Banaue, terraces of the Ifugaos


Banaue is in the Province of Ifugao, and the locals will always correct you when you mistakenly call them Igorots. The Igorots are from the Mountain Province. They call themselves Ifugaos.

The Banaue Rice Terraces  made it to  the Unesco World Heritage List in 1995. I remember that in grade school, we were told by our teachers that when placed end to end, the terraces could circle half of the globe.

Banaue on P1,000 Philippine peso bill

Locals derive income from farming, and from the tourism industry. Lately, the Department of Agriculture has taught some of the farmers to raise fish, instead of growing rice, on the terraces. We might soon have the Banaue Fish Terraces, and officially make it the 8th Wonder of the World.

How to get to Banaue

Banaue is 348 kms north of Manila. Travel to Banaue starts at the North Luzon Expressway. To skip the traffic in the Bulacan towns, take the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and take the farthest exit in Tarlac where you then turn to the direction of Nueva Ecija. You will pass the town of Zaragosa, and eventually hit Cabanatuan where you go north to Nueva Vizcaya, passing thru the mountainous but picturesque Dalton Pass in Sta Fe. There are restaurants on this mountain road, and you may want to try the local delicacy “tapa ng baboy ramo”. From Sta Fe, the next towns are Aritao, Bombong, Bayombong and Solano. Next is Bagabag from where you turn to Lamut, leading to Lagawe, the capital of the province of Ifugao. You will shortly be in Banaue on a trip that is approximately 8-9 hours.

Banaue Hotel

On a trip with my visiting brothers and only sister and their families, we proceeded immediately, tired from a long journey, to the Banaue Hotel and Youth Hostel, and got ourselves 3 rooms. The hotel is the best in town, and is operated by the Department of Tourism.

The restaurant has picture windows with a view of the edges of the terraces. A first-time visitor might even think that this view is THE view.. Far from it.

There is a bar adjoining the restaurant.

A souvenir shop can be found at the lobby, and at the second level. I bought a woodcarving of a stickman which I couldn’t find in the stores at the town center.

toilet roll holder

stick man, with a basket for flowers

cane, with detail of head/handle

hats from 2nd floor souvenir shop

Finds: I also bought an interesting woodcarving of a man where the toilet roll can be made to go out of its mouth. And a sturdy wooden cane with a “bulol” on its head. At the second level shop, I bought two pieces of hats, red and grey.  The canes can be handy in 20 years time, I guess. Meanwhile, they stand as accent pieces near my bar.


Rooms at the hotel go for P3,000 net for de luxe rooms which are all spacious and with balconies overlooking the edges of the terraces. There are cheaper rooms, and even cheaper accommodations for groups at the hostel, with boys separated from the girls’ dormitories. Bookings can be made thru the Philippine Tourism Authority offices in Manila, phone (+632) 524  7141. You can view the hotel and rooms thru their website

The Dayanara Viewpoint

There are several viewpoints offering different angles of the terraces rising nearly 5,000 feet above sea level. When the Miss Universe pageant was held in the Philippines and won by Dayanara Torres of Puerto Rico (she became the girlfriend of local actor Aga Muhlach), the Department of Tourism brought her up to Banaue and photographed  her with arms outstretched presenting the beauty of Banaue Rice Terraces in posters and other merchandising materials created to promote tourism in the country. These days, the locals have misspelled her name, and the signage in that spot now reads “Dianara Viewpoint”.

from the Dayanara viewpoint

On previous trips, when I was younger and more agile, I trekked to the Ifugao villages of Battad and Mayoyao. Battad is the easiest trek, and most accessible. My then girlfriend (now my wife) and I even donned Ifugao costumes for rent, and posed for photos, back when there were yet no digital cameras.

Banaue Town Center

There are several inns within the town center and this area is like backpackers’ haven. Cheap accommodations, lots of cheap souvenirs, cheap food. On a separate visit with travel buddies, I stayed at Sanafe Lodge. On my latest visit, I saw the lodge and I can say it is still the best within the town center. Sanafe Lodge has rooms that are rented out at P600 single, and P750 double or twin. They can be reached by phone (+6374) 3864085, mobile +63920 9504644. Good value, clean rooms with private toilets.

