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Insider Tips When Visiting Camotes Islands in the Philippines

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The best travels are those that lead you to hidden places, not often featured in guide books or travel blogs. Read on below for nine insider #traveltips to keep in mind when visiting Camotes Islands, Philippines.

 

1. Know your port of entry

Visitors can travel from Cebu to Camotes via one of three ways: a) Danao Port, b) Mactan Wharf, or c) Cebu Port. Jomalia Shipping Lines travels from Danao Port and Mactan Wharf to Consuelo Port in Camotes while OceanJet travels from Cebu Port to Poro, Camotes–these are the only travelling vessels so passengers are strongly advised to purchase round trip tickets from their ticketing office ahead of time. Otherwise, you will be in for a very long wait at the pier.

Passengers will pay around PHP 250 to get from Danao Port to Camotes. However, ‘fixers’ are more prevalent here and will purchase a large number of tickets to be sold to passengers at a higher price. The vessel is often crammed with a mix of vehicles, people, and various cargo, so expect that you will be standing for the entire trip (unless you’re quick enough to snag a seat). Travel time is estimated to be around 2 hours. Take this option if you’re looking to save on transportation and you happen to live near Danao.

If you will opt to take the Jomalia fast craft from Macatan Wharf or the OceanJet from Pier 1 of Cebu Port, you will pay around PHP 500. Both are definitely the pricier options but the ride will undoubtedly be much faster (and more comfortable). If you live around Lapu-lapu, ride from Mactan Wharf, but for those who live around Cebu City, taking the boat from Cebu Port is the better option.

 

2. Check the season

Camotes’ beautiful beaches and stunning coastline is a siren’s call to tourists, who often flock to the island during the summer, weekends, or holidays. While it might be stifling to visit during the peak season, visitors are encouraged to visit Camotes from November to May, most particularly from March – May, in order to avoid the storms that frequent the area during the rainy season. After all, who would want the rain to dampen an afternoon tanning session?

 

3. Pack some food

Never forget to pack some light snacks wherever you are in the island. Camotes is still very much a rural area so don’t expect sari-sari stores (convenience stores) to be open 24/7. Pack a granola bar to munch on the beach or some biscuits for a light repast. It won’t be filling but it will get you through the day until you can find an open carenderia (canteen). If you’re feeling queasy on the boat, saltine crackers will do wonders to ease an upset stomach.

 

4. Bask in the sunrise

As you take in the majestic views of the island, try to get up at dawn and catch the sun rise over the horizon. When you take an early morning boat to Camotes, stay on the east side in order to catch a glimpse of the sunrise. You can also camp out on one of the island’s beaches and get up at dawn as you listen to the crashing waves. It is one of the best forms of stress relief out there.

 

5. Check your transportation

Camotes Island might appear small on a map but you can be assured of some travel time going to and from each destination. To visit each place, some passengers prefer to ferry their cars from the port of Danao. This could easily cost you more than P1300 (USD 25), not to mention the cost of gas—it is also important to note that gas stations are often located in far flung areas, so take this into consideration.

If the option above is too much hassle for you, don’t worry, there are a lot of transportation options available on the island. Motorcycles can be rented out for around P300 (USD 6) per day. You can also hire a car and driver to service you during your stay for around P2500 (USD 48) a day—we recommend  recommend you use an open air vehicle, like the jeepney, to take in the fresh air and gorgeous scenery. Remember to always try to haggle for lower prices before agreeing to anything.

 

6. Loose change

The local laws implemented in Camotes Island is geared towards the protection of the environment. To do their part, many of the public places charge a small environmental fee, ranging from P5–10 (less than 1 USD) per person. Collectors are often placed in small outposts that receive small denominations so it’s best to bring loose change with you.

 

7. Pack the essentials

Just like any other beach trip, be sure to pack items that can help you withstand the heat, and occasional splash. For a fun-filled adventure, be sure to bring the following items:

  • Sunblock
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Dry bag
  • Extra clothes
  • Waterproof camera or waterproof case for your phone
  • Tent or sleeping bag

 

8. Live like the locals

To truly experience life as a local, don’t be afraid to get involved in their daily activities. If you’ve never been camping, try setting up a tent on the beach of Tulang Diyot. If you want to try local produce, purchase food from the public markets and try eating it with your (clean) hands.

 

9. Be open to new experiences

For solo travellers, don’t worry about visiting the island since Camotes is home to many friendly locals. Try engaging some of them into a conversation while waiting for your boat or when you’re eating by the campfire—you’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn. If you’re travelling with a group, you can lessen the cost by splitting the bill with everyone.

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Bantayan

Bantayan: A Pilgrim’s Paradise

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Vacationers are drawn to Bantayan like pilgrims to a holy land – a blessed island actually, with blinding white beaches and sparkling aquamarine waters that beckon. Indeed, pilgrims do come for its time-honored observance of semana santa or Holy Week. The Maundy Thursday and Good Friday processions draw thousands of pious devotees as grandiose family-owned carrozas (carriages) bearing life-size religious statues, some handed down the generations, make their annual appearance around town. 

Bantayan’s Holy Week is like no other in the country, an almost festive atmosphere pervades across the island. While faithful Catholics abstain from eating meat, expect lechon as part of the feasting among families and friends who made it to the island bearing the 3-hour long drive from Cebu City to San Remigio town up north, then an hour’s ferry ride to the Santa Fe port in Bantayan. 

