Have you ever wandered or traveled on an island with unclear itinerary, unfavorable circumstances, but still full of hope to enjoy and make the most of your stay? Here’s the trivia. Did you know that for our 5-day stay on the island I personally spend 2,269? And that includes inland and island tours, beach hopping, food tripping, buying souvenir (pasalubong), transportation, etc. What? You read it right. How? Read further and learn it from me first hand.
Well, I’ve been to Bantayan years ago, in December 2013 for a relief mission to the affected residents of super typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda in the Municipality of Madridejos. I saw how the entire island was ravaged by the typhoon that the idea of coming back brought excitement to my whole being. I can’t wait to see how it recovered from its devastation. I’m so overwhelmed that somehow I misconceived the kind of travel awaiting us since it’s peak season (summer time and fiesta). There’s nothing we can do as our wandering feet are leading us to go, and so we went.
Brief Overview of Bantayan Island
According to Wikipedia, the island of Bantayan is located west of the northern part of Cebu. It is administratively divided into the municipalities of Santa Fe, Bantayan proper, and Madridejos. White sandy beaches with crystalline-clear water can be seen in Santa Fe. The centuries-old church of Saints Peter and Paul, spectacular view of the sunset, and cheap dried fish (the typical pasalubong from Bantayan) are the pride of Bantayan proper. Madridejos is notable for the abundance of its fishing industry.
What to do in Bantayan?
As often observed, frolicking in the fine, white sand beachside connotes every tourist’s Bantayan trip. But there are actually a lot of activities you can do here:
Go for a Land Tour
There are resorts and locals offering different packages around the island that come at different prices depending on their inclusions. It really pays to know and interact with the locals as they can give you great deals. Lucky, we’ve met Manong Mario who instantly became our personal tour guide. He offered us a tour package inclusive of Omagieca Obo-ob Mangrove Garden, Paradise Beach, The Ruins and Dive Site, and Ogtong Cave for 600 good for 4. Appreciate the beauty and recognize the significance of mangroves and the bliss of eco-tourism. Be a bit adventurous and visit the secluded strip of white and glittering seawater of Paradise Beach located south-east of the island. Go a bit further to see The Ruins near the popular Dive Site in Bantayan. Swim in the crystal clear water of Ogtong Cave and get a soothing experience from the summer heat. There are other options you can choose from.
Go Hop the Islands
You can do island hopping to Virgin Island, Hilantaga and Silion, and the cost varies according to the number of guests. We were able to rent a boat worth 2,000 for 13 passengers. You can stay at Virgin Island for a whole day so long as you pay an entrance fee of 500 for the first two guests and 100 each for the succeeding guests. A bit curious, but the staff just said it’s according to the owners, they are just following the policy. There are different cottages, benches, and hammocks around the island that will keep you shaded from the summer sunshine. You may also pitch your own beach tent, just as what we did aside from renting a cabana cottage. Playing volleyball and other beach games can also be done.
Aside from the superb accommodations they offer, beaches in Santa Fe boast long stretch of shimmering white sands and pristine sky-blue waters. Just moving around and walking along the seashore gives you a laid-back environment of rustic and calming feel.
Here are some of the beaches you may stroll day and/or night with peace:
Coral Blue Oriental Beach
Kota Beach Resort
Budyong Beach Resort
Anika Beach Resort
Sugar Beach Resort
Paradise Beach Resort
Yooneek Beach Resort
White Beach Bungalows
Watch Where the Sun Rises and Sets
Have a glimpse or full view of sunrise and sunset anywhere on the island. Viewing it at the beach will give you the awe like no other.
Go Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
See the beauty of the island’s waters below, not just above. Get some gear and go scuba diving to have a closer look at the corals and other marine creatures. If this activity costs your pocket a lot, go snorkeling instead, for as cheap as 100 pesos for use whole day.
Rent a Bike
Stroll around Bantayan at your own pace by renting a bike for 150 PHP in 24 hours. The roads on the island are far from bumpy and rough, making it great for biking from Santa Fe to as far as Madridejos. This would also be best and fun for families and friends as well since they have a 3-wheeler bike service that will only cost you 15 pesos each passenger. Never worry if you don’t know the directions because locals are generally accommodating and will help you out.
Have More if Not a Feast of Seafood
One thing all of the family members and your friends would agree on is to indulge with their seafood. They are definitely sold here at a more affordable price than in the metropolitan areas of Cebu. We are lucky enough to have tried the shell I only saw here, the ‘balikad.’ Their scallop and dried fish are a must try as well. All of them really taste great and fresh!
