The Philippines - one nook at a time. This blog showcases outdoor and travel photos from off-the-beaten-path locations. You'll see here photos of unspoiled beaches, mystical waterfalls, and majestic mountains.
While Atok is probably more known for its vegetable farms (and the cherry trees planted in park which are still several years away from becoming a legit cherry blossoms spectacle), a beautiful flower farm has put in the tourist map just this year. Read more »
It was quite a sight: rows of tall trees laden with yellow flowers, no leaves are visible. A thin blanket of yellow spreads around the ground beneath them. Looks like a normal spring scene, or could be mistaken for autumn as well, except that its in a place with only two seasons: dry and wet.
For over a decade I have been going back to the beautiful beaches of Dasol in Pangasinan's western coast. Tambobong, one of the barangays of Dasol, was a rustic fishing village when I first saw it. It has remained hidden for some time, thanks to the rough road and the absence of reliable public transportation to the village. Mention the province of Pangasinan and immediately people would associate it with Alaminos (and its "Hundred Islands"), or Bolinao. Read more »
A year or two ago photos of what looked like Acropolis ruins (the columns distinctly showed Greek ionic design) began hitting the social media. Greek ruins... in an island ... just off the coast of Nasugbu in Batangas ... surreal! Why haven't we heard of this place before? Read more »
Camotes had been on my sights for some time now and I was finally able to visit the islands recently. I am a big fan of "off the beaten path" destinations and Camotes fits the bill perfectly (I expected it to be as rustic and laid back as Siquijor, and indeed it was!)
Camotes is not a single island (view in Google map) but rather a group made up of 3 islands: Pacijan, Poro, and Ponson. Pacijan and Poro are interconnected by a land bridge running through a thick mangrove forest, with Ponson separated from the two by a 30 minute boat ride (Ponson is in fact much closer to Leyte than it is to Cebu).
This group of islands is large underrated compared to its tourist destination neighbors. It probably is a blessing as Camotes is able to hold on to its rustic charm. Cebu is a popular tourist hub with lots of destinations around and near it, and most folks usually make a bee-line to Oslob (for the whale shark), or to the Bohol (one big efficient tourism machine!), or straight to Bantayan island and Malapascua (famous for thresher sharks) in the north.
Santiago White Beach
The ferry from Danao (1 hour north of Cebu City) will take you to Consuelo Wharf on the western side of Pacijan. From there the main town of San Francisco is still 1 hour away, but the resorts are closer to the wharf than they are to the main town. There are "high-end" resorts (by Camotes' standard of course) along the main coastal highway from the wharf, but my friends and I settled on Santiago White Beach.
lowtide on Santiago beach
Its a public beach with almost 750 meters of fine white sand with a huge expanse of shallow area perfect for swimming. That's difficult to say no to.
view of the beach from Santiago Bay Garden Resort
While Santiago Beach has a prominent resort there (Santiago Bay Garden Resort), a small quaint place called the Dread House caught our eye.
Dread House crew (Paul is the one with the red shirt)
We ended up renting two rooms there (fan room at Php 500.00 per night). Paul runs the place with his family and on some nights plays reggae music with a small band right on the beach. His brothers have restaurants beside his place, one of which is called Pito's Sutokil and is a favorite among both the locals and the visitors (Pito also have both aircon and fan rooms).
Sunrise in Santiago
Our stay coincided with lowtide every sunrise, and Santiago beach is the kind of place where you actually look forward to waking up early. The feel of the soft sand on bare feet was addicting that I actually spent more time running and savouring the cool breeze than taking pictures.
banded sea krait
On one of the mornings we had a special visitor: an adult banded sea krait (locally called "walowalo") making its way back to the water. Poisonous (very!) as it is, the locals did not seem to mind. They said its not an unusual sight. "Respect nature, and it will respect you back", quipped Paul.
Float on a thin piece of wood
If you are looking for an alternative to sitting on the beach, cold beer on one hand, and doing absolutely nothing, Santiago's flat beach and shallow water is perfect for skim boarding. Some of the locals have perfected this lazy day routine consisting of: a few beers, skim board, beers, skim board, doze off, play a few songs on the guitar, repeat until you find something else interesting to do :)
I could honestly spend a few days in Santiago beach doing nothing but still enjoy it. But Santiago beach is just one corner of Camotes, and the islands have a few more hidden gems. I hope to share more of Camotes in the next few posts! In the meantime, here are key details that may help you plan a trip to the islands.
