Saturday, May 31, 2008

Camotes Islands' Santiago Bay Garden & Resort, Buho Rock, Bukilat Cave and Tudela Port

Buho Rock - the abandoned resort in the town of Poro

Suroy Suroy Sa Sugbo
After lunch at Mangodlong Rock Resort, we travelled about 20 minutes further north to see Santiago Bay Garden and Resort, the very first tourist enclave in Camotes. Situated in the peaceful village of Santiago, the resort is a 2.5 hectare of lush greenery, with 19 world-class cottages, charmingly tucked in the profusion of landscaped exotic foliage overlooking a wide expanse of fine white sand, and a dazzling blue ocean. The establishment, which is probably managed by the same owners as Mangodlong (they share one brochure) is conveniently divided into two: the sandy swimming area, and the cliffy hill with the classier cottages. It is quite a stretch of a place, perfect for those who love their treks in caves and hills. From the cliffs, you can come down the grounds and explore the caves, some of them have decorative tables and benches. Like Mangodlong, entrance to the premises is P15 (a silly $ 0.35).

After sitting under huts, looking out to the seas, we headed back to the town proper of San Francisco. I walked the main area where the market is. There were little stores facing the sea, and finally some tindahans (stores) that sell toiletries, the brands of which I’ve never heard til now. After a short walk around the municipal hall, we proceeded to a curious little resort called Buho located in the town of Poro (where we arrived from our fastcraft from Cebu City). Now, Buho Rock Resort is an abandoned establishment, but it’s beauty inspires. From the viewing deck, you need to walk a steep flight of winding stairs to get to the main structure down below. There, you can enjoy a dive, which is probably a good 20-30 feet from your drop-off point, then swim your way towards the nearby shore, and go up the stairs. More and more tourists have been visiting this place thus, the barangay townsfolk have manned the place to collect entrance fees – PhP2 – or a ridiculous $0.05!
Next stop was a major cave in the town of Tudela called Bukilat Cave! There’s a well-built stairs that lead you to a body of water (the sea of course). From inside this cave, you can walk further on until you get to a clearing of cool clear water. We saw a small group bathing there. Entrance: P15 - $0.34! Our other visits included a walk around the town proper of Tudela – the park, the church, the port.

Santiago Bay Garden and Resort, Santiago, San Francisco, Camotes island, Cebu.

Buho Rock - located in the town of Poro. this resort is nestled amidst a rock resembling a ship.

Panganuron Falls is in barangay Libertad, also in Poro. For mountain climbers, the highest peak of Camotes - Mount Three Peaks - is also located in Poro.

The diving spot of Buho rock.

The left wing of Buho Rock.

Bukilat Cave, one of the biggest caves in Camotes, with well built stairs and a swimming area down below.

Swimming area in Bukilat Cave, Barangay McArthur. Caves abound in Tudela. A pool of freshwater provides a refreshing dip for spelunkers. There are other countless caves in the area. Mag-agay-ay is said to have a very interesting shoreline, with stunning rock formations.

Port Hagutapay, Barangay Puertobello, Town of Tudela, Camotes Island. This port services pumpboats that travel to the nearby beach resort of of Cawit where overnight campings are frequent, as well as the enchanting blue lagoon of Naukban in San Isidro - all in the island of Pilar (20 minutes away). Some bigger vessels also travel to Ormoc.

A rural scene in Barangay Puertobello.

A young pineapple - not quite ready for the picking.

Stacks of firewood.

Port Tudela

Tudela Church

Town Hall of Tudela

Map of Camotes Island, situated in the Visayas, between the island of Cebu (to the west) and Ormoc (to the east).

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Visit the first post on Camotes Island. A lot of visitors seem to miss this first posting. -

Camotes island's Lake Danao and Mangodlong Beach Resort

I am pins and needles. Border crossings aren’t a favorite preoccupation. They make me anxious. It probably would be a different story if I travel with a friend to share my “nerves” with. Last night, I had a dream I was stuck at a Vietnamese border, waiting for days for something that will take me across. I am discombobulated… and my coherence is in dire need of clarity. Whenever I read tales of crosscountry border crossings, I find myself "salivating" - and I hate puddle on my floor. Haha! Somehow, my innate curiosity to roam outweight my peeve of borders. Anyway, to calm myself down. I will post this discovery that somehow took me by surprise during my last visit to an island in Visayas – that which they call Camotes Island.

