#TheTravelTellerInVisayas Travel Diaries: DAY ONE.

Visayas Diaries

#TheTravelTellerInVisayas Travel Diary. Day One.

Day One is a such a great start. It was a long day but truly awesome.

  1. I left Davao for this 20-day trip with no fixed IT, nothing but just to explore Visayas the slowest way possible. I aimed to visit 10 provinces in 20 days.
  1. I arrived Cebu and that marks the first province of this trip.
  1. Went straight to Pier One bound for BOHOL and prayed at the nearby church for safety and good health for this whole trip.
  1. Arrived at BOHOL and was gladly welcomed by my cousins. They are my hosts here. Bohol marks the second Province of this trip.
  1. I promised to get a photo of me at the Capitol and yes, I did it. It was partly destroyed by the 2013 earthquake.
  1. Prayed at Tagbilaran Church which was spared during the said earthquake. Went further to Dauis Church and it was a heartbreaking scene. I cried. I did.
  1. Stopped at a wet market, bought stuff and cooked them for my cousins. They loved it.
  1. Luke my nephew met my little boy TINTIN. They got along with instantly. Hahaha.
  1. Went to PANGLAO BEACH at night. Hell yeah, looks and sounds like BORACAY. Got shocked because it wasn’t like this the last time I visited it in 2007. Cool though. I love the FEEL.
  1. Yes, there are FLASHBACKS. Okay. Done.

Day One. Good start. Loving it. Tomorrow is another day!

3 Regions | 10 Provinces | 20 days | Pho 10,000.00
This is #TheTravelTellerInVisayas Travel Series.

Cebu Province – ✔
Bohol Province – ✔

 

THE TRAVEL TELLER IN VISAYAS: How It Started.

3 Regions | 10 Provinces | 20 days | Pho 10,000.00
This is #TheTravelTellerInVisayas Travel Series.

The Travel Teller In VisayasIt was a sudden plan. Or maybe something that came to mind out of boredom. Or maybe the itch to travel and challenge myself for something that I’ve never done before.

It all started when I wrote down all the 81 provinces in the Philippines and grouped them into the three major islands – Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. As I checked the provinces that I have been to, I found out that I have visited more than half of Luzon. And since I am from Mindanao, I have visited most of the provinces we have there. When I checked provinces in the Visayas, I found out that out of the 16, I have gone only to 4 provinces.

4 out of 16. How come? I asked myself when Visayas can even be accessed by boat from northern part of Mindanao. And so out of nothing, this journey was made.

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So what’s the plan? Honestly, no plan at all. Just pack my bag and fly to Visayas. No fixed IT. No bookings. Just couchsurfing. Staying with friends. Cheap hotels. Backpacking. Hitchhiking. Go with the flow. Free rides. Meeting new friends. And more.

THE CHALLENGE? Roam around the three regions in Visayas visiting the 10 Visayan Provinces with Php 10,000.00 budget. That’s the plan. That’s the challenge. That’s

If you’re on the road where I’m going, I will be very happy to meet you.

FOLLOW MY JOURNEY THROUGH THIS DIARY:

1. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY ONE
2. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY TWO
3. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY THREE
4. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY FOUR
5. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY FIVE
6. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY SIX
7. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY SEVEN
8. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY EIGHT
9. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY NINE
10. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY TEN
11. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY ELEVEN
12. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY TWELVE
13. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY THIRTEEN
14. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY FOURTEEN
15. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY FIFTEEN
16. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY SIXTEEN
17. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY SEVENTEEN
18. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY EIGHTEEN
19. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY NINETEEN
20. #TheTravelTellerInVisayas: DAY TWENTY

The THREE REGIONS 

☑ Central Visayas Region
☑ Negros Island Region
☑ Western Visayas Region

The TEN PROVINCES 

☑ Province of Cebu
☑ Province of Bohol
☑ Province of Siquijor
☑ Province of Negros Oriental
☑ Province of Negros Occidental
☑ Province of Iloilo
☑ Province of Guimaras
☑ Province of Aklan
☑ Province of Capiz
☑ Province of Antique

Tintin and OlanPS: Tintin is traveling with me. My favorite little Travel Buddy!

PHILIPPINE’S BEST ISLAND DESTINATIONS: The Travel Teller’s Pick

Recently, I’ve gotten loads of emails from readers from across the globe asking for The Travel Teller’s pick of the best island destinations in the Philippines. Honestly, I have been to different towns and provinces in the country blessed with amazing Islands and Islets but collating the best and most beautiful ones is not an easy task. You see, the Philippines is an archipelago composed of 7,107 stunning islands and most of these islands boast of sparkling, dazzling even untouched beaches.

