It was a warm, dry morning when I got a text message from my friend Claire at 8am. She told me that she and her officemates are going to Bantayan Island that morning. It was a last minute thing and she asked if I wanted to go with them. I was hesitant at first because it wasn’t planned though I have read a lot of articles about Bantayan Island and I know what i’m going to do when I get there. Bantayan Island is just located in the west side of the Northern tip of Cebu and is fast-becoming a new Boracay. It’s composed of three towns namely Sta. Fe, Bantayan, and Madridejos. It’s also known for their famous celebration of Lent wherein the townspeople get to eat pork. Bantayan Island is a fishing island so instead of eating fish which they usually eat in regular days, they are exempted to eat pork in Lent. Bantayan Island is also the biggest producer of poultry eggs in Central Visayas.
Well, I decided to go with them at 10am. I packed my stuff then texted Claire to wait for me in the Cebu North Bus Terminal. Alas, they were already in Consolacion, Cebu which is an hour away from Cebu City. My spirits were high that morning and I was ready for an adventure. I texted another friend Noreen V. and I invited her to go with me to Bantayan Island. She agreed and I told her to go to Cebu North Bus Terminal which is just a ride away from SM City Cebu, and meet me there.
With a duffel bag, a small tent, a bottle of water, dry crackers and a thousand pesos in my pocket, I waited for Noreen at the Cebu North Bus Terminal. She arrived at 2pm, very fashionably late as I told her that we had to meet at 1pm because the last ferry to Bantayan Island will depart at about 4 or 5pm and the bus ride is 3 hours. So I told her that we had to ride a van with 8 other passengers because we’ll be late for the last trip to Bantayan Island. We paid 100pesos for each person for a van ride going to Hagnaya Wharf, San Remigio, Cebu. Honestly, I haven’t been to San Remigio or Bantayan Island before that time. I was looking at the signs on what part of Cebu we were at all times, praying that we got on the right van.
Finally, we arrived at Hagnaya Wharf, San Remigio, Cebu just before the ferry departed for the last trip which was about 5pm on my clock. We paid about 150 for the 1 and a half hour ferry ride. We got to Sta. Fe Port, Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island at about 6:30pm. We rode a pedicab to Sugar Beach for 15pesos each. You can haggle if you want but our driver was a 10 year old kid so 15pesos per person was kind of a nice offer.
When we got to Sugar Beach, we looked for Claire and her officemates. When we found them, we rented a space for our tent which was about 150pesos a day. If you don’t have a tent, you can rent their own at 400 up depending on the size of the tent. It was a peak season so we expected that Sugar Beach has no vacancies that’s why I brought my dad’s tent. Sugar Beach is actually the cheapest resort that you can find but the beach strip is so wide that you’ll still get your money’s worth. You can contact this number for reservations or inquiries about Sugar Beach: 09217755058. If you want a high end resort, you can try Sta. Fe Beach Club and Ogtong Cave Resort.
We actually didn’t join with Claire and her officemates because they had their own agenda. They were in some sort of Team-building Retreat and their Team Manager was with them. So we bought our own food and did all our thing on our own. There are some barbecue stations along the street so looking for a place to eat wasn’t that hard.
We had a night swimming that lasted until 12midnight. The beach was so wide, the water’s so clear and the sand, so white and fine. It was like paradise for us comparing it to our local Cebu City beaches which would either have a small space to swim or there’s too much seaweed in the water. I’ve lived in Cebu City for more than 10 years and the best resort that I’ve been to in Cebu are Maribago Bluewaters, Cebu Beach Club and Tambuli Beach Club. And the only thing that you can appreciate in those resorts are actually the swimming pools and the watersports and not the beach itself. So we were overjoyed to swim as far as we can in Sugar Beach without any seaweed or space interruption. I told Noreen that we have to sleep at 12midnight because I wanted to witness the sunrise at 5am. I woke up later on at 5:30am and took some sunrise pictures.
Sunrise in Sugar Beach
Sugar Beach is known for its powdery white sand
We had breakfast of eggs, bread and coffee at the same barbecue station. After that, we went around the town plaza asking for directions on how to get to Ogtong Cave, St. Paul and St. Peter Church, and Kota Park. After about an hour of swimming, we decided to rent a motorbike which we got at 150pesos but was supposed to be 200pesos for 24 hours. But since we will be going back to Cebu City that same afternoon, Noreen convince the motorbike owner to have it at 150pesos. You can contact this number for the motorbike rental: 09194451143. Then, we bought 1 liter of gasoline for an afternoon motorbike ride.
We didn’t have a map at hand and we just asked for directions from the townspeople who were very friendly and hospitable. I know what the tourist attractions of the island have since I’m a fabulous researcher (lol) so we just asked around for directions. The first stop was Ogtong Cave which is known as a fish sanctuary and you can swim with the fishes. When we got there, we found out that there’s an entrance fee of 150pesos and it’s out of the budget so we just drove around the seaside.
Later on, we found this beautiful blue country house that has a small pool across the road and we stopped by for some photo ops. Luckily, the architect of the house was there for some house repair and gave us a little tour around the pool but not the house. It’s understandable that the house was off limits. The blue house is actually owned by Judith and Thomas Koscheike from Germany. According to Thomas, they bought it in 2008 from an American.
The little blue country house
The blue house serves as a winter house where they spend their Christmases and New Years. The architect also told us that there are actually little caves below the cliffs and we went to check it out. Now, there’s our alernative to Ogtong Cave.
Little caves are hidden below these cliffs
Next stop was the St. Paul and St. Peter Church in Bantayan, Bantayan Island which was built in the 1800s and is made of coral. There were a lot of church-goers there and we wore inappropriate attire (Noreen was only wearing her bikinis and shorts) so we hung out in the plaza, taking lots of pictures.
St. Paul and St. Peter Church
Then we’re off to Kota Park in Madridejos, Bantayan Island which is located in the other part of the island. It was a beautiful park and there was a connecting bridge from the beach to a lookout tower in the middle of the sea. In that 3-storey tower, you can see a lighthouse far out to sea and also a big “Welcome to Madridejos” sign in the seaside.
Welcome to Kota Park, Madridejos, Bantayan Island
The lighthouse is the little speck in the middle of this picture
The connecting bridge as seen from the top floor of the lookout tower
A Spanish fort ruin in Kota Park
We were on our way back to Sugar Beach when we ran out of gas in the middle of the highway. Luckily, there was a little gasoline store and we bought another liter of gasoline. It was time for lunch too so we ate in another barbecue station along the road. We actually spend about 50pesos each per meal and I mean a full meal with coke, a lot of puso (hanging rice) and all sorts of barbecue.
We got back to Sugar Beach at about 1pm, then we packed all our things for home. The ferry going to San Remigio port left at about 3pm which is the last trip for the day. We slept all along in the bus going back to Cebu City. It was a unforgetful getaway trip where we used up all the budgeting skills and the knowledge I’ve learned from the web.
By the time we got back to SM City Cebu, we still had 100pesos each in our pockets which was more than the fare going home. I had the time of my life even if it was only for a day in Bantayan Island. We toured the whole island and saw all the tourist spots in a matter of hours. Where can you hear that kind of story, huh?