BANTAYAN ISLAND: The First Destination of A Solo Backpacker
January 1, 1970
by Christal Dela Cruz
I was on my way home when I decided to check out this website called Skyscanner that I found while reading another travel blog. So in the morning of May 25, 2015, I found a promo in AirAsia and booked a roundtrip ticket to Cebu City.
Cebu isn’t a city that’s new to me. I have already been there three times and I even got to attend the famous Sinulog Festival with friends the year before.
My flight to Cebu was smooth and it wasn’t delayed at all. That’s one of the perks when you book the first flight of the day. I had no checked in baggage so I immediately went to the taxi stand outside the airport building. I got into my cab and told the driver to bring me to the North Bus Station. One word to describe Cebu City or rather, Mactan, is HECTIC. Seriously, the traffic was horrendous and this is coming from a girl who constantly battles traffic in Manila.
CEBU CITY TO BANTAYAN ISLAND
After an hour’s drive and a quick stop to Jollibee, I finally arrived at Cebu North Bus Terminal. From there I alighted a Ceres bus going to Hagnaya Port. The bus fare as I remember was around 160 pesos. The bus ride was roughly 4 hours long. I talked to the bus driver at one of our stops and he said the trip usually takes 3 hours long but due to the traffic, it might take us a little more to arrive. That gave me another reason to dislike Cebu City. But I digress. It was 12:30 pm when I arrived at Hagnaya Port and sadly missed the boat that was just leaving at that time. The next ferry would be leaving an hour after that so I had time to relax and take a quick nap. I also met a woman named Melinda that was visiting her daughter who works in Santa Fe. She said it’s also her first time going there and that’s she’s originally from Leyte. We conversed for a while then our ferry arrived.
We arrived at Santa Fe after an hour and Melinda and I parted ways. Now, there are two ways to go to Bantayan. One is to ride a tricycle and the other is to ride a Habal-Habal. For all the non-Filipinos out there, a Habal-Habal is just a motorcycle. I opted for the tricycle since I have a huge backpack and off we went to my hotel. I checked in at Sunday Flower Resort which is a quaint house-type resort near the beach. I had my late lunch which consisted of garlic rice and Shrimp Sinigang. Ate Daisy, who is the manager of the place cooked this and it was one of the best I had. The people at Sunday Flower are so helpful and friendly and I definitely recommend you staying there.
After eating, I went to the resort’s beach. I did a bit of tanning and waited for the sunset.
It is not a surprise that the beach I was in is called Sugar Beach because it really does resemble fine, white sugar.
The sunsets in Bantayan is not as impressive as the ones in Bolinao, Pangasinan or the ones in Boracay but when you have the beach to yourself, it is like as if God gave that sunset only for you.
GETTING AROUND BANTAYAN
The best and cheapest way to go around the island is to rent a motorbike. Sunday Flower has their own bikes and you can rent them for 250 pesos a day and in all my travels, it was still the cheapest that I encountered. Bantayan is not that strict when it comes to people driving without a license and for someone who does not have one, it is a huge plus. I have to note that it is a personal choice and I do not promote you driving without any experience or a license.
So on my second day, I decided to visit the town proper and see what it has to offer. On my way there, I found myself in awe of the picturesque views it gave me. One of the advantages of backpacking in the Philippines is that there is little to none language barrier because almost all Filipinos speak basic English. So if you get lost, all you need to do is ask a local.
After parking my bike, I walked to the local market where Ate Daisy told me sells cheap dried goods. As what’s common in Filipino markets, when you go in, a lot of people will bombard you with discounts and promos. I usually go to the market first and inquire about the prices then go to the next stall and compare the prices. Then I haggle and I usually end up getting the best prices. I ended up buying a lot of dried fish and squid plus a nifty cap then walked back to the church where I parked.
SAINTS PETER AND PAUL CHURCH
After my foray into the market, I checked out Bantayan Church or what the locals refer to as Saint Peter and Paul Church. In my travels, I always try to visit the local churches and light a candle for good luck and safety. And Cebu, in my opinion, has the most beautiful church architecture and Bantayan Church is no exception. Hailed as the oldest parish in Visayas and Mindanao, it boasts old Spanish designs and stunning stained glass windows.
After going to town, I went back to the hotel to freshen up and explore the nearby hotels. I was told that there is a cave inside one of the resorts. The cave isn’t much, just a big hole in the middle of Ogtong Cave Resort. I had to pay 100 pesos for a walk in fee and opted not to swim in it. I went to Anika Beach Resort to swim and tan.
Since it was my last night, I decided to have dinner in town. I went to Cafe Del Mar and ordered myself a 10-inch pizza and calamares (calamari). After eating, and no, I did not finish all the food, I went to the bar and talked to the waitress and bartender there. They’re both locals and were amazed that I was traveling alone. Then a couple of British guys approached me then we got to talking as well. They invited me to the next bar where there is a live reggae band playing. All in all, the nightlife in Bantayan is pretty chill.
As much as I wanted to stay and explore more of Bantayan, which I know has a lot more to offer, I had to leave and go to my next destination. My first solo trip has taught me a lot about other people and most especially, about myself. I was sad to leave Ate Daisy and Sunday Flower, but then again, I can always go back. So if ever you find yourself in a rut, go ahead and book a flight. It will be the best decision you’ll ever make.