ISLAND-WORLD. Our trip to the island-world began as we boarded a bus at the North Bus Terminal in Mandaue City. First we’ve traveled for three hours along the glittering northern coast of Cebu. Passing the towns and cities of Li-loan, Danao City, Carmen, Catmon, Sogod, and Bogo City, we admired at the beautiful churches and manicured town plazas from the bus window. From Hagnaya Port in San Remigio, we then sailed for an hour across a channel on board a fast ferry. As we approached the port of Sta. Fe, the tropical scene became more vivid as we get closer to Bantayan Island.
Bantayan Island has more than a dozen of white sand beaches skirting its coastline. But beyond the tropical paradise are its busy fish markets, interesting caves, a centuries-old church, and the ruins of a Spanish fort.
GUIDED TOUR. L-shaped Bantayan Island is composed of three towns namely, Sta. Fe, Bantayan and Madridejos. While Bantayan and Madridejos are known to be the centers of fishing and commerce in the island, Sta. Fe is the resort town.
At the port, we immediately identified Randy among the crowd welcoming the newly arrived because of the placard his holding up with our names on it. He drove us to our suite in Sta. Fe.
BANTAYAN IN THE RAIN. It was not sunny as we expected it to be when we arrived at the resort. But the dark clouds that continued to gather over the beach and occasional rains did not stop us to appreciate the pristine white sand set against a background of lush green coconut trees.
While walking by the wide beachfront that stretched nearly half a kilometer, the gentle drizzle suddenly turned into a wall of rain once more.
YGLESIA DE SAN PEDRO Y SAN PABLO. The rain kept us indoors most of the time. The better part of our stay in the island was spent touring the towns of Bantayan and Madridejos. The next day, we went to the town of Bantayan to see the old Church of Saints Peter and Paul. The church was the first parish to be established in Cebu by the Augustinians friars in 1580.
Although the current structure could be the fifth to be erected on the site, the green moss on the thick coral stone walls and its earthquake baroque architecture suggest its antiquity.
DRIED FISH IN BANTAYAN MARKET. Blessed with the sea’s bounty, the Visayan Seas yield tons of short-bodied mackerel, herring, snapper and other fish and squid varieties. In Bantayan Market, we found different varieties of dried fish and squid being sold all over the marketplace.
BANTAY SA HARI. Being surrounded by an open sea, several forts and watchtowers called Bantayan sa Hari were built all over the island during the Spanish period to serve as lookouts for the raiding Moors. In time, the local named the entire island using such long phrase.
Perhaps the locals eventually became tired of saying the entire phrase that they decided to just call island as Bantayan. One of the ruins of Bantayan sa Hari is in Madridejos –the farthest of the three towns in Bantayan Island. Although I am not sure of its purpose, part of the attraction in Madridejos is the bridge way by the beach that is protruding towards the sea.
OGTONG CAVE. On our way back to Sta. Fe, we stopped at Ogtong Cave Resort for brunch. Within the resort’s landscaped grounds is the underground cavern called the Ogtong Cave.
EPILOGUE. There are more interesting caves in Bantayan, says Randy over brunch. The one in Barangay Atop-atop became a favorite hang out of the guerillas during World War II. The Juagat Cave in Barangay Silion was said to be the anchorage of an elegant warship of the legendary Capitan Tiwi. Today, fossilized table and table wares are the only surviving proof to the legend. Only if it’s not raining, we can visit the other islands and marine sanctuaries. Randy enthusiastically implied to us on our next visit. We just found another reason to go back to this island-world in whatever weather.