Living it Up in Libjo

I always look forward to visiting new places especially those off-the-beaten-path types. These places are not usually teeming with tourists so I feel like I own the place. (Yes, I have a very active imagination. Didn’t I say I was a dreamer?) So when an opportunity to visit Libjo in Dinagat Islands came up, I was thankful that I had no important activity in my calendar. I thank my friend, Bryan, for inviting me to talk about blogging and photography to high school students there. I had a wonderful time living it up in Libjo.

Libjo is a municipality in Dinagat Islands. Dinagat Islands is a province in Caraga Region in Northern Mindanao.  To get there from Butuan City,  we traveled by bus to Surigao City, took a jeep to the port and rode the boat for Libjo. The boat ride took us almost 4 hours.

Port in Libjo.

Libjo is a charming little town with so much potential for tourism.  We had time to just stroll around the town and the introvert in me just loved the peacefulness of the surroundings: no traffic, no crowd, no pollution.

This is the park and government center in Libjo. Children of all ages hang out at this park.

We walked further to reach an area overlooking the sea.

From this vantage point, I get to see these views. This is a great reward after walking a few kilometers.

There is a fishing boat docked below.

Libjo has rice fields that looked like small terraces.

Awesome, isn’t? Wait till you get to the beaches.

Beach hopping was part of the workshop so that the students can get some inspiration with their writing and practice photography.

So we hopped on a boat and we passed by this view  on the way to our first beach.

Don’t you want to just hang out here and relax?

How about sipping buko juice and scooping the yummy meat afterwards?

Say hi to my friend, Bryan, who made this trip possible. Thanks, Bry!

Libjo has white sand beaches with wide shoreline that we have enough space to jump…

… and do some yoga.

How about some quiet time in the blue lagoon?

I love hanging out in the grass under the coconut trees.

Oh, the students had fun, too.  I hope they learned something from this workshop.

My heart is full. Even for a short time away from the city life, I get to live a little better.

I will be back,  Dinagat!

Living it Up in Libjo

Travel Video: Camotes Islands

I know I still need a lot of practice when it comes to creating travel videos. This is my way of learning how to put all my video clips together. Someday, I will learn how to take better videos. For now, I hope you still find my video interesting enough that it would make you think about a trip to Camotes.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DImnwm3xa0]

No Stress in Camotes

A month ago, I got a message from my friend, Shirly, asking if I want to spend her birthday with her. I missed her big birthday bash in Phuket last year because I had work. This time, I did not have vacation plans for November and my work schedule is manageable. It was so easy to say “Yes!”. She planned to go to Cebu which was convenient for me because we just have to meet halfway.

I booked an overnight ferry to Cebu. I specifically asked for a top bunk because I feel more secured when I can see everyone.

Good thing, I was also placed near the window so I can see what is outside.

I took the boat because it leaves Nasipit port at 7pm and arrives at the Cebu pier at 5:30 am the following. I have enough time to catch the 9AM fast craft to Camotes Island. Shirly took an early flight from Manila so we agreed that I drop by the airport to pick her up (with my cab from the pier) and proceed to the wharf which was just around one kilometer away from the airport. The cab driver got lost actually. He brought us to Island Mall in Lapu-lapu instead of the Island Central Mall in Mactan which was just across the more popular Marina Mall. Inside the mall was a ticketing counter of Jomalia Shipping. The wharf was just a walking distance from the mall. It was just near the Cebu Yacht Club.

We arrived Camotes at around 10:30 AM. Our tricycle from the resort was already waiting for us. We were booked at Sunset Vista Seafront Guest House. It was located in Esperanza, a quaint and secluded barangay in San Francisco, Camotes Island. Shirly said that we were easily sold at the “quaint and secluded” description because we both wanted the peace and quiet areas. (The tita blood in us is showing! Ha!)

Esperanza was a quiet fishing barangay.

Our first order of the day was to find a place to eat lunch. Our guest house was not serving lunch because their cook was on vacation. Good thing there was good pizza in the next resort.

We had nothing planned for the afternoon because we were chill like that.  Ha!  We took a nap and before we knew it, it was time for dinner.  We were there to relax. So, relax we did!

We did all the touring the next day. Here is our guide showing Shirly all the spots we would be visiting.

Timubo Cave

I learned that both of us were non-swimmers. Before we entered the cave, we asked the lady at the entrance if there was going to be a guide. She said no. We asked how deep the water was. She said the deepest part was 6 feet deep so we were both careful. So careful that we only dipped near the steps and never went further down. Ha! Better safe than sorry!

