Weekend Wanderings: Organic Farm in Bonbon, Cebu

Looking for a quick nature escape? Just half an hour ride from Cebu City and you are in another landscape.

Far from the concrete walls this farm was full of greens. Sir Oliver, the owner of the farm toured us around through his farm. Think of any herb used for cooking and he has it! He is one of the suppliers for top hotels and restaurant chains in Cebu. I definitely got jealous of his stocks of coriander and parsley.

From crispy delicious French beans to different lemon varieties. Oliver's farm reflects years of experience working as an agriculture expert. I was amazed at how hands on and humble he was that you would not even think that he worked for FAO and other international organizations.  As much as I want to describe all the sights in his farm, I will just let the photos do the talking!

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You can easily spend a full day enjoying this lush farm. I am one of the lucky few who got to spend time in this hidden oasis. Definitely grateful for having met Oliver and getting some free lemon plant!

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Monday Musings: 10 Life Reminders from Siargao

Oftentimes, the best memories happen when you do not plan. The Surfing Capital of the Philippines definitely took my heart away.

It started with a last-minute decision after the French Embassy denied my visa application, ruining my holiday plans and putting a huge shadow over my festive mood. Luckily, I found out that my former roommates and Couchsurfing bestbuds were celebrating New Year’s Eve in Siargao so I decided to join them.

I had my bag packed and got my gears ready but I forgot that it was the holidays. I confidently thought that there would be loads of tickets to go there. It turned out to be one of the biggest struggle I’ve had to reach one destination! It involved hours of riding on habal-habal, ferries, bangkas, jeepneys, and tricycles! I ended up arriving a day late from my hostel booking.

People asked me why I went through all those instead of just staying at home. At that moment it seemed like a great idea and I knew complicated journeys always turn into good stories (sometimes I lie to myself).

Anyways, after days of random overnights in unplanned stops, I realized that I have been reminded about a lot of things in less than a week of travel.

Chillin like a villain at Cloud 9

  1. Relax! I usually feel that I am Roger the Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh or the Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland and I am not alone for sure. Humans naturally want to control and predict basically everything. The thought of not knowing makes us all feel uneasy. When I took the fast craft to head to Southern Leyte, I had everything calculated and yet I still missed some of my schedule and my worry was unnecessary, because I still ended up where I used to be. Sometimes you just have to let things be, as what Timon and Pumba would say “Hakuna Matata!” I have not reached Timon levels yet but I started Headspace to help me be calm.

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    Sunset as I left San Ricardo Port
  2. Be open. I only had one thing in mind when I went to Siargao and it was to surf. This one thing I never got to do because I decided to open myself up to other possibilities. I did not regret missing out on the surfing because I had tons of fun memories with people. That is how it should be! We should set our path towards the door and remain open enough to let new things come our way. It helps us grow. If we just keep on doing the same things over and over, it is like you living in a program. We are not born robots and we should not live like one.

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    Team Blue Bloods vs. Team Diarrhea (Diarrhea won Paglaolympics)
  3. Make new friends. Most of the people I knew booked in another hostel and I felt quite uneasy the minute I arrive (my anti social side always kicks in). I did not know anyone and it was great because at the end of the trip, I made a lot of new friends. Sometimes, we have to leave our usual circle to get new perspectives on life.

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    Enjoying the waves as they kiss the shore.
  4. Live in the present. Everyday, you would normally seeing me posting a lot in FB about different things but while in Siargao, I was too engrossed in what was happening locally so I barely had time to post or read anything. This somewhat reminded me to really make it a point to disconnect regularly to connect with the real world. I’m a bit slow on this but I am making progress. Count moments not milestones.

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    Fail at the swing
  5. It is perfectly normal to make mistakes. When I started driving the scooter, I was so scared of making mistakes that in the end, someone still hit me at the back. I know motorbikes are not good examples but it does tell you that you can be extremely careful but there will be things beyond your control and it is completely fine to just make mistakes (as long as it is not deadly).