For other options, you may go to the website of the Banaue Tourism Council

Medical Facilities

I write about this aspect in a travel blog to make sure you bring all of your medicines and other provisions with you. Medical services practically do not exist in Banaue. When my sister needed a doctor, she had to wait for the one and only doctor in town who was then attending to an emergency.

The nearest hospital is the Provincial Hospital in Lagawe, the capital town of the Province of Ifugao. You must scale down your expectations to the ground. Lagawe, the capital town, is classified as a mere 4th class municipality. As my sister was being attended to by the doctors, I went to the toilet but turned back because it was so dirty and had a pungent smell – – and probably the best comparison will be those of toilets in public markets. The skilled and very attentive doctor, who as it turns out was a very young Assistant Medical Director, made up for the very bad condition of this health facility. Bottomline, only the healthy should go to Banaue.

Banaue to Sagada via Bontoc?

You can go to Sagada via Bontoc on a highway with deep ravines. I took this road with some friends from Yahoo, riding a Nissan X-trail 4×4. A typhoon has just passed, damaging most of the road. Some portions were then even under water. I admit that the thought of whether or not we will actually get to Bontoc crossed my mind at least 10 times. I managed my nerves by just savoring the view. Long stretches of unpaved roads, interrupted by short stretches of concrete. I even laid down on my back, right in the middle of the road, because there were no other vehicles, no people, and no nothing that could soothe my then frayed nerves. I just had to make light of the “difficult situation”.

This road is mine !

more terraces, even on the road from Banaue to Bontoc and Sagada

However,  friends tell me that,  now, the roads are vastly improved. Hopefully, the government indeed worked fast enough from that visit I took 17 months ago.

(3 photos where shared for this blog entry by  one of my Yahoo travel buddies, Janna)

Laguna de Bay Loop, Part 1

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This loop can be an easy day tour, or can be a several days trip depending on one’s mood. I first did this on a day tour, eventually staying overnight in some of the towns. I am writing this as a 2-part blog, dividing the destinations between Laguna and Rizal. This part covers Laguna.

The trip around the bay can be a day tour, or a 4-day+ visit

As a Metro Manila resident, I always start this trip on the South Luzon Expressway, more commonly called SLEX, going all the way to the Calamba exit. Good thing I have an e-pass since the regular exit lanes are so clogged up with the weekend holiday crowd.

Mt Makiling, from SLEX

end of SLEX, start of Tour

Otherwise, I would have had to queue with the hundreds of cars and buses on the exit. Just as well that the view up ahead is fantastic – the mythical Mt. Makiling. I have spent quite a few nights up there. Either in jamborees when I was a boy scout, and then as a scoutmaster, and also with friends in resorts past UP Los Banos.

First Stop: Jose Rizal Shrine

The house is now painted mint green, and in fact was a the subject of several commentaries, calling the repainting a desecration. Looking at it now, it doesn’t look bad. I figure those who never saw the original grey paint would not even mind.  The Rizal shrine, viewed from the streetVisitors do not pay an entrance fee, but a donation box is prominent at the bottom of the grand staircase, as you sign the guest book. The old furniture in the largely cordoned-off sections of the house are essentially reproductions, if not really old ones donated to the museum to complete the feel of the era.


cuarto, with arinola

There is a “bahay kubo” at the backyard, a replica of the playhouse enjoyed by the Rizal children when they were just growing up. Vistors can also use toilet facilities at the end of the compound, and buy Rizal memorabilia and other Laguna souvenirs at the shop near the entrance and exit gate.

Calamba – Los Banos

This road that stretches about 6 kilometers is dotted with hot spring resorts, with maybe hundreds of “agents” holding “private pool” signages on the roadside. Start early to avoid the very heavy traffic and not spoil your journey.

Private pool, anyone?

smaller resorts are clustered in some neighborhoods

Families who troop to the various resorts can buy just about everything on the road, including charcoal for their grill, and ice for their drinks. Also floaties for the kids.

Plastic floaties along the road

And a lot of food, especially Colette’s buco pie which seems to have mushroomed and can be seen within a few steps from each other. The best buco pie, however, is in Los Banos, on the left side of the road just before the turn off to UP Los Banos. The name of the store is “D’Original”, and should not be mistaken for all other “original” attached to the other brands, When I passed this morning, the queue to the counter actually snakes, while the nearby buco pie store had no customers at all.

the real, the one and only, the original "Original" buco pie

as a marker, "D' Original" is opposite from Heaven's Garden

Almost in front is “Heaven’s Garden’, just so you will know where this famous store is.