Lake Danao

It was a beautiful lake. There were kayaks and boats you can hire. We  just opted to sit in the grass and let the sun dry our clothes a bit.

Paraiso Cave

The cave was underneath a well-manicured garden.  Stairs, lights and railings were there to make it easier for tourists to access the cave pool.

Amazing Cave and Beach Resort

Yes, there was a cave in this area. I just do not have a picture. I have a video clip though. I will post my Camotes video on my Youtube channel once I am done editing it.

Mangodlong Rock Resort

After all the cave pool swimming, we were looking forward to the beach. We found one in this resort.  They also have a large octopus-shaped slide that dropped to the ocean.

Santiago Bay

If only we have known how nice and wide this beach area is, we would have booked a resort near this place. Next time, next time. We went on a weekday and an off-peak season so there were few tourists and beach-goers. This is the kind of vacation this introvert likes the most- peaceful and no crowds.

San Francisco Baywalk

We were wondering where the market area was since all we saw in Esperanza were small stores. We found our answer when we visited the Baywalk area.

Tulang Diot

Our last stop was Tulang Diot. It is a small island near Esperanza. It was not part of the usual tour package of the Camotes. You need to pay additional fee to get there but since our resort was just a short walk away from where boats were docked to cross to the island, we were not charged for the trip.  We just have to hire a boat. It was a short boat ride and, as a bonus, we have Moana on board!

The beach was pristine. For a Php5 environmental fee per person, the beach was kept clean and immaculate.

It was raining on and off when we arrived Camotes.  Since we were billeted in Sunset Vista, I have been looking forward to seeing the sunset. I was glad to finally see the sunset in Tulang Diot.

As a bonus, we also saw a rainbow. I hope you can see the rainbow in this photo.

What a beautiful way to celebrate a birthday! Happy Birthday, Shirly! Thank you for inviting me on this trip!

No Stress in Camotes

A Quick Trip to Davao City

I spent 4 years of high school in Davao City. However, this is only the 4th time that I have visited the place after I graduated xx years ago.  It is because the bus ride from Butuan takes me 7-8 hours of travel. But because my friend, Maea, who lives in Singapore, was visiting and it might take a while before she will be back again with the family, I agreed to meet them. I arrived Davao the day before our scheduled get-together.   I arranged to meet up with my cousin, Baby (who got a new job so  yay!) and my friend, Gail, who was so kind to let me stay in their house.  Gail, Maea and I went to same high school and university. We also lived in the same dormitory in college.   Gail is my foodie friend so we went to a food trip as soon as I arrived (with my bags in tow!).

Food Trip

The first stop was in Kaizen.  It offered Japanese cuisine in a street resto setting like those in Tokyo. Gail was happy we got a table because  she said the place was usually packed with people. True enough, there were people waiting for their turn when we left. We got some ramen, katsu, curry chicken and DU30 roll (named after Davao’s famous resident).

Next stop was Yolks! We were easily attracted to its flowery display window. We got cream cheese cupcakes.

Our last stop was The Vegan Dinosaur.  Who would have thought that plant-based food can be filling?

 

Malagos Garden Resort

My friends and I finally met and we went to Malagos Garden Resort. There are so many activities for the kids and kids-at-heart. We saw a bunch of kindergartners on a field trip so we quickly went ahead to avoid the crowd.  Our first stop was the bird feeding area. And a bird landed on my head and I am not even feeding it!

There was a petting zoo.

There was a woody area. I felt like Little Red Riding Hood or maybe Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz since I have my red shoes on or maybe Alice in Wonderland because those cupcakes would be great for a tea party.

Actually, we were really in a real-life Chocolate Factory! Gail and I chose this place for the chocolate making activity! For a fee, you pick two molds and 3 toppings/fillings. You are then given 200 ml of chocolate.

Voila! These were some of our finished products.  The kid’s chocolates looked way better than mine so I made up for it by “prettifying” my box. Ha!

There are other activities you can do with the family here.

 

Davao Bamboo Sanctuary

Since we were already in the Malagos area, we might as well visit this resort whose photos made viral on social media.  Gail panicked when she learned I did not bring clothes for swimming. She was relieved when the resort staff told her that they sell swimwear. Ha! The manager of the resort welcomed us and the tour started with a little background presentation. The place was initially built for as a private family resort until a guest posted the photos and it went viral that they were forced to open it to the public.

We spent most of our time in the pool. The pool water came from the springs.

I am happy we had the chance to spend time together even for just a day.

Thank you to my awesome friends! Thank you for all the laughter. I miss all the chitchats on the van, while walking around the resort, while swimming, while eating and the list goes on.  See you next time!