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    Channeling the inner monkey at Secret Spot
  6. Dare to do something you have never done before. The countdown was finished and everyone was already partying yet I was standing there still worrying about a lot of things. Should I do it? What will people say? Will I mess up? These are my normal mind prompts when faced with having to do something out of my usual and often I normally let them win. All my what if’s stopped me a lot of times from enjoying. I would rather do what others expect of me than what I would like to do. This has led me to a lot of regrets. This was also one reason why I ended up in Siargao, I never celebrated New Year outside of house or away from people I know and for the first time I did. It did not kill me, in fact, it was one of the good decisions I have made despite one huge mistake. I enjoyed the night of dancing with friends and saying hi to strangers.

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    Andrea checking out the waves
  7. Ride the waves. I haven’t done this in Siargao (Unfortunately!) However, I saw it a lot and noticed how it was so close to real life. We all have our struggles and sometimes we just want to give up but that should not be our primary reflex. If you just ride the waves, the whole process will give you joy. Waves are there to challenge your strenght and build your character. Each wave you ride adds up to your beautiful story.

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    Drinks and fire at Guyam Island
  8. Trust people. There were instances where I let people I barely knew drive the motorbike because of the unpaved roads and normally I would never do that. I have trust issues. I always think that people will fail me and in the end it will hurt me but in Siargao, I learned to not think about this and just believe in the goodness of people. Another instance was when I was pissed and decided to walk home to the hostel, there was one habal-habal driver who asked me if I needed help. I turned him down and 500 meters later. I was nowhere near the hostel and my phone was dead. I had no way to know where I was since it was my first night there and I greatly relied on my map app. I luckily chanced upon two nice street sweepers who showed me the way and finally trusted a driver to take me there. Nothing bad happened to me and I arrived safely. With the crazy world we now live in, trusting people has become more difficult than ever but it does not make the world better to be part of the cynics either. When you trust people, they also feel good about themselves. So instead of being negative, just be positive.

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    The annoyed kid :))
  9. Do not judge. We tend to have our own prejudice on different people. I had a terrible judgement of one of the habal-habal (motorbike) drivers. It was the first night at Siargao and I realised everyone already left. I did not have a ride and had a number of drinks. I was pissed and decided to just walk back to the hostel (not a good idea if you are new to the place). As I walk through the pitch dark road, I heard a man calling out, ‘Do you need a ride?’. I replied with a loud, ‘No’. He did not leave right away and he wanted to check if I was sure. Stubborn as I am, I told him to leave me alone and he did. After 30 minutes of walking and following the gps, my phone died and I ended up in town with two guys sweeping the street. I tried to ask them the way back to the hostel but I was not sober enough to remember. Finally, I gave up and just decided to get a motorbike driver. I arrived in the hostel safe and sound. The next day, I needed to go around so I decided to rent a motorbike (did not shower yet) so I walked back to town and then a driver called me. He was the guy who offered me a ride. All the while I thought he was just being nice to get more money but he went out of his way to find me a scooter. Being in the big city, people tend to use you a lot and then you become cynical. You start to categorise people without second thoughts. The incident reminded me that some people may look devious but they can be good natured.15822598_10154777794348329_6934201963544954634_n.jpg
  10. Enjoy the simple things. Siargao is still an under developed area. Although, there are several resorts most of the areas remain provincial and some roads still do not have streetlights or pavement. I enjoyed the rawness of the area. It is this simplicity that truly made my motorbike trips around the island pleasurable. The thought of adventure, the smell of fresh air and the unending lush greens, these made me happy and it was for free! As a city girl, I have moments where I just unwind by purchasing things that I probably would not ever need and this is what capitalism thought us. Money can buy happiness! I do not agree completely (although it can make me a bit happier if I get my dive master license and funding to educate more Filipinos) because this kind of happiness does not last long specially if it is just to buy objects. There are a lot of good things in this world that is free. Like the love of your family and friends and the beauty of nature, you do not need to break your bank to be happy.
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Finally getting the hang of it!

Getting to, being in and leaving Siargao were all equally memorable. I thought that spending four days in the island is enough. I was wrong, very wrong! I am grateful for having met different people through the trip they were good reminders and inspiration. I cannot wait to be back in Paglaom Hostel this May (to finally catch my first wave)!

Weekend Wandering: 2016 El Nido Trip

Here’s a short video clip of what I did during the recent El Nido trip.

I just added a new video to my YouTube after a long hiatus from vlogging!