From the end of Los Banos, all the way to the towns of Bay, Pila, and Victoria are gardens selling mostly colorful bougainvillas on both sides of the road. I have made several visits to these gardens in the past, buying a pick-up load of ornamental plants. they cost about half those of the gardens in Silang, Cavite.

one of hundreds of gardens, best buy : bougainvillas

the Bay branch of the famous Tayabas, Quezon restaurant

For a hearty lunch, there is Kamayan sa Palaisdaan sa Bay, a branch of the more famous restaurant in Tayabas, Quezon. The place is charming, with picnic huts on the water. native delicacies like ginataang suso, ginataang hipon. inihaw na talong, and giant pla plas that can be grilled, fried, or ginataan, too. You won’t miss the restaurant, the signboard is prominent on the road, to your right.

Next Stop: Pagsanjan

the old arko welcoming guests to Pagsanjan

This is a major stop that can stretch to an overnight trip. Pagsanjan is famous for the falls and the boatride upstream, “shooting the rapids”.To ride the boats, turn right at the road when you hit the Pagsanjan Church.

The resorts and loading areas are all there, in Barangay Pinagsanjan.

Alas, the 2 best hotels I used to go to are both closed – – – Rapids Hotel, and La Corona de Pagsanjan. In fact, both have been closed for a year now.

On this trip, I went to PK Paradise Resort, owned by Koreans, and with 98% of its clientele, naturally, Koreans. I had a Korean buffet lunch for P250, plus P50 for a bottle of soda.

I don't understand this Korean script, but buffet lunch was P250 per pax

Kimchi on the side comes with the buffet. Food was good, and was actually prepared as a fusion of Korean and Filipino cuisine. There was a Korean dish that to me seemed like adobo, and there was lumpiang shanghai, too. After lunch, I saw the Korean group off, ready to shoot the rapids.

taking the boats that will go upstream in a while

my shooting-the-rapids ride with 2 good friends, year ago

The fee is P1,000 per person, plus P250 for the ride on the raft at the end of the trip. The raft takes you directly to the area where the falls dumps gallons and gallons of water on all the visitors while on a raft. This is a very exciting experience, and must not be missed. make sure you have dry clothes to wear after the wet boat ride. And be sure to have plastic bags for your mobile phones and your wallet.

they have this notice all over Pagsanjan

I was attended to by Odie Pabilonia. You can contact PK Paradise Resort at (+6349) 5015493. Since PK does not have accommodations, I inquired about the best overnight accommodations.

The top destination in Pagsanjan today is Pagsanjan Falls Lodge.

When I visited, the place was jampacked, with 4 tourist buses and several cars outside of the compound. The resort has a spring water pool, water slides, and facilities for team building activities. They can accommodate guests in rooms that start at P1,500,  with the better rooms at P2,500. Phone (+6349) 5014251, 5014209                                                                            website

The next best accommodation is Pagsanjan Palm Spring Resort. They are on facebook and can be viewed by anyone.

From Pagsanjan, visitors can stop in Lumban and check out the many shops offering intricate embroidery. Couturiers and fashionistas from Manila make trips to Lumban for handcrafted designs for barongs and wedding gowns.

Next stop: Lake Caliraya

one of the few things made by men that turned out to be very very beautiful

Lake Caliraya is a man-made lake built during President Quezon’s time, to dam the water from the river in order to harness hydro-electric power. Today, it is a major rest and recreation area, with numerous resorts offering various watersports activities like boating, jet skiing, windsurfing, and fishing. While I have seen all the resorts from the outside, i have only been to Lagos del Sol, acknowledged as the best accommodation facility in Caliraya, and referred to by others as 5-star. Even if it technically is not. I went to Lagos del Sol on a company outing and thoroughly enjoyed my stay. They have hotel rooms at P2,900 and beautiful lakeside cabanas for P4, 800. They have complete resort facilities – – – swimming pool facing the lake, tennis, billiards, darts, and water sports facilities. Phone (+632) 9104203 to inquire, or to reserve a room. In fact, I would rather stay in Lagos del Sol than in Pagsanjan if I am on this loop.

