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Cebu and Bantayan Island Trip – part one

Recently Rob visited Cebu and Bantayan Island and sent me this story to share with you all.

Greetings from sunny Cebu and Bantayan Island was a wonderfully peaceful and relaxing place.  Something you might see in a travel brochure.  I have included a few of the many pictures taken there and hope you will enjoy them.  Close your eyes and you might even hear the waves breaking at the decks edge.

Getting there started with a taxi ride to Cebu North Bus terminal. We then caught a bus, (no air conditioned buses leaving). So we boarded a non a/c bus and headed north to the small port city of Hagnaya, Cebu.  This trip would take approximately 3 to 4 hours depending on traffic and stops along the way.

As we left the big city behind the landscape changed dramatically.  We wound up and down mountains and hills. Winding ribbons of concrete, twisting and turning through small towns and villages.  The sea was usually ever present on our right. To the left was a stunning landscape of Coconut trees and vast sugar cane fields carved into the hills and valleys.

Scattered native nipa huts dotted the landscape as well as the roadside.  People selling their goods, everything from fresh fruit to dried fish.  Small boys running naked on the road side playing with discarded rubbish, yet always smiling and waving as we passed by.

Province life consists of a daily grind to make a few pesos to provide for the family. Back breaking work in the sugar cane fields for a mere 2 dollars or so a day. A 12-hour day, 6 to 7 days a week is the norm.  Day after day, week after week, year after year they toil.  Gripped in poverty till the day they die.  This is their reality, but they still have a smile on their weathered faces. This is the real Philippines, the worker bees of the colony providing for the fat to get fatter.

We stopped in numerous nondescript places along the way for passengers to board and disembark.  The driver and the conductor had a nonverbal communication system. A series of taps with his hole puncher on the overhead handrail and the bus stopped and started off again. We are now about halfway into our trip and still have not paid a fare.  The conductor made his way from front to back punching holes in slips of paper. Embark and disembark information, collecting money from each passenger.

He arrived at our seat, made a series of holes in our slips, and collected 240 pesos ($5.00).  I gave him a 500-peso bill and he walked off.  I think to myself “hum, where my 260 pesos change is”.  I had did some reading before taking this bus journey and remembered that it’s a common practice if he has no change.  However, not to worry, he never forgets.  An hour or so goes by and we stop for a 15 minute break. Comfort Room(restroom), a smoke and a coke before starting again.

Meantime and older Filipina, perhaps in her mid to late 70’s had sat down beside me.  She shyly glanced at my light skin from time to time if she thought I was not looking.  I did the same to her.  The deep lines in her weathered tanned face told many stories.

I wondered about her life, her hardships, and her joys. I thought about her age and the fact she had probably endured WWII, and the Japanese Occupation of her homeland when she was a young beautiful Filipina.  I truly wished I could speak her language and open this wealth of information and human interest sitting beside me.

Lyn was taking pictures out the window as our journey continued.  I saw the curiosity in the old woman’s eyes, as we looked at the pictures Lyn had just taken.  I thought to myself, maybe she has never seen a digital camera and the instant gratification one has from viewing pictures taken only seconds before. I quietly told Lyn to take her picture when she was not looking. Lyn says, “no” and I said ”give me the camera.”  I took Lyn’s picture and purposely let the old woman see what I was doing. She saw the picture as I viewed it and smiled.  I slowly sat the camera on my knee, as she turned her head and giving me a profile, click the deed was done. I slowly fiddled with the camera until I saw her watching again and replayed the picture of her I had just taken.  Her face lit up and she pointed at herself as if to say, that is me. I nodded and motioned the camera at her to ask permission to take another.  She pointed at herself again and I nodded, she smiled and I took another.  She was delighted when I showed her the display.

The bus stopped again shortly, she stepped off and disappeared down a dusty trail leading off into the dense vegetation.  Maybe to where she had lived all her life.  Perhaps I left her too with a story to tell as well.  I would like to think so.

The bus continued and we stopped in a small town.  No one boarded or disembarked, and then I noticed the conductor crossing the road to a small gas station.  I queried Lyn as to what he was doing, “maybe change,” she said.  “I hope so” I replied.  He boarded and off we were again. He started at the front again handing money to various passengers.  Upon making his way back to us he said, “500 pesos right?” I nodded in agreement and he handed me 260 pesos. Two and half hours had elapsed, I guess they don’t forget.