Here’s a short compilation clip from my recent trip to El Nido.

Will be working on posting more travel content!

Monday Musings: A Duty To Protect Beauty

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Earth’s beauty is undeniable yet a lot of people are too distracted to see how we are slowly killing it. I never understood people who would rather be on their phones instead of taking a few minutes to see the sun graciously setting over the horizon. I guess with all the mobile stuff, the rest forget the simple things that surround us. It is either they see cash or likable over social media.
Everyday while I walk along the streets of the busy metropolis, I see people mistreating nature by throwing trash improperly or treating animals poorly. These are the same people you follow in social media. With each like you give, you are giving birth to a fake persona created for the sake of likability. They put up photos of the beach, forests and mountains to win people over but only a few dedicate time to give back. They show little gratitude to their homes. Are you one of those who appreciates our planet?
It is a known fact that humans are not the first organisms in the planet. We are young dwellers compared to sharks but we have done so much damage. I guess it happens when we are given a lot, you fail to appreciate but now time is running out. We have misused our mother Earth too much. If you are like me, then you must realise that we have a duty. Like a mother reminds her children and teaches them lessons, we should do the same to our fellow earth dwellers. Our resources are limited and if we do not protect it vigilantly, we are putting an end to our own existence.

5 Must-Have Mobile Apps for Travelers

5 Apps Every Traveler should have in their mobile. Plus giving away free app download worth US$4.99!

Here you are ready to go on a long travel, maps all rolled up, your travel books piled up in your backpack but wait, these are no longer considered efficient in 2016 although they might be useful in situations where you do not have electricity readily available but this rarely happen.

So unless you are travelling without any mobile gadgets, you should arm yourself with whatever technology can offer for convenience and easy travel.

As a regular weekend wanderer, I never leave my home without these apps.

1. Evernote

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As a constant web surfer who easily gets distracted and barely remembers thing, this app is a lifesaver. If you are like me who sometimes have goldfish memory, you should have this. Not only is this useful for keeping thoughts, photos, business cards and reminders, Evernote can easily save webpages with one mouse click.

Before I travel to a place, I usually Google it and find relevant articles. Here’s one of my notebook about Southeast Asia. Once I find it, I save them to a notebook in my Evernote and make them available offline that way, you can easily recall tips and prices even without internet.

Another added feature is that you can do work chat and share notebooks with people, planning trips with friends has never been this easy. You can download it here.

2. Maps.me

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While I know most people use Google maps, I found this application more updated. It saved me during several trips in lesser known areas like in Siquijor. You can download maps for different countries and you can bookmark locations for reference. They constantly update maps so make sure to update otherwise you will not be able to use it.

Download here.

3. Monefy

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If you do not care much about sticking to budgets then you wouldn’t need this but for people like me who are money conscious, this does the job. It is simple to update and you can set it on a budget so you know how much money you can still spend. I find it so useful that I paid for the pro version!

Download here for the free app.

4. Rome2Rio

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I find it troublesome to check routes and then go to company websites to check rates for fare and accomodation when creating a budget. Thanks to Rome2Rio, I save time. Think google maps but with expense estimations for transportation. I find this useful when I do not know how to reach a destination and how much I should spend on transportation.

Download here for an IOS version.

5. GPSmyCity

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If you are into offbeat travels like me then GPSmyCity is the app for you. They over 5,000 self-guided walks in 470+ cities around the world. Awesome right? Each one of their apps contains from a few to over a dozen of self-guided walking tours for a single city, allowing visitors to explore on foot the best of the city at their own pace without the touristy cost.

Itching to download this? I have good news! GPSmyCity is offering 20 promo codes of one of their full-version city walk apps to happinas readers. Each such code allows a free download of the app, which normally costs US$4.99 at the App Store.

Here is what you have to do:

  1. Leave a comment in this article on why travel makes you happy.
  2. Submit a photo of your favorite city attraction or delicacy in the Philippines  pau.bernasor@gmail.com.

First 20 submissions will receive the download codes.

Diving in Cebu: Shark Diving in Malapascua Island

As a young animal lover, I have always dreamed of seeing sharks and swimming next to them. I remember staying up late to watch dive expeditions being shown on National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Diving with the thresher sharks was part of my dive bucketlist.