Don’t miss the Japanese Garden, built in cooperation with the Japanese government to honor the Filipinos and the Japanese who died in World War II. It is an 11 hectare park with huge trees, a pond with lilies and lotuses, and a Yamashita shrine. Picnic tables are available within the park. Entrance fee is P10.


Before crossing the mountains to the Rizal towns,  explore Paete. Paete is a must visit for the wood carving and the “taka”. In my previous trips to Paete, I have bought excellent work by the artist Baldemor, one depicting a boy in a siesta, and another depicting 2 men on a boat, fishing.

Fishing, by Baldemor

and another Baldemor

If you are not in the market for artwork, then Paete will still be an interesting stuff for knick knacks, and early shopping for Christmas presents will definitely cross your mind.

Mabitac is the last town of Laguna that extends up to the mountains, sharing boundaries with the town of Pililla  in Rizal.

Go up this mountain road from Mabitac, and then descend to Pililla and other Rizal towns on the East Road

Read about the Rizal towns within the Loop in Part 2 of this blog.

Twin Lakes, Sibulan, Negros Oriental

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Balinsasayaw is a 70+ hectare lake with the 30-hectare Danao as its twin. It is a beautiful placid site, soothing tired muscles caused by the bumpy ride up the mountains in Janay Janay, San Jose, Negros Oriental. The San Jose mountain road  bends over to the town of Sibulan.

Twin Lakes is under the authority of the DENR, thru the Protected Areas Management Board or PAMB. They operate a restaurant at Twin Lakes. The person who guided me at Twin Lakes is a guy named Venie who works for a PO (people’s org).

Gazebos around the restaurant/viewing deck

There are no hotels at Twin Lakes, although camping may be arranged on the restaurant grounds. Venie pointed me to a spot where they will allow a tent to be pitched. I asked whether the toilets at the restaurant will be open for the campers and he said Yes.

Venie (left) will take care of you at Twin Lakes

Restaurant at Twin Lakes

Visitors pay an entrance fee of P10, with an official receipt of the Republic of the Philippines issued as you pay. And then you go 9 kms further up.

At that spot where entrance fees are collected, some locals were picnicking. Bathers were wading on the lake (a third lake? ) with some visitors actually paddling canoes from a distance.

What can one do at Twin Lakes, other than marvel at the magnificence of the lakes? Kayaking and trekking are the two top activities. In fact, one needs to ride a banca or a kayak to get to the observation deck between the twin lakes. Otherwise, the visitor will see only Balinsasayaw.

Venie will allow you to pitch a tent on the restaurant grounds, only at night

Contact Venie at09222260281 and he can even arrange for food to be cooked for your contingent.

Happy trekking!

Forest Camp, Valencia, Negros Oriental


The road in Valencia, just past Talay in Dumaguete is lined with tall eucalyptus trees with violet, orange, and white bougainvillas clinging to the trees.  I can’t help but notice beautiful homes on the road. Middle-class ones, and several really big and beautiful homes with gardens.

This mountain resort is about 20 minutes by motorbike from Dumaguete. Immediately outside the resort are two huge swimming pools with spring water, each with nearly a thousand bathers, at P10 entrance per person. After all, it was a Sunday in summer.

Upon entering Forest Camp, visitors are charged P80 per pax. An admonition to keep the place clean, the trekkers’ code, is prominent at the gate.

Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints . . .

Forest Camp is a popular picnic destination. Most of the daytime guests are families who go straight to rented tables and picnic huts, big picnic baskets and drinks in tow.  And then everyone takes to the series of small swimming pools and to the stream.

spring water pool

I have never ever seen a resort with notices all over saying “Drinking Alcoholic Beverages Strictly Prohibited”. What a pleasant surprise. Indeed, a place for wholesome family picnics. I had to ask the resort staff if they prohibit smoking, too. No, they don’t. In fact, they said  some visitors discreetly bring in alcoholic drinks, and the staff  just look the other way. But because of the official prohibition, guests who bring in drinks surreptitiously have to drink in moderation and, as a result, the place is generally free from trouble caused by drunkards.  Or maybe the drunk aren’t able to negotiate the camp’s hanging bridge.

