Rediscovering Sipaway Island and Its Thriving Paradise

It was a fine Saturday with Elliot and me trying to wake up Ace on his deep slumber. Elliot snuggled Ace’s body until he got up with an annoyed look. He was angry, but no, he couldn’t stand Elliot’s puppy eyes begging him to play. So he obliged to give in, took that bone and played fetch inside our tiny abode. Then, there’s screeching and barking all over the house.

This has been our typical weekend since Ace started working on a night shift. We couldn’t spend days outside because the weather is too hot for our little boy (Elliot).

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Paraiso de Antonio

But last Saturday was different. After lunch, Ace was on the phone with his mom. She invited us to go to Sipaway Island with her. Ace had been itching to go to Sipaway since last week, but his schedule didn’t permit. Upon hearing his mom’s invitation, he impulsively said yes. I, on the other hand, couldn’t say no to this island. You’ve read my post about how laidback life in Sipaway is, you know I’m in love with the place. You bet I was going!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t bring Elliot because we didn’t get him a travel permit. As much as Ace’s relatives wanted to see him, we had to leave him in my dad’s care.

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Gabriel in Paraiso de Antonio.

As early as 5:00 am on Sunday, we were already on a van bound for Toledo to catch the 7:00 am ferry trip to San Carlos City. After securing our ticket, we immediately boarded the ferry. I was very sleepy that I instantly fell asleep long before the ship departed. I woke up to passengers getting ready to disembark, and before I knew it, we were already in San Carlos City port.

Before transferring to an outrigger boat to the island, my mother-in-law and I dropped by a pastry shop to buy a cake. I learned that it was Ace’s uncle’s birthday. After 30 minutes, we arrived at the small port of Dapdap. From there, we hailed a motorcycle to Barangay Ermita. The familiar country road once again reminded me how much I love this island. Aside from some road repairs, nothing much has changed after two years. It has the same laidback vibes. The good news is, the island has now a regular supply of water and electricity.

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Whispering Palms Island Resort in 2017.

Two years ago, we had the chance to visit Whispering Palms Resort, which was the sole resort in Sipaway at that time. I found out that now, there are new thriving resorts on the island. Parana Beach, Kiwi Beach Resort, Paraiso de Antonio, are just some of them. Ace and I wanted to at least check out one or two of these developing spots during our stay.

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Kiwi Beach Resort’s large saltwater pool.

We celebrated Ace’s uncle’s birthday at Kiwi Beach Resort. The resort highlights a water curtain that plunges into the two large saltwater pool. Yep! It’s a saltwater pool. However, the 4 feet depth is not ideal for kids. I suggest bringing floaters for your little ones. I tried using one but ended in a somersault.

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Summertime is swimming time.

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Channeling the inner kid in me.

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Old but gold!!!

The resort has bamboo cottages and picnic tables available for rent. They have dedicated space for grilling, too. It’s okay to bring your own food (and beer). We did bring a lot!

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Isda you? (Waley!)

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On the other side of the resort is a viewing deck overlooking the narrow beach. From afar, you can see the long stretch of the mainland San Carlos City. A pathway on the side brings you to the shore. However, it’s not fit for swimming nor beach-bumming because it’s basically a mangrove area.

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Ace and I decided to visit Paraiso De Antonio, too. Together with his sister and nephew, we excused ourselves from the party. From Kiwi resort, Paraiso de Antonio is not more than 5 minutes drive. It was late afternoon when we went there, so guests were already on their way out. How did we get so lucky?

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The gate to paradise.

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This spacious palm tree paradise is perfect for camping and team-building activities. There’s really nothing much to see, but the place is serene. It grants you that island vibes. I could imagine myself pitching my camping tent here, with a bonfire and reggae music playing.

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Disconnect to reconnect.

It is a place where you could sit down and reconnect with yourself.

It is truly a paradise!

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Ace thinking how could he be so handsome!

After 30 minutes, we decided to go back to Kiwi Resort. I wish we could have stayed longer in Paraiso de Antonio. But it was starting to get dark.

The next day, Ace and I took the 8 am boat trip back to the mainland and caught the 9 am ferry trip to Toledo. It was a literally short stay in Sipaway, but it was all worth our time.

