of the girls’ father. I took some picture of them are they are smiling all the way.

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I chatted with them and found that their name is Angela and Baby. They are both 11 years old. They are preparing the fish net for tomorrow’s use and the net and boat belongs to Angela’s father.

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After some chatting, Angela asked me with her little English whether do I want to do island hopping the next day. I told them I am interested and I asked her how much. “P800” is her answer. She further add the island entrance fee is P500. Her English is a little incomprehensible and is aided by Baby.

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She then run back home happily and bring her father out. I requested to set off tomorrow 0700 hrs to Virgin island. I also told him that the price is P800 and he seems to hesitate but agreed.

I then bid them farewell and take a rest in the room.

In the evening where there is still light, I just lie down on the sun deck and enjoy the cool breeze. It is already low tide and you can see that the water recede very far from the beach.

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It is indeed very relaxing.

I decide to head out for dinner.

There are trikes readily available outside the resort and it cost P20 per person to go to the town. It is a short 5 mins ride.

The trike driver recommended MJ Square for a cheaper option.

MJ Square actually is a collection of restaurants. There are stalls selling shakes, beers and restaurants. There is even a cake shop. The food options here is definitely more than Malapascua.

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I settled for the biggest restaurant there and ordered the so-called Malaysia Chicken Curry.

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Philippines - Bantayan - Mar 2016 - 180

Obviously the food served is not Malaysian Chicken curry style. However it is spicy enough and taste quite nice.

After dinner, I just take a short walk around and there are actually many other restaurants. One of the restaurants even have a live band on Saturday.

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There are also street vendor selling the usual BBQ chicken!

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After that I took a P20 trike back to hotel.

I spend the rest of the night lying on the sun deck and watch the stars.

I have been to Philippines several times and this is the first time I can lie down on the beach and watch the stars feeling safe. Even in Boarcay Station 3, the security will advice me not to stay at the beach even the resort is at the beachfront.

Here in Bantayan, I can enjoy this without much worry. There is security guard that belongs to Anika at the beach who is monitoring the surrounding.

I am loving every minute of it.

Day 2

I woke up early but I missed the sunrise.

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Angela is actually waiting for me at the beach and once she saw me walking towards the beach, she came running towards me.

She brought her father out from the house. Since it is still low tide, Angela’s father have to push the boat nearer to the shore so I can walk less. It is very thoughtful of him. I can actually walk out since the water is very shallow.

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The boat ride to Virgin Island is less than 30 mins.

Once you reach the island, you will be led by the staff to register and pay the P500 entrance fee. The P500 actually is for 2 person but since I am alone, it does not make any difference.

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Virgin Island to me is a very commercialised island. There are huts to rent and it is decorated like a Christmas tree.

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I don’t have a good feel about the place.

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When walking along the beach, we found a fair amount of broken glasses. So please wear your shoes when walking along the beach.

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Angela keeps mentioning a place called nature park. I can’t figure out what is it and I ask her is it in Virgin Island. She just nodded her head and keep saying monkey.

When we board the boat and decide to go back to Bantayan, Angela keeps asking me whether to go to the nature park. I then asked her father where is it and pointed a direction to it.

I asked is there any entrance fee and he said P200 and the kids can enter for free.

I can see that the kids yearn to go there and I agreed.

The ride took about 10 mins.

When walking towards the beach, the sand is very soft and our feet sink deep into the sand. The trick is not to wear shoes but I am afraid of losing them.

After some struggle, we all manage to reach the beach.

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When we walk up towards the park, we are greeted by a Caucasian. I asked him what island is this and he answered it is Bantayan. I then asked whether is he the owner and he said yes.

The place we are visiting is actually Bantayan Nature Park and Resort. It is located on the Eastern part of the island and is about 25 min ride to Santa Fe town.

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We were then brought by one of the staff to pay for the entrance fee. If you would just like to walk around for sightseeing, it will be P100. If you would like to use the facilities like fish spa, swimming in the cave and swimming pool then the fee will be P200.

The park has caged animals. Mainly small ones like birds. The star animal that the kids wanted to see is the monkey named Emo.

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There is also 2 swimming pools; one for the kids and the other is adult pool. There is a fish spa also.

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There is a cave that you can swim in it during high tide.

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I later understand that this is the first time that the kids come to this park as not many visitors would like to visit this place. So the kids try to use this opportunity through me to come to visit this place.

Seeing the kids happy also made me happy.

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After this we left the island and head back to the resort.

I again took a walk along the beach and saw families processing their catch. It is a type of fish and they actually peel the fish apart and sun them!

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I also saw other workers loading good and I believe they are shipping it to other neighbouring islands.

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I walk into the village and I can see that some villagers are still rebuilding their house after Yolanda.

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At the resort, I then called a trike driver to bring me to see the sunset. I find a nice chap called Edgar (09235939556) to bring me there for P700. I bargained down to P600.

Unfortunately, his tyre is flat and could not come to fetch me. I then have to look for another driver. At the entrance of the resort, I look for another driver and manage to find a motorbike driver that is willing to bring me to see the sunset at Madridejos at P400.

The ride to Madridejos is really long. It is about 18km from Anika. The road is also bumpy and my ass really hurts.

The driver brought me to Kota Park in Madridejos. It is a small beach and park. It has a road leading to a structure.

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I just sit there and wait for the sunset. Though the sunset is not as spectacular as Boracay, but it is still nice. I just love sunset.

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Just before last light, I decide to head back to Santa Fe for dinner.