Travel tipsGetting there
Cebu City to Danao - Catch a bus heading north at Cebu City's North Bus terminal. Ask the bus conductor to drop you off at Danao port (which is just along the main highway). Distance is 30+km, travel time is about 1 hour, fare is Php 40.00
Danao wharf to Consuelo Wharf - Jomalia Shipping has ferries running the route. Usual departure schedules are (note however that these may change). Terminal fee is Php 5.00 and ferry fare is Php 180.00.
Consuelo Wharf to Santiago Beach - you can hire a motorcycle or "multi-cab" outside the port. Fare is usually Php 50.00 per person
There is a caveat however with the ferry fare. Fixers usually buy many tickets in advance and if you come very close to the departure time, you may end up buying the tickets from them for Php 300.00. Port authorities don't seem to care even if these illegal ticket buying/selling is in plain sight.
Around the island
Best way to go around Pacijan and Poro islands is by motorcycle. If you know how to drive one, you can rent a motorcycle for Php 500 / day exclusive of gasoline. There are may stores along the road that sell gasoline in 1 liter Coke bottles. Some resorts offer the same rental price with or without driver. During off peak season, you may be able to rent a motorcycle for just Php 300 a day.
Photos of Hulugan Falls in Luisiana, Laguna started flowing through social media a couple of years ago when a mountaineer posted shots of another "hidden gem" in Laguna (the province is blessed with countless waterfalls). Pretty soon a steady stream of weekend warriors make the slippery hike down to the falls.
If you happen to find yourself in the City of Golden Friendship in northern Mindanao, do check out this quaint garden with an overlooking view of Cagayan de Oro City. Its just about 6 km from the city center and easily accessible via jeepneys and taxis. Read more »
Although Camotes is made up three islands: Pacijan, Poro, and Ponson, much of the attractions in Camotes seemed to be concentrated in Pacijan. The beach resorts are found mostly on the western side of the island. The town of San Francisco (the only town in Pacijan Island) looked like the most progressive of the towns in Camotes as well. Related post: Finding tropical bliss in Santiago White Beach From our "base" in Santiago White Beach, my friends and I set out to explore Pacijan one fine day. A good way to go around the island is to rent a "multicab" or a van (this can be expensive) as public transportation is scarce and virtually non existent in some parts. A better way, if you know how to ride a motorcycle, is to rent one (Php 500 per day, exclusive of the gasoline).
We made a general plan on which attractions to visit, but the order of the day was simply to follow the back roads and get lost, hoping we'd stumble on a hidden gem or two. We skipped the obvious and well established resorts like Mangodlong Rock Resort, primarily due to the entrance fee (which we feel is ridiculous for a quick look inside their premises).
So here are some of the beautiful sights we saw:
Sitio Unyon Laguban
Stumbled upon this beautiful rocky coast just after Consuelo wharf. Its one of those "hey let's see where this road leads to" thing.
One of my friends wasted no time and whipped out his fishing rod. He made some "close" ones, caught no fish in the end. But that's not really the main point, he said.
Not yet officially listed in Camotes' tourism guide. At the time of our visit, they were finishing the stairs going down to the cave, putting up a sign and clearing an area for the parking lot. The locals used to get their water from this cave at the time when filtered bottled water is not yet available. With tourism starting to pick up, the owners hoped to exploit develop this into another attraction. We gave them some tips on how to manage garbage (we already saw some plastic wrappers inside the cave) before driving on. Entrance fee: they have not decided how much to charge visitors at the time of our visit.
Still on the western side of Pacijan, we finally made our way to Bakhaw Beach. Its a favorite beach hangout for the locals and its not very hard to see why: entrance is free, sand is white and fine, and the water is amazingly clear.
We headed further north along the western coast and passed by Esperanza, a quaint fishing village, on the way to Tulang. Stopped for a few photos and moved on. The main destination is the village of Tulang and the beautiful island just off the coast.
We descended a steep hill as we approach Tulang, and the first I noticed was the crystal clear waters and glistening white sand beach of Tulang Diot ("small Tulang").