Despite problems with mobility (this darn place has no public mode of transportation to speak of – as in “nil”). You hire private vehicles for a steep price. I later found out that, once the hurdle with transportation is remedied, the island becomes a very promising tourism gem! The possibilities of this island is more promising than many other more popular tourist spots in the country like, say, Mindoro! This probably is the reason why Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia has embarked on a tourism project called “Suroy Suroy Sa Sugbo” (Travelling in Cebu) that’s slowly catching fire among well-heeled foreign tourists. To be honest about it, I admire this brilliant project – and the Camotes folk should sculpt the pretty governor a statue infront of each Camotes municipality for her devotion to promote Camotes. Here is the rub: their rates are rather exorbitant. In fact, if you are a local tourist, you might as well go your own way. Plan your self-styled Camotes visit, and you might save more than 50% than taking part in the good governor’s endeavor! (I shall mention some comparative rates later to make a more objective stance.)

We hired a multi-cab, with half a shade at the back. It fetched for PhP2,200 for a “tour” that will take us from 8AM to 6PM. From the barangay of Puertobello, we hopped and proceeded to My Little Island Resort (to book ahead for an onward itinerary) then went westward to San Francisco where 60% of the sites are located.
San Francisco, compared to Poro and Tudela, is a more progressive municipality. This is where a hospital is, as well as a port, schools, good cell reception and “proof of civilization”. We first went to Green Lake Resort, situated beside the bank of Lake Danao in the sleepy village of Union in San Francisco. Entrance fee of P15/adult and P10/child. It sits on a 1.5 hectare of ancient hardwood mangrove forest. There is really nothing to do here unless you want a meal in their restaurant. Those who love serenity will probably take to this place, watch a small pen of crocodiles in captivity, see the passing of some fishermen, etc. I opted to go to the next location, which is Lake Danao proper, some 15 minutes west. Lake Danao’s main viewing site has fishpens. Each pen inhabited by tilapias (tilapine cichlid) – and some aquarium fishes. Prior to arriving at the fishpens by the lakeside, visitors should pass by the Bureau of Fishery office, by the entrance, to log your names. No entrance fees.
From there, it was off to Mangodlong Rock Resort in the Heminsulan village of San Francisco. Locals speak about Mangodlong with wide-eyed awe and pride. This is their local Boracay, and to be fair, it deserves its reputation. They regard the establishment as a “rich-man’s paradise”. Not quite though. Upon reaching the resort, you will learn that an entrance admission is just P15. To avoid paying for a cottage (and since it was lunch time already), we decided to have lunch there, and took a “kubo” (hut) that stands on a concrete stilt, overlooking the beautiful beachside, the clear blue seas, and the Mangodlong Rock where another “kubo” stands. The resort is nestled on 2 hectares of coconut garden, with cottages for overnighters. Across the resort and separated by a blue sea is a coral islet with tropical huts spread out, connected by a sand bar from the beach. A first glance would always result with impressed awes of wonder. This is, simply put, a beautiful place. Beachfront rooms (with aircon and tv) will fetch P1,950 – good for 3 persons. Casitas (with aircon and tv) are priced at P1,850/ room – good for 3 persons. Coco Grove Rooms (also with aircon and TV – for 3 persons) are worth P1,700. None of these rooms are more expensive than our mid-range room at My Little Island Resort. This is to say that Mangodlong is NOT an expensive place to be. In fact, our lunch of 4 (plus, we invited the driver’s company of 6 – tag-along people, actually) was worth PhP950 only! No adjective is more appropriate than "cheap"!

New but small asphalt roads.

Lake Danao's crystal clear waters.

Fish pens at the Bureau of Fishery's lakefront site.

Tilapias of different sizes are grouped together (according to size). These tilapine cichlids grow in abundance in Lake Danao.

Amazingly, they also grow aquaria fishes this part of town.

Mangodlong Beach Resort, Heminsulan, San Francisco, Camotes Island, Cebu. The coral rock and its few cottages face the resort.

Lunch up there!

A stair submerged with ocean water! See how clear it is!

The vehicle we hired for the day - PhP2,200 ($50) for a whole-day self-styled excursion. Along the way, we passed by a tindahan (a make-shift store) to gas up - gasoline in coca cola bottles! In Siem Reap in Cambodia, you can hire aircon taxis to take you around the temples (a whole day affair) for almost half that amount! How much more if the one hiring are foreign tourists!!! Quite highway robbery, now that I think about it!


Check out our first post about Camotes here: