The sea breeze touching my face was enough to lull me to sleep. We were finally on the last leg of our trip to Bantayan Island in Cebu and it was such a relief to see the island come into full view after a tiring 10-hour air, land, and sea travel. Our trip that started at 10pm the night before at NAIA Terminal 3 was a planned trip by our Instagram group, @viajerongpinoy, to celebrate our two years as a hub on the social media app. It was also our first trip, as a group, that had us heading off to the Visayas.
Despite only a couple of hours of sleep, I cannot contain my excitement as Bantayan came into view. It has been on my list for a long time and I was glad that I will be able to finally take it off my list.
Laid back with an amazing view of the sea… yes, I fell in love with Budyong Resort. It was our first stop when we reached Santa Fe in Bantayan Island as this would be our home for the next two days. The view of the white sand beach took away all the weariness in me that I dropped everything I was carrying, changed into my beach attire, and just enjoyed the scene. The others got so excited that they started exploring the beach and taking pictures.
I captured a couple of shots and then retired to just sit back to enjoy the view. It was priceless and it was then that I knew that I was in paradise.
Budyong Resort was a nice recommendation from a friend and I would also strongly recommend it for those intending to visit Bantayan Island. The only thing that the resort needs to work on is to have a fully functional restaurant for their guests.
A Bantayan Tricycle Affair
Located North of Cebu, Bantayan Island is a favored destination of beach lovers because of its pristine white sand beaches. The island is composed of three barangays – Santa Fe, Madridejos, and Bantayan. Santa Fe is known for its beaches and its coves. It is best explored on a bike. Bantayan Town Proper is known for its century-old church and its old houses while you get to enjoy the sunset at Madridejos. All this we planned to do on our first day in Bantayan Island. Now, hopping on a bike is not the best way to explore the WHOLE island so we did the best thing – we hopped on a tricycle and went around the island.
Santa Fe Beach Club / Ogtong Cave (Santa Fe)
Tucked within the premises of the Santa Fe Beach Club is a cave with a natural spring pool – the Ogtong Cave. The small cave and the natural freshwater pool is one of the attractions in Bantayan and it sits right within the heart of the resort. The small cave and its cool waters was a refreshing break from the afternoon heat. It was nice to just relax and close your eyes as you enjoy its cool waters on your skin and the sound of water dripping as it echoes within the cave.
The entrance fee of Php100 also gives you access to the pool and the beachfront. We headed off to the beach where we enjoyed taking pictures against the sandbar backdrop.
Parish Church of Saints Peter and Paul (Bantayan Town)
Seated at the center of the town of Bantayan is a church that is believed to be the oldest in the Visayas and Mindanao, It has seen history unfold in the area for the past 500 years. The Parish Church of Saints Peter and Paul was built in 1863 and materials used for its construction were corals and stones found on the island.
The locals were able to preserve the church and its antiquity is evident from its external design. It does stand out from the town center’s landscape. The simplicity is evident even as you enter the church. The church’s interiors are simple with a simple altar with four images of the town’s patron saints.
One thing that stands out, though, is the church flooring with its intricate tile design.
Bantayan Town Proper (Bantayan)
Bantayan town is an old town. At the center of the town is the town plaza with its open space parks and activity centers. During our visit, the plaza was buzzing with activities with locals enjoying the afternoon sun while the others were playing basketball in the area.
You can also try walking around the plaza and its surrounding areas and you will find old houses in the area. Unfortunately, some of these structures were destroyed by Yolanda and the town is still in the process of recovery.
Kota Fort Ruins (Madridejos)
The Kota Fort Ruins in Madridejos was built in 1790 from corals, limestone, egg white, sand, and stone. It served as a refuge for locals against Moro pirates who abduct locals and later on sold to slavery. It also served as the local cemetery for a period. It was also the site of the gruesome killing of Japanese fighters during World War 2.
At present, the fort lie in ruins. It is open to the public through an entrance along the side of the beach. Too bad though that the local government has not done much to improve the current state of the Kota Fort.
