Cordova: Charming & Captivating (Cebu, PH)

The province of Cebu has a seemingly endless list of delightful attractions, both natural and man-made. Almost every town or city has something to offer to anyone who is visiting the island. One particular place that shouldn’t be neglected is the small, coastal municipality of Cordova. This town is located in the island of Mactan, the home of Cebu’s international airport, making it a very accessible place to reach.

So which places or what activities can one do when in Cordova, Cebu?

GO ISLAND-HOPPING.

Being a sea-side town, Cordova boasts off small islands with picture-perfect views and teeming marine life. When I visited Cebu in 2009, I got the chance to do island-hopping and was able to visit Hilutungan Island, a marine sanctuary that is one of the seven satellite islets that forms the Olango group of islands off the coast of Mactan; and the smaller Sulpa Island, a great place for beginners to dive and snorkel. These islands are low-lying coral islands with rich marine life and white sandy beaches.

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Hilutungan in particular, has a sand bar and a resort that is ideal for a weekend or overnight staycation. Although they are considered as protected areas, the local government allows snorkelers, divers and beach-lovers to experience the beauty of these islands. Besides Hilutungan, the nearby islands of Caohagan Island, Cabulan Island, Nalusuan Island, Olango Island, and Talima are also marine sanctuaries open to visitors despite some of them being private.

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There are sea patrollers (civilian volunteers) around the area who watches Philippine coastal waters from the shore. They are said to have trainings on conservation, protection, management and development of fisheries and aquatic resources; they also restrain destructive fishing practices and illegal fishing in the area.

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How to Reach the Olango Group of Islands:

From Manila, take a plane bound for Cebu. Upon arrival at Mactan International Airport, take a cab to either of the following options: You can rent an outrigger at the Hilton Pier in Mactan, or take the regular ferry at Angasil pier to Olango Island. From Sta. Rosa pier in Olongo, there are outrigger boats that ferry passengers to and from Hilutungan. There are also organized transfers when you’re booked at dive resorts. From there, one can go and see other nearby islands like Olango and Sulfa Islands. Another option is to go to Maribago area where one can take a traditional outrigger boat (called ‘pumpboat’ or bangka) that takes around 35 to 45 minutes to get there.

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After an entire day of island-hopping, make your way to the tip Lantaw Restaurant and 10,000 Roses Cafe where you can: (1) wait for the sunset, (2) have a sumptuous seafood dinner at Lantaw; and (3) marvel at the led roses at 10, 000 Roses cafe once darkness sets in.

10000 Roses Café & More has recently become a tourist attraction at this side of Cebu. The artificial, LED-powered roses are a sight to behold at nighttime or even during sundown. The café starts operation as early as 10:30AM and closes at 10:00 PM. You’d probably have the place to yourself early during daytime but you can’t deny the fact that it becomes more magical as the day comes to an end. By the way, an entrance fee of P20 per person is collected.

So there you go, a Cordova, Cebu experience that is filled with captivating moments from broad daylight til nighttime.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy.

Apo Reef (Occidental Mindoro, PH)

When you set out on your journey, pray that the road is long, full of adventure, full of knowledge.” — Constantine P. Cavafy

I was excited when the month of March came. It was my birth month and I have planned a number of getaways. Days and weeks passed by only to realize not a single plan I’ve made was put into fruition. I’ve been way too busy with work and other commitments. And that made me feel terrible.

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To make up for that one month absence from traveling, I made sure that April would be a different story. So, when an opportunity to FINALLY experience the world’s second-largest contiguous coral reef system (and the largest in the Philippines) came about, I immediately grabbed it without batting an eyelash.

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The APO REEF NATURAL PARK is one of those protected areas in our country. Moreover, it is one of the most popular dive sites in the Philippines. Apo Reef is described to be a triangular coral atoll formation that is separated by two lagoon systems. While its primary physical feature is submerged, there are three uninhabited islands/ islets visible on the surface. Apo Island is where visitors/ tourists stay during an Apo Reef visit. The island features a lighthouse, a white powdery to coraline sand beach and a mangrove forest.