Sipaway once again enchanted us with its island charm. Every farewell to this island is actually an invitation to come again. We are yet to explore the nooks of this humble island, but thinking about it, makes our feet itch. We can’t wait to rediscover this beautiful utopia for the third time.

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Ace and Demi in Paraiso de Antonio

Over to you, have you been to Sipaway? Let us hear from you in the comment section below.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook! See you!

’til the next paradise! 

Love, Ace and Demi

 

First Kick Of Summer in Carnaza Island

And just like that, summer is here again!

Technically, there is really no summer season in the Philippines. As a tropical country, we only have wet and dry seasons. Some foreigners think it’s summer all year-round here. For us Filipinos, we consider the months of March, April, and May as the summer periods being the hottest months.

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Too cheesy for summer, yeah?

Although we could enjoy the beach at any time of the year, we feel a different kind of excitement when March comes. Perhaps, it’s the thought that summer is about to kick off.

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Beachy days!

But for busy bees like us, it’s hard to get time off from work to enjoy the season. So we make sure to seize every chance to travel and make our own summer story. Apropos, my good friend Niña and I had a holiday that fell on Friday last week. It was kind of a long weekend for us and luckily, Ace was also able to join.

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Wave and sand are happiness on your feet!

Niña and I had been lusting for Carnaza Island in Daanbantayan, Cebu. After our Bantayan Island escapade last year, we were supposed to visit Carnaza before summer 2018 ended, but we never got the chance.

Finally, comes summer 2019! We’ll never let Carnaza get away from us.

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Chillin’ like the boat is mine!

So the plan was to go to the North Bus Terminal as early as 1:30am on Friday to catch the first trip to Daanbantayan. However, the handsome husband turned off his alarm (again), and as expected, we overslept. I was awakened around 4 in the morning and realized we’re late. I quickly jumped out of the bed to check my phone. I received a few messages from Niña, I knew she’d been waiting. I called her, and thankfully she was still awake. We wasted no time and headed to the bus terminal.

While we were on the bus, I was a bit worried about not catching the local passenger boat to the island. Based on the information we’ve read online, Carnaza has only one local boat trip per day that leaves Tapilon Port at 7:30 am. If we’re unable to catch it, we have to hire a private boat to take us to the island which would cost us a fortune since we’re not a big group.

Great fervor made us carry on our trip despite the time. We might just stay in the mainland for the night and catch the first trip the next day. Or, whatever! Hahaha!

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Isn’t she beautiful?

It was past 9 o’clock when we reached Tapilon Port. As soon as we got off the bus, motorcycle drivers already knew we’re heading to Carnaza. They told us there was no boat bound to the island in Tapilon on that day because of the big waves. They suggested we go to the town’s port instead. We somewhat already expected it because we’re freakin’ late.

We decided to have our breakfast first in the nearby eatery before going to town. After eating, we took a tricycle to the other port. Heaven was so kind to us. A passenger boat from the island had just ported when we arrived. They said it would leave the mainland at 1 pm which meant we had to wait for three hours. So while waiting for the time, we took a nap in the boat.

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Ace and Demi in Carnaza Eco Park.

The boat departed as soon as the clock struck one. We noticed the passengers crowded at the center wearing their jackets. We were still a few meters away from the port when big waves started hitting our boat. It was a rough ride all throughout. Scary thoughts came crashing in as our boat maneuvered its way through the harsh waves.

Then I heard one woman said, “Aw, gagmay ra man diayng balud ron.” (Oh, the waves are relatively small today.) I exclaimed, “What? Are these still small, nay?

Normal ra man ni nga balud day,” she replied. (These waves are normal.)

I didn’t know if I should feel at ease or be more worried. Nonetheless, we arrived on the island safe and sound. Then, we rode a motorcycle to Carnaza Eco Park.

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The woodsheds in Carnaza Eco Park.

The Eco Park is the sole resort on the island. The most captivating attraction in the place is the beautifully aligned triangular rooms facing the coast. They call it the woodsheds, which could accommodate 2 persons for only 200 pesos. When we arrived at the resort, there were no other visitors, so we had the place all for ourselves. Oh, good heavens!

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Sunkissed Demi.

