MALAPASCUA: The other side of the island (literally)

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This holy week, just like many other families, we went on a long sought after relaxing vacation by the beach. This time we went to one of our very own here in the Queen City of the South — Malapascua. The island of Malapascua is administratively part of Daanbantayan which is located at the northernmost tip of Cebu. Though this small land on water has been more known for its diving spots and thresher shark sightings, we were there for something less adrenaline provoking. We camped on the beach. Not the famous Bounty Beach, but at the other side of the island. The side that was less known and visited by tourists as of today. The side that I personally think has a better beach front and bluer, more inviting ocean waters. Sound interesting to you? Feel free to keep on reading.

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HOW WE GOT THERE.

There are just so many options for you to get to Malapascua from Cebu City. Since it was holy week, we opted to bring our own cars to avoid the big number of commuters that would most likely be on their way to the North like us, and it was also a plus that we could stop anytime we wanted to. To get to Malapascua, we made our around 4 hour way to the new Maya Port at Daanbantayan. If you don’t have your own transportation yet, you can easily get to Maya by taking a Ceres bus at Cebu’s North Bus Terminal in Mandaue. I would suggest taking the airconditioned buses especially if you’ll be leaving later in the morning. The fare is P 190 per head which I think isn’t to much of a price for comfort.

Once at Maya Port,  our personal belongings were transferred to the pump boat that was waiting for us. We then parked our cars at a nearby parking lot which costs P 100 per day. It is not possible to bring along cars to Malapascua as the only means of transportation around the island is by motorcycle. There are plenty of them there so you don’t need to worry about walking to get to your destinations.

For the pump boat, we contacted Noy Klody in advance. He isn’t the pumpboat driver, but he takes care of a lot of tourism related concerns for Malapascua, and is also a barangay tanod of the island. You can contact him at (+63)926-809-7092 and he will gladly arrange your trip to Malaspascua and vice versa. For special trips (private), the fare may range from P 100 per head per way to P 1,500 per head per way for the whole boat depending on the number of passengers. If you’re a solo traveler or you’re a small group, you may take your chances at the port as there are also pump boats for public transportation that would only cost you P 20 per head per way. Travel time to the island would just be around 30-45 minutes.

WHERE WE STAYED.

Like I mentioned, we stayed at the side of Malapascua that was not that known to many. We spent 3 days and 2 nights at an unnamed private place at Brgy. Langub. The place only has two rooms, both airconditioned, which you can rent for P 2,500 per room. There is no minimum number of people per room and so you can all stay there even if you fit in like sardines in a can. Others may wish to stay in their own brought tents which is absolutely for free if you choose this side of the island.

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Here are some photos of their rooms. These are really simple.

Being a dog lover, I was really pleased that pets were allowed. Our two big girls (Labrador Retrievers) had the time of their lives! They loved the water, loved running/fetching, loved being so free to roam around, and of course loved eating as always.

For the water you use to take a shower with, there is a P50 per head charge. It is 100% fresh as the caretaker claims it’s even good enough to drink. I would however still suggest you buy the 5 gallon mineral water instead to quench your thirst. Cooking is allowed here which means you could bring your own raw meat. You may cook the food on your own or you can ask the caretakers to cook the meals for you for an agreed upon rate. They even have a refrigerator/freezer in one of the rooms for you to store your perishables. They charge an additional P500 for it. If you’re not really after 5 star hotel quality and prefer some peace and quiet instead, you can contact the caretaker Ate Ipay or Kuya Nito at (+632)932427-7605 or Noy Klody may arrange this for you as well.

WHAT WE DID.

For our whole holy week vacation, we did almost nothing to be honest except relax. This was quite a different experience for us as we are usually always on the go when on vacation. We just set up our tents and banigs, went for a swim when the sun wasn’t too hot, played with our dogs, drank, ate, watched the sun rise and set, and of course we slept a lot. We did go out every now and then for some of our meals and chill night outs. That was pretty much it yet I still loved my stay there. Some may find it boring, but I felt like it didn’t want to leave yet when we were on our way home.

Don’t get me wrong though. Malapascua is still an island full of adventure. There are activities like cliff jumping, snorkeling, diving, touring the island, island hopping, plus there are bars open around the island for those who’d like to party. If you’re interested in the other activities available, you can visit this blog or simply use google and explore 🙂

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This island has so much in store for you and is continuing to grow bigger commercially. Quite a few known resorts are soon to rise here so you better watch out for ongoing developments. Visit whenever you have the time 🙂

Kalanggaman Island: The island that gives you wings to paradise.

 

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This post brings me back to my college days. I was a busy nursing student trying to keep a balance between studies and actually living my life. It was always my dream to go places; anywhere old or new, anywhere simple or fascinating, anywhere laid back or filled with adventure. I just really wanted to travel non-stop. However, as a full-time student, I hardly had the time and even more the money to do so. I’d just find myself a good internet cafe and let my mind “travel” to these places posted on blogs and the internet in general. It would only take me around 2 hours plus 30 pesos average to solve my time and money dilemma that stopped me from traveling 🙂 One of the places that I instantly became obsessed with during my “mind travel” was this small but alluring island having the whitest of sands and the bluest of seas — Kalanggaman island.

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Official welcome signage.

Kalanggaman island is the perfect unspoiled destination everyone should have on their bucket list. Although already a part Palompon Leyte, this uninhabited attraction in the Visayas is also located near Northern Cebu. The island apparently got its name (“langgam” = bird in Bisaya) from its bird-like form when seen from an aerial point of view. The two sandbars on each end look like its wings. Unfortunately, one of the sandbars is apparently no longer as visible as before because of the damage Typhoon Haiyan brought into the picture in 2013. Some may mention that the island is like a mini Boracay, but I beg to disagree. Kalanggaman island has such pure beauty uninterrupted by the structural work of man. I’d pick this island over the above mentioned anytime.

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You can try using google maps and look at the 360 degree photo uploaded from the place.
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An aerial view of Kalanggaman island.

HOW WE GOT THERE.

The island is conveniently located near various points of departure found in either Cebu or in Leyte. Our group planned to meet at Cebu North Bus Terminal at 3:00 am to catch one of the earliest trips to Maya Port however, some were late and we ended up riding the bus departing at 4:30 am. We opted for some comfort for the 4-hour long trip by choosing the air-conditioned bus that costs P 190 per head. If you prefer the cheaper option, they also have regular buses for P 120 per head. I suggest you bring a travel pillow with you for the long and early trip, and try to stay away from the skimpy route of outfits as it can get really cold given the time of the day.

