Bantayan Island, about 136 kilometers from Cebu City, got its name in the 1600s when watchtowers (locally known as "bantayan sa hari") were built to protect the islands from the Moros.
Bantayan Island is frequented by visitors for its quiet beaches. It gets swarmed every Holy Week that locals joke the island tilts on its side this time of year.
The island as seen from the port of Sta. Fe
To go to Bantayan Island from Cebu City:
Take the bus from the North Bus Terminal to Hagnaya. Travel time: 3 hours. Bus fare: Php 150 for aircon / Php 135 for non-aircon. Ceres buses leave for Hagnaya every 20 minutes starting at 4AM. V-hires (vans for hire) are also available every 45 minutes.
From Hagnaya, take the ferry to Sta. Fe, Bantayan. You can find the ferry schedule here. Travel time: 1 hour. Fare: Php 170. Terminal fee: Php 10
* Bus and ferry fares are as of March 16, 2013.
The port of Hagnaya
The info below is from research. And no, I haven't tried these routes.
To go to Bantayan Island from Estancia, Iloilo:
A boat services between these islands three times a week.
Estancia to Bantayan Island every Monday/Wednesday/Friday at 9AM
Bantayan Island to Estancia every Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday at 9AM
Travel time: 3 hours
Fare: Php 300
The port of Estancia
To go to Bantayan Island from Sagay, Negros Occidental:
A boat services between Sagay and Bantayan Island three to four times a week.
Sagay to Bantayan Island every Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday at 10AM
Bantayan Island to Sagay every Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Sunday at 10AM
Isn't his face on shirts, caps, and other pop related merchandise?
What's the book about?
Two Argentinians, Mr. Guevara and his friend, Alberto, go on a motorcycle trip around South America. The bike sojourn is only a fourth of the book. Other travels were done by hitchhiking, riding a boat, and walking.
Is it a good read?
Definitely. The Motorcycle Diaries shows how adventure and travel can change someone's perspective of the world. It also shows a glimpse of the genius in Che. This book is a joy ride and a joy read.
For more book recommendations, please visit Go Read.
A little bird told me that the best brownie ala mode can be found in Talamban, in this cafe:
Jango's Cafe located near USC Talamban Campus, opposite of D' Family Park
One night, after dinner at Manggahan, we decided to sample Jango's brownie ala mode. We came. We ate. We were satisfied.
In my opinion, Jango's has the best brownie ala mode (a.k.a. Jango's Chocolate Experience a.k.a. brownie cup) within its price range. Jango's Chocolate Experience bested the recent brownie ala mode we tasted. Packed with soft warm brownie that has the right sweetness, this 69-peso dessert delights both palate and pocket.
Jango's Chocolate Experience
Fries Php 49
This was on the house, courtesy of Brian a.k.a Jango. If this was the usual portion size, then considering that plus the taste, the fries did satisfy.
Strawberry Smoothie with ice cream Php 89
This was another customer's order. Just wanted to take a photo of this pretty thing. It's strawberry — I bet it tastes great. Imagine drinking this on a hot summer day! Would love to try this one.
Flying high after tasting Jango's Chocolate Experience
Okay, back to earth. Opened January 30 of this year, Jango's Cafe got its name from the moniker of co-owner Brian Gabasa, whose passion for business, food, and movies, gave birth to this cafe and movie house mash up. You'll probably catch Mr. Jango in his cafe, talking with his assistants and tending to his customers.
Having just seven tables, it's a small cafe without being crammed. Customers, most of them students, come here for the affordable food, to hang out, or watch a movie.
Inside the cafe: movie posters on the wall and large mirrors with colorful notes and doodles.
Can you spot the mustache? :)
There are movie posters on the cafe's walls. I specially liked seeing the Casablanca poster, one of my favorite movies (makes me very old huh?). Another noticeable fixture are their large mirrors with names, notes, and doodles on it. You can tag your name here or doodle, like what I did.
Free popcorn is awesome!
They have four movie rooms: two big rooms and two small rooms. The big rooms having projectors, while the small rooms have televisions. You get a discount if you're a student. They give free popcorn every time you watch a movie. You can choose from barbecue, cheese, or sour cream. Aside from free popcorn, they have a current promo: watch two movies, third movie is free.
In the small room. I photoshopped myself on the TV screen :-)
The big room uses a projector
We went back to Jango's Cafe. Again for the brownie cup and more:
Smothered Porkchop in Mushroom Gravy Php 79
A hefty porkchop with tender meat, plus a creamy, delectable gravy. There's good reason why it's a bestseller.
Spaghetti Bolognese Php 95
Ample serving, but I found the taste plain and usual. I'm not a good judge of spaghetti, so just like most Filipino tongues, the sweet and saucy, plus tomatoey, will do.
The size of the drink, which came with the meal, was disheartening. But then again, there's always free unlimited drinking water.
