3. Panglao Island, Bohol
Bohol is fast becoming one of the top local & foreign tourist destination as #2 Boracay due to budget airlines flying to its capital Tagbilaran. A round trip ticket from Manila may just cost PhP2,200 (US $44) including taxes if you book at least 2 weeks in advance.
Budget lodging is available at the main street of the Alona Beach area. Both times I went to Bohol, I stayed at the Bohol Diver’s Beach Resort. First time was at these attached cottages for PhP 1,200 (US $24).
The second time I went to Bohol was last 2008. On a much tighter budget, we stayed at the Citadel Alona Inn for the first night. The cheapest room they have is a double room with fan and shared bathroom for PhP550. The place is very well-kept. There is also a spotless kitchen where guests can prepare their own meals. Unlimited coffee, tea and distilled water on a dispenser is available for guests too.
However, we still prefer to stay near the beach so for the second day, we transferred to Bohol Divers Beach Resort. Behind the cottages I stayed at last 2006 are budget double rooms with fan and attached bathroom for PhP 500 (US $10). The room is tiny yet tidy. The cheap cost includes use of the swimming pool so it was a good deal. One thing though, make sure to bring earplugs lest you wake up from roosters as early as 4 o’ clock in the morning.
The early morning dolphin-watching would have been a great experience if not for the 20 other boats rushing to see the dolphins. Some boats, well, our boat was guilty of it too, even cut the dolphins’ path just to get close. You can ask the boatmen to stay at the area a little longer after all the other boats leave to bring tourists to snorkel. We did and saw the dolphins having their morning meal. You would know when you see their tails up on the surface of the ocean.
The restaurant at the Bohol Divers Resort offers inexpensive yet delicious local and international dish. At night, you may choose to dine al fresco near the beach. I recommend the curry crab for PhP 180 (US $3.60). Heavenly and finger lickin’ good!
For those who crave a bit of luxury but on a tight budget, you can go to the Panglao Island Nature Resort for a day tour. The consumable entrance fee of PhP 250* (US $5) per person includes use of the infinity pool, jacuzzi, lockers and shower rooms (* price may have changed as this was last 2006). A portion of the entrance fee may be used for any food and beverage purchase.
4. Camiguin, Northern Mindanao
Unfortunately, the political unrest in Southern Mindanao particularly at the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) hindered local and foreign travelers from adding any part of Mindanao or even the entire Philippines from their travel itinerary. It is actually unfair when the outside world perceive the entire Philippines as dangerous when conflict happens only in ARMM, barely 1/4 of Mindanao.
I was guilty of that misconception too. When we decide to include Mindanao in our travel itinerary, I was apprehensive. Thinking in an exaggerated way that I’m putting my safety on the line by going to Mindanao. Almost 2 months of traveling from the North to the Southernmost island of Mindanao, my mistaken belief was totally corrected.
First stop in Mindanao and top 4 on my list is the volcanic island of Camiguin. I have heard of its charm and I wasn’t surprised it would exceed my expectation.
The Seascape Resort used to be the old Jasmine by the Sea cottages. If you prefer rustic and economical yet clean place, then this is the place for you. Half of the duplex can be rented by 3 people for PhP 700 (US $14). It was the low season so the local owners gave us a 30% discount.
The resort serves great tasting western food like the Chicken Cordon Bleu with a side dish of potatoes for PhP 180 (US $3.60). The fish on the menu is always a good choice too. Ask first though if the restaurant have fresh catch.
A 20 minute boat ride would get you to the White Beach or sand bar. It’s an interesting patch of white, powder-fine sand in the middle of the sea because the surrounding coastline of Camiguin have dark, fish egg-like sand granules. According to the locals, the sand bar has shrunk due to overseas pirates stealing the white sand. I never knew sand is valuable since it’s all over the Philippine Islands!
Plan an early morning day trip if you wish to avoid the harsh mid-day sun. There’s no place to hide yourself from the sun unless you bring your own umbrella.
Fishermen would drop some of their day’s catch at the sand bar when they see tourists around. A kilo of fresh fish, which they can grill for you as well, would cost around PhP 200 (US $4.
For those who had enough of the sun and sea of Camiguin, natural hot and cold springs are alternatives.
An hour motorcycle ride from the Seascape Resort would take you to the Santo Nino Cold Springs. Entrance fee is PhP 40 (US $.80). The cool and clean spring water is a perfect respite from the year round humid weather. You may also try a fish spa free of charge! Schools of little fish swim with you in the spring water. If you stay still, you would see them eat off dead skin from your body.
Imagine yourself swimming on a pool of 7-Up! No, the water at Camiguin Soda Water Spring doesn’t taste like the famous soda drink but the little bubbles touching your skin feels like you are doing so. Locals would say that the water do taste like soda water. I tried a bit from the pipe where fresh water continuously flows. Maybe I drank too little to even taste anything. The water is deep and I didn’t notice any lifeguards around so swim with precaution.
A visit at Ardent Hot Springs by nightfall is a good way to end a whole day of riding the motorcycle. The 35 to 39 degree water temperature is relaxing enough to calm tired muscles.
To be continued…