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Maya Port with the pump boats waiting.

We arrived at Maya Port at 8:30 am, ate our breakfast at a carenderia within the area, and waited for a few more latecomers. We finally left for Kalanggaman island at 10:30 am and arrived at the island short before 1:00 pm. I know our group is not exactly the epitome of itinerary followers, but we still made it to our destination anyway. I suggest you check for dates with a higher chance of good weather. We were quite worried about our trip because of the day before’s bad weather. We were even informed that those who planned to go to the island a day before us got their trips cancelled due to strong winds and rain. It even rained while we were at sea, and there was zero visibility but good thing the boatmen knew their way around. For more information and other alternatives to get to the island, you can check other blogs like this one which I usually trust for travel tips and info.

WHAT WE DID.

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We were finally there! This was my college obsession and now I could finally see it for myself. This destination has been gradually becoming more popular and the only thing I guess I wished was different was the number of people on the island and the boats parked right where you might want to swim. If you plan to visit soon especially during summer, I suggest you go there on a weekday for a chance of lesser people.

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Yes, that’s us!

Upon arrival, we immediately looked for a shady and strategic location to put up our tents. Somewhere not too hot in the day, and not too cold in the evening. We were lucky enough to find a place near the beach, under the shade of trees, and near a cottage that we eventually rented for P 500. Ironically, the tent that I and my partner borrowed did not have the bars used to make the tent stand up like a tent, and so we ended up renting one from the island for P 400. Once all tents and things were put into place, us hungry travelers set up our mini cooking area, and took out the food we brought to be cooked. I must admit I’m no good at cooking and in order to not interfere or burn any food, I made my way to the more isolated side of the island to see what was in store. I’ll be showing you some pictures in a few.

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Setting up our tents.

Like I mentioned, the island has two sandbars on both ends. However, only one of the two is densely occupied by flocking travelers. If this island was a boat, I’m pretty sure it would have long ago sank into the deep due to the lack of weight balance on both sides. As I made my way to the isolated area of the island, I noticed a few unfinished structures that seemed like toilets, grilling areas, and huts. I also pleasantly came across some flightless birds in the area who would quickly hide in the bushes in the presence of humans. Although not as sandy as the other end, I found myself at peace just looking at the waves and beautiful rock formations. I even came back later in the afternoon when the weather was much better together with my partner. Here are some photos of what we came across on our little adventure.

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Me and my partner off to the other end of the island.

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An aerial shot of the less populated side of Kalanggaman island.
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Another aerial shot, this time of what was left on the other sandbar.

The other side of the island has an extensively white and long sand bar that becomes fully accessible during low tide. We tried going to the tip when the ocean was still in transition to low tide yet our attention got called. Apparently, there have been several cases of people drowning because of their persistence that it was safe enough to reach the tip even when the current was significantly strong. We retreated and decided to just stay on the wider and safer part of the sandbar. We didn’t want anything tragic to happen on such a dreamy vacation.

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At the tip of the sandbar.
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Retreating to wait til low tide.

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On the safer side of the sandbar.

It didn’t take much to convince everyone to make their way to the sandbar and sea. The way it naturally is is more inviting as it can ever be. The waters are so clear and perfectly turquoise blue. It is though only safe to swim on the front side of the island as the waters are calm and the water just becomes deep gradually. I’ve always loved swimming and was never afraid of deep waters, but this was the first time I saw a large school of fish swimming so close to shore. I tried to get as close as possible but they swam deeper into the ocean and, of course, faster than I ever could. I did get to capture them using our GoPro camera though. I guess the effort still paid off 🙂

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My first seen school of fish!

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We spent most of our day exploring what the island had to offer, swimming in the undeniably stunning blue seas, and having fun under the sun with our cameras. Time went by so fast and it was already getting darker. We tried to watch the sunset until it got covered by the clouds halfway through. The rest of the night was spent eating dinner, sitting around a table with some drinks, talking about anything we could think of. We had such a genuinely fun time and it felt really good to just sit down, talk and laugh with everyone. A great contributor to this? The fact that none of us had internet connection. If there was any internet signal, I’m pretty sure all of us would be facing our phones the whole time, missing out on the true essence of enjoying what was in front of us. These are the moments that really stick to your heart 🙂

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It was already midnight and the group decided it was a good idea to get some rest in preparation for the morning’s sunrise. We all made our way to our tents, all sticky and smelly from the day’s adventures. Remember there is hardly any fresh water on the island. I heard you could get some for P 1oo if you really want to take a rinse, but we decided to experience the island life to the fullest. As we laid down with our tents open, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the night sky was. You can hardly see this in the city because of all of the lights. With the island having no electricity, the stars were so visible even with some clouds covering the view. We tried to take photos but nothing is as alluring as what you can see with the naked eye.

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A night shot, though the clouds started to cover the night sky.

Talking about sunrise, I personally thought me and we wouldn’t be able to wake up early enough to see it based on our previous travels. We were always too lazy to get up especially after a long night. However, that day was a first. We were miraculously on our feet at 5:30 am, made our way to the sandbar with our banig and GoPro, and sat down to watch all the magic happen. It was so cold and windy but it didn’t bother us as we sat, stared, talked, and took our photos and videos. You might want to bring some tinted sun glasses with you because we all know how bright the sun can be.

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Before we were to leave the island at 9:00 am, we quickly went to what was left of the other sandbar as it was more visible that morning. After taking a few videos and pictures, we ate our breakfast, packed our things and made our way to Malapascua, a small island part of Daanbantayan, Cebu which is famous for its diving spots. We spontaneously decided to stay overnight there as well, though we didn’t go diving. We stayed at the back part of the island away from the majority of civilization. We went swimming again, ate on the wide shore, explored the popular side of the island, watched the sunset and finally took a shower.

As the dawn got near and the night got as cold as it could, we all laid down our banigs on the sand and rested with our cute pillows and blankets as we were expecting the bangka to pick us up at 1:00 am. To our dismay, the boatman we originally had an agreement with did not show up and we had to call a new one. We ended up leaving at 4:30 am and got stuck in traffic on our way back to Cebu City. It was a 5 hour agonizing trip and we ended up being late or absent from work on a Monday morning. Nevertheless, I believe we made the most of our short vacation and I would love to do it again. Though I think I’ll find a super comfy travel pillow or two to bring with me for these long bus rides.