Since it was already 3 in the afternoon when we arrived, we agreed to stay in the resort and have the island tour the next day.  We also requested the resort’s cooking service for our meals throughout our stay. After choosing our preferred woodsheds, Niña and I roamed around. Later when we got tired, we vegged out in the sand and talked about how we got lucky. We were very amused by the things that happened that day.

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Starry night in Carnaza Island.

After dinner, we stayed outside just shooting the breeze while listening to the sound of the waves. Stars blanketed the sky as salty wind touched our faces. Everything could never be more perfect!

The next morning, we took an early stroll on the beach to enjoy the morning air. We were very tempted to swim, but the water was too cold. So we just resolved with the waves hitting our feet. Later, we went to the dining hall for breakfast. After breakfast, we prepared for the island tour.

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Postcard worthy scene.

There are motorcycles in the resort that will take guests for an island tour. It cost 150 pesos per person for two hours.

Our first destination was the Twin Beach.  Locals fondly call it Liog-liog Cove. We had to climb the big rock to get a better view of the twin beach. On the right side, was the rugged coastline that reminds us of Jeju Island we see in K-dramas. (Don’t believe me, I haven’t been to Jeju.)

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Not your kind of mermaids.

Our next stop was the Skull Cove. There’s a cavern with skulls inside by the seaside, hence the name. It wasn’t creepy, though. On the side, there’s a narrow pathway that leads to a helipad.

Our last stop was Kailina’s Cove. It has a long stretch of white sand similar to that of Paradise Beach in Bantayan Island. The place is also famous for sunset viewing.

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Paddle boarding in Carnaza Island.

Since we only have two hours for the tour, we went back to the resort in time for lunch. Guests were starting to arrive, too. Some of them pitched their tents in front of the row woodsheds. We took a quick shower, then we had our lunch in the dining area.

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The lagoon.

We agreed to go back to Kailina’s Cove to watch the sunset later that day. So while waiting, we tried paddle boarding in the ecopark’s lagoon. It was my first time to try paddle boarding, imagine my annoying screams. I didn’t know it was painfully straining. In fact, we woke up to sore muscles the next day.

At 4 pm, we went back to Kalina’s to catch the sunset. Thick clouds began to form in the sky. We just crossed our fingers and believed the clouds might disappear. When we arrived at the place, there were already a few people who were waiting for the sun to set. We patiently waited for an hour or so. The sun’s rays slowly beamed through the clouds giving us a positive sign. It painted the sky with an orange hue. Eventually, the sun came out, showing us its full glory. Awe, beautiful! What a perfect view in ending the day!

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Sunset at Kailina’s Cove.

Tired after a day of cove hopping spree, we wanted to hit the lay right after dinner. Since there were other guests, the night wasn’t as tranquil as the other night. Some inconsiderate guests were playing loud music on their speakers. They could have lowered it down because not all people liked it. Personally, I would prefer listening to the sound of the ocean’s persistent kiss to the shore than that head-banging music. I don’t care if they changed it into Juan Karlos’ infamous ‘Buwan’ hit song, because the cloud was too thick and there wasn’t a moon on the first place.

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‘Coz it’s summer, baby!

Nevertheless, we had a sound sleep that night. We woke up early the next day to catch the 8 am boat trip back to the mainland.

A piece of me broke when our boat departed the island.

Our two nights on the island wasn’t enough that my heart wanted to stay. When we reached the mainland, I felt floating. I didn’t want to check my phone, in fact, I didn’t turn off the airplane mode until we reached Bogo Bus Terminal. I had no choice but to go back to reality. It was definitely a bittersweet goodbye.

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Carnaza, what kind of sorcery is this? 

But, ’til we meet again, Carnaza!

 

Over to you, how do you kick off your summer this year? Let us hear from you in the comment section below!

 

’til our next summer destination!

Keep safe!

Love, Ace and Demi

 

 

 

 

Summer — The Virgin Island Way | Bantayan Part 2

Our second day in Bantayan Island started before daybreak. A noise coming from the kitchen awakened me. Ace was preparing our breakfast as well as our food for later’s island hopping. I got up to help him, but I accidentally cut my finger while cutting the onions. That left him to do the most of the cooking.

By 6am, breakfast was served in a military style which we Filipinos call “boodle fight”. Our friends, especially Niña finally got to taste Ace’s bean soup (monggos) and sweet and sour dried fish. We also had hotdogs, scrambled eggs and tocino for the kids. Our host gave us steamed scallops which by the way, abundant in the area.