And so instead of giving you the best of the best, let me pick one Island/Beach destination each of three main Islands of the Philippines (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) that has truly impressed me and left me with an awesome memory. It is with great hope that this may entice you to come and relish for yourself a kind of beach holiday you too will never forget. So, brace yourself. Get ready to fly bound to these destinations. This is The Travel Teller’s pick of the best island destinations in the Philippines.

THE ISLAND OF LUZON. Luzon, being the biggest Island in the country is home to some of the world class beach destinations now renowned to the world. Among those that I’ve visited and considered “top of the line” is the Caramoan Group of Islands.

The Limestone Mountains and Rock Formations of Caramoan

The Pristine Beaches of Caramoan

This Blogger at the Enchanted Lagoon of Caramoan

Caramoan is one of the thirty-five municipalities of the Province of Camarines Sur in the Bicol Region. It is situated at the heart of the Caramoan Peninsula at the southernmost tip of Luzon. The islands came to fame when it became the location of the 6 different International Survivor Franchises, the most celebrated reality show on earth. Long before the invasion of Survivor, Caramoan used to be a secret Island Paradise of the province. Isolated from the rest of Camarines Sur, it teems with pristine white sand beaches, stunning twin islands, limestone islets, undisturbed caves, enchanting lagoons and rich marine life making it an ideal island destination. It has gained a world class reputation as the one of the best Island Getaways in the whole Luzon. Today, despite its international fame, Caramoan remains unexploited and laid back retaining its enchanting and alluring beauty that charmed tourists, both locals and foreign alike.

THE ISLAND OF VISAYAS. Visayas, dotted with the most prized island and islets in the country is undoubtedly the home of the most famous Islands and beach destinations in the Philippines. I can’t enumerate these gems of the Island as most of them are equally charming and worth visiting. But to top it all, no one can deny that the Island of Boracay is incontestably the most beautiful, most famous not only to the whole Visayas Region but the whole country.

Puka Shell Beach of Boracay Island

Posh Beach Hotels in Boracay

This Blogger enjoying the famous Sunset of Boracay

Boracay is a tiny island about 2 km off the northwest tip of Panay Island in the Western Visayas. The Island and its world class beaches have received awards from numerous travel publications and agencies around the world describing it as the crown trophy beach of the Philippines. Boracay is every beachgoer’s dream destination. It has everything what holidaymakers look for – posh beach hotels, classy resorts, restaurants, great food, shopping, water sports, souvenirs and island party. If you are up for great sun, sand and the sea, Boracay is for you. Everything is in Boracay.

THE ISLAND OF MINDANAO. Being a proud son of Mindanao, I can say our Island is truly blessed with so many pristine beaches waiting for hungry beachcombers and islander-wannabes to come. I have toured 75% of the whole Island and I can truly say every province we have here possesses beach havens one should never miss to explore. Among the islands and beaches I have explored in Mindanao, the one that left an indelible mark in my heart is the Bucas Grande Islands.

The Serene Lagoons of Bucas Grande Islands

Club Tara, one of the finest resorts in Bucas Grande Islands

Kisses Islets dotting the crystal clears waters of Bucas Grande Islands

The Bucas Grande Islands is part of the Municipality of Socorro and belongs to the Province of Surigao Del Norte. Socorro is one of the nine municipalities that comprise the famous Siargao Islands, the famed surfing capital of the Philippines. While the main island of Siargao is home to world-class surfing seas, the Bucas Grande Islands of Socorro features amazing wonders of nature set together in a group of incredible Islands so best to commune with Mother Nature. Everything that surrounds Bucas Grande Island is perfect work of nature – Limestone Mountains, karsts and rock formations, kisses islets, undisturbed lagoons, Underground River, underwater caves, twin lakes, pristine white sand beaches and many more. The most unusual feature that I truly say the rarest is the jellyfish lake sanctuary, home of the million stingless jelly fish in the island. Bucas Grande is so special to me that until now I wouldn’t get tired of telling beautiful stories about her.

THERE THEY ARE! The Travel Teller’s pick of the best Island Destinations in the country. Caramoan for Luzon, Boracay for Visayas and Bucas Grande Islands for Mindanao! They are just THREE of the best of the best! There are more to boast in this 7,107 Islands of the Philippines, the Pearl of the Pacific!

TINGKO BEACH OF ALCOY, CEBU

Two years ago, when I was planning holidays in Borneo, I listed several must-see places based on my research from the internet. Most of those are within Kota Kinabalu, the heart of the tropical island of Borneo. Just when I thought everything on the list is superb, my unplanned adventure to Kinabatangan River outside of Kota Kinabalu as recommended by some locals proved that there is more to discover, more to explore than relying everything on the internet. Tip of advice, just ask the locals.

The same thing happened during my South Cebu trip. If I never asked a local about other spectacular destinations other than what’s on our list, I would have no inkling of how exciting South Cebu can be. Just like the ones in Alcoy. If I never asked what lies ahead there, I would never have a clue that there is one beach in this town endowed with crystal clear blue sea and sparkling white sands so beautiful yet open to the public. They call this – the Tingko Beach.