 

REMINDERS. TIPS.

  • Try to pick dates that fall under the dry season here in the Philippines, most preferably from March to May. Though the weather can be pretty unpredictable, try to search for dates with a sunny weather forecast. If you want to be sure that your scheduled trip won’t be cancelled because of bad weather, you can contact Mr. Christopher Montebon at (+63)9173037269. He is part of Palompon’s Ecotours Office. I also asked him about the weather for our trip and he confirmed that the coast guards were allowing trips again.
  • If you are the type of person who would prefer to have less people photobomb your photos, try to pick a weekday instead of a weekend to visit.
  • There are pump boats waiting at Maya Port for people who plan to go to Kalanggman island as early as dawn. The standard rate for a special trip (including the overnight wait at the island) is P 8,000 for 20 people. There are also bigger boats for a bigger group however, to be sure that there will be a boat available once you arrive, you might want to contact a boatman in advance. You may also ask Mr. Montebon about the pumpboat reservations.
  • Do your research about the costs of this trip, as well as the costs at Kalanggaman island to avoid being scammed. I am not going to refer the boatmen who brought us to the island as they tried to fool us about the expenses and gave us much of a headache throughout our trip. They told us that the rent for the smallest tent was P 450 instead of P 400, that the overnight fee for local tourists was P 250/head instead of P 225/head. They also demanded additional payment as they “did not know” we were staying at the island overnight, which I’m sure is a lie. Make sure you ask the people who are really in charge at Kalanggman about the prices. Be cautious and don’t trust easily.
  • You will most likely be leaving some of your valuables in your tents. Try to arrange your tents in a way that everyone can keep an eye on who comes close, especially if you go there on a crowded day. If that isn’t possible, try to bring a dry bag with you to keep your gadgets and other valuables safe with you.
  • There is no electricity on the island. Charge your gadgets before you leave home and bring as many power banks as possible to keep your gadgets alive throughout your stay.
  • There is a small convenience store with limited choices of things to buy on the island. Make sure you buy everything you will need from mainland before you leave like drinking water, other drinks, food, snacks, gas, charcoal, ice, tents, pillows, blankets, goggles, snorkels, clothes, etc. Better assess your needs and make a checklist to be sure.
  • Try to find a good and shady area on the island for you to put up your tents. You wouldn’t want to sweat like a pig during the day if you want to hibernate inside.
  • There are grills available that are free of charge, but no charcoal or gas. They also have toilets around the island, but no showers with fresh water. I was told there is limited supply of fresh water for baths and that they charge P 100 for it.
  • Exert extra effort to keep the island as free from trash as possible. You should be responsible and bring your own trash bags. The trash you accumulate will then be brought back with you to mainland.
  • Be on time to avoid traffic, to get the best chances at a calmer sea, to possibly see dolphins play with you on your way to the island, and to get a better place to put up the tent. As much as possible, stick to your itinerary and make the most of your trip.
  • And of course, keep yourself out of danger at all costs. No matter how good of a swimmer you are.

For those who have wished to visit this island and were as obsessed as I was, I say go and plan your trip as soon as possible. What you get to see and experience will not let you down at all. Just be prepared to experience the island life away from your typical human luxuries 🙂

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SIQUIJOR: Small in size, big in adventures!

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I’ve always been in love even with just the mere thought of traveling and being there in the moment as one with the earth, appreciating all the wonders it has to offer. Growing up in the Philippines does not even take that intense love down a notch. In fact, it magnifies that desire and curiosity to an infinity.

If there’s one thing that I’d say is really prominent in the Filipino culture that I didn’t quite notice when in Australia, it would be the normality of superstitious beliefs. I hardly ever thought about anything like that when I was in the land down under. I guess the closest that ever came to mind would be the thought of a fluffy monster hiding under my bed or in my closet. Here I learned about countless possibilities of ghosts, supernatural beings, black magic, sorcery, witchcraft and the like.

Siquijor, located in Central Visayas, is the third smallest province in the Philippines after Camiguin and Batanes. During the Spanish colonial period, the Spaniards named Siquijor as “Isla del Fuego”, translating to the Island of Fire, because of the mystical glow emitted from the said large groups of fireflies on the island. This island is not only famous for the rumored existence of magic and sorcery, but also for its tourist attractions on both land and sea.

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What you get to see at the port of Siquijor. A white sand beach!

As I grew up in the provincial part of Cebu, I’d hear a lot about beings I never imagined to exist and powers that I only thought where seen in gruesome horror films. Apparently, Siquijor was also one of the places that had all that. That particular scary image of the island stuck to me just until I got into college. I had a classmate who lived there and told us what it was really like to be there. From then on, my whole picture of the island changed from dark, to an image of pristine beaches, majestic waterfalls, and virgin forests. On the month of November 2015, I got to see all its majesty for myself.

HOW WE GOT THERE

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“Selfie-ing” our way to Siquijor.

Siquijor is accessible to anyone as there are multiple available alternatives. However being a Cebuano group on a budget, we chose the cheapest available option which was by land trip. Disregarding sleep on that particular evening, we met at Cebu South Bus Terminal  at around 12:30 am to make sure we’d catch the first trip to Liloan Port, Santander. To our convenience, the air-conditioned Ceres bus liner bound for Oslob-Liloan (not to be confused with Liloan in the North of Cebu) was ready for boarding and so we got on to sit comfortably for the around 3-4 hour (depending on the traffic) trip. This cost us P185.00/head. At just around 4:00 am, we arrived at Liloan port and immediately bought tickets for the small ferry that would take us to Sibulan port. This cost us P65.00/head, and the trip took around 30 minutes or less. From Sibulan port, we easily got to ride a jeepney that would bring us to Dumaguete port. We paid P20.00/head for the ride which just took around less than 15 minutes. Once reaching Dumaguete port, to buy a ticket for Siquijor should be a priority as this easily gets fully booked and you may end up waiting for the next few hours before the next trip leaves. We unfortunately didn’t make it to the ferry’s 6:00 am trip to Siquijor and had to settle with the 7:00 am trip which wasn’t that bad at all. We paid P25.00/head for the terminal fee, and P160.00/head for the fare. For the available schedules of ferries leaving for Siquijor, you may visit this site.

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Just look at the clear waters at the port!

