Bantayan Trip (Why, how?)

Posted on: May 27, 2009

It’s been a week since my family – (minus kuya because he has his own Bora trip with his friends and Mike – unni’s hubby – because of his work) packed our bags and took our much needed R&R and bonding session in the northern part of Cebu, in this paradise-like island of Bantayan. *_* – me still entranced. It all started with me chancing upon Cebu Pacific’s promo rates while *desperately* searching for cheap rates to Ho Chi Minh City (‘coz me & my travel buddies are itching to go visit another Asian city… hehe). Instead, I saw this very cheap fare to Cebu and since papa’s always complaining about summer and wanting very much to go back to Bora or visit any beach, unnichan and I thought why not bring both of them to Cebu? It would be their first time and althought they were denying it, we sensed that they were very ecstatic about it.

And so I bravely faced my boss’ wrath when I advised him that I will be gone two days during the layout week for the mag. What?!? I need a rest too. But so much for a vacation totally devoid of anything that has got to do with work. I found myself lugging my laptop (plus a bunch of papers!) during the trip.

The day has come
Our flight was at 4:45am so we left the house a little before 3:30am. I didn’t slept at all because I was making such a big fuss on what and what NOT to carry. I don’t have a decent bag – just my red big luggage and a compact duffel bag which couldn’t fit what I had in mind. But I settled for it anyway. I was so hyper the whole time despite my lack of sleep. I didn’t even sleep on the plane and was surprised at how fast the flight was. At exactly 6am, we were already making a bee line for the taxi stand to go straight to the North Central (?) bus terminal where I had quite a scare because of the ‘manongs’ (throngs of them) who suddenly appeared the moment they saw our cab approaching the terminal. We weren’t even out of the cab and they were already forcing open the trunk to get our bags (for porting services it turned out). I was shouting the whole time, saying ‘no’ because some of them already have the bags and we had no clue where they were taking them. Good thing, the bus conductor came and got all our bags while I was still trying very hard to yank my bag off him. It was funny, he was shouting “Libre ‘to! Libre! Walang bayad!” Then he took all the bags and ushered us to the waiting bus that would take us to Hagnaya Port.

The bus ride was a torture. People were sooo noisy and ‘kuya’ the ‘kunduktor’ was shouting the whole time… what was he saying, I have no clue. It was probably the most humid season in Cebu and there were no aircondition buses, they said, so we were perspiring like it was our last. The land travel took about two and a half hours with about ten minute stop over where we grabbed the opportunity to buy some food for breakfast. Grilled hotdogs (more like charred) and softdrinks. Perfect.

Upon arrival at the port, another swarm of men came for porterage but our bags were all so small and manageable for us to need their services. So sorry manongs, I know you’re just trying very hard to earn a living. We waited for about 15 minutes before the ‘fast craft'(not fast at all – we were estimating 2 knotts.. haha) that would take us to the island, arrived. Ferry boats leave every hour from 9:30am onwards. We took the 10:30 ferry and endured another almost two hours and braved the rough seas… the waves were huge… lucky, i didn’t get sea sick. In fact, I was working on one of my articles the entire time. Bringing my laptop wasn’t a waste after all.

After nearly two hours, I finally saw the island with white sand lining its shores. It was such a pretty sight! Imagine Bora when it was still on its most ‘virgin’ state – that’s what Bantayan is. Upon arrival at the gate, we already spotted ‘Manong Dodong’, Kota’s driver (and probably overall errand guy) waving the sign which says ‘Kota Beach Resort’. Unni’s been communicating with him and we’ve been told he’s going to fetch us at the pier gate. We shared the ride with four ‘yuppies’ – two girls, two guys – who obviously are also from Manila (the accent!). I suddenly missed my friends. *woot* It probably took just five minutes to reach the resort. Unni checked us in and I was a little worried about the location of the cottage that will be given to us (‘coz unni said there’s no beachfront available when she booked). Imagine my surprise when they showed us our ‘place’ – it’s right in the middle of the resort fronting the beach – the view was screaming awesomeness! And I stopped worrying.

I had the urge to jump right in the water had the sun been shy a little. The water was so inviting; it was literally glimmering with the sun’s rays reflected on its surface. The ultimate ‘wow’ factor is the sandbar which stretched the whole of the resort, bending to the still undeveloped part of the resort to the left and crossing the adjoining ‘Budyong’ beach resort to the right. Budyong resembles Kota a little with cavanas sprawling the area. But I’d say Kota was blessed to have the best part of the sandbar.

It was really humid and I really wanted to take a bath and change to something more beach-y. (I was wearing jeans the whole time). But first, we had to eat lunch – this time a decent meal which consisted of Sinigang na hipon, Adobong Baboy, YangZhou Chao Fan, and Pancit Canton. Quite a combination, huh? The food was great and the people serving them were great as well… such a kind bunch.

We rested for a bit and started living THE Life – away from work, from the madness of urban civilization, and from my own personal chaos. I wanted to feel ch’i (the natural energy of the universe) coursing through my system and re-energize so that when I go back, I would’ve gained something. And with a place like Bantayan, it’s not really hard to do that. We swam but not too long; the water is really salty – twice as salty as the water in other beaches I’ve gone to. It quite hurts the eyes so it is advisable to swim with goggles on. Spent the rest of the day lounging by the shore. There are not too many people in the resort so you can do pretty much whatever. And that’s one of the reasons why I love the place so much – peace and quiet.

