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In my previous post, I talked about how I forgot about the time when I snorkelled at Apo Island. How true it was; we almost forgot our lunch, good thing our hungry tummies never fail to remind us to eat.

Lunchtime

Hungry Pack

Hungry Pack

Grilled Fish and Rice

Grilled Fish and Rice

For our late lunch, we bought a freshly caught big fish from a local vendor and asked them to grill it for us. They also cooked us rice and bought us softdrinks and “sawsawan” (Filipino liquid seasoning), all for a very affordable price of course. We had a hearty lunch under the scorching heat of the summer sun. I highly recommend you buy freshly-caught fish from locals and let them grill it for you.  It’s a refreshing experience, especially if you’re used to having fast food in the city. After that sumptuous feast, we were all geared up for our second dip.

Clown Fish City

Clown Fish City, Apo Island Photo from Tommy Schultz

Everyone knows about the fish with bright orange and white stripes.  Thanks to the movie “Finding Nemo”, we already knew that clown fish exist and that they live in sea anemones. And when we talk about sea anemones, the island has a lot of them. I read before that Apo Island is said to be “Clown Fish City”, and indeed, it is! It was then that I knew, mature fish tend to change into a darker orange hue as they age. Clown fish go on swimming and playing happily in and out of the anemones, just like what I saw in the Disney movie. They went on with their daily lives not minding the five humans swimming overhead.

Marine Sanctuary

Marine Sanctuary

The tide was beginning to get low so our guide had to stop our snorkelling escapade after an hour of snorkelling. We returned all the gears we borrowed and headed to the port where our pumpboat was religiously waiting for us.

Sea Turtles

Going to see the Turtles

Going to see the Turtles

But before reaching the boat, our guide led us to a place where we could see big “pawikans” (sea turtles) up close. The place where we snorkelled was not as attractive as the Marine Sanctuary but we were amazed to see big (as in, really big) sea turtles swimming lazily and eating sea grass every now and then.  Locals said that big sea turtles are a common site, one can always see their round heads bob up and down the water, that is if, you know where to look. We swam near the “pawikan” that our guide was pointing at yet we didn’t get to go really close because sea turtles are really shy. They tend to swim away when they see someone going near them. So after half an hour or so, we decide that it was about time to travel back to the city.

Going Home

Going Home

Going Home

The trip back was a nasty one.  It was twice as rough as our morning trip and the waves were really not friendly because of the grumpy weather. The sky was really gloomy and raindrops were pouring every now and then. There was a time when our boat man had to kill the boat’s engine so that we could dance to the rhythm of the sea and avoid being capsized. The captain mentioned that the waves we encountered were just mild compared to the waves during the stormy season. I just closed my eyes and said a prayer for a safe trip and before I knew it we were already nearing the port.

I highly recommend Apo Island to all the people who wanted to experience marine life at its best. I’m not a diving/snorkelling expert but I have to say that the island’s marine life is absolutely breathtaking; absolutely worth your while, despite the rough sea trip.

Please drop by again next week for another snorkelling adventure with me, Wynna. :)

After a night of partying, my college friends and I had a whirlwind of a plan: we decided to go to Apo Island the very next day. We went home at a quarter past 12:00 and needed to get up really early to go to the island. If that’s not a crazy plan, I don’t know what is.

I was the one to set the alarm, and get up early. I knocked on their doors to wake them up one by one. Good thing we live in the same apartment. After knocking around for an hour, while everyone was still in a groggy mode, I started packing my swim wear, snorkeling gear, sunblock and wallet.

The Bumpy Ride to Apo Island

Jeepney Ride to Malatapay

Jeepney Ride to Malatapay

If you’re from Dumaguete City, you need to take a bus or a jeep going to Malatapay Market. It’s around 30 minutes from the city; you just have to tell the driver or conductor that you want to be dropped off at Malatapay. If you’re don’t want to go to Apo Island, you can still visit the market during Wednesdays because they sell all kinds of delicious Filipino food especially the world famous roasted pig called “lechon”.

From the bus drop-off point, you have to walk around 5-8 minutes before reaching the market and the mini seaport where all the pumpboats are docked. After signing the waiver and paying PHP 3,500 (USD 87.5) for the roundtrip ride, eight sleepyheads went aboard the big pumpboat. Expected duration of travel is 45-60 minutes.

Big waves made our white vessel bob up and down the deep blue sea; I didn’t know the ride would be this bumpy. If I had known, I wouldn’t have volunteered  for the trip. After  50-minutes of excruciating sea travel, the now wide-awake gang became giddy with excitement. I made arrangements with the pumpboat captain to wait for us ‘til 3 in the afternoon.

Docked at Apo Island Port

Docked at Apo Island Port

Fees before Snorkeling

On the way to the Marine Sanctuary

On the way to the Marine Sanctuary

You need to pay an environmental fee before you go swimming, and since we were locals and students at that time, we paid PHP 10 (or was it 15, I can’t really remember) each. A local guide, who also served as our snorkelling guide, led the way to Apo Island’s Marine Sanctuary. We paid PHP 100 (USD 2.5) for each of our bright orange life-vest, and PHP 150 (USD 3.75) for our guide, we chose to have him because not all of us are swimmers and the strong currents might take us away without someone to lead us.