The majestic moment finally came and so I woke up already at the port which, believe it or not, had the clearest water given that ferries would be there every single day. You could see the different schools of fish, and even the black blots at the bottom of the ocean that were actually sea urchins! But you don’t have to worry, even the ocean at their port is safe to swim in at certain times of the day. One of my office mate’s brother lived in Siquijor, and so our accommodation and transportation was pretty much covered already. I know right? Lucky us! However, the island has safe and affordable places for you to stay and they can easily be searched for on the internet.. We met up with our host for our entire stay and immediately got on the multicab waiting for us at the port. Even without enough sleep, we were that excited!

DAY 1 ADVENTURES:

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Official welcome to Isla del Fuego!

From the port, we first stopped by the Simbahan ng Siquijor which is a church founded on February 1, 1783 and was also apparently used in the past to fight against the frequent attacks from pirates. Near the church was the huge sign that officially welcomes you to Siquijor.

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Photos taken at the Simbahan ng Siquijor.

We snapped a couple of pictures and recorded videos before stopping by to buy some lunch. Although most of our meals were provided by our generous host, we felt like we had to at least contribute a little to the dining table. While buying food for lunch, we noticed a bell tower near by. Guess what? Us typical tourists took photos again while waiting.

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We then made our way to where we would stay. A really convenient thing about Siquijor is that it is small enough for you to drop by certain tourist spots without going back and forth the same way. In other words, there are a lot of locations that you could just pass by, take pictures of, then still be on your way to a certain destination.

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After leaving our stuff at home, the adventure continued right away. We stopped by Capilay Spring which is one of the island’s many natural cold springs. It’s open to the public too! You can go in and out as you please. Yes, it’s free. It’s also really exposed to the public as it’s in the middle of the town plaza, but that shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re a celebrity.

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One angle of Capilay Spring.

Our next stop was the beautifully captivating Enchanted Balete Tree. Some Filipinos believe that mystical beings live in these huge trees. This specific Balete tree has said to have been there for around 400 or more years. Aside from it being such a wonderful sight, there is also a “fish foot spa” available here. Not that the fish’s body will be rubbed on your feet, but the fish will actually help themselves to the callouses and dead skin of your feet. Sounds gross, but it actually is really relaxing and a little bit ticklish. And don’t worry, I promise there are no piranhas.

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The massive Balete tree.
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The hungry fish 😉
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From under the Balete tree.

Next, we passed by San Isidro Labrador Parish Church which is more popularly known as Lazi Church and Lazi Convent. Lazi Church was declared a National Cultural Treasure and a National Historical Landmark. We took a quick look around the place, snapped some photos, and even got to eat “dirty ice cream” which was available just along the road.

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Lazi Church.
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Lazi Convent.

Our next destination was Cambugahay Falls were I believe we spent most of our time.

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Cambugahay Falls must be one of Siquijor’s favorite tourist attractions. It may be a little challenging for some to get to because of the fairly tall stairway, but it’s worth the heavy breaths. No entrance fee will be asked of you. However, for those with a multicab for transportation, there is a P30 parking fee. Life guards are also around the area who can guide you for a donation.

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There are 3 relatively small falls that you can enjoy. Some prefer to lie down on the smooth rocks and let the calm waters sweep past their relaxed bodies. But if you’re a little more adventurous than others, you can even jump from the 3rd waterfall into the turquoise waters below. There is also a “vine that you can use to swing from and jump into the water. It isn’t that high, but it will certainly bring out the child in you. The water is not that deep for most of the area so be careful of some big rocks that aren’t as visible underwater as you’d wish they were.

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A screenshot taken from our DJI Phantom’s aerial video.

Our next and final stop of day 1 was Salagdoong Beach Resort which is another popular tourist attraction of this small island. There is an entrance fee of P25 per person and P35 for the multicab to be safely parked inside. No corkage fee was asked of us even if we were bringing along our own food and drinks. A few cottages are available for rent at around P100-300, grills are provided, and they even have accommodations available for those who wish to stay overnight. It may not be your idea of a luxury resort, but it’s good enough for those who are purely there for the adventure.

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Aerial view of Salagdoong Beach.

There are 2 beach fronts. When we were there, one had calmer waters than the other so at least you have a more serene option if you’re not that much of a swimmer. Another common attraction at the resort was cliff diving. On the mini islet found within the vicinity, there is a cliff around 20-feet high for you to jump off of. The height doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re up there and looking down, boy I promise your knees are going to shake (unless you’re that adrenaline junkie who’s done this a million times before). We’ve been cliff jumping before at Camotes and Boracay with even higher heights, but I still felt really nervous looking down at the ocean. Sadly, we didn’t get to try doing so since it was almost low tide when we got there and we decided it would be safer to just keep our feet on the ramp.

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2 ramps for you to jump off of.

My favorite part of the day was being able to witness the breathtaking sunset. I’m a sucker for those “pinkish-reddish-orangey” skies which can only be given by the rising or setting of the sun, no matter where I am in the world. It was the perfect way to end the day.

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My always favorite part of a day.

We then spent more time eating and drinking until it was time to go leave. We quickly stopped by one of their famous haunted houses on the way home. To add more drama, the driver turned off the lights of the multicab and all we had were our phone flashlights. We didn’t stay there long and made our way back home.

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Couldn’t get a clear picture, but this is the haunted house we visited.

Poor us, so drained from the adventures and lack of sleep. We still managed to enjoy the terrific dinner provided by our wonderful host, and instead of going out after eating as originally planned, we all ended up sleeping. Though we had quite a laugh because of the snoring of some of our friends before we finally really went to sleep for real.

Day 2 ADVENTURES:

On our second day, we woke up early for our next adventure, ate another wonderful breakfast, and went on. The first stop was Mount Bandilaan.

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So much green on our way to Mt. Bandilaan. Just so beautiful 🙂

Mount Bandilaan is the highest peak in Siquijor. It rises above sea level at 557 ft. and is 1,394 ft. high which is said to often be compared to Mount Mayon because of it’s almost symmetrical cone shape.

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At the highest peak in Siquijor!

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Most people may like the hike, but I must admit that we cheated a bit. Instead of starting at the farthest possible distance, we stayed on the multicab until the vehicle could no longer bring us any nearer. From there we took a short hike and climbed up their steel tower. On top, you can see almost all of the island of Siquijor from mountains to seas. It was such a grand view though some of the tall trees slightly blocked part of the view.