Tulang is a fishing village at the northern tip of Pacijan. The locals' main livelihood is harvesting the bounty from the sea and fresh catch is delivered to the town of San Francisco daily. Its micro economy is thriving during the good weather months, but sometimes they have to completely stop fishing during the typhoon season.
Tulang Diot is just a 10-minute crossing. If boat fare is Php 20.00 one way for regular passengers. You can rent the whole boat for Php 300-500 pesos (depending on your haggling skills) if you want to go around the island (its a very small one!) and explore its snorkeling area.
The beach facing Tulang is nice, but the water goes deep just a few meters from shore.
My friend who brought his fishing rod tried his luck on the other side of the island with fresh bait he got in Tulang. He came back still empty handed, but he said the fishes are much fatter now for they ate all his fresh bait.
After Tulang, we headed to Lake Danao to cool down a bit (Entrance fee: Php 20.00). Its tree covered hiking trail that traces the shore offers a refreshing walk. There is a restaurant there and several food stalls selling local delicacies. We picked a table under the shade of a huge mangrove, ordered some fruit shakes and enjoyed the scenery.
Sunset in Consuelo
After checking out several sites along the coast, we decided to head back to Consuelo wharf for the sunset. The tide was low and there were lots of interesting stuff to shoot. It was a perfect way to end our Pacijan island tour.
You might want to check out this short video as well:
Camotes - Touring Pacijan island in a day - YouTube
What we missed There were a couple of attractions we missed:
Timubo Cave - this is actually very near Tulang. However at that time, the attraction is closed. There were some conflict between the owner of the property where the cave is on and the adjacent property where the road going to the cave passes (road right of way issue).
Crystal Cave - we passed by the cave on our way to Nonok beach to scout a location for shooting sunset. This is a true crystal cave with beautiful formations and several levels to explore. Unfortunately we did not have time to take photos. (Entrance fee is free, but you can donate for the upkeep of the cave)
Paraiso Cave - Relatively new attraction and we saw several direction signs as we criss-crossed the inner roads. We thought we would eventually pass by it, but we never did :)
I have not been posting for a while now, but I think I'm back. I still have a ton of backlog but I'd like to start with a magical morning that happened fairly recently.
I'm part of small band of photography hobbyists with a keen interest on shooting sunsets and sunrises along Sarangani Bay (southern Mindanao). We are the ones who are on the road at ungodly hours, hoping for great light by the pineapple fields or in one of our spots along the coast.
Perched on the rolling hills of Pililla in Rizal, these 27 beautiful icons of renewable energy is becoming to be a bonafide tourist attraction that's easily accessible from Metro Manila (a mere 2-3 hours away!). In fact its really just a short drive, and if not for the horrendous traffic passing through Antipolo and Tanay, you can be there in less than 2 hours.
Related post: Sunset in Pililla wind farm The first time I shot the wind farm was from a distance from the turbines; at that time they were laying down the transmission cables. Each of turbine can generate up to 2 megawatts of electricity, thus the farm can generate up to 54 megawatts!
There's now a tourist center located in the first cluster. It offers a panoramic view of Lake Laguna and its beautiful sunset. Pretty soon I expect a coffee shop or some souvenir shop here.
Right now access is not regulated nor is there an "entrance fee". The guards would remind you to stay at less 10 meters from any of the turbines. If you go beyond the tourism center, you'll be treated to an amazing view of Pililla's green undulating hills.
The place is already starting to generate some buzz. While its still difficult to commute going there (a tricycle ride from the town of Tanay will set you back Php 300.00 one way), this destination is totally doable as a half day trip from Metro Manila.
Why this particular place for the wind farm? Pililla's unique topography and location makes it a natural wind corridor (with wind speeds up to 36kph as one of the info boards indicated). Its close proximity to Metro Manila (the power hungry metropolis) sealed the deal. This wind farm is the first one outside of Ilocos, and I hope with the endless coastline we have there will be more wind farms. Its not a question of whether we have wind to harness, it boils down to the feasibility of putting up the wind farm.
Sunset by the wind farm
If you can, try to catch the sunset from the second clusters of wind turbines. The second cluster is just 5 minutes drive from the first one along the main highway. If your car is capable of handling steep hills, you can venture to the second cluster without going out the main highway.
Roving guards would most likely ask you to leave, especially if you are far into the hills, when dusk comes. But with luck you may be able to manage to get enough time to catch a few snaps of that orange ball descending into the horizon.