Water Paradise

Getting ready to Snorkel

Getting ready to Snorkel

We  got into groups of five so it would be easier for our guide to keep count of his disciples. I was one of the first to go snorkelling. In all honesty, I was really troubled because a lot of people had already mentioned that Apo Island is said to be shark-infested due to its teeming marine life; and being the selacophobic that I am, my anxiety level was quite high. My beloved friends already knew about my unique condition so they made sure I was always in the middle; even our humble guide made sure that I was always near him so that he could easily guard me, if ever something unexpected came our way. And to be honest, I was really touched with all the effort in making me feel comfortable as much as possible.

But when I first dipped my head in the deep waters, all my anxiety evaporated into dust; I was dumbfounded, I even forgot about my worries about seeing a shark, all because of the beauty I saw underwater. I’m not really knowledgeable about the names of marine fauna and flora, but with the little knowledge that I have, it’s already enough to say that Apo Island is indeed a water paradise!

Colorful corals tower up to give shelter to variety of fishes. There seems to be a busy metropolis of sea creatures down there. It’s just too bad I didn’t save for an underwater camera to bring on this trip. My SD card would have been fully loaded with pictures of eels, star fish, big stone fish, and colourful familiar fish with names I can’t even remember. There’s always a lot to see and I could spend hours just swimming and observing the marine animals doing their daily routine. It already felt like eternity but when I did a time check it was only 12 noon.

So much to write but not enough space so I guess I have to cut this post into half. TO BE CONTINUED :)

641 kilometers (398 miles) south of Metro Manila in the Philippines lies, what’s been dubbed as,The City of Gentle People – Dumaguete (doo-mah-get-eh), the capital of the province of Negros Oriental. A captivating hodgepodge of sun, sand, sea, food and endless supply of good vibes. Legend says Dumaguete was coined from the Visayan word “daggit,” meaning “to snatch” owing to alleged frequent pillaging attacks of pirates and snatching of its beautiful women. But Dumaguete preys on its visitors and snatches our will to move on as she imposes her natural beauty, gastronomical excesses and laid back, sleepy way of life! It’s the Lair of the Lotus Eaters that devours all our stress and negative vibes replacing these with laughter and affirmation that life truly is beautiful.

Our journey started off to be quite a stressful one. I was running around like a headless chicken the day before, attending meetings and doing some last minute errands and shopping. Our flight was at 7:00 AM the following day and I just completed all our packing by 1:00 AM. We grabbed a couple of hours’ of Z’s and headed to the airport at 4:30 AM. In our haste, my partner accidentally left his iPhone in the cab. Further, the ATM was offline and we only had enough cash to pay for the airport fees and we knew our luggage was over the weight allocation…luckily they accept credit cards. My partner was also dreading the one hour flight since he can’t sit for long due to his slip disc.

But arriving in Dumaguete changed everything! The sun shone brightly and we were greeted by our gracious host for the trip – Rene Juntereal – with his infectious smile, a booming reassuring voice, warm hugs (which never run out), and an equally warm and friendly entourage.

Bell Tower

Bell Tower

We stayed at Obdulia’s Business Inn, right next to Saint Catherine Cathedral at the heart of the city. It’s not an uber posh accommodation, but its clean, conveniently located, and had friendly staff to assist at any time. We were given our room assignments, unpacked, checked our itinerary for the day, found an ATM and set-off to experience our first Dumaguete delight at the market – Budbud Kabog (a local delicacy made of millets instead of the usual glutinous rice) served with local hot cocoa and sticky rice.

Market

Budbud Kabog

Fabulous Rice

After our brief walkabout we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our 2 dives for the day in Dauin, about 12 kilometers from the city center. Dauin is a quiet, rustic, and low-profile destination easily accessed using the local transportation (jeepneys or tricycles) and regarded as the diving capital of Dumaguete because of its rich marine life. The abundance underwater is masked by the simplicity of the bamboo cottages, shanties and a small number of resorts along its coast.

Finding Nemo

Lion Fish

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Dinner that night was at Dumaguete Royal Suite Inn, and this was our first taste of the gastronomical feast in store for us for 3 more days! Dumaguete Royal Suite Inn is the home of the famous Dumaguete sizzling bulalo or whole beef shank, complete with a morsel of bone marrow waiting to be scooped out of the bone for those brave enough to challenge their mortality or who brought extra anti-hypertension medication. This dish is to die for and could literally be lethal for marrow-guzzling-gluts! Taken in moderation, if you can stand the temptation to order extra plates of rice and munch on the fatty joints, this dish is scrumptious with a fabulous explosion of flavors making you wish you had extra bellies to stuff.

Sizzling Bulalo

I was challenged to do a Man versus Food episode on desserts featuring a slice of leche flan (caramel flan) and a slice of tiramisu cheesecake…and I never back down on a food challenge, especially dessert! I prevailed.