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No cars from this point on. Gotta start walking.

After us lazy travelers spent quality time up high, we proceeded to our next target — lunch at a small beach front in San Juan. Although we got a flat tire on the way, it felt like a blessing in disguise because we stopped right in front of a house that had this big mango tree with huge green mangoes just waiting to be picked. Plus we were able to buy more than a kilo for just P30.

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LUNCH!

At San Juan, we met up with our office mate’s uncle, Kuya Charles and his family. They cooked for us such a delightful mix of dishes that all tasted equally good. We ate the green mango we bought earlier with soy sauce and brown sugar. I must say that all our hosts prepared some of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. After lunch, we made our way to a lesser publicized attraction – Lugnason Falls. It was quite ironic that we got our second flat tire on our way here. It gave us a good opportunity for photos though.

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A flat tire equals a photo opportunity.

Lugnason Falls is another beautiful wonder you should not miss. Once stopping where the vehicle could no longer proceed, we took a quick hike to finally get there. Be careful though, because it could be quite slippery and you might find it a little confusing to find your way through. Nevertheless, it’s nothing too confusing, especially if you have a guide with you or if you happen to meet local children who love hanging out at the said location. No entrance fee is required, though it would really help if you would give any amount as a donation to their donation box outside.

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Models of Lugnason Falls.

The area is quite small, has cold water and is definitely a relaxing place for you to stay and just chill. You can climb the rocks and let the water fall on your heads, or you can climb to the very top and jump off if you’re into that kind of stuff. Most of us took the challenge, though the lock on our Go Pro waterproof housing fell off on my second jump. The camera got wet and wouldn’t turn on anymore making me feel really bad, but luckily there’s nothing raw rice cannot fix.

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My partner was as giddy as a kid. I think he jumped 5 times or more.
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The last jump before our Go Pro said bye bye!

Just as it was getting a little dim, we packed up and decided to go back to where we had lunch earlier so that we could again witness the beautiful sunset. Did I mention that I love love love love love sunsets? Countless photos were taken on that afternoon with such a beautiful golden orange sky it just made my day perfect.

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Do I need to say more?

Once it was dark, we made our way back to our host’s house and had dinner at our office mate’s auntie’s house. I bet you know what I’m about to say about the food again. It was delicious as all other meals we had. I came to the island being on a no rice diet for so long and this trip just ruined it. Not that I’m complaining though 😉

The rest of the night was spent at a local bar where quite a number of people, both locals and foreigners, were drinking and dancing to the live show band that was performing. We had our equal share of fun, went home, slept, and woke up rather late on our last day.

DAY 3 “ADVENTURES”

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Since we woke up late on our last day there, there wasn’t really much we could do anymore. We stopped at a nearby beach, took a quick dip, went home again and packed all of our things. We luckily still got tickets to for the fast as we almost missed the chance to get back to Dumaguete on time. I believe the next trip was at 6:30 pm if ever we missed that ferry.

In no time, we arrived at Dumaguete. We stopped by Sans Rival, went on to eat our lunch, then went to the port to buy tickets back to Cebu. We did not get to explore Dumaguete, but have schedules dedicated to it in the future.

TOUR GUIDE

You might be reading this and saying, “Hey! Lucky you. You had no problems about food, accommodation, and transportation.” And yes that’s true thanks to Miss Aigel (our office mate) and Kuya Fearnold (her brother). However, do you remember me mentioning Kuya Charles? Yes, my office mate’s uncle. He is actually an independent tour guide accredited by Siquijor’s tourism government. He is one of the most trusted guides, and has been into the business for around 16 years already. He can help you with practically anything like suggestions of where to stay.

There are two different packages offered by Kuya Charles: *Cost for transpo is exclusive of entrance fees*

  1. COASTAL TOUR (includes pick up from and drop off to Siquijor port). This tour includes sites such as Paliton Beach, Capilay Spring Park, Enchanted Balete Tree, Crocodile View, Lazi Church and Convent, Cambugahay Falls, Kagusuan Beach, Salagdoong Beach, and Guiwanon Spring Park. You even have a choice of transportation like multicab (fits 15 people max: P1,800 for one day), Toyota Grandia Van (fits 12 people max: P2,500 for one day) or even a tricyle (fits 4 people max: P1,000 for one day).
  2. MOUNTAIN TOUR (usually an additional tour to the coastal tour). Sites include Cantabon Cave, Mt. Bandilaan, Butterfly Graden, Infinity Heights, Larena Triad Resto Coffee Shop. If you want to have the Mountain tour done on the same say as the Coastal tour, just add P1,000 for the transportation. If you want this on the next day, the payment would be as good as the per day cost of your chosen transportation.

Just some additional info: You can have an agreement with him if you’d like him to prepare the food for your trip. He’s a really good cook.  Also, if you’re curious about witchcraft, Kuya Charles has some interesting stories that he can share with you. He even mentioned he could bring you to where all the magic happens but you can just ask him about the details if you’re really interested to know. His contact number is (+63)910-645-4175.

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Sadly, we weren’t able to visit every single part of Siquijor but plan to go back whenever we can. This island is such a beauty and I highly recommend you visiting anytime soon for both the awe and the chills 😉

 

SIRAO: The Hidden Blossoming Garden of Cebu

Social media has been quite the hype spreader. If you’re from Cebu, then you might have noticed the sudden gush of reds, pinks, and yellows in your news feed. Some netizens find these photos annoying, while some find them enticing and would like to find out more about them to get to see them in person. If you’re part of the latter, then this post is for you.

For some reason, a lot of us have just discovered the existence of somewhat our own blossoming Garden of Eden here in the city that has actually already been around for years. I’m pretty sure you’ve seen quite a number of these kinds of pictures already:

The famous flowers found at Sirao: Burlas and Tapay-Tapay

Sirao is a barangay located in Busay which is just around 40 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city. To get there, you may opt to bring your own car for convenience. If not, habal-habal drivers at JY square, Lahug will be willing to bring you there at P200/motorcycle/way.

Google map image to guide you on your way to Sirao

We left quite early in the morning as I had to go straight to work after the short drop by. Once we finally arrived at JB farm in Sirao, we were quite surprised to already see quite a number of people there with their monopods, cellphones, and GoPros. To be able to take pictures, a fee of P20 is required, while P100 is required for those who wish to take videos. UPDATE: Instead of paying P20 for pictures and P100 for videos, they now charge P50 instead for both pictures and videos already so make the most out of that P50 🙂

The old signage that previously reminded you to pay P20 first before taking pictures. Now they have changed this to P50 which lets you take both pictures and videos.

