– one of the most prosperous cities in the Philippines(when it comes to natural resources), has a lot of places to go to, and, as a matter of fact, my hometown. It is, at first glance, a miniature city that is evolving rapidly in terms of its economy and tourism. There are many hidden wonders that can be foreseen as future tourist spots in this western side of the Philippines.
On long weekends, the most popular getaway of friends, colleagues and lovers is the Sta. Cruz Island, known for its pink sand, fresh-beach experience, and easy to go to destination that requires minimal preparation. Last September 29, 2016, I and my barkada went there. It was not only fun, but one of the most memorable occurrences in my travelling career.
The night before, we went ahead and planned what we needed to bring in order to spend less in our escapade. Our group consists of seven (7) persons, each of which assigned to a different task. One of us is the one who made the breakdown of the budget, the other one did the canvassing, the other three did the cooking, and the other two did the driving.
Our menu consists of one of the Philippines common cuisine, adobo. Adobo is composed of a meat of our choice, chicken, which can be substituted with fish, pork, and even beef. It is one of those cuisines that you can eat a lot from because it is so tasty that it is enough to fill your tummy up if you mix it with rice. There is also bihon, which is a kind of noodle that is good to be a main course or a side dish to your adobo. We also brought with us four kilos of cooked rice, for, as Filipinos, it is a staple in our dishes that can never be replaced.
At Sta. Cruz Island, we cooked a large fish. There are grilling stalls at the island where if you brought firewood with you or uling, you may easily have a warm grilled fish before and after you swim (of course you need to wait for your turn before you grill your fish, porkchop, or what have you). We also ordered steamed crabs from one of the locals at the island which costs 350 pesos only. Our total expense for the food including the crabs is 2,150 pesos for the seven of us more or less.
Early that day, we all prepared to go to the isle. To go to the island, we must all gather up at Paseo del Mar, located at Rizal Street, near one of the historic places in Zamboanga, Fort Pilar. It is advisable to assemble earlier, probably at 6am, for if it is a holiday, many tourists will also be there. Aside from that, the earlier you go, the better, for the island is only open until 1 to 2 in the afternoon.
When you arrive at Paseo del Mar, you have to go to the information desk and you have to register your group right away for they have a first come, first serve policy. The rule is you have to pay 1,000 pesos to get aboard the bangka going to the island and additional 100 pesos after the 10th individual, and a terminal fee of 10 pesos per person, a personal vehicle is also charged 10 pesos terminal fee. After waiting for your turn, there will be an orientation about the rules in the island, after which you get to aboard at a vessel going to the island.</p>
Upon arrival, there is an entrance fee of 20 pesos per individual. There are also cottages that you can rent ranging from 100 to 200 pesos. Our total expense for this trip is almost three thousand five hundred pesos or five hundred pesos for each of us.
As you go near the island, you will see a lot of vinta-designed sails attached as decorations and an ‘I <3 ZAMBOANGA’ signage where you can take a lot of pictures. In fact, the island has a lot of beautiful natural resources you can take pictures in. The beach has a very beautiful blue color when you first look into it. In addition, their sand is a mix of pink and white that makes you want to look at it in wonder.</p>
<p>When you dive into the water, you will feel a cool sensation that will make you want to stay even under the heat of the sun. You can see a lot of underwater species. There are corals which you can explore if you can swim further and you brought goggles with you. We were lucky because we saw two starfish and had the luxury of taking pictures with it. We swam to our hearts content.
At the island, we made castles out of sand and human sandcastles, where we buried some of our friends in the sand. You may also play volleyball if you want to. There is a volleyball renting place in the island. There is also a place where you can buy souvenirs like key chains and colored shells.
If you are in to nature viewing, you can always opt for the other side of the island, although you have to ask the islanders about it because it is not offered at the Paseo dock. You have to rent a separate bangka for it. To find another bangka, you have to ask a local fisherman to tour you in his bangka and the cost will be negotiated between the two of you.
That is all there is to it in the island. The only downside is, there is no clean running water. I recommend bringing lots and lots of drinking water because you cannot buy drinking water in the island, also bring water for at least taking a quick shower.
There are a lot of things to do in a beach paradise such as Sta. Cruz Island, imagination is the limit. In our case, we brought our own tent because we wanted to have our personal belongings kept away from the dust and sand. Then we first took photos everywhere before we splurge ourselves in the water.
I hope that you learned something from my experience and maybe you would want to try visiting the place when you are in Zamboanga. It will surely be worthwhile.