The past two years have been filled with anxiety and despair. We wake up every day in fear. We’ve known ever since that tomorrow is always uncertain, but this pandemic brought a different kind of uncertainty. A sad reality. And we fear for everything. We all are.
But know that this will be over soon, and if not, we can always start a ‘new normal’ way to live and survive. Hang in there!
With the ‘new normal’ way of life in mind, let’s start our travel story.
Staying at home during this pandemic is always the best thing to do. We couldn’t argue with that. But after a year of being at home every day, Ace and I couldn’t help but feel excited when the government lifted the local travel ban in selected areas in the country. With new travel protocols to keep the spread of COVID, tourist destinations have opened their doors again.
The hubby and I decided to have our first trip ever since the pandemic on an island that we’ve been lusting since Carnaza — Kinatarcan Island. Because why not? What better way to get a breather during this time?
Kinatarcan Island, also known as Guintacan to some, is tucked in Cebu’s northern coast. This rocky island is within the municipality of Sta Fe and comprises three barangays: Langub, Hagdan, and Kinatarkan. Although a part of Sta Fe, this island is more accessible from Daanbantayan if you come from mainland Cebu. It hasn’t been long since the name Kinatarcan Island surfaced as a potential tourist destination. Probably because visitors are more likely drawn to established tourist stops like Virgin Islands and Malapascua.
Needless to say, Kinatarcan has an unspoiled beauty. And we all know I’m a sucker for a laidback island vibe. So off we go to celebrate my birthday and our 5th wedding anniversary.
To make the trip more fun, we decided to bring our own ride to the island. We rented a motorcycle from our friend who owns a motorcycle rental business, so we don’t have to hire a guide nor rent one to tour the island. And to be honest, it was a brilliant idea. It was economical, plus we got to skip the long bus ride from Cebu City to Daanbantayan.
We arrived in Daanbantayan at exactly 6:30am, since we were told that passenger boats to Kinatarcan usually leave at 7:00am every day. And guess what? Scam! When we got to Mahayay port, it was empty except for some peddlers hustling early to make a living. One guy approached us and asked if we were bound to Kinatarcan. He said we had to wait until 9:00am for the boat to arrive from the island. Then it would depart from the mainland at 11:00am (sometimes 1:00 pm) depending on how many passengers were on board.
Yes, it was quite a long wait but we didn’t mind. It was actually nothing compared to waiting for more than a year for this chance to travel again, yeah?
So while waiting, we decided to grab a bite first and look for a place to chill and relax. The municipality of Daanbantayan is known for its beautiful resorts. In fact, it is known to be home to luxurious resorts in Cebu like Kandaya Resort, Golden Great Sands, to name a few. But we didn’t need that kind of luxury at that time. We only needed somewhere to chill while waiting. Since Daanbantayan lies near the coastline, it isn’t hard to find an inexpensive place. In fact, with only a 5-peso entrance fee, we stumbled Hapa-Hapa Beach in barangay Agujo. It has a long stretch of powdery sand and is a great place to relax.
At 11:00am, we were already back at the port. The scene was very different from the morning earlier. The port was livelier with hurry passengers, busy porters helping carry and load groceries and provisions, and boatmen having snacks in the nearby store. One boatman approached us and led us to their boat. They also took care of loading our motorcycle. Despite the challenge due to the wave, our boatmen successfully loaded it on.
Since it was a Friday, passengers were scarce because many available boats were plying to the island, so we had to wait for another hour. We got the chance to talk to the crews about how the pandemic affected their income source. Although there were no travel restrictions to the island, mainland Cebu had stricter quarantine restrictions. Tourism came to a halt. On their daily trip, they could only take home 60 pesos a day. Only when their boat is hired privately, they’d get as much as 300 to 600 pesos for the day. When there is no trip, they rely on fishing to feed their families. So it was good news when they learned that restrictions were eased.
The travel from Mahayay port to the island took an hour. Our boat dropped us off at Pasil beach. A long strip of white sand greeted us as soon as we set foot. What a way to welcome us and feed our appetite for fun!