Kota is a very friendly place. As I’ve said, all its staff are very accommodating and kind. The resort is not strict either. Although it has its own restaurant, it doesn’t restrict people. They allow people to buy their food some place else and bring it back tot heir cavanas for a ‘picnic’ by the porch (unlike some of the resorts I know which are so greedy – they want their visitors buying from inside only). You also have the option to buy raw ingredients in the market which is just a block away from the resort and have it cooked in their kitchen for a minimum fee. There were fishermen who offers their ‘huli’ – fishes, crabs, etc – and they could cook it for you (again for a minimum fee). We’ve had enough stock in our tummies so we skipped dinner and just munched on some bread and biscuits.

My first night in Bantayan was one of those rarest moments that would probably be embedded in my thoughts forever. I was in my jammies at the resto, fronting the beach (although I couldn’t see it because it was so dark – it was an endless sea of blackness; it was actually quite scary too if you would think about it), the ocean breeze on my face, sipping my thermos (not cup take note because that was what ‘manang bait’ gave me) of coffee and… tsaraaaan… writing an article about ‘Organizational Development’. Tsk… nasira na. Haha. I had to work and it’s the perfect time to do it… peace & quiet. But then the mood went from compelling to annoying when the ‘TGIS’ gang (the same yuppies we shared the ride with) arrived and completely ruined the serenity… peace and quiet gone. So, I packed up my stuff and went back to the cottage and read a book instead. *sigh*

Round and round the island
The next morning, I surprisingly woke up early (relative to when I am in Manila on a weekend). It was just 5:30 in the morning and I was so eager to catch the sunrise. But as they say in the province, here, the sun rises and sets early. How true is that! The sun was already hanging arrogantly high in the sky when I walked up the front porch. Mom and pop were preparing to walk along the shore and I decided I would butt in and join them. Unni was still sleeping like a baby, too tired apparently from yesterday’s journey.

I changed into my swimsuit and pulled on a dress. The salty air assaulted my senses and I squinted at the early morning sun. After the short walk, I settled on the shore and said a silent prayer – praising God for the magnificence before me. I took a dip; the water felt so good although a little cold. We had breakfast at the resto – a full American breakfast meal for me. I was so hungry after swimming and mom threw some tantrums (u-huh and who says moms don’t do that?!) and I was so pissed off I wanted to eat my anger away.

We were scheduled today for a trip around the island. Mang Dodong arranged our itinerary early yesterday with his driver cousin, Mang Ding for the tour. We had to pay P700 for the trike rental (seems expensive but after the tour and the expanse of the roads we traveled, I understand why). We visited all three towns of the island – Sta. Fe (where Kota beach is), Bantayan, and Madridejos. It was a bumpy ride – literally – as the roads were unpaved but the sights I’ve seen are so breath-taking that I didn’t mind at all. I was so captured in the moment – rice fields, cows and carabaos (I still mistake one for the other) up close, endless greenery, and the most laid back people I’ve seen. I can get used to this life, really. Like what I’ve told my friend, I plan on becoming a hermit someday when I am capable and ready – retired from the chaos of the life we are so used to.

Our first stop was the tip of Bantayan Island – Kota Park. Mang Ding said it is a usual tourist destination. It boasts of a fort (fortress) that houses some of the relics of the early Bantayan inhabitants (or Lawisanon) and this ‘lakehouse’ structure with a long concrete bridge that is made one of Madridejos’ historical landmarks. It reminded me so much of Il Mare- I half expected Jun Jin Hyun to suddenly appear out of nowhere. I love the place so much that only if the heat isn’t scorching us alive, I would’ve stayed there, perched on the steps of that bridge, just staring… in awe.

Second stop was for mom’s request, the devoted catholic that she is – the town Church. Ironically, this was where my first encounter with the unfriendly bunch happened. Tsk… I’m zipping my mouth now. I was almost nauseous because of the heat and my mouth was aching of thirst – I wanted so much to drown myself in Coke – not water – Coke. But not a single store sells it. Darn. Next stop – the market. Went to buy some ‘puso’ (rice wrapped and cooked in woven coconut leaves) and fruits and grilled meat for lunch. Pop bought a kilo of crab back in the resort and have the ‘manong’ who sold it to us prepare and cook it in ‘Sprite’ broth. Yummy!

Save the best for last – we went to this Ogtong Cave, which apparently was this narrow cave, a hot spring that was made a swimming pool and is Sta.Fe Beach Club’s tourist magnet. The resort looks really neat and probably more expensive than Kota. It boasts of the cliff-like edge overlooking the sea and a gigantic pool. They also have a mini-zoo where I met Piolo, the sheep and a rude little bird which turns its back on me everytime I attempt to take its picture. I still think Kota’s the best. =)

By lunchtime, we were back at the resort, ready to chow down on the feast that pop has prepared. Poor papa, because of his high-blood, he couldn’t eat crab meat; he had to order Sinigang na Baboy from the resto. And so unni and me ate most of the cholesterol and burned it after by swimming and lounging under the late afternoon sun. While having a full-body massage by the shore (which Mang Dodong also arranged for me the day before), it suddenly poured. It’s as if the heavens was blessing our stay in the island. The downpour went on for about an hour and the whole place was damp but it didn’t lessen the beauty that was before me.

(Continuation soon… I’m drained…)

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