Highly recommended by the locals, Tingko Beach was our next stop after our informational tour at Boljoon. And so from Boljoon, we took a bus bound for Alcoy. As we traveled our way to our destination, the inviting coastal view of Southern Cebu made me more thrilled to see this spot. I remembered how excited the local was while narrating beauty of this beach. I should find that out, I said to myself.

After twenty minutes of traveling, the bus conductor signaled we were already at Tingko Beach. As we dropped off, the midday sea breeze gently caressing my suntanned skin was the first thing that I noticed. “Oh the beach, I can feel the touch of the beach”, I thought. Excited, we followed the trail from the main road going exactly to the shores of Tingko Beach. In just a minute or two, we found ourselves marveling at one of the finest white sand public beaches in the Southern Cebu.

Tingko Beach boasts of its extensive stretch of arcing shoreline, about a mile long with sparkling powdery white sand and crystal clear blue water. Adjacent to the shoreline are lined up coconut palm grooves and some limestone cliffs attributing more to the beauty of the beach.

Stunned by what I saw, I put down my backpack and hurried to the shores. We were so lucky there were only a number of beach goers that day. That meant the beach can be ours as along we wanted it. Not wasting a second, I took every opportunity photographing every inch of this paradise. The view was just so implausible. More than its picturesque seascape, the tranquility of Tingko Beach is so infectious. Being on the road almost sleepless for two days was really exhausting but seeing the serene beauty of this beach awakened my senses. I felt so recharged.

Talking to some local beach goers there, I learned that the beach is so famous among the locals of Alcoy including its neighboring towns. It becomes even crowded during weekends where beach lovers from different places, locals and foreigners alike, flock to enjoy the sand, sea and sun. Although a public beach, Tingko retains its clean and sparkling environment apt for swimming or just bumming around. At nearby limestone cliffs, I noticed numbers of charming white houses and stunning arrays of nipa huts specially built for visiting guests who want to spend overnight or stay for a short vacation.

Still overwhelmed by the enticing allure of Tingko Beach, we stayed there for a couple of minutes trying to memorize everything it has to offer. I wished I had the luxury of time I could stay there even for a week, I muttered to myself. But only in my dreams, I added.

After luxuriating ourselves by the marvelous seascape before us, we decided to move on and head off for our next destination! Thanks to the helpful locals of Cebu, it was not on our list but we’ve made it. We had a taste of Tingko Beach! It was such a lovely public beach!

TRAVELING TO ALCOY: The Municpality of Alcoy can be reached in less than two hours from Cebu City. Buses that travel to the Southern part of Cebu province including Alcoy are all stationed at Cebu South Bus Terminal.

MY SURREAL ENCOUNTER WITH THE WHALE SHARKS OF OSLOB

I had two main reasons why I took a 3-day weekend journey to the Southern part of the Province of Cebu. One was to climb Osmena Peak, the highest point in the whole Cebu located in Dalaguete, and the other was to dive with the whale shark of Oslob. Of these two, it is the latter that I considered most surreal and incredibly heart stopping. Here’s the story.

On the night we arrived at Oslob, instead of going around the town, we opted to rest early at Garden Stay Resort to fully recover for the next day’s most anticipated adventure. As I retired to bed, my eyes blankly wandered at the unadorned ceiling thinking for that quest. Yes, I travelled far from Davao City to Cebu for this quest – to meet the gentle giants of Oslob they locally called Tuki. I was fully absorbed with that thought I slept just thinking of those whale sharks that put Oslob to the tourism map of the Philippines.

Prior to becoming a popular destination, Oslob was once a sleepy town. The presence of the whale sharks spotted not so long ago near the shore of Barangay Tan-awan made the town the most visited municipality now in the South Cebu. Locally called Tuki in Bisaya and Butanding in Tagalog, these whale sharks have long been visiting the waters of Oslob. When the news about it spread among diving enthusiasts, it has become the most sought after diving destination in the whole Cebu. And when it made to mainstream and social media, tourism influx become unstoppable. Many are lured to come to this part of the province and experience a dreamlike encounter with the whale sharks. I, for one, was among those who journeyed far to say hello to these friendly gigantic creatures.

As agreed, we woke up early the next day for this adventure. We were told to be at the site as early as 8:00 o’clock in morning in time for the whale shark feeding. And so from the Garden Stay Resort, we headed straight to Barangay Tan-awan. It is about 15-minute habal-habal ride from the town center. As soon as we arrived there, we headed right to the Whaleshark Briefing and Orientation Area to pay and get oriented with the dos and don’ts during the actual encounter.