Red velvet cupcake Php 35
Red velvet. 35 pesos only. One more please.
(Emergency) Jango's Chocolate Experience Php 45
The dessert is almost always out of stock. You might even want to say "selling like hotcakes brownie cups at Jango's". During this visit, the brownie cups were sold-out so Brian whipped up an improvised brownie ala mode (pictured above). This brownie on a plate was also good, but not as great as the cupped ones, which I highly recommend.
PS. Another little bird told me that you can pre-order the same brownie cup (without the ice cream) from its maker. :)
Gov. M. Cuenco Ave., Talamban, Cebu City (opposite of D' Family Park)
Mon - Sat 9AM to 10PM
How this curiosity for the brownie cup bore a hole thru Mustachio's pocket: Smothered Porkchop in Mushroom Gravy Php 79 Spaghetti Bolognese Php 95 Red velvet cupcake Php 35 Jango's Chocolate Experience Php 69
This article is also featured on GPSmyCity. If you find this article useful and plan to use it to explore Cebu, for a minimal fee, you can download the GPSmyCity iOS app to view it offline and use the GPS-aided map.
I did not write about the trip chronologically. I was moving backward, writing about Puerto Princesa first, then Sabang, and, lastly, El Nido. The real sequence of events is found below:
Our six-day itinerary
The above itinerary can be squeezed into four tight days if you really want to. It's possible, just travel from Puerto Princesa to El Nido at night and from El Nido to Sabang early in the morning. And be really tired during the tours.
Since I am not an "Amazing Race" kind of person, I took it slow with nine friends, consumed six days, with a wallet that got thinner by the day.
Palawan on the pocket. Figures are all in Philippine pesos.
Meals in restaurants in El Nido go from Php150 to Php250, based on the handful of restaurants whose menu I checked.
Expenses shown do not include plane fare (to and from Cebu) and tips.
Four island hopping tours to choose from. Two days to explore. Tour A done. Tour C next. Tour C costs Php900 per person (inclusive of lunch) and will visit the Helicopter or Dilumacad Island, Matinloc Shrine, Talisay beach in Tapiutan island, and two beaches in different parts of Matinloc Island. These beaches are secret beach and hidden beach (very original names, yes? Hehe).
The day we had planned to go beach hopping (tour C) was just perfect... perfectly rainy. It was pouring from start to finish and we were freezing most of the time. We were soaked but the rain did not weigh down our high spirits.
Just like the secret lagoon, the only way to get to the secret beach is through a hole. You couldn't spot the hole from the outside, except if you look closely. If the tide's high I think the entranceway would be underwater. It might also be difficult to get into when the waves are strong... you wouldn't want to smash onto the limestone, would you? Not to worry, the boatmen will know if it's safe to go there or not.
Whether high tide or low tide, one has to swim through the hole, and once through, walk on slightly sharp seafloor. Aqua shoes will be your best friend.
When we were there the tide was out and the water was just up to our shins. A foot high water and slightly sharp seafloor is not conducive for swimming. Despite that, I still found secret beach awesome.
The only way in and out is through that hole
Our boatmen took us to Talisay beach for lunch. I was hoping we'd have the beach to ourselves, but it's a long stretch of beach, and boat by boat, other people claimed their place on the beach. By this time the rain was more than a drizzle and so I only have one photo of the beach. We spent most of the time in the clear water to keep warm. We only got out of the water to chow on lunch of fish, squid, cucumber salad, and bananas. Our excellent boatmen managed to do some grilling under a rock outcrop. :-)
We claimed this spot: Under the Talisay tree with logs as our benches
We didn't spend much time in Matinloc Shrine, the rain was coming down hard and we were getting cold. Some friends opted to stay in the boat while the rest of us had a look-see. Our boatman-slash-guide led us to some steps up on the rocks for a view of the sea and surrounding island. No umbrella or anything to keep cameras from getting drenched, we just stored the view in our brains. Here's how it would have looked on a sunny day.
By the shrine is a new-ish looking building, but upon closer inspection, we found that it was abandoned. Broken glass windows. Bunk beds with no mattresses. It looked like a scene from a suspense movie. Gilbert, our boatman, told us that people only go to Matinloc Shrine once a year, during the fiesta. Rest of the year, it stands by its lonesome. In early years, a guard was always stationed in Matinloc Shrine, for some reason this stopped. Some ghostly reason perhaps? :-)
Our boat slowly approached karst walls and then dropped anchor. I surveyed the area and couldn't figure out where the beach was. All I could see were karst walls surrounded by water. The most excited ones got off the boat first and walked around a towering, almost black, karst rock in waist-deep water led by one of the boatmen. The slow ones, including me, were led towards a rock. It was only when we were a few meters from it did we see a hole big enough for a person to go through. We walked through, stooping low, and found this...
I didn't care if the camera got wet, I just had to take a picture
The last stop was Helicopter island aka Dilumacad island. Just as we arrived, one boat was leaving. And the entire time we were bumming in the island, no other boats came. Perfect.
The shore was long but not a long, uninterrupted, sandy one. There were portions with large rocks.My friend and I walked along the beach but didn't reach the other end. We were just lazy ;-)
Can you spot Helicopter island? Does it look like a helicopter to you?
Which spot was my favorite in this tour? I cannot make up my mind. I am torn between hidden beach and Helicopter island. Those two somehow made my pupils dilate.
PS My photos do not do justice to amazing El Nido.
Tour A will visit three lagoons (lagoons with very creative names: small lagoon, big lagoon, secret lagoon), Simizu island, and Seven Commandos Beach. The tour is from 9AM to 4PM.
To get to the small lagoon, one has to swim and pass through a space between rocks. It is mostly shallow going to the small lagoon but better bring life jackets for it can get deep in the lagoon itself. Watch out for the fish, even the small ones can get vicious — some of us got bitten several times.
The small lagoon is beyond those karst walls (Photo credits: Dennis Unchuan)
Even the small lagoon is too wide for the camera's lens
(Photo credits: Paupau Alvarez)
The only way to get to the secret lagoon is through a hole. When you find the secret lagoon, take a look at the towering walls and spot the Last Supper. By the secret lagoon is a beach.
Only way in and out of the lagoon
(Photo credits: Carla Adlawan)
Can you see the Last Supper?
(Photo credits: Carla Adlawan)
The beach outside the secret lagoon
Lunch at the beach
We had lunch on the beach next to Miniloc Resort's beach. Our lunch spot was a small
patch that we had all to ourselves. Our boatmen prepared lunch
of veggies, pork belly, rice, fish, fish, and fish. A huge lunch
for the troop.
Bunch of lunch
Where is it? We skipped it. It's a snorkeling spot, that's all I know.
The tide was low and all of us were asked to stand on the boat's bow to avoid letting the rudder scrape the seafloor as we entered the lagoon. It was indeed big. We decided to forgo dipping in the lagoon and only went around the big lagoon in our boat. Again we stood on the boat's bow as we exited the lagoon... we did the job — we scraped the bow and not the rudder. :-D
Just 1/15th of the big lagoon
A private bar owned by one of the resorts
Careful with your rudder as you enter and exit the big lagoon
(Photo credits: Dennis Unchuan)
Seven Commandos Beach
The beach with a bar of overpriced drinks was our last stop for the day. I think it was everyone's last stop. It got pretty crowded. Seven Commandos Beach is a long stretch of fine white sand. If you want to know why it was named such, google it. There are different versions to the story and I have no idea which one is correct.
These photos do not do justice to the lovely lagoons and beaches of El Nido. In this tour, my favorite would have to be the big lagoon. It was quiet and calm in the big lagoon.
We wouldn't have gotten to these places without our three excellent boatmen. Because they were kind and never hesitated to lend a hand, we requested for the same boatmen for the next day's tour (tour C).
The excellent boatmen: Jun, Gilbert, Jobert (Photo credits: Carla Adlawan)
Our boatmen and their friends hanging out in our boat during our stop at Seven Commandos Beach
Sunset in Corong-corong (Photo credits: Dennis Unchuan)
A simple breakfast (I love the wheat bread!)
Corong-corong is just before El Nido town coming from Puerto Princesa. Telesfora Beach Cottage is one of the resorts in Corong-corong beach, a ten-peso tricycle ride away from El Nido town.
Telesfora has two beachfront rooms (Php2500), three double rooms (Php1500), and a barkada room (Php3500) for eight persons. We occupied the two beachfront rooms and one double room. One of the beachfront rooms can accommodate up to four persons, the other can accommodate up to five, though the price is only good for three. Extra head will be charged Php250. All rooms have AC (note that electricity in El Nido runs from 2PM to 6AM only) and its own bathroom. Towels are provided.
Telesfora has no restaurant. But breakfast, which is included in the price, is served between 7AM and 9AM. Breakfast is only bread, butter or jam, eggs, and coffee.
I have to give it to Chat who kindly agreed to serve us breakfast very very early (530AM) on our last day since we had to leave at 6AM. That means she had to wake up early to cook the eggs and prepare the food. For ten people. Thank you Chat, you did not have us endure a five-hour journey with empty stomachs.
There are four island hopping tours (A, B, C, D) in El Nido which can be arranged thru agencies found in town or thru the resorts. If your time in El Nido is limited, you can request for combination tours. We availed of tour A and tour C thru Telesfora. More about those tours in the coming posts.
Find accommodation in Corong-corong beach if:
a sunset view is important to you
you want to stay away from the madding crowd
you don't mind taking the tricycle to El Nido town for dinner. The only restaurants in Corong-corong are those in the resorts...could be pricey.
Go straight to El Nido town and find some place else if:
you don't care much for sunsets
you like staying close to restaurants, bars, and crowds