Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Leaving Bantayan Island

On our last day, I woke up at 5:00 am to take sunrise shots. I've already posted about my favorite shot but let me share a few more.

Just before the sun came out

Out at last!

The sun hiding behind the clouds

That's me!!!

By 8:15, we boarded the outrigger that would take us to Malapascua. We looked back and said farewell to the beautiful island of Bantayan. Until next time.

Discovering Bantayan Island (Day 3)

On our third day, we decided to wake up early, rent mountain bikes and explore the island on wheels. We got up at 6:30, quickly changed into our biking outfit. Nothing fancy. I put on my fave pink halter-back shirt which I got from Bora a few years back and my army-green linen cargo pants purchased a few weeks back at 50% off from Bossini.

Ariel, well, he doesn't really care about what to wear so I guess he just pulled out the first shirt he got his hands on. We both slipped into our most comfortable pair of footwear - our Crocs! I got a pair of silver Mary Janes which I adorned with three red jibbitz (a heart, a ladybug and a strawberry). Ariel oted for a pair of blue Beach Crocs, also adorned with 3 jibbitz (a music note, a guitar and a yellow smiley). I swear, it is worth every peso. We could have survived our entire trip with just our pair of Crocs. I didn't have to bring my aqua socks!

Anyway, once in comfortable outfits, we sleepily dragged ourselves out into the lobby to get our bikes. We paid P150 each for a whole day's use. By 7:15, we were furiously pedaling on the well paved roads. We went south to explore the area near the pier.

Exhausted after only a few kilometers!
(By the way, I made a digital layout of our biking
exploration. Check it out here.)

Taking a short break at Okoy

We stopped by Baranggay Okoy to take a breather. The sun was already in its full glory and I realized we didn't bother to apply any sun protection products. I was wearing a hat but my arms were exposed to the sun's fury. I was all sweaty but it felt wonderful.

Stopping for some photos

After a while, we decided to head back north to our resort for some breakfast. I ordered a Cebu specialty - danggit, while Ariel opted for his usual fare - tocino. The danggit wasn't good. It wasn't crispy, and has a fishy smell. Didn't enjoy it at all. Ariel didn't like his tocino either. Tsk, tsk, tsk. After sweating it out for more than an hour, we would have loved to reward ourselves with a hearty meal. :(

After breakfast, we hired a tricycle to take us to the town proper so we could check out the Bantayan Public Market. We were told by the resort personnel that the Market was 11 kms. away and it would be too far for us to go there on our bikes. As we just had breakfast, we decided to go with the tricycle. The tricycle is not the same as the ones you would see in Manila. It actually looked like a small jeepney and would comfortably fit maybe 8-10 people. Along the way, we saw some chicken farms where Bantayan's famous eggs are produced. We also saw Coke bottles filled with coke-like liquid being sold on the streets. We later found out they were gasoline for the tricycles.

Once in town, we went around and explored the area on foot. We went to the commercial pier where poeple from nearby islands dock to do their domestic chores like buy water, fresh produce, etc. While going around, we chanced upon a group of men carrying a small hut in bayanihan fashion. They gamely smiled for the camera while I snapped away. We then checked out the dried fish section at the public market and was disappointed to see that their danggit is not well-dried unlike those that are sold in Cebu City. No wonder my breakfast was a bit "malansa" and was not crispy.

Ariel at the pier

We saw an old lady selling what seemed like bibingka. She had a small stove with charcoal and little tins lined with banana leaves. Some tins were already filled the cooked rice cake which looked like a cross between puto and bibingka. She was selling them for P2.50. We decided to be adventurous and tried one. She handed us a freshly cooked piece, still warm to the touch. It tasted like puto with coconut. Pretty tasty actually. Not bad for the price!

The Lady selling puto

We went around to see if we will find a Bantayan Island shirt. Nada! Nothing touristy can be found. The market sells stuff for the locals only - food, clothing and other basic supplies. Not even small souvenir items. I guess if you want pasalubong, you can opt to get the dried fish. No thanks! I'd buy from Taboan market in Cebu City instead. Nevertheless, we still had a great time going around and taking pictures. I didn't spot other "touristy" looking people. I was the only one snapping pictures away. We also explored the old Catholic Church hoping to get snapshots of the architecture. However, funeral rites were being conducted when we were there so we couldn't get any decent photos. Only got to take exterior shots. Bummer!

Bantayan Church

The pretty Bantayan tricycle

When we got back from our trip to the town proper, we hopped into our bikes again and pedaled around the Poblacion area in search of the perfect lunch. We chanced upon the barbecue stand where we bought grilled chorizo on our first day. Since she also sells rice, we decided to make it our lunch stop. We ordered 4 sticks of chorizo, 4 sticks of pork barbecue, 1 stick of chicken barbecue and 4 pieces of puso (rice wrapped in coconut leaves). Each piece of puso contains about half a cup of rice. We also bought 2 bottled of Pepsi (had no choice, it was the only beverage sold in this outlet - I should tell our Coke salesmen to improve distribution in Bantayan Island!). It was our best meal so far. We savored everything with gusto. It was hot, we were tired from biking, we were sweaty and sticky, but we were rewarded with a great meal. All for only P147.00.
To experience the local flavor, we had to eat where the locals eat

Stopping by for lunch

Our best lunch - no frills, just plain delicious treat!

After our simple but sumptuous meal, we headed back to the resort. Tired and full, we decided to take a short nap before kayaking later in the afternoon.

Getting ready to paddle

We paddled to Kota Beach and stopped for a bit of swimming. We met a couple of kids who were vacationing from Cebu City. Very friendly lot!

