Jan 4-10, 2017
Demystifying Bantayan Island
GPS waypoint: 11°09'39.9"N 123°48'21.8"E
Location: Bantayan (municipality), Cebu (province), Philippines
Word on the Travel Route
Bantayan keeps getting mentioned by local travellers I bump into. Despite my repeated and long stays in Cebu City, I never got the chance to visit. From Gigantes Island, I saw on the map that Bantayan wasn't too far away. I abandoned my quest to circumnavigate Panay and instead headed for this isolated island north of Cebu.
The boat left Estancia at 9am and arrived shortly after 1pm in Bantayan Port. The 4-hour ordeal was nauseating at times when there were swells. Bantayan Island is made up with 3 municipalities - Bantayan Proper, Sante Fe and Madridejos. Normally, travellers arriving at Bantayan Proper take the jeep or tricycle to Santa Fe. Santa Fe is where all the action takes place - beach resorts, wifi, restos and traveller community. Not feeling rushed, I decided to stay a night in Bantayan Proper first, to find out what life there is like.
beach life at North Ville Beach Resort
There were no big hotels in Bantayan proper. Finding wifi was only by accident - at an obscure Batchoy place! The only cafe is town was Kermit's, but even that didn't have wifi. Trisikad (pedal-powered tricycle) is cheap at P5/ride. The small lodging places were charging P500 for a fan room. But Island Hotel and Sacred Heart, both near each other, charge as low as P250/room. Island would be my home for the night. I tried looking for oyster places, but there were none. Now, I could understand why travelers don't stay in Bantayan proper.
First thing the following day, I took the tricycle ride to Santa Fe (P25). It's a fairly established tourist destination with its long and wide white sand beach...make that fine white sand, as in Boracay-fine! The beach itself is lined by an array of resorts ranging from spartan to luxurious. Ground-zero in Santa Fe is near the church. All the restos and bars are concentrated here and this is where the night life happens.
Santa Fe has a vibrant night life along the main drag near the church. Live music is available at Bavarian Beer Garden / Randy's Grill with popular hits, acoustic at Caffe del Mar and rock classics at Blue Ice Bar. Pizza places, lechon manok carts and European cuisine are offered by a diverse array of restos. The place enjoys a healthy mix of transient travelers and local tourists.
Bantayan enjoys a regular crowd of expats who chose the island as home. They have their own community and bars to chill with. Mostly, they are senior expats with young Filipina girlfriends/wives - much like most of the country's small cities (e.g. Dumaguete). They bring with them capitalization and expertise when they put up resorts, restos and bars. This cultural fusion brings its own dynamics that the town is already too familiar with ranging from tolerance to embrace.
I was back to my usual quagmire upon arrival. Where do I stay? As usual, I pounded the beaches talking to resort-staff seeking audience with the owners. I don't waste time making the proposal to non-decision makers. My program is viable, unique and powerful. The question is, will I get to talk to the decision makers? That has always been the challenge.
North Ville Beach Resort
Fortunately, I came upon North Ville Beach Resort and talked to the owner. It was serendipitous. The owner was at a pivotal point to make major steps requiring what I was offering. It was a good fit.
My a/c room was very comfortable, just steps to the beach. The resort has an alfresco beachside resto with wifi making it the coolest place to do some online stuff or surf the web. The place is not glitzy but it's got the basic amenities to make life comfortable. Best part is by the beach on lounge chairs on the groomed fine white sand.
Nothing more gloomy than being in a beach resort when a typhoon is brewing - no sun but cold wind, rain and foreboding sky. Not exactly ideal beach weather. 2 days in a row, I was inside my hotel room as the boat trip for the mainland has been cancelled. It's a good thing North Ville has amenities to while away the time - wifi and cable tv. With the typhoon lifting up, I could finally leave Bantayan Island after 6 days.
Bantayan Island is a beautiful destination given its fine long white sandy beaches. The addition of an expat community, night life, restos, bars and resorts lend itself to being home as well to those looking for a slice of paradise away from the city.
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located in Santa Fe. Best to take a jeep or tricycle to Santa Fe arriving in Bantayan Port, P25/pax.
- cheap stays at Randy's Grill - bunk bed in a dorm room for P300 if you're on a budget. But if you're really down and out, there is Chipolito's (you won't see any sign, but ask any trisicad driver) for P150/night - but don't expect much!
- Estancia, Iloilo - via Bantayan Port, a boat (Balt Bep, 0949.883.3551) leaves Estancia for Bantayan, MWF at 9am, P300, 4 hours
- Hagnaya, Cebu mainland - via Sta. Fe, Island Shipping Corp (032.343.7411 | 0995.618.9124) has daily trips (4am, 7am, 8am, 10:30am, 12:30pm, 2:30pm, 4:30pm) P170, 1 hour
(US$1 = Php 49.58 as of Jan 6, 2017)
- Estancia, Iloilo - via Bantayan Port, a boat (Balt Bep, 0949.883.3551) leaves Bantayan for Estancia, Sun-Tue-Thur at 9am, P300, 4 hours
- Hagnaya, Cebu mainland - via Sta. Fe, Island Shipping Corp (032.343.7411 | 0995.618.9124) has daily trips (4am, 5am, 7:30am, 9:30am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, 3pm, 5pm, 5:30pm) P170, 1 hour
- Cawayan Port, Masbate - via Sta. Fe, Island Shipping Corp has daily trips (1pm) P170
- Pale Pilsen beer with live band at Randy's Grill
- pedicab ride, short distance
- about 10 scallop shells, cooked, sold by vendor on foot
- brewed coffee in a resort
- resort plated breakfast
Bantayan Island, Cebu, Philippines
- Visiting Virgin Island, Bantayan Jan 7, 2017
- Demystifying Bantayan Island Jan 4-9, 2017
- Camotes Islands - caves, beaches
- Cebu City - rich in culture and history, 2nd largest city in the Philippines
- Moalboal - amazing coral reef system, sardine bowl, deep drop-off for freediving
- Oslob - Butanding (whale shark) watching
- Bantayan Island - long stretch of fine white sand beach, Virgin Island for snorkeling
- Malapascua Island - divers' paradise for seeing the rare Thresher Shark
- Cantabaco Cave - Toledo
- Barile Waterfalls - Barile
- Whale Shark Tour - Oslob
- Carcar - chicharon and lechon in public market
(Jan 12, 2017) Maganda dyan! I miss Bantayan! Friendly ang mga tao
Jan 4-10, 2017
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