There were motorcycle drivers who were waiting for passengers when we arrived. When they realized that we brought our own ride, they offered to guide us to where we were staying. Since it is a small island, everybody seems to know everyone. They pointed us the way to Forest Beach. Although I already expected the owner’s son to meet us at the port, he wasn’t there yet. The cellphone signal was intermittent on the island, so we decided to just drive to Forest Beach ourselves. Along the way, we bumped into the owner’s son, Prince, who instantly recognized us. (Told you they know everyone on the island.) He signaled and led us the way.
Our home for the night was Mantao’s family guesthouse which they converted into a four-room transient accommodation. The cost is only 300 pesos per head, with water and light. Their kitchen is also open if you want to cook (which I suggest you do because there are no restaurants in the area). Forest Beach is across the road, owned by the same family. It is literally a forest that lies on the edge of a cliff. The place is a perfect spot to catch the sunset. If the tide is high, you can try cliff-jumping here.
It was already two o’clock when we had finally settled, freshened up and hungry. We agreed to start driving around the island and maybe find something to eat on the way. We had already researched the tops spots to visit on the island, so we only had to ask the locals the way.
Our first stop was Laaw Cove and Lagoon. There is a registration area near the entrance, and you will be provided a tour guide to explore the area. The lagoon is home to delicious seaweed called ‘lato‘ (Caulerpa lentillifera) — a local food usually served as an appetizer by only mixing it with vinegar, salt, and some spices. Because they have to preserve the area, swimming here is prohibited. Laaw Cove is on the other side of the cliff fronting the Visayan sea. The scene somehow reminded me of the Twin Lagoon in Coron, only this one is smaller.
Above the umbrageous lagoon is a picturesque spot they called Tamboan ni Leon or the Coral Cliff. It flaunts a panoramic view of the Visayan sea and a glimpse of the stunning cliffs of the island on the side. It was a perfect spot for “buwis-buhay-for-the-gram” shots.
It was quite an up and down trek that I had to slug a 500ml of water as soon as we got back to the registration area. But it was worth the sweat. Our guide told us everything there is to know about the conservation of the lagoon.
Our next stop is Hagdan Beach. Hagdan means stairway, and yes, we had to take the 110-step stair to get to the beach. We came to a few locals mending their fishing boats and some kids enjoying a swim. Life seemed very slow-paced here. It was peaceful, so laidback, made me want to sit down and wait for time to fly. But as much as I wanted to do that, we didn’t stay there for long because we still had one last stop before the sunset.
Our last stop before heading back to Forest Beach was Byaring Cliff. We had to take a 5-minute walk through thick foliage to get to there. The view from the cliff was stunning. It reminded me of an islet we visited in Dinagat Islands. The sun was already setting when we got there, so we decided not to go down. We left after a few snaps.
Wanting to catch the sunset in Forest Beach, we hurried our way back. Luckily, we were just in time. Oh, magnificent! Every time I see the sun setting, my heart always feels at ease. There is something with the sunset that calms me. It always puts me in peace.
Ace and I stayed there for a while. We took a dip in the water and waited ’til dark, and had a deep conversation until dark. I found it funny because, since the pandemic, we have been together every single day, but we never discuss serious things anymore. This is why we think going on out-of-town trips is very important, especially for married couples. Because there are matters that we don’t discuss, or perhaps, these thoughts simply won’t come into our mind when we are in the comforts of our home. When Ace and I are out like this, we get to pause and reflect deeper on things.
After having enough swim and drama, we went back to our room and prepared for dinner. We drove around the neighborhood to find something to eat. We saw a barbeque stall few meters away from the place where we stayed. Unfortunately, they didn’t have rice. (But rice is life!) So we decided to just cook our own.
Tired after a long day, we decided to hit the hay early. We wanted to spend another day on the island, but I remembered it was my dad’s birthday, plus it was Father’s day. So the next day, after coffee, we packed our bags and headed back to Cebu.