 

A Quick Trip to Davao City

A Sohoton-Siargao Trip for the Introverts

My friends and I have this unwritten agreement to travel together every year. The last time we traveled in a huge group was in 2015. The same group agreed to travel to Batanes this year but it never materialized. I had work last year that I never had time to arrange trips for this year so I figured that the best way to get them together was to schedule a trip that does not require plane tickets. I had Sohoton and Siargao in mind. Alas, I scheduled it on a summer where many of them have office summer activities that are also in Siargao. In the end, there were only four of us traveling to Sohoton.

Then, three of us were left to travel to Siargao. Yes, three introverted individuals who do not like crowds and would love to be left alone to explore. Yes, it can be done. And yes, the trip can still be fun.

Day 1 to Day 2

We started our journey in a van to Bad-as, Placer, Surigao del Norte. It was funny that the 3 introverts (and agoraphobics!) found themselves inside a van with 12 strangers. It is the only way to reach Surigao a little faster. A van ride would take us around 2 hours to reach Bad-as while a bus ride would take around 3 hours. In Bad-as, we met our 4th travel buddy, Bryan, and we rode in another van together going to Hayanggabon Port. In Hayanggabon Port, we were met by the boatmen from Cinnamon Island.

Our trip to Sohoton in Bucas Grande was already pre-arranged by Bryan. An overnight stay in an air-conditioned cottage, 4 meals, island hopping tour and boat transfers (to port) cost us Php 3,200 each. We would have gotten a cheaper rate if we were traveling with a bigger group but we all felt the fee was all worth it. It was a stress-free time in Sohoton. The boat would wait for us. The sumptuous food would wait for us. Everything was ready. I remembered us saying, “I hope there is food. I am already hungry.” By the time we went down to the dining table, the food is already waiting for us. Five-star service. We highly recommend Cinnamon Island in Bucas Grande.

So what did we do in Sohoton?

Island hopping! We docked in a beach full of people so we asked the boatmen to find us another beach. So here we were! There were no other people but us in this beach!

It was that easy to find our own beach here.

Buried our feet in the softest sand.

Swam with the jellyfishes.

Swam inside the cave

Jumped. My friends jumped. I made an excuse that I would be the one to take their photos.

Spelunking. We went inside the Crystal cave whose stalactites and stalagmites were covered in crystals. They shimmered when they caught light.

Ate fresh and yummy seafood!

We had early lunch on Day 2 and we immediately asked to be dropped at the Socorro port to catch the boat trip to Dapa in Siargao. The boat ride from Cinnamon Island to Socorro port took us more than an hour on a large pumpboat. From Socorro, I think it took us almost an hour to reach Dapa. I was seated behind the captain of the boat. The sea was a little rougher than what I was used to. I felt seasick and was trying to keep my cool until my body gave in. I felt my lunch in my mouth and was trying to hold the food in while I patted the captain’s shoulder and motioned that I need a plastic bag. He hurriedly gave the plastic bag he had, unpacking his extra shirt inside. I threw up my lunch like a pro that I am. ( I have motion sickness so I am used to throwing up without much fuss.) My friends were unaware of what happened. I was that discreet.

From Dapa, we rode a tricycle to General Luna where we were booked in an Airbnb cottage. The cottage was perfect for the island vacation we imagined. We took turns in having our picture taken in this hammock!

We had our dinner at Kermit’s since it was highly recommended in many reviews we read.

After that, we called it a day.

Day 3

In this trip, we just list down the activities we wanted to do and just find ways to do them; no advance planning on where to book tours. We wanted to go to Magpupungko but we did not research tide forecast beforehand. One must go to Magpupungko during low tide so we opted to go to Sugba Lagoon instead. Sugba Lagoon is in the Municipality of Del Carmen. Many of the blogs we read said that the mode of transportation was through a habal-habal, a motorcycle with roof attached. While many drivers can accommodate the 3 of us in a motorcycle, we chose to hire a tricycle. An hour-ride on a motorcyle with 3 other people would be uncomfortable. Yes, we love adventure but we also wanted comfort. The tricycle ride cost us Php 1600 roundtrip. To reach Sugba Lagoon, one needs to hire a boat at the municipal tourism center. The ride costs 1600 per boat. We passed through a large mangrove plantation, the second largest in the country.


We reached the lagoon and there are already tourists ahead of us which aggravated the anxiety of the introverts! So we looked for a table and just observed the crowd. We waited for the area to be less crowded.

So what did we do in Sugba Lagoon?

Jump! Oh well. My friend, Arnel, jumped while I did what I do best- document the jump.