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A modern 110-foot tall, white painted lighthouse with solar-powered lights is what will greet you upon approaching the island. Then, the boat docks at the pristine shores of the island with crystal clear waters and ivory sand ideal for an all-day swim and basking under the sun. The island’s best kept secret are its mangrove forest and lagoon. They are best viewed when you trudge your way to the lighthouse but are best experienced if you go for a short walk along an improvised walkway bordered by mangroves. A short bamboo raft cruise along the lagoon per se will make the serene experience more memorable.

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Of course the best things the place offers are seen under the sea. Take your snorkeling gear or SCUBA tank or maybe just your goggles and dive into the waters of Apo Reef. You will be stunned with the many colorful and diverse marine species you get to see. Swim with a shark, a sting ray, a turtle and more. The marine life is teeming with beautifully intricate corals. (Just don’t touch them, okay?) Too bad, I am not that good of a swimmer hence my tolerance to stay under water can be very, very short.

And oh, did I say that the island also offers a stunning – spectacular – amazing view of both the sunrise and the sunset?

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Aside from the main Apo Island, there is also Apo Menor or Binagaan Islet which is chiefly composed of rocks. This limestone island has little vegetation. Cayos del Bajo or Tinangkapan Islet is also made up of coralline rock formations without any vegetation. On the way to Apo Island, one can drop by Parolang Putol Shoal. Some people consider it a sandbar but to me, it looks more like a shoal as it is just a mound of corals seemingly floating atop the emerald water. The shoal seems to be a favorite spot for a flock of birds as there were a number of them when we were approaching the area. The surrounding area also boasts off some stunning marine view.

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Unlike any other beaches and marine ecosystems in the Philippines, Apo Reef hasn’t been frequented much by travelers maybe because of the long travel time to reach the place.  And that is what I like about my Apo Reef experience. I went on this 3 days, 2 night breakaway with a large group of travel and nature enthusiasts like me. Nonetheless, it still felt like I owned the place by myself. I was able to lie down on the shore, allow my feet to feel the cool, clear seawater, wait for the sun to rise and set, and marvel at the ostensibly infinite merging of the sea and sky.

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It has been a while the last time I went for a trip with a bunch of people. I am more than glad to have shared this trip with the people of WeVoluntour (check out their FB page for the group’s future travel events) spearheaded by the always jolly and gracious Sir Ralph (whom I met 4 years ago). Thank you for allowing me to tag a long even if it was a spur-f-the-moment decision to come. If not for this experience, I would have not met more awesome people who share the same passion as I do – that is to travel and live life with or without hugot.

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Special shout out to the group of HSBC peeps who adopted me to be a part of their super happy group… For allowing me to eat with you, laugh with you, camwhore with you, jam with you, sleep in your tent/hammock, pull some hugot lines and be cheesy and free! Thank you Bien, Quennie, Vlad and Kia. Thank you Ate Jhopay and Mam Beth. Thank you for this wonderful experience!!! Looking forward to sharing with you more awesome (and responsible) adventures.

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How to Reach Apo Reef:

Apo Reef Natural Park is located two hours (or so, depending on the sea condition) away from mainland Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. To reach Occidental Mindoro, from Manila, ride a Batangas bound bus that goes to the Batangas port. There are RORO vessel that travel from Batangas City to the town of Abra de Ilog in Occidental Mindoro. Travel time is usually 2.5 to 3 hours. Outside the port, there are vans and buses going to Sablayan. Travel time is around two hours. However, if you want a faster means, book a flight to San Jose (still in Occidental Mindoro). Once in San Jose, ride a van or bus going to Sablayan.
Upon reaching Sablayan, visitors are required to register at the town’s Municipal Tourism Office. You may look for Ms. Sylvia Saldago, the town’s local tourism officer. Arrange a boat ride wherein each chartered boat trip costs around P9,000 to P15,000 depending on the number of passengers and the purpose of your visit (snorkeling or diving).
Take note of the following fees: Environmental Fee (P300/head) and tour guides (P1, 000) for a group of 5 when visiting Apo Reef.

 

***Thanks to Quennie, Sir Bien, Vlad, Sir Ralph for I used some of your photos for this write-up. 😉

So there…

And as I always say, don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…