It was February, two days before my birthday, my table was messed up with dozens of analytical deadlines for Manila Bay project; fish kill occurrences; stakeholders’ meeting; semi-annual reports and so forth and so on. My eyes were burning red!
Experiencing an almost hell breaking terminal boredom!
Take a quick vacation, escape the city, distance oneself from the office, turn off the cellular phone, and temporarily disable social media connections.
Locate the free airline ticket bound for Cebu; reserve an overnight stay in Bantayan Island, pay the reservation at the nearest bank, cash out a little from the savings reserved for the upcoming summer escapade.
A.S.A.P- meaning tomorrow-so file a leave now or simply just be absent (excuse to be provided upon questioning).
Day 1 (Friday)
Morning, Friday, I was in a rush to leave Manila and afraid of someone might stop me from taking a quick absence from my stressful day to day reporting and field work routine. I turned off my phone to make sure I was unreachable, toooot toooot tooooot. There's the sound of dissociation.
At the North Bus Terminal in Cebu, I took a quick lunch in one of the cheap or should I say cheapest “carinderia”since the travel's financial component was a little tight at hand. I just paid Php35 for the "tipid" student meal and I was ready to go.
I immediately jumped into a 3-hour non-airconditioned bus ride (Php 150) bound for Hagnaya and hopped into a 1.5 hour ferry boat ride bound for Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island. Fare was Php 160 plus a Php10 terminal fee.
Arriving at the Sta. Fe Port, tricycle and pedicab drivers were already rushing to mug the unloading passengers of both locals and tourists in the area. Since I have no one with me and a complete stranger in the island, I decided to hire a pedicab driver to take me to Bantayan Cottages. A petite pedicab driver won over me with the fare agreement of Php 20 going to my target accommodation. The inn was actually just 5 minutes away from the port and if only I was aware of it, I could have just walked towards to it.
|Cheap but cozy garden type accommodation in Bantayan Island, Cebu|
Ate Marlyn, the owner of the Bantayan Cottages, warmly greeted me and showed me around her humble yet cozy almost beach front nipa roofed garden type “resort”. For Php 500, my room was already air-conditioned and good for two occupants.
Though Ate Marlyn generously offered her kitchen and utensils for cooking purposes but I decided to wander around until I reached the mini market ‘talipapa” of Talisay. Dozens of fish species were displayed on the wet glistening tiles of the market and just simply inviting. The blue marlin, molmol and danggit were just some of my favorites and I could only wish to buy and taste them all.
|Molmol or Parrot Fish Fresh Danggit Fish|
With 50 pesos in my pocket, I haggled for a two pieces of Molmol (parrot fish) for Php25 and had it cooked to a nearby carenderia for Php 10.00-one fish for sugba (grilled) and the other one was cooked with soup (tinola). I gave the carinderia with Php15 for the cooking tip and Php 10 for two cups of rice. After getting fed up and satisfied with my dinner I head back to the resort and bang my face down to my mushy pillow and fell asleep with snore loudly bounce off the walls.
Day 2 (Saturday)
The silence in the island of Bantayan was simply deafening that put my troubled mind at ease. While trying to collect my consciousness to decided what to do next, Ate Marlyn gave me a cup of coffee and a piece of bread for breakfast that filled my hungry gut. Still point blank on what to do next I just simply run to the beach, witnessing the rays of the rising sun in the east. I couldn't help my self on clicking on my camera to capture the golden moment. After getting satisfied with my photo op, I continued strolling along the shore until I reached the beach front of the resorts like Budyong and Marlin.
|One of the grandest sunrise I have ever seen in the Phillipines|
Lurking around in these resorts, I goofed together with some of the locals and guests who were taking a quick vacation as well. I was thinking they were also having the same corporate terminal boredom or maybe they just wanted to be in the island, charmed by its enchanting beauty. Just maybe.
|Goofing around in the beach of Sta. Fe., Bantayan, Island, Cebu|
Yes, I was wandering alone and nobody stopped me to take a quick dip in the turquoise blue water of Bantayan that simply wow me of its clarity. After getting soaked for 30 minutes I head back to the resort and asked if there are local boats in the area that provide island hopping services. Ate Marlyn referred me to the tour packages offered by the other resorts but I backed down since I found it a little expensive and way beyond my budget .
Outside the resort, I met again the pedicab driver that took me to my hotel accommodation and took the opportunity to him if he knows a cheap servicing boat for island hopping. He pointed me to his brother which happened to be a fisherman. They offered me Php 400 for the service of the boat going to the nearby islands. I find the price affordable so I sealed the deal with a down payment!