It is another long ride and some stretch of the road is really pitch dark. I look up and saw the stars in the sky. It is really beautiful.

We reach Santa Fe in about 40 mins.

I decide to eat at the same place. This time, I ordered Spicy Sizzling squid and it was delicious.

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After dinner, I again walk around the area and saw a live band performing at the Blue Bar.

When I reach back at the resort, I again just spend my time watching the stars.

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Philippines - Bantayan - Mar 2016 - 602

Boring isn’t it?

By the way, the cell phone signal is Bantayan is poor. I did not see any 3G signal anywhere on the island.

Wifi is provided in Anika but only on the beach area and the restaurant. There is no Wifi signal in the room.

Day 3

My last day in Bantayan and I am already missing this place.

I woke up early to try to catch the sunrise.

The sunrise is beautiful too.

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After sunrise, I again walk around the beach and saw some fisherman coming back from their work.

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I also saw some kids playing. I wanted to take some pictures and they happily pose for me.

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I then saw Angela and she is washing a basin on the beach. I walk towards her and have a chat with her. I also told her that I knew she has overcharge me on the Island hopping tour and she sheepishly admitted it and even told me how the P800 is being distributed.

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She is really a nice girl and I wish her well before we parted.

I check out early in order to catch the 1030hrs ferry.

Anika provide complimentary transfer to and from the ferry terminal if you inform them early.

The schedule for each ferry is more prominently displayed here. Use the published schedule as a guide as mentioned earlier, the departure time is usually later.

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Also mentioned earlier, there is a Ceres bus that travels all the way into Bantayan island. So there is also a ferry back to Hagnaya.

According to Anika resort staff and based on their observation, the ferry that has Ceres bus in it is 0600hrs, 1030hrs, 1430hrs and 1800hrs. Please do not use the said timing as absolute as schedule might change.

The ferry fare is P170 and you have to pay P5 for the terminal fee. When you walk towards the ferry, you will have to pay another P5 to the Port Authority.

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I took some final shots of Bantayan before the ferry departs.

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Again, the ferry leave about 25mins late and there is a Ceres aircon bus in it.

The bus is full so I cannot board mid way.

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When the ferry reach Hagnaya, there will be buses waiting. I saw two Ceres buses leaving and one of them is even an aircon bus.

As it is a Sunday, the traffic is a bit lighter and we reach the bus terminal in 3.5 hours. However our bus is driving like F1 and we even have a near miss accident in Cebu.

Once in Cebu, I start to “work”; buying stuff according to the shopping list.

I stayed in Red Planet Cebu which is formerly Tune Hotel.

The room did not change much but now they uses a dispenser for hand soap and bath foam.

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Water pressure is good and cable TV selection is good unlike Anika.

My kind friend in Cebu asked me out for dinner.

He brought me a hole in the wall near to Mango Avenue. The restaurant is called Boiling Shrimp Hauz. They mainly serve shrimp and squid in a plastic bag. They also do have side dishes like chicken.

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The rice will be put on top of a table and you are supposed to use your hand to eat. A plastic glove is provided and even an apron is provided upon request.

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The food is delicious and for a meal for 5, the bill is only P1760. This is cheap according to my country’s standard.

After dinner, my friend brought me to the latest SM Mall in Cebu; Seaside.

The mall is still quiet nice and having launch in Nov 2015, many stores are still close. The mall is really spacious and bright but a little deserted.

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After walking two rounds, we left.

I was told that there is another new mall called Robinson Galleria that I should visit.

Well, maybe another day.

Day 4

My last day in the Philippines.

I continue to “work”. I even visited Colonnade Supermarket at 0700hrs.

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Took a jeep from the hotel to SM and also visited Robinson Galleria.

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Dumaguete has a famous restaurant called Sans Rival and they have the famous Silvarna. Now they have open a branch in Robinson.

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Bohol Bee Farm has also open a branch in Robinson Galleria. Bohol Bee Farm ice cream is awesome and no matter how busy I am, I will stop over for an ice cream. Like their branch in Bohol, they sell honey related items and also other snacks.

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Hup Chan has also open a branch!

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After all my shopping, I go back to the hotel to unload my stuff.

I then took a taxi back to SM seaside to look for something but too bad I cannot find it. I found out that there are several bus services bringing visitors to SM Seaside.

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I then went for my lunch and guess where did I go?

I went back to the Boiling Shrimp Hauz! This time I ordered Cajun Shrimps with XXX spiciness!

After the food is served, the chef actually stand in a corner to see who actually the XXX spicy Shrimps. I guess he must be thinking I cannot finish the food.

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In the end, I did finish the food and the chef just smile at me. I told him that the food is awesome. However, I guess I will still stick to medium spiciness the next time!

I then went back to the hotel and start packing my stuff.

I extended my room till 1800hrs and pay 50% of the current room rate.

I leave the hotel at 1830hrs and reach the airport around 1915hrs.

Cebu airport has also undergone some renovations. The departure hall is brighter. The airport has join the domestic and departure hall together.

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You will have to pay P750 terminal fee. Immigration is fast but the International transit area still lack of restaurants and café though there is Coffee Bean.

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The chairs has been changed and the waiting area is brighter.

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Overall it is a positive improvement.

By the way, Cebu city does not have any 3G signal too. As a first tier city in the Philippines, I am surprised.

This conclude my visit to Bantayan.

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Bantayan has rise from the bottom of my list to the top 3 for Cebu. It is really an enjoyable trip though there is really nothing much to do!

Bantayan is an underrated island. If you just need a break for like 2 or 3 days, this island is suitable for you.

 

 

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