February 8, 2014

Project Jomalig

September is my birthday month. As always, I had a gazillion other travel ideas to celebrate my birthday (just like the others that would have wanted to tick things off their bucketlist , except that I really don't have a list). I have spent my birthday in El Nido in Palawan and enjoyed the laidback life in Siquijor.

Golden sands

Caption this :)

Back in college, we were required to do community work, interact with the locals and provide free medical assistance to the communities so when I heard about Project Jomalig, I was ecstatic. I have been dreaming of Jomalig Island since I stumbled upon Lakwatsero's blog. This off beaten path was said to be a haven for backpackers, with secluded beaches yet to be discovered.I knew I just had to go. This was just on top of the culminating event and the chance to be of help to others in my own little ways.

I know some would say " Where in the world is Jomalig Island?!", "Why not visit Boracay, Bohol or Camiguin or Coron?" and my all time favorite reaction is " Why not Singapore, or Bangkok or HongKong?". I'm used to getting these questions all the time.

For the unfamiliar, Jomalig Island is part of Real,Quezon Province. It is comprised of  5 barangays.This island, blessed with so much beauty, houses the number 1 Barangay that had the most malourished kids in the Philippines for the last three years. And because of this, Project Jomalig was conceptualized and launched.
 James of JourneyingJames.com , Ms. Emm Balabat of Emm The Pinay Trekker , Chef Arvin , Mitch Sy among others that spearheaded the project, brought the first batch of volunteers in April 2013. The 6 month program focused on addressing the nutrition needs of Barangay Apad. I knew I wanted to be part of the last group of volunteers that will sail through the waters of Lamon Bay.

Rain clouds

Our chef  inside the boat

I never thought that it will be this extraordinary. From the boodle fights we had during meal time to the dump truck rides to reach the Landing Port, everything was an adventure. Setting up camp under the stars in Salibungot Beach, I was lucky to share the tent with fellow travelers. And I was not the friendly type but I guess, with wanderlust as our common denominator, we all got along just fine and even looked after each other's back (alam ninyo yan).

Boodle fights

Fun with my tentmates (L-R): Jas, Anne, Mara and Me

The long talks about travels, about random stuff, about couchsurfing, about getting married (or not getting married at all), about travel adventures and about enjoying life.

After an hour boat ride from Landing Port, we were welcomed by the locals of Barangay Apad. Jomalig is lined with a golden coastline that glitters when the sun is at its peak. The kids shyly clinged on to their mothers as they carefully watched us in silence as we walked towards the events area. Most of the houses were made of bamboo and wood.The concrete streets, worn out and withered, was filled laughter and chatter. The housewives were either cooking or doing their laundry. Everybody was busy. It was a Saturday after all.

Approaching Brgy Apad
Mayor Tena and the Medical Staff
 As we carefully lined the slippers on the bermuda covered grounds outside their humble Barangay Chapel, it was a delight watching the little ones anticipating the gift giving activity. For lunch, Chef Arvin prepared fried chicken for the kids and ginataang adobong pusit and fish paksiw for the volunteers.It was a boodle feast together with the town's medical doctor, the Brgy Captain, Honorable Mayor Tena and the barangay health workers.

Even if they were not the kind of kids that would wear a brimming smile and be jumping up and down when recieving a gift, the look of happiness and excitement in their faces was more than enough.They scanned through the rows and rows of slippers laid on the grass, and patiently waited for their turn. I assisted them as they carefully tried each slipper, making sure that it fits them well.

I believe that the best teacher is experience and the boat ride back to mainland Real was unique among all the other boat rides i have experienced. Before, I had to sail to Malapascua for a good 2 hours, keep my calm through the gloomy skies enroute Palaui Island in Cagayan and had to hold on to my dear life and endure the trip from Siquijor to Dumaguete. But this one was beyond what I imagined. It was a make or break experience. According to Anne, it was a test of endurance. For me, it was a test of faith. It was literally mind over matter. The regular 5 - 6hour boat ride back to Real Port  was extended to 9 solid boat hours. 
These smiles kept me hanging on

We left Landingan port at noon and arrived Real at 9 PM. The turbulent waves of Lamon Bay was immense. As soon as we left the port, our small fishing boat was rocked by the waves of the Pacific, not knowing that there was already a brewing LPA on the east. As we braved the raging waters, our shivering bodies dripping wet with salt water and rain (thanks to Duane for letting us into his waterproof hammock halfway through the trip), I prayed. I knew this was a possibility, but I prayed for safety and for my fellow volunteers to be calm. The look on the children's faces, the long morning walks on the beach, logrolling on the sand followed by deafening laughter, people watching. I pondered on the happy things. Happy places. I have never been this afraid. But I'm grateful that we survived. We were blessed that no matter how miniscule we are compared to the magnanimity of the Earth, the Creator listened to our prayers. We were spared. We were given another chance.

As the Real Port glittered with lamp posts came into clearing, we all let out a sigh of relief. I have never felt so alive, so vulnerable. I have never felt so loved.

Beautiful Jomalig sunset

November 2, 2013

Sorsogon : Juag Lagoon Fish Santuary

Aside from being awed by the beautiful Mt.Mayon,we were overwhelmed by the write ups about Subic Beach in Matnog,Sorsogon.