According to some stories, some Spaniards have been sailing through the Visayas in the year of 1520 and ended up stranded on Malapascua on Christmas Day because of the unfortunate incident they called the island Mala Pascua, which literally means “Bad Christmas”. I am not certain how they could’ve thought it was bad luck to be in a beautiful island. Although the older local people still insist that their island’s name is “Logon” (same name as the main village here on Malapascua) and not Malapscua. This island a popular dive destination in the Philippines. The picturesque island is home to a world famous treasure. A special kind of shark, the thresher shark. As a young animal lover, I have always dreamed of seeing sharks and swimming next to them. I remember staying up late to watch dive expeditions being shown on National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Diving with the thresher sharks was part of my dive bucketlist.

To get to Malapascua is not that quick, from Cebu City, you will have to take the bus all the way to Maya which takes about 5 hours. For my trip, I took the bus to Bogo  and stayed there for the night. The following morning we took the bus from Bogo City to Maya Port. I enjoyed the bus ride as it passed through rice fields and mangrove forests. When we reached Maya Port, the locals immediately asked if we were heading to Malapascua. I was told that the usual price is 80 PHP but we arrived a bit late (most boats don’t go to Malapascua in the afternoon unless you charter them because of the current) so we had to just say yes to them.

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Malapascua from a distance.

The weather was on our side that day despite warnings of thunderstorms that weekend. I sat and enjoyed the calming sea breeze for 30 minutes as the boat sailed smoothly over the placid sea. The other passengers looked like babies on a cradle slowly falling asleep.

Malapascua Island
Malapascua somehow reminds me of Boracay in a less touristy way.

Unknown to many, 2 years ago, Malapascua Island was also one of the islands ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Expats and locals both pitched in to recover from the destruction and while I was walking around there were little traces.

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Clear blue skies and white sand.

We did not make any prior bookings relying on the fact that it was off season in the island. It was not difficult to find accomodations. I saw more than 10 resorts all lining the coast of Malapascua. More than a decade ago, I visited the island as part of my mother’s regular company outing. I could barely remember the details of the island and would’ve gotten lost if not for Lucas. He already went to Malapascua several times for diving.  I am always embarrassed when people ask me where I did my dives ( I probably did more dives in Mabul and Sipadan than in my own country). It was my first dive in Cebu by the way! Anyways, we headed to French Kiss Divers first to try squeezing in a dive for that day (we needed vitamin Sea so much that they anyways their local staff thought I was Thai, not sure if I should be happy or not). They were nice enough to schedule a 3:30 PM dive.

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Serene view.

After taking care of our dive for the day, we headed to Malapascua Exotic Island Dive & Beach Resort. Exotic is one of the established resorts on the island and they offer budget accomodations (for those who want to spend more on dives than their beds). We left our bags and had a quick lunch (they had a wide variety of dishes and the servings were good). Once we filled our stomachs, we walked back to French Kiss to prepare the dive gears and do all the necessary equipment check.

BCDs are ready!
The view just makes you want to jump right in without your gears.

Shark diving is the main activity in the island but you can also do macro-diving. Malapascua offers sandy bottoms, seagrass meadows, mangroves and coral reefs. The island has other top class dive sites apart from Malapascua such as Gato Island, Lapus Lapus and Dakit Dakit. If you are spending more days in the island, you can even hire a boat to take you to Kalanggaman Island in Palompon.

Here is a map I created to show you a few of the different sites:

DEEP SLOPE

Our first dive was at Deep Slope which was a unique underwater sand dune that slowly turns into a small wall which is covered with soft corals.  Pygmy seahorses, yellow and pink ones can be seen inside the different sea fans along that reef.  An interesting dive site for more experienced beginners and advanced divers. For beginners, you need to be aware of the slope and make sure to always check your dive computer to avoid diving beyond your limit. While doing the dive, I got a bit nervous when we suddenly saw a banded sea snake (more than a meter long) swimming along the reef wall (FYI: I hate snakes and centipedes).