Contrary to what you may have in mind based on the many photos you’ve seen of the place, the flowers aren’t in one huge continuous field. They are actually divided into three different medium sized sections which you will see in the video I’ve added at the end of this blog. Nevertheless, it is quite a sight for the eyes without a doubt.

Me and my partner at the smallest section of the three, but wih the most breathtaking view
Trying to be a little dramatic with the sun rays

Aside from taking pictures at Sirao, you might as well purchase some of their flowers too. They cost only P35 per bundle. To delay the wiltering of the flowers, the farmers advised us to change the water in the vase every 3 days and to make sure we cut the ends of the stems as well.

The famous flowers found at Sirao: Burlas and Tapay-Tapay

To see much more about our short adventure at Sirao, watch the video below. Make sure it’s in HD 🙂


If you’ve got some spare time, I recommend you make your way up to this beautiful place. It was said that the flowers were to be harvested as usual by the end of October, but apparently they’ve been making much more profit by letting people visit and take photos so they’ve decided to keep the bloom around.

SIARGAO 2015 Part 1 || MyFairJourney ||

Hey there and welcome back to my blog. I’ve been receiving a few requests to make a video about our Siargao journey. It turned out that editing was quite challenging and I know the video may not be as pretty as possible, but I still hope you enjoy it. If tou can’t hear the audio, try viewing it on Youtube’s site or on a desktop instead. I’ll be uploading the second half soon 🙂

Siargao 2015 Part 1: ( Please watch in HD)

Thanks so much for dropping by! If you’d like to know more about this adventure, you can read my previous blog post here: http://myfairjourney.com/2015/09/21/siargao-the-island-youll-never-want-to-leave/

Siargao, the island you’ll never want to leave.

Working five days a week and nine hours a day makes you want to scream for some time off, more likely in the form of a long delightful vacation. Yes, exactly the image that you’ve got in mind. Palm trees, the ocean breeze, turquoise water, white sand, and that breath-taking sunset. A postcard perfect picture that can be described in so many ways, but nothing would be as rewarding as experiencing it for yourself. Thus, the decision to take on Siargao was born.

Daku Island
An aerial shot taken at Daku Island.

According to Wikipedia, Siargao, the Surfing Capital of the Philippines, is a tear-drop shaped island situated 800 kilometers southeast of Manila located in the province of Surigao del Norte. It has a land area of approximately 437 square kilometers. The island is composed of municipalities of Burgos, Dapa, Del Carmen, General Luna, San Benito, Pilar, San Isidro, Santa Monica and Socorro. Yet I know you’re not here to mindlessly read geographical facts about the island. You’re here for the story, for the adventure.

How we got there.

Look at these excited kiddos!
Look at these excited kiddos!

We were considering two ways to get to Siargao. One by sea, the other by air. We finally decided upon traveling via Cebu Pacific Air, just because we wanted to get there right away without much to take into consideration. Cebu Pacific Air is the only airline company that has a direct flight from Cebu to Siargao which takes just around 45 minutes to get there. We booked our flight during one of their promo periods and got a terrific deal on airfare. I recommend checking their site from time to time since they frequently announce promos there.

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A shot of the wonderful view below taken from inside the plane

How we got to the resort.

Upon arriving at the airport, we had a brand new Toyota Grandia waiting to take us to where we’d be staying. The fare from Sayak Airport to General Luna is P300 per head. Although there will be vans already waiting at the airport, I recommend you contact Roger at +63947-222-2304 in advance if you want a comfortable ride for the same price.

How we got around.

Roger turned out to be a really helpful guy. Since my travel companion knew how to drive, Roger offered to have his new XRM motorcycle rented at a great deal of P350 per day. We had to refuel it with our own money but trust me, P150 of gasoline can go a long way. The convenience was great as we could go anywhere, anytime we wanted. Of course not across the sea, but you get my point. If you don’t know how to drive, there are a lot of habal-habal (motorcycle) drivers around the island so there’s no need to fret. Let them know where you need to go, and you’ll be on the road.

Where we stayed.

Accommodations are abundant around the island, ranging from bedspaces to luxurious rooms.  

Arka Hayahay
What welcomes you at Arka Hayahay.

We stayed at Arka Hayahay located in between the town of General Luna and The Boardwalk at Cloud 9. I personally loved the creative architecture of the place. Almost everything built are formed like arks and you’ll consistently see that theme throughout the place.

One of the
One of the “Arks” at Arka Hayahay.
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The bunk bed available in their dormitory type rooms.

We spent the first two nights at their fan dormitory style rooms at 500 per head per night. The room is good for four people, and we were lucky to have the room to ourselves as no one else was checking in at the same room type.

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The exterior of Arka Hayahay’s Standard Air-conditioned rooms.

We spent our last night in their Standard air-conditioned room at P1,700 per night. This room is good for two, with cable television, free toiletries, and a spacious comfort room. The place is relatively new, really clean and comfortable. I’d stay there again at anytime.

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Arka Hayahay offers a relaxing place for you to sit back and relax while watching the ocean work its magic.

For more information and details, you can check out their Facebook page or follow their Instagram account.

Junex playing with our new friend, Buddy.
Junex playing with our new friend, Buddy.

Where we ate.

The first real meal we had on the island was at Kermit Surf Resort & Camp.

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Snapped a quick photo of the place while waiting for our food to arrive.

Yes they offer accommodations as well, but we went there for the food as suggested by a good friend of mine. The food may be a tiny bit pricey, but definitely worth the expense. We enjoyed the food and customer service at the place. You should try to stop by for at least one meal.

We found a cozy place to sit down before all the other guests arrived.
We found a cozy place to sit down before all the other guests arrived.
Ordered Bruschetta for our appetizer. Yummy!
Ordered Bruschetta for our appetizer. Yummy!
I love sour food and so I ended up trying out their Lemon Chicken.
I love sour food and so I ended up trying out their Lemon Chicken.
Junex wanted to try something new. He ordered their Chicken Adobo with Fresh Pineapples.
Junex wanted to try something new. He ordered their Chicken Adobo with Fresh Pineapples.