We immediately pushed to the Paradise and Virgin Island not far from the main island of Bantayan Island. Great find! I swam, snorkeled and enjoyed the last two hours as we scouted the west shores of the island. The scenery was grand and refreshing to my eyes. The soft wind touching my skin gave me a chill effect telling me what true freedom really means.
|Bantayan only offers majestic views of island landscapes and beaches|
Seeing no other visitors in the island other than me , the creativity popped out from my playful mind to pose for some daring and kinky pictures in the rocky shores of the beaches. My camera man simply hides his smiles with the earth shocking the poses I made. Well, I believe there is nothing wrong to dream and pretend once in while to be an underwear model.
Difficult as it may seem I did my best to flaunt my "chiseled body" ( cough cough cough) against the sands, on the rock crevices, caves and in every place I felt I look sexy (cough again) . I have no idea that the photo shoot did came out very nice (self proclaimed) and I was very impressed how Mr. Boatman was able to follow my simple instruction when it comes to camera angles. Very smart!
|One of the best places that made me stripped and unleashed the tamed animal in me.|
Wrapping up the whole I island hopping, I was damned satisfied with this short yet memorable escapade. I was so thankful with God that He brought me an angel in disguise, providing me all the assistance and limited "freedom" that I could only imagine in my dreams. I couldn't thanked enough my boatman for his kindness and for being a bridge to experience this ultimate beach experience. Without him, my visit to Bantayan would be dull and lifeless.
|Meat shark openly being sold in the small market of Sta. Fe, Bantayan|
My appreciation towards them lead me to become a little generous to treat him and his little brother with a nice lunch at the same carenderia where I had my cheap yet sosyal marinara dinner. We ordered from the market a chopped shark meat and had it grilled over as requested by Mr. Boatman and his brother. The overpowering lunch cost me a staggering Php 90.00, fulfilling the hunger of three voracious eater, that includes me of course.
Dried Fish Shopping
Coming from the resort, I hopped into the rented tricycle (Php 50/hour or Php 350/day) to Bantayan Market. The locals informed me that they have the best quality of dried fish, "danggit" in particular. Before we even reach the place, I could already smell the salty air, that made me excited for the ultimate shopping. True to what they say, Bantayan was a Danggit haven with prices less than half of the retail price in the city of Cebu.
I haggled a little with the enthusiastic "bulad" sellers and some gave me a very nice discount that made me sack an almost two kilos of varying dried non-salted dried fish. I could testify with honesty that the goods sold in their market are FRESH with the highest QUALITY definitely YUMMY!. Dried fish is best paired with fried rice with lots of roasted garlic and roasted eggs . The sosyals call it Yang Chow-but here they simply call it SINANGAG!
|Dried Fish Haven in Bantayan Island|
|St. Peter and Paul Church in Bantayan Island|
Going back to the east side part of the island, we passed by at the old parish church of St. Peter and Paul. This is the oldest parish church established in Cebu that was built in June 11, 1580. The church was constructed using coral stones in which the coast of the island was richly endowed. The church was destroyed by the Moros then rebuilt in 1839.
I asked one passerby that happened to be an old lady to take my picture in front of the church. I assumed that it was not customary for them to take pictures around as I can observed that was trembling holding the camera to take her shot. But nevertheless, she managed to get this awesome picture and I was thankful for the hospitality of the Cebuanos. I thanked her and bought a couple of the suman-kakanin (rice cake) that she was selling. It was Php 10.00 a bundle.
It was almost 2 pm when I arrived back at the resort and I told ate Marlyn that I will leave the island after I dressed up. I requested for the amount of the extended hours of my stay, but she was so kind to decline for an extra charge. She was sad that I was about to leave the island and she asked if I could extend my stay in their place. As much as I wanted to stay, my plane ticket back to Manila won’t wait for me either.
As I leave the vicinity of the resort, I bumped again with the pedicab driver. Carrying with him was a sack of unsalted dried dilis (anchovy) and he was selling it to me for Php 70 a kilo. It was hard to refuse so I just bought a kilo. As he transferred the small dried fish, it almost overflowed and couldn’t fit anymore into the huge plastic bag so I just simply returned the other half back. I gave him Php 100 for the dilis plus a pedicab service back to the port. I boarded the ferry scheduled for the last trip back to Hagnaya that left at 5:30pm.
Back in Cebu City, I arrived so late that I couldn't find any other cheap hotel until I accidentally found myself inside the lobby of Sugbutel. It so happened this hotel is famous for its accommodation suited for backpackers on tight budget. An overnight stay in a shared room cost me P250.00. Not bad after all.
Day 3 (Sunday)
Waking up chilling inside the hotel, the first idea that came to my head was to visit the Sto. Nino Basilica to pray and thank the Lord for the blessings and challenges encountered in life. My visit to this iconic place in Cebu wouldn't be complete without spending a little on some local delicacies. Before deciding to leave the place, I had a sumptuous brunch at the cafeteria besides the church then took off with a taxi back to Mactan International Airport for my flight to Manila.
Mind and body rejuvenated and the nerve-breaking stress just got relieved! As I reached Manila, I turned on my phone back and rushed back to reality, doing field work the next day.
Talisay , Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island