Unexpected Bonus

Mag-dive ka na, nandito ka na rin, you should dive, you’re already here”.  To be in Moalboal and not dive is indeed ridiculous. But because I was the only diver in the group, I didn’t plan to… until the divemaster convinced me, that is.

So we got up early the next day, sore from yesterday’s canyoning, and headed to this tiny island called Pescador.  Among the many impressive dive spots in Moalboal, Pescador is described to be their “jewel”.  My friends indulged and shared the cost of the banca (outrigger boat) with me.  They went snorkeling while I explored the world under… ok, that doesn’t sound right but you know what I mean.   😉

Located in the Tañon Straits, a narrow stretch of sea between the southern end of Cebu and Negros Oriental.  Considered “the most unique in the world” as it has the richest marine biodiversity in the coral triangle in the Philippines.

The island is essentially a wall dive made interesting with the overhangs, small caverns and holes in the reef wall.  It was an easy dive with just the right currents.  I was enjoying the drift, fascinated with all the marine life along the small caverns when divemaster taps me on the shoulder.

He pointed to my left and there, a short distance away, was a giant wall of fish, a silvery cloud of endless sardines against the blue backdrop of the deep, moving in one accord.  I was awestruck.  Never thought I’d ever get to see such a spectacle in our shores.

The first time I became aware of a sardine run was when a friend, years back,  showed me an awesome video filmed in South Africa.  Every year between the months of May and July, this famous shoal of sardines travel from their home in Agulhas banks and head north.  Predators follow this migration making it the main attraction for divers, rivaling the great migration in the African savannah.  This made it to my bucket list.

The tiny island off Moalboal has been host, for a few years now, to millions of sardines running the tropical waters but unlike the migration in South Africa; the sardines in our shores seemed to have made it its home (at least for now).  This wonderful phenomenon is seen all year round.  Predators seen in these side are mostly Threshers, White Tips and Whale Sharks.  Unfortunately, there were no predators in sight in this dive.  We were flying out the next day and couldn’t go below 40 ft.  Although not as spectacular as the South African video, it was an awesome experience nevertheless.

Observing from the surface, the snorkelers had their share of awesomeness from a different perspective.  They had to abort mid-stream though as the water got choppy, making it difficult to continue.  “Super bitin, too short” they said.

On our way back to the resort, the choppy waters were too big for our small boat, breaking an outrigger.

We were dropped off somewhere along White Beach.  Carrying our gears (except the tanks), walked the rest of the way back to the resort.  Awesome day.


Prelude To A Great Adventure

We were squished in a corner at the back of the mini van that was to take us westbound to Moalboal.  The van leaves when it is full and another one takes its place, taking in more passengers.

We only had time for a quick brunch at One Citilink Terminal before the conductor started calling for passengers.  There was no leg room where I was sitting in the van; I had to sit up the entire 2 hours to Moalboal.  I could not be happier to stretch my legs finally when we got off.  And even more so that we are to embark on a new adventure.  Yay!

Boasting of world-class dive spots, Moalboal has been a favorite haunt of serious divers since the ‘70s.  Diving, snorkeling and beach combing aside, a new adventure has emerged a few years ago in this side of Cebu.  This led us to Club Serena.

Where the van dropped us off, we took a tricycle to the resort.  The chatty tricycle driver offered to take us island hopping, snorkeling…  “Makakamura ho kayo (it will cost you less)”, he said.  I would have taken his offer except that we had more than just snorkeling and island hopping in mind.

Beach in front of the resort

In the outskirts of Moalboal is White Beach and lying at the end away from the busier Panagsama Beach is Club Serena.

Stunning hues of blue from sea to sky is supposedly typical throughout Cebu.

Although both beach share a coastline, separated only by coves and rocks, White Beach also known as Basdaku (which means big sand in Cebuano) has a wide stretch of sand.  Panagsama Beach, however, plays hosts to many bars and restaurants but has no real sand to boast.  Typhoons and bad coastal management has left the beach of Panagsama rocky and without sand.  Depending on preference, I’m glad we ended up in quiet White Beach.

Honey for sale outside the resort.

Possibly the most expensive resort along the strip, Club Serena has 8 rooms scattered around its grounds.

We took the Beachfront Suite, which they also call the Honeymoon Suite (perfect actually for honeymooners but that was not what we were there for).

Fits all 4 but 2 had to sleep on mattresses.

The suite comes with a room that is big enough to fit 4 of us, it also has a living and dining area where we would hangout and read.

Albeit slow, the clubhouse just across our suite whips up wonderfully prepared Asian dishes and having all our meals there during our stay was a delight.

Having breakfast before we went off to our adventure.