The scenery has flattened out now and the smell of fish drying in the sun fills the air.  A sure sign we are approaching the sea and ferry landing. We bounce down a non-paved dusty road and stop.  At last we have arrived at Hagnaya port.  We disembarked and made our way through a horde of hawkers and vendors selling everything imaginable.

We purchased tickets for the 1 hour ferry ride across to Bantayan Island.  First class this time with a/c cabin, 260 pesos ($5.40. I texted our host, Robert, to let him know that we were leaving Hagnaya in 1 hour to make our crossing. To my surprise he was their too, treated us to a soft drink and rode with us across.

Robert is from Germany and owns the house I had rented. He also owns the Jungle Restaurant and has lived on the Island the last seven years.  Although he is 71, he doesn’t look it.  He was a walking treasure trove of information.  We settled in for our one hour voyage.  The seas were calm and blue and “Con Air” was playing on the television.  Lyn watched intently, but understood little.  Robert and I chatted, discussing Filipino customs and mind set.  Finally, we pulled into the pier.

Robert had arranged a couple of pedal powered carts to deliver us to the house.  Through the small narrow village streets we rode, lined with an assortment of open-air restaurants and shops. Their thatched roofs, blending in harmoniously with the coconut trees and various tropical foliage.  I felt like I had gone back in time, a true paradise surrounded me.

About ten minutes later the narrow paved street turned to sand. The view was grand, the sandy beach and blue sea stretched out before me.  The cool breeze blowing in from the sea was a welcome relief.  We walked about fifty yards through the sand and there stood a large native house built on bamboo stilts about ten feet above the sandy beach.

Three sides are glass panels, one facing out to sea, the other two sides facing up and down the beach.  A coconut plank deck wraps around the three sides with bamboo railings.  The inside has marble tile floors, bamboo furnishing and Chinese decor abounds. Fresh cut yellow flowers are on every table. The exposed thatched roof rises twenty foot above the large living room.  A coconut tree comes through the floor and out the roof in one of the two air conditioned bedrooms.  Another penetrates the deck and out through the thatched overhang. For interior and exterior light, they all have dimmer switches for every mood. Two large bamboo loungers with 4-inch foam cushions, (each will accommodate two people easily) and bamboo table and chairs for breakfast grace the deck.  All facing the open blue sea.

Its ever present cooling breeze blows through the house when I open the glass door panels that lead out to the deck. The noise of the waves gently pounds the sand, the tide is coming in and the sun is fading.  Now the waves are disappearing underneath the deck.  To be closer to the sea one would need a boat.

I have arranged our dinner to be catered and served at the house tonight at 7:00.  A special evening and treat for Lyn as she has not a clue. Robert and his staff has prepared a feast that exceeds my request and expectations. The large dining room table is covered in various dishes, beef, chicken, fish, soup, salad, rice, 5 or 6 sauces and a few things I do not even know what was.  I assure you everything was excellent in taste and presentation. We grazed for perhaps one and a half hours. We then lay on the lounger listening to the waves and watching the small lights of native fishing outriggers dotting the sea before us.  It is well after midnight now and retreating inside seems almost like a punishment, but I want to rise early to see the sunrise.

Next Week will be the conclusion of Rob and Lyn’s trip.

6 Responses to “Cebu and Bantayan Island Trip – part one”

  1. Bantayan is one of my favourites islands in the Visayas. I was there for 3-4 weeks only a few months ago. Paradise. In fact most of the foreigners who settled there first many, many years ago Swedish. Robert is a nice guy and has great food at D’Jungle. Try the pasta at Blue Ice, which is great. Swedish owner.

  2. m60man says:

    Bantayan Island is a favorite place for me as well. We made 3 trips up there last year, March, June and October. It reminds me of how the Philippines might have been years ago. Truly a relief from the pace of the city. Hope you enjoyed our adventure.

  3. Andrew says:

    Interesting story from a beautiful place. Well written. My girlfriend is from Curva, in Medellin and takes that bus ride every week from Cebu City.

  4. Robert says:

    How much is the resort you stayed at? Sounds like fun!

  5. Ms Caroline says:

    Guess the common question on this wonderful trip was how much did it cost you..does he have a website for his resort?if so,please post as I would love to visit this Island with my husband someday;p

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