October 30, 2013

Sorsogon City : My Little Secret Caught on Camera

To see Mayon Volcano uplcose was the only goal I had in mind when I finally purchased my plane tickets to Legaspi. But I wanted to also explore the nearby Sorsogon to visit Subic Beach in Matnog and try surfing in Gubat.

July 6, 2013

Places to visit in Bantayan Island, Cebu

During our island tour, we were able to go around the island the whole day. Click here to check Part 1 of this post.

Sugar Beach
It was said to have the finest sand quality in the whole island. Its sprawling coastline is dotted with palm trees to provide shade for those who wish to sit by the beach.

Santa Fe Beach Club

Considered as one of the posh accommodations in Bantayan,Santa Fe Beach Club also houses the Ogtong Cave.They had built concrete steps to make it easier for those who wanted to take a dip.


It was built by the concerned citizens of Bantayan to help protect the mangrove forests. During the tour, our guide even gave a short lecture on how important mangroves are and even demonstrated how tedious it is to plant a mangrove seed.(Okay,so was that a seed or something else?Char! )


Bontay Baywalk 

At the other end of the island is where one can go to wait for the golden hour. They said it was the best spot for sunset watching.

Kota Park

This was our second to the last stop. The ruins from the old garrison place was a little eerie and rustic at the same time.

St.Peter and Paul Cathedral

The cathedral was said to be the first and the oldest cathedral in Cebu.

Blue hour

Virgin Island

Just a few minutes from mainland Bantayan,Virgin Island is a known spot perfect for snorkeling and fish feeding. They said that a resort would soon be established here.We didn't get to visit Virgin Island because of time constraints but it gave us a good reason to come back.

Tristan's Place

I was surprised by the number of foreigners retiring in Bantayan. They were everywhere. And I couldn't blame them considering how charming and laid back the atmosphere in Bantayan is. This little pizza place by the sea was a popular place among locals and tourists alike.Their thin crust pizza topped with gooey cheese was a good afternoon snack made even more relaxing with the azure waters viewed from the dining deck.

Kota Beach

This is where the shifting sandbar appears.The waters here is shallow, perfect for swimming.

How to reach Bantayan Island 

From Mactan International Airport,take a cab to North Terminal.Ceres Bus Lines has the most number of trips to Hagnaya Port.Travel time is around 3-4hours.Alternatively,some taxi drivers would agree to take you to Hagnaya at around 2-3k depending on your haggling skills.

From Hagnaya Port,one can ride the RORO to Bantayan Island.
Motorcycles can be rented (half day or whole day) as well.It's easy touring around the island.

Where we stayed :

Because of the influx of tourists in Bantayan,it has a wide array of choices when it comes to accommodation.We stayed at this newly built inn owned by an engineer (their house is actually on the same compound) that has really nice view of the beach.Otherwise, you can visit www.wowbantayan.com for the other recommended hotels,inns and home stay facilities.

June 22, 2013

A First Glimpse of Bantayan Island

Upon arrival at the Mactan Airport at around 4pm in the afternoon,our priority was to find a cheap room to spend the night. 

Why, hello there!

Downtown Cebu City was very much similar to the streets of Manila. The hustling of pedicabs,tricycles,jeepneys and buses seem to last forever. Just as I thought.It wouldn't be tagged as the Queen City of the south for nothing,right? Don't get me wrong though.Going into the "city vibe" was not part of my itinerary and good thing we always have plan B whenever we travel.

After feasting on the delicious pork barbeque,sweet longganisa, barbeque and servings of "puso" (steamed rice wrapped in banana leaves)in the ever famous Larsian (drools) , we were finally able to find a room in one of the hotels downtown.
I crave.

Larsian dinner in Cebu

I was exhausted but instead,like a happy and excited little kid,my thoughts wandered on the adventure we were about to experience the next day.(Photo taken earlier that day enroute Cebu)

The bus terminal to Bantayan was only a few minutes away from our hotel,and at the crack of dawn,we found ourselves cruising through lush green vegetation and amazing views of the ocean. 

I just love everything about long early morning bus rides.

Upon arriving at Hagnaya port,we were famished. I have read somewhere that this one little barbeque stand in Hagnaya Port shouldn't be missed when visiting Bantayan. Oh boy it did not disappoint! We even bought more as our packed lunch for the island tour.No pictures for this though. We were starving so, you know what I mean. ;)

The good thing about Bantayan Island is that the electricity runs 24/7. This was different from my experience in Palaui Island, Cagayan Valley and in El Nido, Palawan . Though electricity was not turned on the whole day, the surroundings actually made up with what was lacking.

We were eyeing for the cheapest accommodation in the island (based on the research that I did, was around Php500 a night for 2 persons) but the view on this one was just too pretty that we just had to give in.

The best way to tour around the island is through the "habal-habal" or motorcycle. We wanted to be more comfortable so we opted to rent another motorcycle.

Bantayan has this certain laid back atmosphere and we were curious of what the island has to offer. In a blink of an eye, we were off to our island tour. 

SOON : Places to Visit in Bantayan Island