Roxas City: In Search For The Seafood Trail

I could have booked a direct flight from Cebu to Boracay considering that my then 4- month old baby girl is with us to celebrate our first family Christmas in Boracay. Yet, the adventurous, thrill- seeker, first time mom decided to take a boat to Iloilo and make an overnight stopover in the country’s seafood capital, Roxas City. Who would not want to miss this?

Having been acclaimed as one of the greenest and cleanest cities in the country, Roxas City is a medium- sized city. The vast marine life makes it one of Panay island’s center for trade, education and economic activity.

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When in Bantayan

Thrice have I visited this island but I still feel that excitement whenever I think of the white sandy beaches of Bantayan. But not until my third visit did I realize that during my last 2 visits, I only limit myself to its white sand beaches. Hence, when the third opportunity to visit the island came, I made sure that we can do some tour of this small paradise. It was never a bore!

Below are things that you should be doing when you are in Bantayan. Do not limit yourself to the beach. Get up and explore this little paradise that is Bantayan.

1. Beach Bumming

Did I say do not limit yourself to the beach? haha. First things first, the best way to enjoy the island is to lay yourself down on its sugary white sand. The crystal blue water coupled with the long stretch of white sand beaches would sure make you want to bask under the sun for long periods you would soon be asking, How did I get so tan?

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Take a day or two to enjoy the beach.

2. Stay at Sugar Beach.

If you are on abudget. This resort is your go to place. Affordability plus quality makes it famous among locals and tourists.

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3. Take a dip in Ogtong Cave.

Located in Ogtong Cave Beach Resort, this small underwater cave is a favorite spot for those who want a dip in freshwater. The cave is a bit small that it easily gets packed.

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4. Visit the St. Peter and Paul Church.

Located in the Poblacion, near the market, this centuries- old church was built by Augustinian friars during the 1500’s. It has withstood the test of time including the recent massive earthquake and super typhoon that struck most of Cebu.

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5. Celebrate their fiesta.

Bantayan is not only famous for its white sand beaches but also for its unique fiesta. Surprisingly, they celebrate it during the Holy Week (a week long celebration of the Catholic Church commemorating Christ’s passion and resurrection) . Catholics celebrate the Holy Week in silence, sacrifice and taking part in Church activities but Bantayanons celebrate it through a fiesta- a lively feast of food, bands, parties and alike. That is why, aside from locals, many tourists flock the island during the Holy Week.

6. Indulge in a wide array of seafood fresh from their market.

Bantayan, being a fishing community is a pot luck of cheap, sumptuous sea food. Try going to their market, look for some fresh sea food and have the resort personnel cook it for you.

This is just a tease:)

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7. Rent a motorcycle.

The best way to explore the island   is to rent a motorcycle and be awed by the scenery. The rent costs 300/ day exclusive of gas.

8. Visit the nearby town of Madriedejos.

The town of Madriedejos is a quiet fishing community. As you enter the town,you will be awed by the series of trees lined along the road. And brace yourself for a rocky road ahead! Visit their boulevard and the Kota Ruins located in Kota Park.

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9. Enjoy Bantayan with friends.

The best thing to do in every place you visit is to enjoy it with friends and loved ones- nothing can top that!haha

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Butuan City: A Look At The Distant Past

What would you do if you have less than 24 hours to explore the city of Butuan?

A lot actually! I didn’t expect our short interlude with the place to be such an adventure.

From Surigao City, we took a bus going to Butuan City. Travel time is roughly 3 hours and fare is about 200- 300 php. The scene going to Butuan was simply panoramic!

Located at the northeast part of the Agusan Valley, our trip going to Butuan was composed of scenes of vast rice fields and marshlands surrounded by high and enormous mountain ranges. I was awed by how the forests were very much preserved and all you can inhale is fresh air! Then we get to see the much publicized Agusan River which gets to overflow every now and then during rainy season. It was raining on our way to Butuan City hence I was able to appreciate how these marshlands get flooded with rainwater.

As marshes get to disappear, I knew we were nearing the city. Frankly I didn’t expect Butuan to be big but I was mistaken. The city was already buzzing when we got there. With little research, we tried to plan which places should we go to.

Our first stop was the Regional Museum of Butuan. We were amazed by how organized and clean their museum was. And how rich their history is. Butuan’s rich culture dates back to 300 AD. The Archeological Hall houses specimens of pottery, wood and metal craft, burial coffins and prehistoric diggings in Butuan.

And the highlight of our visit, which was very unexpected, was seeing the remains of the famed saltwater crocodile, Lolong being preserved on a freezer.

This is just his head!

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Lolong, named after one of its hunters who died days before it was captured, was publicized to be the culprit of the disappearance of a farmer and a little girl in the town of Bunawan. He was held captive after weeks of hunt.

At 20.25 feet long, Lolong was named by the Guinness Book of World Record as the world’s biggest crocodile in captivity not until it died 2 years after being held captive.

Next on our list was the Balanghai Shrine National Museum. Located 5 kilometers away from the city, this shrine houses the Balaghai Boats also called as the Butuan Boats. which was considered as national cultural treasure.

IMG_7153Balanghai or balangai is a plank boat which was known to exist at around 300 AD is known to be the oldest watercraft found in the Philippines. In Brgy. Libertad, the site of the shrine, 9 balangais were found- 3 have been excavated and placed in the museum, 1 was destroyed and 5 are still in situ due to prohibitive costs.

The Balangai.

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If you are a history freak, you can still remember how these balangais were used to transport early migrants to come to the Philippines to sell, trade and even settle.

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In Situ Balangais

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Burial Coffins.

IMG_7158Photos during the excavation.

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Though we only had a few hours to explore the ancient city of Butuan, it was still very fulfilling. Having stumbled upon the balanghays somehow got me more connected to our very distant past. The boats somehow made us who we are, a melting pot of different cultures.

FYI; Transport around Butuan is relatively easy. It would be easy to ask around and get lost 🙂