Low tide

Our beautiful beach front

Savoring our last day at Bantayan Island

The beach was so beautiful on our last day. It seemed like the island knew we were enjoying our last few hours at the beach. The tide was low and we had a wide stretch of beach before us. The water was very calm. There were starfishes all over the beach. The sky was clear and the sun was so bright. We enjoyed just sitting by the beach, partly soaked in water, mostly baking under the sun. We took a lot of pictures to freeze the moment. More than anything, Ariel and I enjoyed our quiet moments together. This trip was far from perfect but it exceeded our expectations. While most people would pay a lot to be with the party crowd of Boracay, we decided to buy us some peace and quiet , and a bit of an adventure in an obscure island in Cebu.

A shot taken with the camera half submerged in water

Marlin beach front

For our last dinner, we went to Balikbayan Restaurant. We ordered the house specialty , Kinunot, which is basically fish fillet in coconut cream with malunggay leaves. Yummy!!! We also ordered grilled pork belly (no surprise there), squid rings (or calamares) with a dipping sauce which seemed to be made of mayo and mustard, and 2 cans of Coke Light. Fantabulous food!!! I'm glad we saved the best for last. A glass of halo-halo for Ariel and a shot of Bailey's for me were the perfect ending to a great dinner. We paid a total of P770. Not bad for a great meal!!! Next time (we will return to the island someday!), I'd love to try the Spicy Prawns (P350) and the Spicy Crabs (medium - P180; large - P220). Balikbayan Restaurant is definitely a must for any Bantayan Island visitor.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Discovering Bantayan Island (Day 2)

We woke up early and very excited for today's activities. We decided to take a quick breakfast at Marlin's. Ariel ordered a burger while I opted for the bacon sandwich. A glass of pineapple juice completed our breakfast. By 8:30, we were ready to go. Mario was meeting us in front of Kota Beach. From afar, we saw a small boat. We joked that it was going to be our ride to Virgin Island. Turned out the joke's on us. That was indeed our boat. Small and bare. Not even a piece of cloth to protect us from the sun. Oh well, half the boat for half a price.

We landed at the Virgin Island around 9:30am. Took us almost an hour with our teeny outrigger. The hour-long trip was uneventful. The sea was calm, the weather perfect. Mario handed us an umbrella to protect us from the sun but I didn't care if I get a bit of a tan.

The boat that took us to Virgin Island

Virgin Island is breathtakingly beautiful. The sand is powdery white. The waters crystal clear. We had to pay P300 entrance fee. We were told it is privately owned and visitors pay for the maintenance.

Virgin Island

Ariel & I at the beach

My beau

Yours truly

Ariel exploring the marine life

Some colorful corals

Ariel walking at the beach

A good meal gets better with a bottle of ice cold Coke

Our lunch is prepared by Mario and his friends. We gave him P500 the previous night so he can buy fresh seafood and meat for our lunch. They cooked a good meal for us: adobong pusit, grilled fish, grilled pork chop, steamed crabs and a pot of steaming rice. A bottle of Coke completed our meal which we ate with our bare hands.

Yours truly, just after lunch

Ariel and I exploring the island

Resting by the hammock

Ariel at the hammock

We brought our own mask and snorkel

Leaving Virgin Island

By 1pm, we were ready to go. We went back to the resort and took a short nap. We agreed to meet Mario again at 3:30 pm. He volunteered to accompany us to Ogtong Cave. After our nap, we took a pedicab owned by Mario's friend to Sta. Fe Beach Club Ogtong Cave. We paid an entrance fee of P100 each. We paid for Mario's fee as well so he can go with us inside. It was a much nicer resort with well landscaped surroundings, a swimming pool, and beautifully designed cottages. However, the beach is not as nice as the one in front of Marlin.

Inside Ogtong Cave

Ariel inside the cave

The cave was made tourist friendly with the addition of concrete steps leading to the entrance. Inside, lighting was installed to make the place safe for visitors. Ariel and I soaked in the warm water for a few minutes.

Having a good time

Beautiful feet under the Ogtong Cave water

Floating at the pool

After a few minutes inside the cave, Ariel and I decided to take a dip at the pool. It was a small swimming pool and was heavily chlorinated. The water was very warm and didn't feel refreshing at all. We only stayed a few minutes, took some pictures and decided to head back to Marlin.

Ariel by the pool

That's me by the pool

By 7pm, we were ready to have dinner. We decided to explore the restaurants by the beach. A few meters from Marlin's beach front was White Sands Bar and Restaurant. We ordered prawns sinigang (Php 800+), grilled chicken (Php 200+), deep fried sardines with balsamic vinegar (P100+ - yummy!!!). Ariel ordered San Mig Light while I sampled the calamansi shake which I found too weird for my taste - mixed with milk so it was creamy-sour - so I later on ordered a bottle of Coke.

What was left of dinner!

We were originally seated at a table by the beach. However, the tide started to rise and our table was soon in the water. We then transfered to a table near the bar. We were so excited to eat the feast before us that I totally forgot to take a picture of our meal. I just took a picture of the leftovers. It was a good meal though the prawns are a bit too expensive.

We walked back to our resort through the main road as the beach has become too dark. We arranged for a 10pm massage and we were eagerly anticipating the relaxing night. We were sorely disappointed. For one, the massage did not feel good at all. The masseuse didn't seem to be trained well. Secondly, the massage lasted a full hour - for the two of us!!! It felt like we were ripped off. What a disappointing end to an otherwise great day! Oh well. Tomorrow's another day.