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Boodle-fight breakfast.
After the sumptuous breakfast, everyone readied for the day’s activity. In few minutes, we were already in a small boat heading to our first destination – the Virgin Island.

Ace and I hadn’t been there. The name seemed to promise a stunning, untouched place. Pictures of fine sand, turquoise water, and beautiful beach played in my mind while our boat fought the intimidating waves. A big splash interrupted me from my reverie. I put my eyes forward and saw a long stretch of white sand gleaming against the summer sun from afar. Contrary to the peaceful and untouched place I had imagined earlier, there were many small boats like ours beached in the area.

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By the looks of it, Virgin Island is seemingly frequented by visitors. Although there are neighboring islands such as Malapascua and Guintarcan, boats to Virgin Island are relatively cheaper.

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The lifeguard is on duty. (Ace)
Whilst I was wrong about the serenity of the place, I exclaimed a big wow the moment my feet touched the sand as I got off the boat. Why not? The place was wonderful. Although it has lost its vestal state because of its popularity among tourists, it’s still fairly worth its name.

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The island, by the way, is privately owned. An entrance fee of Php 500 for the first two persons and Php 100 for every additional head. It has a resort and is already developed. Their staffs are available everywhere should you have questions. We suggest you buy your provisions in the mainland if you’re on a tight budget because the goods here are a bit pricey. There are cottages which you can rent or you can opt to lay your beach mat to save money.

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Truth be told, there is nothing much to do on the island but snorkeling, fish feeding, and of course swimming. There is a marine sanctuary but it doesn’t have that colorful marine biodiversity you expect to see.

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Our brief stay on the island was mostly spent eating our food and exploring the area. Well, swimming, too but not that long. Ace and I are not really beach-people so we easily get enough of it.

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A rational thought about Virgin Island:

Virgin Island had denied us the tranquility we sought for, but we had a great time though. We must admit that we came at the wrong time. It was the peak of the summer season in the Philippines. We were wrong to expect peace and quiet in a beautiful place like this. We shouldn’t have expected anything in the first place. Our expectation was such a selfish thought. 

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Demi’s personal thought about Bantayan Island:

I know some of you will react to this, but I’m saying this anyway.

I don’t concord to that conventional impression about the place. I’ve been to some islands in the Philippines and honestly, Bantayan Island is not one you’ll fall in love on your first step. (There I said it. Don’t bash me, please!) 

No, I didn’t feel the love at first sight like I did with Sipaway Island. Perhaps two days was not enough to know her and it was too early to judge. Perhaps I had huge expectations. Perhaps I was busy comparing her to other islands and missed to see the real her beauty.

One thing is sure though. Bantayan Island gave me that curiosity and desire to know her more. Bantayan sent me home thinking about when to go back. Taking into consideration the stories about how beautiful the island is, I was more perplexed on how I didn’t see it. The more reason why I have to come back.

 

So, we shall see you soon again, Bantayan! Thank you for the summer!

 

Love, Ace and Demi

 

Our Summer Story in Bantayan Island | Part 1

If the southern part of Cebu features the most explored mountain ranges, waterfalls, and also known to be home of the extreme adventure – canyoneering, the northern Cebu prides its stunning white sand beaches, paradise-like islets, healthy marine life and beautiful diving spots.

An impulsive trip brought us to one of the paradise in the northern part of the province — Bantayan Island.

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Get to know Bantayan Island:

Tucked in the west part of the northern Cebu, Bantayan Island is an island group that consists of small islets mostly uninhabited.  Bantayan is the largest island of the group. The towns of Sta. Fe, Madridejos and Bantayan lie here, too.
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Welcome to paradise!

 How to get there:

  • From Cebu, you can take a bus or a van bound for Hagnaya Port from the North Bus Terminal. Depending on what bus you’re riding, the fare is around Php160-180.
  • Secure a ferry ticket from Hagnaya Port (Php180) and pay the terminal fee (Php10). NOTE: If you are bringing your pets with you, don’t forget to get a local transport permit for them. No permit, no transport.)
  • Once you arrive in the port of Sta Fe, you can ride a tricycle to your preferred hostel. Some hostels arrange transport and tour, you may inquire from your host.
  • You can rent a bicycle or a motorcycle to tour the island. There are also motorcycles that offer land tours.