It is told that when their fishermen refused to launch out to sea and toil during the most religious time of the year, their families had nothing to eat. An indulto was then issued to Bantayan’s parish priest in 1840 allowing the townspeople to eat meat on Good Friday, and they have been doing so ever since. Whether this applied to Bantayan visitors is unclear but the special dispensation has most likely long expired. If you’re interested in seeing one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, the 15th century Saints Peter and Paul Church was built with walls of coral stone.

Saints Peter and Paul Church

Jutting out to the sea, Kota Park’s footbridge allows an expansive view of the surrounding waters and offers an ideal spot to watch Bantayan’s magnificent sunsets. The ruins of the old fort (kota in Spanish) built in 1790 to protect the townspeople from pirates are now part of Kota Park. 

Kota Park Footbridge

During this peak season, inter-island ferries are busy shuttling the overwhelming number of visitors who show up at San Remigio’s Hagnaya Wharf, all of them in a mad rush to make the crossing and start their long Easter weekend on the tropical isle. Accommodations in Bantayan are unpretentious and pitching a tent on the beach is an option when rooms are hard to come by. 

Hidden Paradise Beach

The laid-back lifestyle resumes once the Holy Week frenzy dies down as islanders around the 3 main towns return to their fishing nets and poultry farms. Bantayan, also the name of the biggest town, is where 80% of the eggs in the province come from, while Madridejos is Cebu’s main supplier of dried fish. The friendly resort town of Santa Fe is the perfect island getaway that tourists dream about. Its endless white-sand beaches remain nothing short of spectacular, and the best spot to bask in the sun, or watch it retreat gloriously beyond the horizon.

Scooping out scallop meat

Bountiful harvests from the sea around Bantayan Island find their way to the local town market; seafood couldn’t be any fresher than here.

Ruins

Originally published in Postcards from CebuMotorbikes can be rented to check out some of the island’s interesting sites like the Ogtong Cave. There’s also the little known Virgin Island for those who just can’t get enough of the beach. After super-storm Yolanda (internationally named Haiyan) brutally lashed across the island – and other parts of northern Cebu – in 2013 and rendered people homeless, Bantayan has pretty much well recovered. With generous humanitarian and financial aid from around the world, and the commendable hard work, resourcefulness and community spirit of the local population, the islanders are back on their feet again with rebuilt homes, revived livelihoods and renewed energy.

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Cities and Municipalities

Talisay City: Tracing Its Colorful Roots

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Another bit of history bound to the Augustinians lies twelve kilometers south of Cebu City. The religious order founded an estate in Talisay in 1648, and after 200 years, the friar-owned property became a municipality. Its name is said to be taken from the magtalisay tree that grew in abundance although the area was a big producer of sugar.

Puso making

Part of Metropolitan Cebu, Talisay became a chartered city in 2000. It is linked to downtown Cebu and the town of Minglanilla by the South Coastal Road. This six-lane highway with exits to several areas in Talisay has greatly eased traffic for the dwellers of this primarily residential city. 

Talisay served as the center of guerrilla intelligence operations of the Philippine resistance movement in Cebu during World War II. Returning American troops landed on its beach on March 26, 1945 and freed the province from the Japanese, aided by Philippine Commonwealth forces and the local guerrillas. That significant day in history is marked by the National Historic Shrine Liberation Monument.

The original bells of the old Sta. Teresa de Avila church built in 1836 no longer ring today but its parishioners remain devoted and congregate at what has now been declared an archdiocesan shrine. The feast day of the city’s patron saint is a red-letter occasion celebrated with much gaiety including a colorful parade and the unique Halad Inasal Festival.

Lechon

Famous for its inasal, the Cebuano term for lechon (whole roasted pig), the city makes a spectacle of its succulent pork offering by parading the skewered pigs around its streets, some are garbed in creative outfits. Talisay’s flavorful inasal is generously seasoned with a blend of lemongrass, garlic and spices then slow roasted to juicy perfection. Its skin is always the exact golden brown and ever crispy, making it the centerpiece of many tables during special celebrations and fiestas.

Much progress has been seen in terms of infrastructure projects and public service since Talisay gained its cityhood. Having earned numerous national and local accolades, it is working towards becoming an even more progressive and peaceful city that is committed to look after the welfare of its local community.

Barbecued fish and chorizo

Check out the other things you can do in Talisay:

HALAD INASAL FESTIVAL. Two men carry a skewered lechon on their shoulders to a nearby barbecue stall, a common sight on Sunday mornings in Talisay. The city holds an annual Halad Inasal Festival in celebration of its famous inasal, the Cebuano term for roasted suckling pig.

BARBECUE STANDS. Fish and Cebu-style chorizo (small rounded pork sausages) are grilled at a barbecue stand; Women prepare puso (hanging rice) by weaving coconut leaves into small diamond-shaped pouches which are filled with rice grains.

MUSEUM. The National Historic Shrine Liberation Monument marks the landing of liberation troops in Talisay in 1945.

CHURCH. Made of coral stone like most old churches in Cebu, the Sta. Teresa de Avila Church stands out for its uniquely designed recessed main entrance and pediment. Tucked away from the commercial side of the city, the church was declared an Archdiocesan Shrine in 2007.

 

Originally published in Postcards from Cebu.

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