Visitors who don’t bring picnic baskets can buy food and drinks in the restaurant. I loved their “buco halo”, halo halo on buco at only P60.

halo halo on buco

You can also fish for your lunch in the tilapia pond near the restaurant, pay for your catch and have the pla pla steamed or grilled by the staff.

Accommodations are also available, sans airconditioning. The forest keeps the rooms naturally cool. The Rambutan and Durian cottages are rented out at P1,000 per day , with P200 additional charges for each person in excess of two occupants. The Bahay Kubo, the Champaca, and the Narra go for P2,500 per day, accommodating as many as 10 persons in the cottage.

Rambutan cottage :P1,000 per day for 2 pax

Picnic huts like Tree House, Kamalig Lanzones, and Kamalig Mangosteen are rented out for P300 per day. Campers can also sleep in tents, at P200 per head, with tents, beddings, and mats provided by the camp.

Guided treks to the Casaroro Falls and to Lake Nailig are available, at P800 per guide, with 1 guide for a maximum of 5 guests.

Forest Camp facilities can be booked via phone (035)4234017 or mobile 09172711806

Around Dumaguete : Sibulan and Banilad


The best way to move around Dumaguete is by habal habal. Or by tricycle,  or by foot.  I hired a habal habal and went to the two ends of Dumaguete : Sibulan and Banilad.

The habal habal driver that the hotel staff recommended to me is actually a barangay tanod of Bagacay, Dumaguete, named Julito Viscayno.

Bgy Tanod Julito Vizcayno, habal habal driver and his old, reliable Yamaha

He is a man who looks like an aging boxer, weather beaten. He says it is not easy to do habal habal the whole day and be a civilian police watching over his barangay at night. He earns P2,000 a month as a tanod, but surely his sturdy Yamaha that can sit six ( yes six !)  passengers is his better source of income. Just for the day, the habal habal hire was P1,000.

Sta Monica Beach Resort

Sta Monica, resort within Dumaguete

I first went to this place about 5 years ago, and now that I am blogging, decided to visit once again. It is the best resort accommodation in Dumaguete City and a good alternative to city accommodations.

view from the restaurant

The place does feel like a resort. The restaurant, the cottages, the pool and the function rooms all have a view of the sea. The beach is clean even if the sand is black. There is also a spa within the resort.

Nice pool

Sta Monica

All rooms are air conditioned, starting at P1,325 for single, and P1,590 for double occupancy. A de luxe double is P1,835, a thousand pesos cheaper than my hotel accommodation at La Residencia in the city.

One of the cottages, beside the spa

de luxe room

Sta Monica can be reached by phone (035)2250704, 2257802 email

Robinson’s Mall

Malling after touring the region, and to escape from the heat

If I did not do a habal habal ride, I wouldn’t have known that Robinson’s Mall is already in Dumaguete. Easily THE shopping destination in Dumaguete. You can go to Robinson’s by hiring a tricycle. Tricycles are on queue at the mall so you don’t have to hire one and pay to make the driver wait for you.

The Cathedral Belltower

Light a candle below this belltower

Easily one of the most recognizable structures in Dumaguete. Old, but probably still the most photographed. Do go inside the church, and light a candle for your special intentions, right there at the belltower area.

Silliman University

Silliman, taken from the Boulevard

The university is like a magnet attracting hordes of students around the region. Is it the pleasant campus? Is it the high quality of education? Or is it the bohemian lifestyle of Dumaguetenos?


Sibulan is a town 7 kms away from Dumaguete City. I went to Sibulan to go to Twin Lakes which I will also blog about. The road past the town center is lovely, with Spanish-style lampposts on the sea wall.

lovely lampposts of Sibulan

Had lunch by a roadside eatery that overlooks the island of Cebu. Lunch was “tinolang isda” and rice for me and the habal habal driver, all for P90. I only wished though that the soup on my tinola was hot.

Carinderia overlooking the island of Cebu

From Janay Janay in San Jose, one gets a good, panoramic view of Cebu. At one point, one can see both Cebu and Siquijor. What a lovely thought – – – standing on a hill near Dumaguete, viewing Siquijor and Cebu. Three lovely islands.