An activity center offering a wide array of activities from diving to dolphin watching to canyoning was the reason we decided to splurge on the resort.  The resort alone with its many cozy corners, a nice pool and well-appointed rooms is already worth the splurge.

Having an activity center that arranges all your activities so close by was icing on the cake.

Over a late lunch when we arrived, our guide came up to brief us on tomorrow’s activity.  What to bring, what not to bring, what to expect, taking note too that one of our companion was over 60.  He seemed worried but was assured when he learned that our friend has climbed Mt. Kanlaon many times.  More than what I can say for myself.

We spent the rest of the day chilling.

We slept, read, and enjoyed the sunset over some wine and cheese until it was time for dinner.

The owner threw a party that night hence the nicely set-up tables.  It went till the wee hours of the morning but we were too tired to care.   🙂

What a perfect prelude to exceptional activities to come.  Stay tuned.

Useful Info:

One Citilink Terminal
N. Bacalao Avenue, near Cebu City Medical Center & Cebu Technological Center
Club Serena
For reservations:
Telephone:  +63 32-417-2445
Mobile:  +63 920-902-8888 / +63 917-623-6057

A Feast To Die For

I leave you with this to feast on.  It was crab and lobster galore on the last day of our Northern Samar stint.  These fat crabs are to die for.

A hole in a wall serving all kinds of food so call in advance if you want to have a taste of that mouthwatering crabs and lobsters

If you are a crab/lobster lover, you must visit Octo King when you find yourself in Catarman.  MUST!

And if you want to explore Northern Samar, contact Josette Doctor of the Provincial Tourism Office .  She can help you with your itinerary.

* Some updates:  I made a mistake in Josette’s email address, now corrected.  Also added a phone number where you can contact her.

Important info:

Octo King
Contact Ronnie Biaca

Provincial Tourism Office
Contact Josette Doctor
(63 55) 251-8124

A Lazy Afternoon in Biri

Climbing, wading and swimming under the scorching heat can be tiring.  I felt like a nap, which was what I did as soon as we arrived at our resort.

I was practically falling asleep on the habal-habal.   🙂

Not even the halo-halo stand attracted me to stop.  All I could think of is that bed and our air-conditioned room.  But as soon as I woke up, there was nothing I want more than to devour on my all-time heat-quencher fave

– nothing like a delightful treat of homemade preserves topped with smoothly crushed ice and some milk to wake me up.  Bliss.

Halo-halo, the country’s most popular summer refreshment, has a different version in each municipality, each claiming to be the best.  So I find enjoyment in trying the different halo-halo around the country.  And the best ones are always those sold on the streets.

After that wonderful treat, I was ready to get to know the town.  A relatively clean town, I noticed.

The houses are a combination of the traditional nipa huts and concrete 2-storey structures such as that of our resort.

They were a friendly bunch of people; even the kids are not shy at all.

But he does not seem very happy, does he?  (heehee!)

While walking around town, I befriended a girl with the same name as mine, perhaps around 12 years old.  She walked beside me and we started conversing, she told me stories of each “big” house we passed.  Some were owned by balibayans but mostly by foreigners who have married a local.  Jennifer confessed that she wanted to practice her English because she hopes to marry a foreigner someday so she can live in a “big” house as well.  I tried to impress on her the value of education and once she has that, she will not need a “foreigner” in shining armor to sweep her off her feet.   😉

The rest of the afternoon was spent on the terrace of Biri Resort, sipping ice-cold beer and watching the sunset.  Uh-huh… simple pleasures at its finest.

A Climax Unparalleled

Credits:  Template by Crystal Wilkerson.

Am so happy that we followed our instincts, we had decided to stay one night instead of the suggested day trip.  I figured that the dramatic rock formations would make for a dramatic sunset or sunrise.  And I was right!  I was hoping for a sunset because I could never get up early enough to catch a spectacular sunrise.  But am I glad I paid no heed to this early morning indolence of mine and decided to wake up at 4am ON. THE. DOT.  By 5am, we found our own spot, waiting for the sun to rise on one side and

bidding the moon so long on the other – coolness!!

And this, my dear readers, is my reward!  I must remember this scene whenever I need to rise at an ungodly hour.  I know!  Sleep still rules (most of the time).  Hee hee!   😛

With this grandeur comes a simple breakfast of pan de sal, peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs and instant coffee.

Well, one can’t have everything – the brewed cuppa joe can wait for now.

After that spectacular sunrise, we headed to Bel-at – which will turn out to become one of my favorite spot on earth.  And this is why…

We hired two fishing boats to weave us through the mangrove and then walked a portion of it when the water became too low for the banca – not an easy feat because the bottom is partially slippery bed of rocks (pleased that I chose to wear my aqua socks that day).

While in the mangroves, you couldn’t really tell what’s up ahead.

