bantayan island paradise

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asia / on the road / philippines

after weeks of anticipation: bikini-shopping, getting a wax, browsing forums for what-to-do’s and where-to-go’s and how-to-get-there’s… i finally got to bantayan island.

it was totally worth it.

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spent one night in cebu before leaving for the island early the next day. we took a cab from mandaue city to the north bus terminal, and were just in time for the yellow ceres bus that would take us to hagnaya port.

three hours later, we got to hagnaya. the ground was muddy because of the intermittent rain. it was sunny when we got there though. there were tons of people, most of them locals (i.e. Bisaya, and not Tagalog like me). I put on my huge shades and basked in the sun. The only ferry leaving early was Island Shipping Corporation, which turned out to be a huge roro type of ferry. No 1st class/2nd class seats here; everyone sits down first-come-first-served on plastic benches arranged on the deck. You can pay a porter to reserve seats for you beforehand, but we didn’t.

Bantayan on first glance is bee-yoo-ti-ful. Waters are clear, except for the bit near the boardwalk that’s filled with garbage (too bad for the pricey resorts near the port, haha).

First view:

first view of Bantayan from the ferry

And here’s another:

view from the boardwalk

we took a trisikad from the port to Budyong resort. After unpacking it was straight to the beach for a look-see. And we weren’t disappointed. It was high noon so we decided to wait it out before taking a dip.

budyong beach resort

our cottage

the cottage itself costs only Php1,000/night. Not bad. It’s pretty basic: two queen-sized beds, a fan, and a shower. But who needs an A/C when there’s the sea breeze to look forward to? (Also, there was a blackout for each of the two nights we were there. Haha. Lasted for only 40 minutes max though. Played Feeding Frenzy while waiting it out.)

A view of the beach:

heavenly - check out the sandbar

another view

You can see the seaweed in the second view. There’s a sandbar in Budyong Beach–beautiful, as it made it seem like you were swimming in two different beaches. (Inside the sandbar: warm water, calm. Outside: cold water, and love the waves!)

The first night we had a buffet dinner at D’Jungle. It’s owned by a foreigner, and you pay only Php245/head for all-you-can-eat seafood and meat + bottomless iced tea. From Budyong it’s a short walk to the market, turn right and watch out for the sign.

The next morning, we had island-hopping lined up for us. We talked to a “broker” (haha, we call him that coz we think he just brokers island-tripping deals for several boatmen whom he calls his tiyuhin/uncle) the day before. We paid Php1,600 for renting a boat; purchase of fish & pork & eggs & a 1.50L Coke for eating on the island (they grill it there); and free snorkels. Even the dark clouds did not deter us:

rain on the way to virgin island

we went to virgin island, which is a 30-40 minute ride from bantayan. did nothing there but swim/snorkel in the shallow (up to my head) waters. personally, preferred the water in bantayan as beyond where we swam there were a lot of coral which made it painful to “walk” there. there were also a lot of tiny fish that nipped on you and sometimes made it itch. but it was lovely to eat grilled stuff and just look out at the beach and think thoughts.

from our table, the rain

we still swam though!

we still swam though. lovely lovely. there were around five dogs in the area and they were quite aggressive when it came to begging for food. one kept prodding my leg with his paw while glaring intensely. haha.

we took a detour to bantayan town that afternoon. as bantayan is a seaside port town, dried fish in all forms–and dried squid–are readily available and quite yummy.

welcome to bantayan town

the market

to note: bantayan isn’t a boracay, and hopefully won’t be in the near future. i mean commercial-wise, don’t expect to find a ton of shell accessories/fans/hats on the island. (found this out as my mom had a special request for a fan. can’t find one in the market nor at the resort.) there was one entrepeneurial guy selling bantayan shirts on the town square though, and as expected his makeshift stall was flocked with tourists.

we ate at kermit’s which is on rodrigues st beside the town square. yummy burritos and pineapple buns. cheap too! they had back issues of glamour and people. reading the mags made me feel in-touch with civilization, for some reason.

the town church:

church as old as the sea

we left early since there was a danger of getting stuck on the island due to forecasted showers. (no complaints there–but we had a flight to catch.)

so it was goodbye budyong and bantayan…

last view of the budyong sandbar

oh yeah :) we sashayed on the catwalk to the ferry...

...and watched bantayan get smaller...

...and smaller.

oh yeah, life’s a beach.


The Author

I am 100% Filipina. I've lived in Manila, Jakarta, and London. Right now, I'm firmly planted in the tiny island of Singapore! I caught the travel bug early on. I also love reading, dark chocolate, spur-of-the-moment food trips, Fridays, dachshunds, and lazy weekends with my family or the Hubby.

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