Cebu from atop janay Janay

There are a hundred reasons why visitors go back to Dumaguete. It is the Boulevard. The balut and squid balls and tempura by the bay. It could be the bars. Or the nearby beaches and mountain resorts. Whatever. Dumaguete is just plain beautiful.



Local kids at play on the beach

Siquijor is an island province an hour away by fast ferry from Dumaguete. It is the smallest province in the Visayas, and the third smallest in the country. But small is not a good word to describe Siquijor. In my book, the island rates among the country’s bests.

It is also called  the Island of Fire. No, there are no volcanoes on the island. The name is derived from the sight of fire trees dotting the island province.

Island of Fire : Siquijor has no volcanoes

From Dumaguete, the most popular transport is via Delta ferries. The fare is P160 plus a terminal fee of P15. The ferry ride is comfortable, on ferries pretty much like those between Manila and Corregidor, albeit older. 18 rows of seats, 6 seats to a row.  Approaching the island, one asks whether the island is indeed inhabited – – no tall structures, no densely populated coastal communities.

San Juan

From the pier, I took a tricycle to San Juan. It is here where the top resorts are clustered. There are numerous resorts beginning right there at the pier, with well defined markets – – from backpackers to the well heeled. The two most popular are Coco Grove and Coral Cay. The tricycle driver charged me P200 for the ride, although I was told later by the resort staff that the fare should only have been P150.

Coco Grove is the best in the island


I checked in at Coco Grove Resort, owned by the same owners of Coco Amigos Bar & Restaurant and Coco Grande Hotel, both in Dumaguete. I figured it would be nice, as the friendly staff of my Dumaguete hotel, La Residencia Almar, were unanimous in recommending Coco Grove. One of them is from Siquijor, so I thought he knew what he was talking about.

As soon as I stood by the reception area, I knew I was in a first-rate resort. The very welcoming staff even offered for me to see the rooms so I could better decide which one suits my mood for the day. The rooms and villas are spread within the 7-hectare property. I settled for Gardenia II, a de luxe room in a duplex for P2,800 per day, inclusive of a welcome drink and breakfast. Nothing fancy, just a clean, comfortable air-conditioned room with a veranda overlooking the garden. And a well-stocked mini bar. Standard rooms go for P2,400 with Luxury Villas for 4 persons at P8,600.

Luxury villas

Having dropped my bags, I went out to the Coconut Bar for fresh buco juice. I downed two, after a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I sat there amused that the beautiful girl at the counter can actually hack the sturdy buco herself using a bolo. Her name is Brenda. She said she makes buco shakes, serves buco juice etc everyday so she has mastered the art of cutting the sturdy buco without the juice spilling to the ground.

Coconut Bar

Careful … she can hack open a sturdy coconut with her bolo

Brenda at the Coconut Bar. Ask for buco pie, too.

The resort has 2 swimming pools, 2 restaurants, and bars near the pool and elsewhere. Think of quenching the guests’ thirst within a 7 hectare property.

Lovely gazebos dot the beach area.  They make a good setting for intimate dinners with the sea breeze as aperitif. The resort also runs a dive shop and a spa.

On Saturdays, the resort mounts a cultural presentation near Salamanda’s Restaurant, for hotel guests. Dinner and show is P650.  My favorite spot in the resort is the Sunset restaurant. Sitting on the beach chairs on the veranda made of wooden planks, beer on hand, spicy gambas for pulutan, tell me I am on a holiday.

Sunset Restaurant, Coco Grove

The view from Sunset Bar-Restaurant

The nearby Apo Island, rated one of the best dive spots in the Philippines, is available from the resort on a P1,600 whole day excursion rate per pax with a minimum of 10 people going, inclusive of lunch and snorkeling, and the services of a guide. The Apo Island Resort is also owned by Coco Grove.

This resort is a nice get-away-from-it-all destination. No internet connection, no Globe nor Smart signal in my room. I go near the water or to Sunset Bar where I can receive text messages and make calls.

Coco Grove can be reached via telephone (035) 4815008. Their website is

Coral Cay

I stayed at Coral Cay on my second night in Siquijor. Just wanted to try the different resorts.

The best thing about Coral Cay is that my cottage, called Maanyag 2, is just 5 steps away from the water. The room is nice, the bed comfortable, and a safe deposit box sits in one corner. The veranda has bamboo chairs and a bamboo table, plus a bamboo divan. I paid P1,900, breakfast not included.