When I saw rock formations and some high crashing waves… my thought bubble goes, “nice, interesting… I wonder if this can top yesterday”.

I was excited nonetheless as it keeps getting better by the second.

Then we hiked up the porous rock (easy!) and this was what greeted us:

Meron pa (there’s more)”, says our guides cum boatmen.  So we followed them, waded through shallow waters, climbed some smooth rocks, then we waded some more.   Lo and behold…

As we got closer, I see a wall facing the ocean with crazy waves crashing into the rocks.

As I reached the bend, I was blown away!

It revealed a beautifully etched wall which lived through the fury of the sea.  Amazing how God works — in life, character comes when one endures life’s conflicts and challenges as with this piece of art, it transforms according to the conditions it endures through time. Stunning, spectacular, mind-blowing.  No words could describe this remarkable creation.  I am awed by His unfathomable wisdom and ways.

And that, my friends, is what I call a climax unparalleled.

Scenic Sunday


“Captivating” was how A described Biri.  He promised to take me there “one of these days”, he said.  That was 7 years ago.  He was invited by his friends in the tourism office to check out Northern Samar.  When he came back, he couldn’t stop raving about the breathtaking rock formation and how wild the surfs were.  So enchanted he was that Biri stuck in my mind and had become a “need to see”.  Somehow between then and now, it got pushed back to the bottom of my list and so this Easter break, I decided to put it back on top and took A up on a promise he made 7 years ago.

Truth to tell, the culprit of this whole Northern Samar trip was Biri.  It was Biri that I needed to see and so…

The surf on our way to Biri.

finally the day has come — a 45-minute (somewhat choppy) boat journey from Lavezares got us to the town of Biri.

Anxious to see this highly raved rock formation, we checked in, plopped our bags, hopped on a habal-habal and off we were to the scene.

After about 10 minutes (it seemed) the scene transformed from quiet, simple town to world-class wonderment.

Walking to our make-shift shed

Yes, that’s our charming shed, prepared by the tourism office of Biri

Where we were served a scrumptious lunch.

Overlooking the Magasang formation

As we got closer to the outcrops plodding through slippery rocks –

the enormous rock formations, the gigantic pounding waves, they were jaw-dropping A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

Unlike anything I’ve seen before.  It was unbelievable, surreal.

A view of the other side

Our first rock formation, Magasang is an incredible formation of two huge, beautifully carved rocks standing separately on a wide flat rock.

Climbing these porous rocks is easier than it seemed.

I recommend hiking up to see a 360 degree view of the many colors and textures of the grounds below and a different perspective of the crashing waves.

Wondrous colors and textures

How ironic is it that this natural beauty was formed by the wrath of nature, carved through time from the pounding waves of the San Bernardino Straits?

This beauty is, to me, one impressive site the Philippines can boast of.  Still largely unknown to the world, I am torn – a part of me wish this to be a secret hideaway for a long, long time, while the other part of me yearns to proudly share God’s amazing creation to the world.  Well, obviously my desire to share got the better of me.   😀  Amazing… simply amazing.

Wait!  There’s more.  So come back for more eye candy in the next few days.  It will not disappoint and that is a promise.   🙂

Faro de Isla Capul

Credits:  JSprague Typewriter2 Paper kit; DD MWISE A la Mode Brush- Scroll; KPertiet Grunge up photo block; JSprague Grungy edge frame; KPertiet Storyboard Negs frame; Alpha from JSprague’s Grand Intention Kit.

The mystery of lighthouses – they’ve always fascinated me.  Standing tall, alone and mysterious, shining its light on travelling vessels… never fails to evoke a sense of romance and adventure.  But nothing prepared me for this.

Zooming along a rugged coastline and through rows of coconut trees, we ended up at the northernmost part of the island of Capul.  And there perched atop a hill, 40 ft. tall and 143 ft. above sea level is Faro de Isla Capul, simply known as the Capul Lighthouse serving as a beacon till today to vessels traveling through the treacherous San Bernardino Straits.

The approach from the street — insipid.  The lighthouse, in dire need of repair.  So, imagine the stir it invoked when we walked past the lighthouse and down the steps.  It greatly impressed.  We were dramatically surprised.

About 200 meters from the lighthouse, down below the shoreline is a pool shaped like a giant footprint.

It was calling E who just couldn’t fight the urge to take a dip.  😀

How Capul Got Its Name

Beneath the lighthouse are natural rock formations that served as anchorage of the galleons during bad weather.

The location and proximity of the island to the Pacific Ocean and the strong currents flowing through the Straits made it useful for the galleons about to leave the Philippines to weigh anchor and start the voyage back only when the current was flowing outwards.

Evidence of how strong the winds are.

