Every time I go to Cebu taking the Supercat or the Weesam I have always been fascinated looking at the gleaming white beaches of Camotes islands. (Camotes islands are a group of four islands belonging to the province of Cebu lying between Leyte and Cebu: Ponson with Pilar as its sole municipality; Poro with Poro and Tudela as municipalities, Pacijan with San Francisco as its municipality and the small island of Tulang Diot which is a sitio of barangay Esperanza in San Fran.) Two beaches that always get my attention are the ones found in the small island with a light house called Tulang Diot and the beaches in mainland San Francisco. I was not able to explore these beaches in my previous visit (see September 2006 blog). In spite of heavy schedule I did manage to slip a trip to Camotes a few days ago. Would have wanted to leave in the morning so as to have more time to go around Camotes but just could not. Very much decided to explore these unvisited beaches before the summer days are over and the rainy season sets in, I took the afternoon boat trip from the Ormoc wharf just in front of the city market. With me were three seminarians and a youth leader from another parish. Supposed to leave by one o’clock the boat finally left after two in the afternoon. Just as soon as we entered the boat we were right away given life vests to don. We were informed that because of the boat which capsized last week in Mindoro which took 23 lives, the coast guard now enforces that life vests should always be worn when on board. Of course, there were complaints since it was uncomfortable to be wearing one, besides the heat but everybody had to comply. But as soon as we were out of sight of the port, one by one they took off the life vests.
The boat would dock in Ginkan-an port in Esperanza, a barangay in Poro, Camotes after a two hour trip. The island of Poro is connected to the island of San Francisco by a land bridge. That small island that we planned to explore was near the island of San Fran called Tulang Diot. We took the motorcycle which is the usual means of transportation in the island. We were charged 200 pesos per passenger. Since there were five of us it would have been 1,000 pesos more than what we paid for in the boat which was 850 for the five of us (170 per passenger). We were able to bring down the price up to 850 only. We rode on three motorbikes and the trip would last for 45 minutes up to Tulang Daku which is the nearest point to Tulang Diot. It was already past five in the afternoon when we took the boat to Tulang Diot. It was just a five minute boat ride to the island of Tulang Diot and the fare was five pesos. That late in the afternoon the tide was already low. There were a good number of locals by the beach. Some children were bathing, other young people were playing beach volley ball, others were just on the beach sitting around enjoying the sight and their own company. We lost no time in changing to our bathing attire and right away took to the sea. Since it was already low tide, we were in the area where there were plenty of grasses which was just waist deep. The beautiful thing was that there were myriads of small green fishes which blended to the color of the grasses. We noticed also that the current was very strong that is why we did not dare swim further from the shore. However, one sad thing was that there were plenty of plastic materials in the sea which destroyed the beauty of the area. Had it been still high tide, the beach would have been just perfect as there would have been a wider expanse of white sandy shore to bathe in. Since there was no place for an overnight stay in the island, we headed back to the mainland after thirty minutes in the island just before it got dark.
We proceeded to Bakhaw, the other beach which could be seen from the boat going to Cebu where we were told had some resorts where we could stay for overnight. Bakhaw is part of barangay Esperanza in San Francisco. It has to be noted that there are 2 barangays named Esperanza in Camotes, one is in Poro, the other is in San Fran. It was already dark when we got to Bakhaw. The resort was called Borromeo’s Bahay Bakasyonan (cel 09086267585, look for Jocelyn Delfin). The resort was composed of two buildings. The main house had four bedrooms and the adjacent apartelle style house had two bedrooms, a sala and dining area. All the bedrooms were air conditioned. The rate for the use of the two bedroom house was 2,500, but since we only used one room, it was given to us for 1,200. But since there were no other guests we had the whole house to ourselves. The rent for the rooms in the main house was 2,500. Another resort just beside the Borromeo’s Bahay Bakasyonan was the Keshe Beach Resort which had two non-aircon native cottages at 1,000 and 800 rent (cel 0929-8925792).
Since it was already evening, the caretakers did not accept to prepare for our dinner and so we had to buy food from the barangay. While two went to the barangay to buy food the three of us went right away to swim in the beach. It was already low tide and so the water was just below the knee. But we did enjoy the sight of many young people in pairs who were excitingly wading through the shallow waters one with flashlight in hand and the other companion catching small fishes with just their bare hands. Even Pons, our seminarian joined in catching fish and so we had a kinilaw as a side dish for dinner.