Caramel Flan

Tiramisu Cheesecake

The next day started early with 3 dives scheduled around Apo Island. Fantastic dive sites with beautiful creatures like turtles, rays, groupers, bump heads, unicorn fish, barracudas, and beautifull coral formations. Unfortunately some of the sites were damaged by the recent storms but there was still plenty to see.

Sea Turtle

Giant Clam

Barrel Sponge

Lunch on the boat was another Dumaguete feast with an assortment of grilled sea food, pork, chicken and fresh fruits. I missed out on thoroughly enjoying this after feeling sick from the dive because of the strong surge at the shallow levels as I was exiting the dive.

Dinner that night was a segue to a party at Hayahay – a restaurant along the coast of Dumaguete City. We got a long table at the tree house, ate to our bellies’ bursting capacity and drank jack Daniels, beers, margarita, pina colada, and mango sling to insanity.

Celebrity Smiles

The dive the following day started late as everyone was nursing a hangover from the previous night but the sea hugged us in its cool comfort and showed more of its treasures. I got a fabulous shot of a sea horse – not bad for a newbie underwater photographer – and that made my hangover float alongside the bubbles I expelled. Lunch this time was more classy with pate, bread, salad, ham and chicken.

Lion and my Piggie

Divers in Action

Taking off!

Dinner that night was at the Blue Monkey. They served traditional Filipino dishes. After dinner we went for drinks at the Honeycomb on the Boulevard.

The last day was more relaxed. No more dives, just chilling. We all had brunch at Casablanca, again on the Boulevard, where I had tuna ceviche with oven baked potatoes – a weird combination that turned out to be quite exquisite.

Baked Potato with Ceviche

Make mine rare!

Parfait

On our way back, everyone recalled how they were smitten by Dumaguete. Plans of going back are underway including the possibility of staying longer, even putting up businesses and settling down. You’ve done it again Dumaguete…we’re hooked!

Have you ever felt this feeling of adventure lust just after you have woken from a deep slumber? Well I have – a dozen and one times already.

I immediately called up my friends to check who would be available on that one lazy Sunday morning. Fortunately, two of my college friends had the same sentiment as me. But the big question to pop is – where are we headed?

After putting on my favorite swim wear I packed a few stuff that I think would be very necessary on our little road travel. When we met, we brainstormed a little and decided to go to Bahura Resort and Spa – a cool resort south of Dumaguete City. It offers a simple day tour package with free lunch, plus the beach and their pool would be very refreshing on this unusually hot and humid day.

Jeepney Ride

Jeepney Ride

But when we stopped by the gates of the resort, the place seemed to be packed with formal-wearing visitors. With the looks of it, there’s an ongoing wedding reception inside. We could have simply walked in, but it would certainly defeat our purpose of getting a good chill time.

So what we did is to simply find a new destination that is far from most of the Sunday people. And that’s when one my friend mentioned something about a hot spring somewhere south of where we were. And since, we can’t think of any other place to go, we unanimously agreed to go there.

None of us had been to the place; even our directions were just from others’ word of mouth. We haven’t seen any pictures or proof yet that the place even exist. This is what adventures should be like chasing tails on a blind path. It makes you anxious and at the same time thrilled.

Luckily, the third random person we asked had a clearer direction for us to follow. He made us ride a jeep and said something about stopping at an unknown barrio at the end of the town. And of course, we heeded his directions and before we could even think of going back, we were already on the barrio that he mentioned. We asked around and thankfully the people there are friendly and they had much knowledge about the vague destination that we had.

Baslay Twin Hot Spring

Baslay Twin Hot Spring

The name of our destination is Baslay Twin Hot Spring. So it is not just one hot spring but a twin hot spring at that, how lucky can we be? But we still need to ride a motorcycle to go up a hill or two to be able to reach those springs. And so we rode one.

Motorcycle Ride

Motorcycle Ride

The motorcycle ride was bumpy which made us jump on our seats a few more times than we could count. And before I could complain about my hurting behind, we had already reached our so-called destination.

It was worth the effort, because the place was almost like heaven, literally, because of the fog and the gas the stones emit. We paid no entrance fee only some donations for the betterment of the place. After getting some more directions from the caretaker, we set foot up and down the winding walkway to the twin hot springs.

just like heaven

just like heaven

A good 15-minute walk was all it took before we dipped our tired but happy bodies in the warm waters of the spring. The heat of the spring and the privacy of the place was so relaxing it made me sleepy. I took in the luscious green scenery of the place before closing my eyes for a forty-wink sleep.

I wish I still could close my eyes some more but my friends had summoned me to walk around and discover more of the place. We haven’t found the exact source of the spring but what we found was much better – a simple rectangular pool with the same warm water from the hot springs. We dipped happily and before we knew it, it was already time for us to leave.

Happy and contented, we left the forest and the spring with only our footprints; as pay back, it gave us blissful memories and captured pictures as souvenirs.