Situated 63km east of Cebu Island is a group of three major islands; Pacijan, Ponson, and Poro, and one minor islet, Tulang Island in Camotes Sea. I wonder how many tourists would consider visiting the Islands of Camotes when they go to Cebu. Are people even aware that there is such a place? Admittedly, Camotes Islands was not on my radar until I had an opportunity to visit it recently.
I was part of the second leg of Suroy-Suroy Sugbu 2016, which highlights the 3 municipalities in the humble island of Camotes; San Franciso, Tudela, and Poro. Suroy Suroy is the bisaya word for Gala-Gala while Sugbu means Cebu. This caravan is an initiative of the local government that aims to promote four destinations from the province every year. This project has been running for 11 years and everyone are welcome to join.
Together with almost a hundred of participants, I excitedly waited at the Port of Cebu for the ferry that would bring us to the island. We left the city at around 10:00 a.m., travel time to the island via OceanJet was more or less two and a half hours. Upon arrival, we received a warm welcomed by the local tourism’s staff at the port of Poro.
“Maazong Buntag! (Good Morning) and welcome to Camotes Island!” comes a lively greeting from our bus guide. I noticed that it was not “maayo,” which is the Visayan word for “good” but “maazo.” Soon, I learned that Porohanon is distinguished by the way the locals substitute the “y” sound for “z.”
We arrived at the Buho Rock Resort where we had lunch. By the name itself, the resort was built on a cliff with an amazing view of the rock formation. It is under the management of the local government. The resort is also known as a good diving spot.
The atmosphere was festive; there were cultural dances and songs prepared by the host municipality. My eyes widened upon spotting the famous Cebu lechon on the buffet. It was more than a year since my last visit in Cebu and I still remember how good their lechon is. I was naturally ecstatic that I was able to eat this popular delicacy again.
We went back to our respective buses with full and happy tummies. Our next destination was the Poro Church. This church was built in 1849 and is considered to be the oldest church on the island. The locals believe that when you touch the part of your body that is suffering from pain against the statue of Sto. Nino, you would be healed. I patiently waited in the queue to see the Sto Nino up close. Though I’m not a fan of superstitious beliefs, I told myself that I have nothing to lose. Also, I wanted it was one way to show my respect for their faith.
45 minutes away from Poro church is the town of Tudela, the home of Bukilat Cave. Before we went inside, the locals offered a short ritual to ask permission from the spirits who are taking care of the cave. It was low tide during our visit but as per locals, the cave is even more fascinating when it’s high tide. Visitors can take a dip in the pool lighted with nature’s light.
We ended the day with a White-themed party at Santiago Bay, a public beach resort managed by the local government. It has a long stretch of fine white sand beach and it was very clean, in fact, I didn’t see a single trash. There were a few people who set up camp on the beach. I was impressed by how well the local government is maintaining the beach. It was rather peaceful and like I said, clean.
The next day, I woke up early and excited to see the morning view of Mangodlong Paradise Resort. It’s a perfect spot to unwind and take some breather from the daily grind. There you can enjoy the view of the palm trees, maybe lie in the hammocks and watch the world moves slowly around you. The view of the fine, white sand and calm water is really inviting for a morning swim.
Together with my friend Nicole, we enjoyed a few hours of solitude on the beach. I can’t remember the last time I went swimming in such a peaceful place. The water was warm and calm, which is one of the calmest I’ve seen in the country.
The last part of our itinerary was a visit to the largest lake in the entire Visayas region, Lake Danao It is the only natural lake in Cebu with over 700 hectares of fresh water. We started our day with a sumptuous feast while watching the program prepared by the municipality of San Francisco. There were singing and cultural dances too.
We explored this guitar-shaped lake via a small boat called, “Sakanaw,” which is one of the best things to do in Lake Danao. The place, known as the lover’s lake, is quite serene. The end point of this short cruise was a visit to an isolated island in the middle of the lake.
If you are into adventures this park also offers different activities, such as kayaking, paddle boarding, a walk on water ball, and horseback riding. There are snack bars, massage services, and a swimming pool too. It is perfect, not just for lovers but also for family bonding or get-together with friends.
Overall, I had fun joining Suroy-Suroy Sugbo Camotes leg and I believe that we people should join this kind of travel caravan. It’s one way of supporting the initiative of the provincial tourism office to promote other places in Cebu that have the potential to be the next best destination in the province. It’s also one way to interact with locals and support their small businesses.
Second, the entire tour was organized from the beginning until the end. You just need to bring yourself and have fun. The tour would allow you gain a deeper knowledge about the featured places because the tour guides are good at discussing not only the history of the local attractions but facts about the town itself.During our caravan, an ambulance accompanied us with doctors and nurses to ensure the safety of everyone during the entire trip.
Third, you will never be hungry. The meal was served prior to our boarding to OceanJet. When we arrived, we were immediately served with buffet lunch, snacks, and dinner. The following days were the same. All meals were served buffet style and the food is really good! Participants also received loot bags and during our Hawaiian Party, we had fun games with amazing prizes. I won a Cebu travel guide book and one couple won an overnight hotel accommodation.
Lastly, it’s a chance to meet new people and gain more friends. When I arrived there, we were all strangers to each other but when the tour was over, we parted as friends.
To know more about the upcoming Suroy-Suroy Sugbo visit Cebu Provincial Tourism Office at 2nd Floor, west wing of the Provincial Capitol Building. Check their website at http://www.cebu.gov.ph/, Like and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.