Continue reading “Diving in Cebu: Shark Diving in Malapascua Island”

24 Hours in Camiguin

Sunny noon, the bus stopped right in front of Jagna Public Market. We were beaming with smiles from Loboc, thinking that we calculated our time well to make it to the 1:00 P.M. trip. My mind filled with thoughts of white sand and turquoise waters of the volcanic island. We had high hopes that we will see Camiguin before the sun sets. Much to our surprise, they have changed the schedule. On their website it said that the time of departure was 1:00 P.M but they have not updated their websites for months (I generally have trust issues with most bus and ferry websites in the Philippines because they rarely update). When we decided to go to Bohol, it was because we found out that there was an alternative route to go to Camiguin. I researched on places to visit and double checked everything except for the schedule to Camiguin. That time I was only worried if the ferry trip even existed so when they confirmed it did, I assumed it never changed (Insert Don Miguel Ruiz’s Second Agreement , Do Not Assume). First lesson learned was to always confirm with the shipping lines (Shuttle Ferry / phone: 088 387 40 34).

The unfortunate incident led us to do the Sierra Bullones trail, losing a day for Camiguin. Next morning, we woke up by 7 a.m. Like de ja vu we walked to the port area, but this time we finally make it to the ship bound for Camiguin.  The cost to cross from Jagna to Balbagon was  PHP 425 for the ferry and PHP 5 terminal fee.

Balbagon Port
After 4 hours on the boat, we finally docked at Balbagon Port and said hello to the Island Born of Fire.

After getting off the boat, we then headed to hire a motorela ( a customized single motorcycle that could fit 10 people. ) to got to our resort. Of course, we tried to haggle and since they do not have a set price, most of the drivers tried to charge PHP250. We found one who agreed to P180 but in the end he did not have change so it was still PHP 200.

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The view of the resort from the beach.

When we reached Camiguin Action Geckos Dive and Adventure Resort, we checked-in (the staff was happy to finally see us). We booked their traveler room with fan and shared CR and bathroom (cold water) for PHP 900 which was  value for money.

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The area was not touristy though there were nearby resort.
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Fine black sand

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If I can only live like this forever!

After going around the resort and settling down, we chatted with the manager and he gave us a map and tips on where to go. It was already lunch time so we decided to save time by grabbing lunch there. Their meals ranged from PHP 100-300 and they have a separate menu for vegetarians!

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Pasta for the hungry me.

Another plus with the resort is they have scooters for rent which cost PHP 500 for a day, so we grabbed our helmets and headed to Paras Beach Resort where we can get a boat for White Island. The local government of Camiguin has set a standard fee for hiring the bangkas or the outrigger boats for roundtrip costs PHP 450.00/good for 6 persons and Environmental Fee for PHP 20.00/ per person.

Our quiet boatman who patiently waited for us in the White Island.
Our quiet boatman who patiently waited for us in the White Island.
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The outrigger boat from Paras takes roughly 10 minutes to reach White Island.
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Lunch time is probably the best time to visit since most Filipinos do not want to get a tan.

 

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For 20 minutes, we had the entire sandbar for ourselves.
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Underwater selfies are difficult.

Little marine life in the shallow parts of the island.

Camiguin in one shot
Camiguin in one shot

We spent an hour basking in the sun, taking photos and swimming in the clear waters (we brought our own swimming masks which saved us P150).  We left the island around 2:00 P.M. just when others started arriving. Our next stop would be in Catarman to view the Sunken Cemetery.

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If you want to snorkel or dive, you have to register in the baranggay hall.

It took us about 30 minutes to reach Catarman, some of the roads were under construction (elections is coming) and we were amateurs in driving scooters. The idea of snorkelling over graves did not really excite us so we just took photos and left.

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You can see the cross from the viewing deck.

Couple of minutes from the Sunken Cemetery, you will see the Way of the Cross and the Old Church Ruins, both of which did not interest us so we did not bother to stop and went straight for the Bura Soda Water Spring.

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Trying to sneak a selfie with the scooter’s side mirror.

The soda spring had a distinct smell and I never found out where it came from. Anyways the entrance to the water park was Php60.00. It was a good refreshing dip to cool down after not having rinsed the salt water from White Island.

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Bura Soda Water Park

We started getting cold and decided to go to the next destination, Katibawasan Falls by 4:00P.M. We were very motivated to add couple more stops to the half day tour. To get into Katibawasan Falls, you will need to pay PHP 60 per person. Before heading to the falls, we decided to have a quick snack. You can find several kiosks and souvenir shops right outside the entrace.

