We woke up early that Saturday in Cebu City and took a taxi to the North Terminal where we would ride the bus that would take us to Hagnaya Port. Even at 5 in the morning, expect the bus terminal to be bustling with barkers. They will badger you, ask you about your destination, point you--even push you--to their buses. It was wise that we already knew to get on the Ceres bus to get to the port.
The bus ride was grueling. Ceres buses were ordinary city buses. No airconditioning. But that's worth it, I think. The bus ride was scenic enough. From Cebu City, we drove along the coast, climbed up some mountainous areas, got on provincial backroads, and saw rural Cebu. After about three hours, we finally arrived at Hagnaya Port in Northern Cebu.
The port easily fills up with people so better buy a ticket and grab a bench for yourself and/or for your bags. We took the Island Express and bought "first-class" tickets. First-class for Island Express means staying at the air-conditioned passenger space with an in-"ship" movie. The best part about it is that only a few get first-class tickets. So there'll be a lot of empty seats. I comfortably slept in one for the better part of the ship ride.
We arrived at Bantayan Island after about one hour and a half. The turquoise waters greeted us as we got off the ship. It was unbelievable how brilliant the color of the water was. And we were at the island's port area! I guess the port was in Santa Fe town, the town where we will be staying in while in the island.
Be prepared to be "harrassed" by local padyak and motorcycle taxi drivers. They will get on your face, block your way and basically push you towards their rides. We settled on a motorcycle taxi (more like a Thai tuk-tuk) to take us to our home for that weekend--Kota Beach.
We checked in, dropped our bags and immediately went out to have lunch. We went to a place recommended by a co-worker of one of my travel companions. The place is called Balikbayan Restaurant, located along Balikbayan Street, the same street where the two chuches in that commercial area in Santa Fe can be found. Food is good enough, especially if you consider their relatively high prices. Make sure to try their fresh-fruits halo-halo, one of the best things to have on the island.
It was quite a walk from Kota Beach to Balikbayan and back. The sun was scorching and I did not like walking. I changed my mind when I saw some of the houses in that area. Having been born and raised in some of the more residential parts of Manila, I do not get to see these kinds of houses. I know that they once existed in Manila, but sadly only a few are left. They're mostly found in downtown old Manila, too.
I found some beautifully preserved old wooden houses and one derelict broken-down house with an empty children's playground outside. They were quite beautiful and eerie at the same time. I liked them a lot.
For other Bantayan-island entries, please see:
Bantayan: The Spanish-Era Town Plaza
Bantayan: Blooms in May
Bantayan: The Historical Kota Park
Bantayan: Brilliant Blue Beach
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