Another place where we ate three times (yes, their food is that tasty!) was at Aventino’s Pizza, Pasta and Vino. My personal favorite was their best-selling pizza named Tricia. This three-layered pizza will bring your taste buds to heaven with every bite for just P345. I also liked their Hungarian sausage meal as the barbecue sauce they use is to die for. Definitely a two-thumbs up from the both of us, so that makes it four!

Tricia
Aventino’s best seller Tricia
A pizza covered by more pizza crust! This is their Chaveli for P245.
A pizza covered by more pizza crust! This is their Chaveli for P245.

The rest of the meals we had were at barbecue stalls and carenderias that we’d pass by during our road trips.

Where we went & what we did. Now this is going to be a long one.

Surfing at the Boardwalk of Cloud 9.

Surfing at Cloud 9! This was so much fun!
Aerial shot of surfing at Cloud 9! This was so much fun!

This was the very first activity we did after checking in to the resort. They don’t call it the Surfing Capital of the Philippines for nothing. We proceeded to the Boardwalk at Cloud 9 where a lot of surfing shops are found. If you didn’t know yet, Cloud 9 is one of the most famous surfing spots of Siargao and is where surfing competitions are held. We stopped by at the shop called Very Good Nice and as newbies, we had to rent both a long board and a surfing instructor for P500 per head per hour. We brought a lot of things with us and since apparently it’s not advised to leave your things lying around while you’re busy surfing, they offered to take care of our belongings at their shop. We ended up just bringing along our GoPro Hero 4 for documentation purposes.

Beginner's training on the shore before hitting the waves.
Beginner’s training on the shore before hitting the waves.

The owner of Very Good Nice, Jun-Jun, offered to have someone take videos and pictures of us while surfing and we ended up giving the kid P300 for his efforts of chasing after us amidst the strong current of Quicksilver (right next to Cloud 9). We spent the rest of the day at the boardwalk, taking pictures of the beautiful sunset we were witnessing.

Junex in action!
Junex in action!

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On our third day on the island, we wanted to do some more surfing with our instructor but this time at Cloud 9 where the waves were much bigger and stronger. We were supposed to return for surfing on the morning of our last day at the island but sadly our lazy butts failed to wake up on time. As adults with no surfing experience whatsoever prior to our Siargao trip, we enjoyed the activity so much and want to come back to the island just for that.

Why sit in the middle of the boardwalk? Well, why not?
Why sit in the middle of the boardwalk? Well, why not?
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The amazing sunset at the Boardwalk of Cloud 9

Bucas Grande Trip & Island Hopping.

On our second day, we had a long scheduled activity set ahead of us. Prior to leaving for Siargao, I contacted a bangka driver named Lito who would take care of our trip. He was referred to me by my office mate Eula (check out her travel blog here) and I highly recommend booking your trip with him too. He’s kind, patient, accommodating, and gives reasonable prices. He can even get the freshest ingredients from the market and cook lunch for your trip. All you need to do is give him the budget for it. You can easily contact him at +63907-310-3333.

Taking a groufie with Lito.
Taking a groufie with Lito.

We met at the market of General Luna at 7:00 am and immediately went on our way to Bucas Grande Islands which would take around 1.5 – 2 hours to reach. I know the hours don’t sound so appealing, but I assure you you’ll be in awe of mother nature’s wonderful existence on the way. I was miraculously awake for the whole trip as I laid my eyes on the awesome rock formations, lavishly green unharmed forests, and deep blue waters around us. They just seemed so unreal.

A glimpse of what kept us awake on such a long trip.
A glimpse of what kept us awake on such a long trip.

I kept on telling Lito about my excitement to swim with the famous stingless jellyfish and that they were the very reason I was willing to sit down for hours on that trip. I think that’s why he brought us right away to Tiktikan Lagoon.

What welcomes you at Tiktikan Lagoon.
What welcomes you at Tiktikan Lagoon.

The shallow waters later leaded to a deeper blue, where we were to see the jellyfish. At sight of the very first one, I got ready to jump into the water to see them up close and personal. Man I was so happy and honestly found them hypnotizing maybe because of their graceful movements or plainly because I can be pretty weird. Oh and did I mention that this was for free? Yes, no entrance fee.

Trying to take a photo with the elusive but stunning Stingless Jellygfish at Tiktikan Lagoon.
Trying to take a photo with the elusive but stunning Stingless Jellygfish at Tiktikan Lagoon.

After spending a sufficient amount of time at Tiktikan Lagoon, Lito dropped us off at where we needed to pay to proceed with the Sohoton adventure, and proceeded to a neighboring restaurant to cook our lunch. Upon conversing with a representative from the Local Government Unit, we learned that we had to pay around P1,200+ to see the caves and experience the adventures they had to offer. Having already spent P3,000 for the bangka, we decided that this was too much for just the two of us. I know you’re now thinking that we’re immensely poor, stupid or crazy for backing out after that long trip, but we figured that we’d rather spend the money for surfing and just come back to Sohoton some other time when we’re with a bigger group. We didn’t really mind the long trip anyway. We just requested to be brought to the restaurant across by their small paddle boats that just cost us P50 each.

Special delivery for Lito at the restaurant at Sohoton.
Special delivery for Lito at the restaurant at Sohoton.

It was finally time to eat! Behold, the food cooked by Lito with a P500 budget. Imagine having this with hot rice and ice cold Coca-cola!
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And of course, we just had to take some self proclaimed attractive photos

The I'm-trying-to-conceal-the-hunger pose.
The I’m-trying-to-conceal-the-hunger pose.

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We then asked Lito if we could go back to Tiktikan Lagoon for just a few minutes which he kindly obliged. To learn more about the adventures Sohoton has to offer, you can read other bloggers’ experience like this and this.

At Tiktikan Lagoon again.
At Tiktikan Lagoon again.
The Stingless Jellyfish. This one was friendly enough to let me take a shot of it.
The Stingless Jellyfish. This one was friendly enough to let me take a shot of it.

After our second swimming session with the stingless jellies, we proceeded with our Island Hopping as planned. This would take another 1.5-2 hours since the islands would be near mainland. Our first stop was at Naked Island.

Aerial shot at Naked Island. It needs some cleaning up to be done, but nevertheless, it's still beautiful.
Aerial shot at Naked Island. It needs some cleaning up to be done, but nevertheless, it’s still beautiful.