The whale shark watching cost us Php 500.00 inclusive of boat, guide and snorkelling set.  Less the snorkel, it is Php 300.00. During the briefing, we were told to never ever touch a whale shark; otherwise, a fine of Php 2,000.00 will be charged. We were also advised to keep a distance of about 5 meters to allow them to swim freely and maintain minimal movements to avoid bubbles as Tuki would think we are feeding them. When taking pictures, flash is not allowed and the use of lotion and sunblock is also prohibited. These are among the measures the locals implemented following a national clamour to protect and preserve these whale sharks when a photo a girl standing at the back of a Tuki flooded the internet. It gained negative criticisms in and outside of the country paving way to authorities to set proper guidelines in handling whale shark watching.

Just few minutes after the briefing, we found ourselves aboard a small boat going to the area where whale sharks are spotted, just few meters away from the shore. When we get to the area, our boatman pointed down a giant silhouette slowly swimming visibly below our boat. And he said, “That is our Tuki”. Seeing it for the first time, I was totally blown away by surprise! It was so gigantic, so huge, way bigger than our boat. My eyes were chasing at it as it swam down the waters and then it headed to one boat called Whale Shark Feeder. Here, Tuki are being fed with specie of planktons locally called Oyap. Whale sharks are used to it they come here every day to be fed. The Whale Shark Feeder interacts with the Tuki feeding it with utmost love and care as if it is his most loved pet. It was a heart warming scene for me.

When time for snorkelling, I went down the water carefully as to not make some bubbles. Equipped with goggle and snorkel, I was floating on the waters trying to search for the first whale shark I will see underwater. Just a moment later, my eyes were laid to a gigantic sea creature trying to get its meal from the boat above. I dove down under trying to get the full view of my first whale shark, and, really it was incredibly huge. I was underwater but I can’t help but burst in much awe seeing such scene. At the back of mind, everything was just a dream! But this was real! The giant whale shark in front of me was real.

I went back floating again trying to find other whale sharks. From one, they grew into a big number. Eight whale sharks we had that day. I was filled with much excitement when the three gentle giants swam together aiming at a boat with the feeder. I felt I was in huge aquarium swimming with the Tukis. It was a crazy experience! I was diving with the largest fish on earth!

Maintaining the 5 meters distance from the Tuki, I followed the biggest of the eight. Just as I thought 5 meters is enough for them to swim freely, this biggest Tuki slowly inched its way towards me. Seeing its gigantic mouth triply bigger than my head, I froze in fear I could hardly breathe. I could die in any second as an oversized Tuki about nine meters in length was coming straight at me. But then I came to mind what the boat man told me, “Whale sharks are the among the friendliest giant water creatures”. And so I stayed calm, didn’t panicked and just enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime experience encountering the largest fish in the world! Pointing my camera at it, about a meter away from me, it veered to its right leaving me stunned and bedazzled! After that, I concluded, these whale sharks are truly cordial.

Because guests are only allowed to snorkel for thirty minutes, we did not stay long swimming with the whale sharks. As stated during the briefing, visitors are only allowed to snorkel for only thirty minutes to give way to others and to minimize tourist congestion in the area. Thirty minutes was just too short to commune with these gentle giants but that thirty minutes is enough to experience firsthand the kind of adventure, thrill and excitement truly so incomparable brought by these gigantic sea creatures.

This encounter I had with the friendly Tuki of Oslob marks as one of the highlights of my local travels in my beloved Islands of the Philippines. It is a kind of experience I will truly be proud of and would cherish forever. These whale sharks are not just blessings to the people of Oslob but they are proof that the country is such a beautiful place blessed with so many marvellous things to behold and relish.

I just pray that the locals of Oslob will continue to strictly implement proper guidelines to balance tourism and care for the whale sharks. After all, these Tukis are giant blessings to them. Tourists, on the other hand, should follow and respect these guidelines and observe proper decorum to protect and conserve these gentle giants of Cebu!

WHALE SHARKS AROUND THE WORLD: Aside from the Philippines, there other parts of the globe where sighting of whale sharks are recorded. These are also best dive sites to see and encounter the largest fish on earth. If you’re in Europe, you can travel to the beautiful country of Portugal and there you can find school of whale sharks dwelling at the waters of Santa Maria Island in the Autonomous Region of the Azores.

MORESO, diving with the whale sharks in real tropical waters like the Philippines is an experience to remember. The sea is warm, the sun is great and the waters are clear. Aside from Oslob, another famous site for swimming or diving with the whale sharks is in Donsol, Sorsogon. Long before the Oslob came to fame, Donsol is already known as the “Whale Shark Capital of the Country”. So now, you get two paradises to choose from to encounter the gentle water giants of the country!

With these amazing whale sharks, truly, IT’S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES!

SPECIAL shout-out to GRACE BONITA-KINOSHITA for lending me her PENTAX UNDERWATER CAMERA, the one I used for this entire Whale Shark encounter!