As the Manila-Acapulco Trade flourished so did the frequency of the stopovers.  According to folklore, to while a way time, a galleon crew engraved the name Acapulco on a rock.  It was later on used to designate the sitio where the engraved rock was located before it was eventually applied to the whole island replacing the name Abak.  As we Filipinos love shortcuts, Acapulco was corrupted to Capul.  And that, as legend has it, was how Capul got its name.

Scenic Sunday

An old fortress church

Still on our island-hopping day, our next stop was Capul.  It’s an island that sits in the middle of the San Bernardino Straits, originally named Abak from a chieftain that migrated from the South.  These migrants brought with them one of the rare dialects in the country – they’re the only ones that speaks “Abaknon”.  Abak was changed to Capul (short for Acapulco) in the late 16th century because galleons from Acapulco, Mexico frequently stopover the San Bernardino Straits to barter.

The island is known for its lighthouse and old fortress church and from the port where our boat docked, the old reliable habal-habals (motorbikes) took us to both sites.

The fortress was first.  On a side street with a basketball court in front lays a 16th century church, 85% of its original form still preserved, its surrounding walls still intact.

It is one of the oldest Catholic Church that withstood pirate attacks and natural disasters and calamities and until the coming of the Americans, the church and a watchtower constructed on top of a large rock overlooking the town harbor, served as a warning system and as a refuge for the people of the island during the Moro raids.

At the time of our visit, we heard that a foreigner was rescued from their waters the night before – a miracle he survived the harsh waters drifting all the way from Biri losing his fins and mask along the way.  Glad he’s ok.

Pink Sand and a Charming Village

Brgy. Sila, we were told, boasts of a nice pink sand beach.  Pink.  Yes pink.

And there we proceeded to have lunch and do some snorkeling.  I, on the other hand, had enough of underwater events the past few months, had opted to explore the other side of the island.

There I discovered a beautiful fishing village with a rich mangrove.

The village is 2 islands connected by walkways.  Charming.

Trust me, the photos can’t capture it but the beach is indeed pink.  It could be from crushed red corals perhaps?  Anyway, here are some captures of this little charming village.

Children horsing around our “banca”


Shanties along the shore.

The village inside.

A nice shady place.

Barangay Sila is one of the 7 islets that makes up the Naranjo group of islands.  It is situated west of mainland Northern Samar.  These islands face each other almost in a circle, which aside from Sila are, Tarnate, Sanguputan, Panganoron, Maragat and Mahaba. Considered the game fishermen’s paradise, bountiful supplies of swordfish and marlins are to be found.  It is likewise said to be an ideal scuba diving spot with beautiful corals.  There are however currently very limited facilities for scuba diving.

A Simple Life

Credits:  Daniella Austen’s Fancy Quickpage 3.

The largest island, Dalipuri is the only one with resorts established among a cluster of islands known as the Balicuatro Islands.  The rest of the islands are mostly home to farmers and fishermen.  San Vicente has 7 islets called the Naranjo group.  On our way there, someone in our motley group decided that we wanted to explore the town of San Vicente and we spontaneously found ourselves in this island town that lies isolated from the other 6 Naranjo Islands.  The kind of exploring that I like.

Not used to having visitors, the townsfolk started gathering around us as if we were famous people.  Really, we felt like superstars.   😛  Curious, they started following us everywhere until one lady – a teacher – decided to proudly walk us around her town.

A small fishing town, they sell a lot of dried dilis (anchovies) to the entire province of Samar and probably to other areas in the Visayas Region.

School on top of the hill and equations painted on boulders.

There was a grade school and a high school.  The former quite interesting, albeit dilapidated.  Interesting because it sits on top of a hill

with a view so breathtaking – what a treat to be in school – I wish I had just a little of that view when I was in school.  On my way to the top, I noticed mathematical equations painted on large rocks beside the steps.  Makes me wonder what stimulates this kind of creativity.  Simple and practical, yet artistic and tasteful.  I think it’s the view!   😀

Excited and thankful (they seem) that soon, running water will come to every household.  I’m not kidding!

Meanwhile, they are happy with the posos (dug out wells) strategically located around town,

even if they have to wash their cloths in areas such as the above and carry water to their homes.  I cannot imagine how much worse their situation was before.

And yet, they seemed happy.

As Henry Ward Beecher says, “The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things”.

Live simply.  But not without a sabongan (arena for cockfighting), simple as this town may be.  Gambling, as it turns out, is their past time.

Every year on Maundy Thursday, boys (in their teens) parade around town donned in masks (similar to a ski mask) and dressed in dried banana leaves, supposedly to scare the evils away.  Each of them dressed differently.  Such serendipity that we were witness to a traditional ritual they call Judeo or Hudyo that only occurs one day a year.

Thanks E for your suggested detour.  It was the highlight of our visit as we were perhaps the highlight of their day.

Scenic Sunday