Madridejos Beach Walkway and the Madridejos Sunset (Madridejos)
They say that Madridejos has the best view of the sunset in Bantayan Island. This was one of the reasons why we hurriedly set off to barangay. To give visitors a better view of the island, a walkway was built along the beach of Kota Point. The walkway starts along the beach and leads towards a view deck where you get to see a 360 degree view of Kota Point’s beachfront and sea.
Too bad though that we were not able to catch the sunset because clouds covered the horizon. But I was amazed at the play of colors on the sky during the sunset.
Waking up to a brand new day is best appreciated when you watch the sun rise from the horizon. This was one of my highlights during our Bantayan trip. I had no regrets waking up at 5.30am and rushing out to the beach just to catch the morning skies burst into a glow of orange and yellow colors. It was just simply magnificent and makes you appreciate life.
As we started our second day in Bantayan, we prepared for another exciting day of exploration. This time we were exploring via boat and bike rides.
Virgin Island and Martha’s Trail
For those searching for a quiet place, one can opt to check out Virgin Island. The island is just a 30-minute ride from Bantayan and it is also known for its white sand beachfront. The island is privately owned and an entrance fee is collected when you visit the island so it is best that you spend at least a couple of hours to get your money’s worth.
Virgin Island has a more sublime atmosphere and the drumbeats in the background is the only thing that gives that upbeat feel. The drumbeats, by the way, is a signal that guests are arriving onto the island. There are a couple of activities that you can do – fish feeding, read a book while on a hammock, have coffee by the beachfront, or just simply swim.
One can also try to check out Martha’s Trail where visitors are warned “to expect the unexpected”. The trail leads you along a ridge by the beach into a mangrove area. The thick foliage and the sounds of crickets give you the impression that you are in the middle of the forest. After a 3-minute walk into the “woods”, visitors are rewarded with a secluded white sand beach. It was a surreal experience to have the whole beach for ourselves.
So do not miss out on Martha’s Trail when you happen to find yourself in Virgin Island in Bantayan.
Biking It Up
They say that the best way to explore the town of Santa Fe was aboard a bike and having a couple of hours to spare that is what we actually did. It was good to be like little kids on a bike as we went around town.
Sugar Beach was one of my favorite spots in Santa Fee. The boats that lined the beach against the bikes lined up on the shore was like two armies gearing up for battle against each other. I felt like I was kid on a big playground. On the sides, we also had a group of kids playing around.
The scene was just bucolic and perfect. If I had more time, I would have had stayed around for a couple more hours just to sit still and enjoy the view.
We headed towards the direction of Ogtong Cave and if you bike about a kilometer more, you will find a spot where you can swim and cliff jump. Your marker is an unfinished house by the cliff. It is not hard to miss out as locals also enjoy jumping off the cliff.
It was worth trying but I had apprehensions because I felt that the depth of the waters below was not deep enough. Again, if you are planning to do cliff jumping, just make sure to put your safety first.
The unfinished house has a story on its own. It is funny that in the midst of all the houses in the area, the unfinished house stands out. It is also the only house along the cliff in that area. Locals say that the place was a sight of a gruesome crime and that the house was left for nature to take over. Whether the story is true or not, the house adds beauty and mystery to the place.
Post Bantayan Notes:
Bantayan Island is a must see destination for every traveler. The blogs that I have read and even this blog cannot fully describe the beauty and the experience that one can enjoy when you are in Bantayan. I had a couple of wishes when we were traveling back to Cebu. I wished that we spent the whole instaviaje in Bantayan. Although, we had more than our fill of adventures in the island, another day would have given me another experience worth sharing to others. Yes, I miss Bantayan and I sincerely wish to head back there soon.
Getting there: Going to Bantayan Island is really easy. You can take flights from Manila, or any major Philippine destination, to Cebu City. Once in Cebu, you can take a cab to North Bus Terminal and take a bus going directly to Bantayan or Hagnaya Port. You can take the RORO which brings you directly to Santa Fe town.
Accommodation: You can check out Budyong Resort. It is a great place to stay with its own peaceful beachfront. It is also close to the town center.
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Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.