Visit One of the Oldest Churches in the Philippines, Sts. Peter & Paul Church, and Witness the Good Friday Procession
Your trip here would be incomplete without visiting or attending mass to Sts. Peter & Paul Church that was built in the 1950s. It would be great if you could witness their Good Friday procession (famous for its life-size religious statues). It’s amazing how Bantayanons are able to preserve the crafted architecture of the church, making you appreciate Philippine history more. There’s more in here as The Bantayan Parish Museum is just behind the church, displaying artifacts representing the very history of the island from then ‘til now.
There is still a lot to do and more places to visit in Bantayan aside from those mentioned above. To name a few are:
• Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort
• Bontay Baywalk,
• Kota Park (Lawis) – Stone pillars of Kota Park.
• Immaculate Concepcion Parish Church
How to Get There:
• From Cebu North Bus Terminal in Cebu City, take a bus or van bound for Hagnaya Port in San Remigio.
• Go onboard a ferry from Hagnaya Port to Santa Fe.
• Know the changing bus and ferry schedule before the planned travel date. This would save your travel time.
• Have your gadgets fully-charged or bring power banks since you will be exploring outdoors for most of your stay on the island. Don’t miss worth-capturing moments then.
• Keep yourself hydrated when going out since it’s summer and temperature is typically high.
• Look for someone you know living in your next destination to save from accommodation. Explore and meet locals and other tourists for some great deals and tips while wandering. As for our reference aside from our host, you may contact Kya Mario at 09493065756. He can give you great deals on everything you need while in the island.
• Be always reminded of every traveler’s creed to take nothing but picture, leave nothing but footprints and kill nothing but time. Help preserve the beauty of the island so generations to follow will still experience this paradise.
Itinerary: April 13-17, 2017
2:30 AM-3:00 AM – Assembly @ Cebu North Bus Terminal
3:20 AM-4:20 AM – Cebu-Hagnaya Port
8:00 AM-9:00 AM – Hagnaya Port-Santa Fe, Bantayan
9:30 AM – Accommodation (a friend’s house-our host for the trip), breakfast and rest
12:00 Noon – Lunch
2:00 PM-5:00 PM – Camping at the Beach, Beachineering, Photo-ops, Sunset Watching, etc.
6:00 PM – Dinner
7:00 PM – Socials
5:00 AM – Wake-up Call, Sunrise Watching, Photo-ops, Breakfast
7:00 AM-8:00 AM – Wash-up and preparation for Land Tour
8:00 AM-4:00 PM – Land Tour
6:30 PM-9:00 PM – Strolling and Dinner at Santa Fe Market and neighboring areas, and seashore walking
6:30 AM – 4:00 PM – Island Hopping to Virgin Island
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM – Roaming Around Santa Fe and Dinner
9:00 AM – Coffee/Hot Choco time
11:00 AM-3:00 PM – Off to Santa Fe Downtown for dinner and church visit
4:00 PM-6:00 PM – To Bantayan Proper to attend mass at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, visit The Bantayan Parish Museum
7:00 PM – Back to Santa Fe
11:00 PM – Back to Bantayan Proper to wait for Ceres Bus’ first trip the following day since it’s peak season and travelers are stranded due to typhoon signal days ago.
5:00 AM – Onboard Ceres Bus to Santa Fe Port
5:45 AM – Onboard ferry to Hagnaya Port
6:50 AM-12:20 PM – Hagnaya Port-Cebu North Bus Terminal (with too many delays and traffic congestion)
—— at last home again ——
Things to Bring (recommendations)
Pack light, but do bring the necessary:
• rashguard and/or other swimwear
• aqua shoes or slippers and other necessary swimming gear you want
• jacket, umbrella (in case it rains)
• sunscreen/skin protections
• sarong or towel
• dry clothes
• personal medication and toiletries
Van from Cebu North Bus Terminal to Hagnaya Port – 200
Ferry Fare (2-way) – 340
Land Tour (600/4 pax) – 150
Island Hopping to Virgin Island (inclusive of pump boat, entrance fee, cottage, and food – 4600/13 pax) – 354
Ceres Bus Fare from Bantayan to Cebu City – 200
Terminal Fee @ Santa Fe Port – 15
Entrance Fee @ Omagieca Obo-ob Mangrove Garden – 50
Entrance Fee @ Paradise Beach – 50
Entrance Fee @ Ogtong Cave – 100
Tent Space Rent @ the Beachfront (200/4 pax) – 40
Food Expenditure (excludes free meals) – 600
Fare for Motorcycle and Motorela transfers – 170
Total – 2,269 (my personal expenses for the whole trip)
*Some photos are solicited from friends.