I think it’s pretty obvious where they got the name from. Sorry to disappoint some (or the majority) of your guys, but it’s not because some sexy naked human beings are on the island, but mainly because it’s simply a sandbar with a small tent. No trees, no plants (aside from washed up seaweed), no caretakers. Just you, the sand, the ocean, and your bangka driver.  We did not have to pay for anything here. The water around this island was quite clear, and so we tried to take some appealing underwater photos.

Underwater shot at Naked Island. I certainly have a lot of these on my camera roll!
Underwater shot at Naked Island. I certainly have a lot of these on my camera roll!

Our next stop was at Daku Island, which got its name from its name from its size. The word “daku” in our dialect means big or large.

An aerial shot of Daku Island with a glimpse of the small community on it.
An aerial shot of Daku Island with a glimpse of the small community on it.

I’d have to say that this was my favorite out of the three as it was the cleanest and had the biggest beachfront for us to play on. We had to pay P100 as a docking fee, and were offered fresh coconut, perfect for the heat, for just P20 each.

Shoreline of Daku Island.
Shoreline of Daku Island.

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I obviously had much fun at Daku Island.
I obviously had most of the fun on this island.

I was also amazed to learn from one of the locals that they did not have electricity on the island. Boy that must be hard, but everyone was so pleasant and in a happy disposition that you’d hardly think they did not own such things that you would easily take for granted. We spent most of our time here before proceeding to the last Island, Guyam.

Aerial shot of Guyam Island.
Aerial shot of Guyam Island.

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This is a small circular shaped island full of life in the form of different trees. You could easily walk around the island in a matter of minutes. We only had to pay P10 per head for the entrance fee. With not much time left on our hands, we took as many videos and photos as we could, took a good appreciative look around the island, watched the sun steadily set, and started off back to mainland.

The sun starting to set, signaling the fast approaching end of our day, as Lito prepares the bangka.
The sun starting to set, signaling the fast approaching end of our day, as Lito prepares the bangka.

After dinner, we then spent the rest of the night at a nearby mini bar, chilling and drinking some light beer. A perfect way to end the day.

Magpupungko Rock Pools.

Early the next day, we were on our way to Magpupungko Rock Pools located at Pilar, just around 1 – 1.5 hours away from General Luna. We were more adventurous and decided to make our way to the place on our own using the motorcycle we rented. 

An example of the rich green we passed by on our way to Magpupungko.
An example of the rich green we passed by on our way to Magpupungko.

It isn’t hard to get there as the locals can easily point you to the right direction plus the roads were smooth, and the view was again spectacular. I may have used up so much memory of the SD card from taking videos of the trees and mountains we were passing by. Again, if you aren’t renting a vehicle of your own, a lot of drivers will be around willing to take you there for around P800.

Breathtaking aerial shot of Magpupungko
Breathtaking aerial shot of Magpupungko

Upon arrival, we parked the motorcycle outside for P20, and proceeded to then pay P50 each as an entrance fee. I should mention that you need to be there when it’s still low tide as the rock pools will only be visible and accessible during these times. You can ask locals for the exact time, or you should be able to look that up on the internet. We arrived just before lunch and so we decided to fulfil some basic needs by eating lunch at the location. We ordered adobong manok and fried fish which I absolutely loved. I kept on praising the taste on almost every bite.

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After eating, we noticed that the waves were getting stronger and that the tide was coming in already so we immediately made our way to the main attraction.

One of the rock pools of Magpupungko.
One of the rock pools of Magpupungko.

There are several turquoise saltwater pools outlined by natural rock formation within the area which could be deep enough for you plunge into from higher ground like a bigger rock. Just don’t forget to have some suitable footwear on as the rocks can be really sharp.

I have no idea how these models get to look so calm underwater with all the seawater fighting to get into the nose.
I have no idea how these models get to look so calm underwater.

After spending adequate time in the water, we proceeded to seeing the origin of the place’s name. The big rock which they call Magpupungko. This large rock looks like it was placed carefully onto a smaller flat rock so it could sit and just stay perfectly balanced there. The word pungko means to sit or to squat.

Taking a wacky selfie with the Magpupungko rock in the background.
Taking a wacky selfie with the Magpupungko rock in the background.

After taking a good look at the Magpupungko rock, we spent some more time in the rock pools until we felt it was no longer safe due to the strong waves and current. Making our way back to General Luna was easier and seemingly took up less of our travel time.

I know, I know. We just had to take one of those cheesy underwater shots.
I know, I know. We just had to take one of those cheesy underwater shots.

Road trips.

On the road anytime we wish.
On the road anytime we wish.

Having rented a motorcycle of our own, it was easy for us to make our way around General Luna. We would go out each time we felt like eating, drinking, surfing, swimming, taking pictures, buying stuff or for any random reason. On our last day, Roger had to claim the motorcycle from us which left us with just our own pairs of feet. A good thing was that Arka Hayahay had bikes for rent at P50 per hour or you could rent them for P200 for the whole day. 

The bicycle I rented from Arka Hayahay on the last morning of our vacation. I love the looks of this bicycle.
The bicycle I rented from Arka Hayahay on the last morning of our vacation. I love the looks of this bicycle.
I tried to win this race but failed. This guy does too much cardio.
I tried to win this race but failed. This guy does too much cardio.

Having a few hours left before we had to leave for the airport, we made our way around the area to look for something to eat. This was a funny experience for the both of us as it was the first time we discovered that there was an Aventino’s branch just a few meters away from where we were staying. Our last meal on the island was still at our now favorite pizza restaurant. 

Realizing this was Aventino's and that we were just passing by it on our way to a different branch almost everyday.
Realizing this was Aventino’s and that we were just passing by it on our way to a different branch almost everyday.

Time to go back home.

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I’d hate to sound like I didn’t miss home, but I did not want to go back to Cebu yet. I had such a great time on the Island of Siargao, that I wanted to live there permanently and then maybe visit Cebu every now and then for a vacation. Haha. That wasn’t possible though. We left the resort at around 10:00 am for the airport, went through the usual check in process, then off we went back to the Queen City of the South.

Leaving Siargao.
Leaving Siargao.

This wouldn’t be the last visit though. We loved the place so much that we’re planning to go back before this year ends. I’m still as excited as I was the first time I booked our ticket. This isn’t the last of me. Till next time!

See you again Siargao! That's for sure :)
See you again soon Siargao! That’s for sure 🙂