Maanyag 2, my cottage with the crystal clear waters on my door steps

Room rates start at P850 for non-aircon rooms, to P3,400 for the new poolside de luxe room called Malipayon.

Because Coral Cay is a bit nearer to town than Coco Grove, I  get a clearer signal on my phone, and able to access the internet.

Coral Cay is far smaller, even while it has a billiards hall and a mini-spa.  I guess every resort in Siquijor is going to be described as small when compared with Coco Grove anyway.

A serious downside is its restaurant that has a very limited menu. Most items on the menu are “plated dishes” and I had to settle for adobo rice for lunch. Filipino breakfast is only a choice between longaniza and dried fish. No corned beef, no “tapsi”. When I asked for brewed coffee , I was told that the coffee that goes with breakfast is instant coffee, and that there is an extra P15 charge if I want brewed coffee instead. I asked for brewed coffee, and requested for Splenda or Equal. Nada, just regular sugar. I even had to ask for milk for my coffee, there was no cream nor milk when my coffee was served.. Sipping my brew, it tasted like it was done yesterday and was just reheated for me.

The bad breakfast experience started from the rather late opening of the restaurant. Got there craving for coffee at 6:15 am and was told by the cook that the place was still closed, and will open at 6:30. Then the servers came at 6:45 and I asked for coffee, only to be told this time that the restaurant opens at 7am. I pleaded for just coffee and was politely told that the utensils are still locked up, the resort owner still sleeping.

These hiccups aside, I don’t mind going back to Coral Cay. It is cheaper than Coco Grove and visitors need only to scale down expectations. Besides, this is island life. And the whole Siquijor experience  more than makes up for snags in resort amenities. And I so liked my room.

Coral Cay can be reached via telephone (035) 4815024, mobile (+63919) 2691269

Island Tour

I rode a habal habal (as the passenger on a single motorbike, riding behind the driver) to go on an island tour. First stop was the biggest tree in Siquijor, a balete in the town of Lazi. Next was the St. Isidore Labradore church and a convent facing it, said to have been built by Spaniards in 1884, and is one of the largest convents in the country.

St Isidore Labradore Convent

Next stop was Cambogahay Falls, 150 steps down from the main road. It is actually a series of falls, pretty but not majestic. The main falls is just about 20 feet high.

Cambogahay Falls

The habal habal then took me to the town of Maria where a resort popular among locals is located. The place is called Salagdoong, and the best part is actually the drive thru 1.805 kms of a postcard-pretty road lined with fire trees. The beach operators collect an entrance fee of P15. Most interesting is a promontory, actually a rock formation near the water where workers are rushing several slides and jumping boards from where visitors can drop straight to the clear waters below. There are duplex accommodations at P1,200 per day, booked thru (+63918) 7714714.

From Maria, we drove to Larena, the biggest town in the island province. It is bigger and more progressive than the capital town of Siquijor, Siquijor. In the evening, I had dinner and drinks in a bar-restaurant called Breakpoint. The chopsuey was good, and so was the sisig and the calamares.

Other Accommodations

While there are several choices of inns and resorts, I checked just 2 more:

The Norwegian Dream beach resort is in Candanay Norte, nearer to Siquijor town. Ideal for backpackers and budget travelers. Rooms start at P600 single, P800 double, using common toilet facilities. There are cottages with aircon, too, and en suite toilet facilities. A cottage for 2 goes for P1,700. The same cottage converts to a cottage for many because the attic can accommodate  more beds, but charges apply, of course. Phone (035)4809095

Hotel Agripino has rooms starting at P800 for twin sharing, to P1,500 for a superior de luxe room. It can be booked thru the Provincial Tourism office  (035) 3442088. 4809173 or by mobile (+63910) 2002552


It is hard not to fall in love with this place. Far from the crowd. Clean surroundings. Well paved, asphalted county roads. Friendly people. I am told foreigners freely walk on the streets even at night, and no harm befalls anyone. Long stretches of white sand beaches surrounding the entire island. Crystal clear waters. In fact, I began asking around if there are still absolute beach front properties on the block. Even if I may never get around to actually buying one. But such is the simple beauty of the Siquijor – – – it will make you think you would want to live there forever.