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Our summer story in Bantayan Island:

Our trip to Bantayan Island was unplanned. One day before our departure, Bantayan island never crossed our minds. Ace and I, in fact, were thinking of spending the weekend doing the laundry. It was around 8 pm on Friday when Niña and I talked about going there together. Without any second thought, I agreed. My class finished at 10:30 pm. Niña said we were departing at 3 am which was only a few hours away. Since it was an unexpected outing, we didn’t have Elliot’s transport permit. We had no choice but to leave him in my sister’s care.

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We arrived at Hagnaya Port and had our breakfast while waiting for Niña’s sister who lives in San Remigio. They arrived a little late, it was already 9:30 when we took a ferry to the island. Upon arrival, we wasted no time and immediately took a tricycle to Sta Fe Guest House which was our home for 2 days. Our friendly host greeted us at the gate. I like how our hostel is located just a few minutes away from the marketplace and few steps away from the beach.

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Lunch at Big Jel’s Restomeat.
The same tricycle picked us up at 1 pm for a land tour. Our first stop was Big Jel’s Restomeat for lunch. Ace and I personally suggest you try eating here because aside from the big serving, their food is delicious and affordable.

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After filling up our tummies, we headed to Oboob Mangrove Garden, also known as the OMAGIECA (Obo-ob Mangrove Garden Integrated Ecotourism and Conservation Association)It aims to raise awareness about the importance of mangroves and the role it plays in the ecosystem. The mangroves serve as the home of different underwater species.

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Ace and Demi at Oboob Mangrove Garden.

This mangrove garden has an entrance fee of Php50 for adults and Php20 for kids. They also have this big sign showing where the entrance fee go. Now, that’s what you call transparency.

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When the tide is high, you can tour the area by kayaking. We, on the other hand, chose to walk into the bamboo boardwalk.

Few meters from the entrance, there is a restaurant that serves fresh seafood and refreshments.

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Ace and Demi in Oboob Mangrove Garden.
The kids bought some fish food in a small store along the way. We rested in the bamboo hut while watching them feeding the fish.

We also climbed the makeshift bamboo tower to see the entire mangrove garden from above. Only 3 people are allowed to climb at once for safety purposes. Because many visitors lined up to climb the tower, you can’t stay there for more than 5 minutes.

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Ace and Demi
Soon after we explored the place, we headed to our next stop — the Paradise Beach. It was supposed a secluded beach area but due to the influx of tourist, the place became crowded.

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Niña is enjoying the sun, the sand and the waves. 
 

 

But that didn’t make the place less of a paradise. The long strip of powdery white sand was worth its name. The beach has the finest sand we have seen.

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Ace at the diving cliff. 
Our next stop was the Diving Cliff near a building ruin. Niña and I were eager to jump in the cliff. Yet, our spirits hid somewhere upon seeing how deep and high it was.

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The Ruin is completely ruined. 
We were supposed to drop by Ogtong Cave in Sta Fe Beach Club, but we agreed to skip it and went to the market to buy some provisions for dinner.

Everybody was tired, especially Ace, Niña and I because we didn’t have enough sleep. (It’s right to say, we didn’t have sleep at all.) We scheduled an island hopping the next day, so we decided to call it a day.

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Stay tuned for the story of our Virgin Island adventure!

‘Til our next adventure!

Keep safe!

Love, Ace and Demi.

 

 

 

 

We Left Our Hearts in The Islands of Dinagat. | Dinagat Islands

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.

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On our way to Dinagat Island.

That’s what we exactly did when we visited one of the underrated group of islands in the country — the Dinagat Islands. Also called the Mystical Island Province of Love, the place was incredibly alluring.

We went to the island with ALL our hearts, but we left them there.

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Duyos beach sandbar. 

I don’t know any other word to describe this group of islands other than surreal and mystical. It has the ability to capture the hearts of every visitor including ours.

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Demi during the break of dawn. 

Our sojourn started before cockcrow as we took the first ferry ride to the mainland of this young province. I was feeling drowsy but I didn’t want to miss the beautiful sunrise as it started to paint the sky. Ace and I stepped out of the passenger seats and went to the deck to get a glimpse of the first light of the day.