Kiping a local delicacy made by frying a mixture of water and ground sweet potato that is then served with latik or thick caramelized coconut cream syrup.
Kiping a local delicacy made by frying a mixture of water and ground sweet potato that is then served with latik or thick caramelized coconut cream syrup.

Non athletic and adventurous people need not worry about walking far to the waterfalls. They have build concrete walkway which makes it convenient (the only problem would be if you have knee issues since it is quite steep).

Katibawasan Falls
As how Lonely Planet describes it : A beautiful clear stream of water dropping more than 70m to a plunge pool where you can swim and picnic.
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Had the brilliant idea of taking this photo!

When we reached the waterfall, there were only 4 people with us. We had a tranquil moment as we enjoyed the chilly waters. If you plan to swim right to where the water drops, you will be disappointed as it is not allowed due to several accidents in the past.

Majestic view of the Katibawasan falls
Majestic view of the Katibawasan falls

The water was too cold for us and we were already shivering so we decided to catch the sunset at PHIVOLCS Observatory. It was sort of a Fast and Furious chase scene as we desperately tried to head to the main town of Mambajao (thank God for good concrete roads).

The view while we were trying to reach the observatory for a better view of the sunset.
As we were making our way to the observatory, the sun was teasing us.

After 30 minutes of driving like crazy (not the unsafe kind), we made it to the observatory.

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We managed to catch a glimpse of the sunset.

 

The full view
The full view
The sun waited for us before leaving for the day.
The sun waited for us before leaving for the day.

Normally, sunsets mark the end of the day, but for us it was not the last stop before calling it a day. We got back on our scooter and headed to Ardent Hot Springs. The entrance costs PHP 30 per person. The springs are still surrounded by trees and foliage and commercial shops. It gets very busy on weekends specially at night. The day we visited was no exception. This was our last stop for the day and we rewarded ourselves with a generous serving of pork sinigang and chopsuey from Ardent’s restaurant.

Ardent Hot Spring
Ardent Hot Spring

After devouring the food we went to take a dip. The water temperature did not meet my expectation. It was not warm like that from a hot shower.It was only lukewarm that night. We tried to find a hot area. We moved back and forth and in the end, we gave up and decided to head back to our room. As we made our way back into the main road, I needed to find mobile credits (disadvantages of prepaid) so we went around the town proper. It seemed like destiny that I would chance upon a Vjandep shop.  They were the most known bakers of pastel (Spanish word for cake) which was bread filled with custard or yema. The sweet tooth in me was celebrating. This bread was reminiscent of the time when I used to love dip sliced white bread into condensed milk.  I bought several boxes for me and as pasalubong for my sister. They had a box of 6 for PHP 70 and a box of 12 for PHP120.

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Pastel should be a sin!

I went back to the resort happy with my box of pastel. We ordered brewed coffee to pair with the pastel and enjoyed our dessert as we sat outside looking out to the shore and listening to the waves crashing. It was a hectic yet fun day and I felt that we were part of Amazing Race (I’m sure we can be good competitors if given the opportunity).

The next day, we woke up around  7:00 A.M refreshed and hyped to do a dive. We grabbed a heavy breakfast and checked our dive gears. It was the last for our day itinerary in Camiguin, a fun dive at White Island.

My favorite part of this breakfast meal was the homemade bread!
My favorite part of this breakfast meal was the homemade bread!

We finished diving around 11:00 P.M., we had enough time to shower, pack and check out. We then waited for a motorela to pass by the main road. We waited for a while before we managed to get one who charged us PHP 250 (we we desperate this time to not miss the boat so we just said yes in a heartbeat).

As we boarded the ferry, we wished we could’ve spent more time in Camiguin. We missed diving in Mantigue Island  and climbing Mt. Hibok-Hibok but as what one driver said to us, “This is why there is such a thing as second time”. 
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We will definitely be back.

Reaching Jagna Port
Reaching Jagna Port

From Jagna Port, you can get a direct van to Tagbilaran City for PHP 100. We arrived on time to make it to Ocean Jet’s last trip for Cebu.

Sunset over Tagbilaran Port
Sunset over Tagbilaran Port