Stand Up Paddle. Because we were non-swimmers, we wore lifejackets!

Swim. I just watch people swim. There was intermittent raining when we went.

By the way, be careful with the pathways when wet. They were slippery. I slipped, I fell flat on my back. Thanks to my natural cushion (read: big butt) I only got a bruised ego. Ha!

We left early so we still had time to catch the sunset at the boardwalk in Cloud 9. We took a short cut from our cottage to the main road but it turned out to be a farther route to the boardwalk.

The mistake led us to this shore which was a nice detour.

After walking miles (it felt like that), we are finally here! Ha!

The introverts picked a floor in the deck with less crowd and watch the sunset and the surfers.

When evening came, we went to Mama’s Grill for dinner and then headed home to our rented cottage.

Day 4

We already arranged with the tricycle driver we hired the previous day to get us to Magpupungko. We planned to go to Magpupungko in the morning and go island hopping in the afternoon. Our tricycle driver suggested that we drop by Tayangban Cave Pool since it is along the way to Magpupungko. We were glad we listened to our driver because we enjoyed our time there. Entrance to the cave pool is only Php 70 per person and there is a guide who will help you navigate though the cave system. I really enjoyed this activity. I would say this is Siargao’s best kept secret.
Look at our beaming faces!

Once we were done with the spelunking, we were off to Magpupungko.

I love Magpupungko. In Magpupungko are tide pools left by the ocean when tides are low. Sea water and creatures are trapped inside the natural pools. My camera batteries needed recharging so I was not able to take my own photos in Magpupungko so I swiped off Arnel’s photos. ha! Enjoy!


We enjoyed out time there. We left when more people started arriving. Ha! Introvert problems.

Off to island hopping!

Our driver already arranged our boat for island hopping. It cost us Php 1,500 per boat. We will be visiting three islands: Naked, Dako and Guyam. Since we have not eaten our lunch yet, we bought pizzas from Aventino’s before going island hopping (there is so many branches in Siargao) which we ate at Guyam. We spent a lot of time swimming in Guyam.

It was already late in the afternoon when we decided to end our island hopping journey.

For dinner, we ate at Bravo. It was suggested by our Airbnb host, Martim. I love the vibe there.
After dinner, we headed back to our rented cottage to pack our things.

The following day was a long day. We spent the day traveling. We needed to go to the port in Dapa early to get tickets for the boat ride to Surigao. The boat left Dapa at around 11 am and we arrived Surigao past 1:00 pm. We were met by our friend, Bryan, for lunch. We also met up with friends while in Surigao so we left Surigao at around 4:00 pm and arrived Butuan past 7pm.

Some notes on the trip:
1. We love the services provided by Cinnamon Island in Sohoton.
2. We love our Airbnb cottage. I left a review on Airbnb and the host gave his feedback. He said that we were a nice group, very relaxed and independent. Ha! This clearly shows that we are introverts. We just like to be left alone. Hehehe
3. If I have the chance to go back to Siargao, I would skip Sugba Lagoon but I will still go back to Magpupungko. I learned from a friend that one can do Stand Up Paddle near the mangroves in Cloud 9. I will do that instead.
4. I made a mistake of renting a paddle board at the tourism office in Del Carmen. There are paddle boards for rent at the lagoon at a cheaper rate.
5. It used to take us 2 hours to reach Surigao from Butuan by bus. Now it takes 3.5 hours.
6. We did not choose the cheapest rates in the Siargao. Instead, we chose the hassle-free and most comfortable options we can afford.
7. Siargao is also a party place. Our friend, Bryan, would encourage us to go out at night and find the venue of the party of the day but the introverts just wanted to chill in the cottage and fiddle with the gadgets.

Here is our itinerary and the amount we spent on some of our activities:

 

** entire tour package: Port transfer, island hopping, accommodation, 4 meals, welcome snack and drink
*** Habal-habal ride within General Luna costs Php20 per person
**** I forgot how much we spent for food. We are all foodies so we really do not scrimp on spending for food.
***** I also forgot how much the bus ride cost.

Three days and 4 nights in the Airbnb Cottage cost Php 4,115.

Total trip cost: At least 7,788.33 per person (Food in Siargao was unaccounted because I forgot how much it cost us.)

It was an exhausting trip back home but I will take the trip again in a heartbeat if I get invited to go to Siargao.

If you have not been to Siargao or Sohoton, you must visit soon!

Some photos were taken by my friends, Bryan, Arnel and Gail. Thank you for being my cool travel buddies!
Btw, send me an email if you want a link to Airbnb which will give you discount on your first booking.

Oh, this is my travel video of that trip. Enjoy!

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