Even before six in the morning the following day we were already up and were already off to explore the beauty of the area. I would think that this is the best and the most beautiful beach in the whole island of Camotes for swimming and for beach sports. The sand is fine and shines to gleaming white when it gets dry. There is a large expanse of beach for sports like beach volleyball. The waters are clear and warm even in the early morning. As the tide was getting higher, we were able to use already our snorkels. There was a good vegetation with a few coral stones. The waters here are bit deeper than in Santiago Bay where you have to wade a long way to the sea just to have some knee deep of water. Although more developed, Mangodlong resort does not have a fine white sand for a beach in comparison with Bakhaw. The houses of the locals are far from the shore, so you have the beach to yourself.
For breakfast we had a fish tinola prepared by the caretakers of Keshe resort since the Borromeo’s had no stock of fresh fish. So we just ordered rice and eggs from them. (The two resorts do not have a regular restaurant so you just have to make arrangements with the caretakers to have your food cooked beforehand.)
We left the resort by eight in the morning so that we could have enough time to explore the other sights of the island to be on time for the boat ride at one in the afternoon in Tudela. We again contacted the same motorbikes we used the day before (c/o Ruben 0929-5857695). We used two bikes this time and for the five of us we paid 900 pesos.
From Bakhaw, we visited Mangodlong Rock Resort which had additional improvements since the last time I visited. We visited next Santiago Bay Garden Resort. In the barrio proper of Santiago which was just beside the Santiago Bay Garden (as the resort sits on top of a promontory we went down the several steps to the sea from the resort and waded through the shallow waters to get to the barrio proper) , we also called on two beach houses to inquire about their rates: the MB HR Masamayor Beach House and Resort and the Payag Beach House. We also were able to inquire in Santiago about a Multicab for hire which can be used if there is a bigger group going to Camotes. Multicab for rent which can accommodate 10 passengers: Cel 0907-4998005, Look for Titing Wenceslao. We were told the rent of the multicab is 2,000 per day.
From Santiago we passed by the parish church of San Francisco and the town hall with well-maintained lawn just in front of the church to take some pictures. From San Fran we crossed the land bridge to get to Poro island and visit the Boho Rock Resort which was behind the Electric Cooperative building. Although we just had a short visit, we had a grand time jumping from the platform to the sea below. The last stop was the Bukilat cave in Tudela. This cave is just like the Hinagdanan cave in Panglao, Bohol which is near the sea and has some openings from on top where sunlight could penetrate through. The waters here are clear and clean although shallower than Hinagdanan. By twelve noon we already finished the tour and were already at the port in Hagutapay in Brgy. Puertobello, Tudela. This port is the nearest point to the island of Pilar as it is just across Kawit, Pilar. On Tuesdays and Fridays, the boat would leave from the town of Tudela, on other days, it would be here in Hagutapay. The boat had not yet arrived so we went to the barangay proper to look for a place to have our lunch. We found a small carinderia but since they did not have any cooked fish we asked them if they could cook for us since we saw some fish being sold nearby. So we had again fish tinola for lunch. We were back to the port by one o’clock. The boat had just arrived and the workers were trying to board some truckloads of copras. So while waiting, we again dived into the waters by the pier.
This is the port in Ginkan-an, Brgy. Esperanza, Poro, Camotes where we alighted and took the motorbike to Tulang in the island of San Fran
The usual mode of transportation around the islands of Camotes by motorbike
This is the land bridge connecting the island of Poro with San Francisco. Mangroves are aplenty in this part.
The beach in Tulang Daku, although white is not that enticing as there are several houses of the locals along the sea and the beach is not well kept.
The beach in Tulang Diot. During high tides this sandy white beach is under water which makes it a perfect place for swimming.
The Keshe Beach Resort which is just beside the Borromeo's in Bakhaw. They have two non aircon cottages.
Mangodlong Rock Resort (032- 345-8599 / 344-6899) Web www.camotesresorts.com.ph
Beach front room @ 1,950 (3 pax) – aircon
Coco grove room @ 1,700 (3 pax) – aircon
Casitas room @ 1,000 (3 pax) non aircon
This used to be a kiddie pool which they have covered with white sand and now even has an outdoor stage besides the kiosks that surround the area.
Santiago Bay Garden Resort – contact number same as Mangodlong
Standard non aircon @1,000 (2 pax)
Standard aircon @1,200 (2pax)
Superior rooms @1,800 (3pax)
Other classes of rooms with higher rates.
MB HR Masamayor’s Beach House & Resort, Brgy. Santiago, San Francisco, Camotes
(032) 267-0633 Web www.camotesbeachresort.com
The beach fronting the Payag Beach House. One can see at the background the Santiago Bay and Garden Resort.
From Hagutapay, the boat made a short call in Kawit, Pilar where a carabao was being coaxed to board the boat.