 

The warmth of the new day and the cool breeze of the wind was telling us that it was going to be a wonderful day. Admittedly, I didn’t know what to expect in Dinagat Islands because the place is usually overlooked and does not make much fuss. In fact, I really didn’t have any idea about it in the first place.

As a wanderer, I have this thought that there is beauty everywhere if you know how to look at it.  But I did not expect that this island province has so much beauty that it made me leave my heart on it.

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The gang during our arrival. 

My heart skipped a beat as our ride neared the port of San Jose. My friends were already up and we prepared to get off the boat. It docked in a small pier and we were welcomed with this row of houses.

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Row of houses in San Jose. 

At first sight, the place does not seem to offer anything special. But one thing I’ve learned from traveling is to never underestimate a humble place like this.

We walked through the streets of San Jose to meet our guide and transferred to a smaller boat for the tour. Our guide prepared a sumptuous breakfast for us which we ate on board while on our way to our first stop.

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A picturesque spot on the other side of Isla Aga.

Our first stop was a private islet called Isla Aga. It has an abandoned resthouse which was owned by the famous Ecleo family – the most powerful clan in Dinagat Islands. If you guys are familiar with PBMA (Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association), then yes, I’m talking about Ruben Ecleo Sr.’s family.

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Ace in Isla Aga.

From the balcony of the house, smaller islets which seem to be floating in the cerulean sea surrounding this private island is a sight to behold.

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A stunning vista of the islets from the abandoned rest house in Isla Aga.

At the back of the resthouse was a hanging bridge suspended above the crystal clear water. However, the bridge was already broken.

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The broken hanging bridge.

We did not miss dipping into the water here, of course.

After few minutes, we decided to resume our tour. We stopped by another island which looked similar to that of Palawan Island. This serves as the home of some Kalaw birds or the Philippine Hornbills. They call it  Kabukungan Island.

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A rock formation that serves as home of some Kalaw birds or the Philippine Hornbills in another Dinagat Islands’ islet. (Kabukungan Islet.)

When we arrived, there was no other visitor yet. The group decided to have our lunch here. While our guide and boatmen were preparing our meal, some of us took a tour of the islet while others are enjoying the waters.

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After lunch, we went to another island called Bababu. They said there’s a lake 45 minutes away from the beach. But we did not go there because of the constraint of time.

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Ace in Bababu beach. 

While the rest of the group were busy swimming, I got the chance to talk to an elderly lady sitting in a small hut nearby. I found out that his late husband was the one who discovered the lake. She said he loved the place so much that during the dusk of his life, he wished to be buried in the island. (See photo below. He was buried beside the trail going to the lake.)

She even told me that when she dies, she has the same wish as his late husband. So their spirits could guard the island even when they’re already gone. I thought that’s oddly romantic.

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Although I still wanted to hear more stories from her, we had to get going and proceed to our next stop.

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The fine sandbar in one of the islets of Dinagat Islands. (Duyos Beach)

Our next stop was Duyos Beach.

And oh that sandbar!!! I was speechless! I couldn’t help lying down and rolling over like a kid on the white powdery sand.

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Of all the islands that visited that day, I noticed only Duyos had established cottages, stores, and even karaoke machines. There were also a lot of people.  We only stayed in the sandbar area, though.

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The girls.

Our tour concluded in Bitaog Beach. We heard it was the most frequented by visitors but at that time we had the island all for ourselves. We swam to our hearts’ content there because it was our last stop. Ace and I even forgot to take a photo because we had so much fun swimming.

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Ace and Demi in Dinagat island. (Duyos Beach sandbar)

Truly, Dinagat Islands left me in awe. When we returned to Cebu, the first thing I did when I got the hold of my computer was searched about Dinagat Islands. I was surprised to know that there was still more of it. What we saw was only one face of the mystical island.

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Ace and Demi love Surigao! 

And that’s when we realized we might have left our heart there intentionally. So we have the reason to come back.

 

 

P.S You might want to read our adventure in Bucas GrandeSohoton Cove National Park and Enchanted River.

PP.S A huge thanks to our friend Annel Hope Mayuga and to her wonderful family for adopting us during our four days stay in Surigao. Thank you for your warm welcome and for making this venture possible. ’til next time.