20 Top Things to Do in Bantayan Island

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Bantayan Island is an idyllic tropical destination that is perfect for those who are looking for a paradise-like location to spend their holiday.

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Bantayan Island is perhaps one of the most idyllic destinations in the Philippines. It has unspoiled beaches, amazing heritage structures, noteworthy natural formations, and must-visit eco-tourism sites. On top of these, seafood is abundant in Bantayan Island making it the perfect tropical island getaway.

A boat on a beach in Bantayan Island
Boat on a beach in Sta. Fe

20 Top Things to Do in Bantayan Island




    Get to know Bantayan Island


    Bantayan Island in Cebu is located in the Visayan Sea. Specifically, it is located westward in the northernmost tip of the island of Cebu. It is divided into three municipalities: Bantayan, Madridejos, and Sante Fe.

    MAP OF BANTAYAN ISLAND

    The town of Bantayan, located at the central part of the island, is also the seat of trade and commerce of Bantayan Island. Madridejos is the primary fish producer of the island while Sta. Fe is the center of travel and tourism and is considered as the island's primary gateway.

    Bantayan Island is a quiet, quaint, and peaceful island destination. Life on this island is unhurried, completely devoid of the hustle and bustle (as well as the pressures) of city life. As such, if you are looking for a place to connect with nature as well as the beautiful simplicity of island life, then Bantayan Island is for you.

    Ogtong Cave in Bantayan Island
    Ogtong Cave

    But don't get us wrong. Bantayan Island is far from being boring. In fact, many adventures still await travelers if they choose to go here.

    Aside from the many beautiful sights that Bantayan Island has to offer, here are some interesting facts and trivia about the island that you probably did not know about:

    1. It has its own unique language called Bantayanon which is a mixture of Visayan languages from nearby areas, particularly Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Boholano, Masbateño, and Waray-Waray, plus a sprinkling of its own distinctive words like "kakyop" for yesterday and "buwas" for tomorrow.

    2. Bantayan Island is home to Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Church, one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, meanwhile, is the oldest parish in the Visayas and Mindanao.

    Native decors at Virgin Island in Bantayan Island
    Welcome arch at Virgin Island

    3. Bantayan Island is considered a Wilderness Area and is under a protected status through Proclamation No. 2151 of 1981. This means that the island's wildlife and natural reserves are to be protected from all activities that will compromise them.

    4. Bantayan Island is home to four must-see festivals: Palawod Festival, Semana Santa, Isda (Buwad) Festival, and Kinsahon Festival.

    Palawod Festival is celebrated every June 29 and is a way of thanksgiving for the abundant bounty from the sea. In fact, "palawod" is a Cebuano word which means "to go out to sea." The highlight of the celebration is a street-dancing event in which participants are dressed in costumes that depict the blessings from the sea such as shells, fish, clams, and jellyfish.

    Semana Santa, meanwhile, is held during Holy Week. During the event, life-size statues of saints, as well as the Santo Entierro, are paraded around Bantayan town. What is unique about this celebration is that Bantayanons eat meat during Holy Week.

    At Virgin Island in Bantayan Island
    At Virgin Island

    Since fish is their primary source of protein and the fishermen cannot set out to sea during Holy Week, they were allowed to consume meat although many Bantayanons abstain from eating meat.

    The Isda or Buwad Festival, on the other hand, is celebrated every December 8 in the town of Madridejos. This is also a thanksgiving festival for all the bountiful harvest from the sea. During the festival, the town's dried fish (Cebuano, buwad) products take the spotlight.

    Lastly, Kinsahon Festival is held every January 15 to 16 and features the different seashells (kinsahon) from Sta. Fe town.         

    How to go to Bantayan Island


    We went to Bantayan Island to celebrate our third wedding anniversary. We chose this particular destination because we were looking for an island and beach getaway without much of the crowd, especially the party-hopping kind such as those in Boracay.

    Alighting at Sta. Fe Port in Bantayan Island
    Sta. Fe Port

    Going to Bantayan Island requires a lot of patience because of the long bus drive from Cebu City, which is around 5 to 6 hours, traffic and stopovers included. 

    Here's how to get there:

    1. Take a domestic flight to Mactan International Airport.

    2. From Mactan International Airport, hail a cab (choose the white taxis, they're cheaper than the yellow ones and the private vans) and ask the driver to take you to North Bus Terminal.

    3. At North Bus Terminal, take a bus bound for Hagnaya Port (we took a Ceres Bus, P165/head).

    4. Once at Hagnaya Port, buy tickets for a ferry boat ride (P170/head) to Sta. Fe Port.

    5. You may ask your resort's shuttle service to pick you up from Sta. Fe port. Alternatively, you may ask tricycle drivers within the port area to take you to your accommodation.

    Beach Placid in Bantayan Island
    Beach Placid

    By the way, note that there are buses that go straight to Bantayan town via Sta. Fe Port (P200/head). Keep in mind that the Php200 fare does not cover the ferry boat fare which means you will still have to pay for it separately once at Hagnaya Port. 

    If you are going to Sta. Fe town, you can just pay for a bus ride up to Hagnaya Port. If you are going to Bantayan or Madridejos town, then you may opt to ride the bus up to those locations.

    How to get around Bantayan Island


    Bantayan Island, being a top tourist destination, offers a myriad of activities for adventure seekers, heritage tourists, and laid back travelers.

    The primary mode of transportation here is tricycle and multi-cab but you may wish to rent a bike or a motorcycle and roam around on your lonesome. You may ask the resort where you're staying at for recommendations on where to go, what to do, and where to eat. Even tricycle drivers would have a good list of things-to-do while on this island.

    Best things to do in Bantayan Island 


    Bantayan Island may be slow-paced but that does not mean that there is not much to do here. In fact, there are so many amazing activities that you can try here so I suggest staying here for at least a weekend. However, I think it's most ideal to stay here for at least 3 days like what we did. 

    Even so, we felt like there are still so many things to see and do in Bantayan Island. Here are some of the amazing things to try in Bantayan Island:

    1. Spend a leisurely time at the beach


    Bantayan Island is perfect for beach bummers. Its white-sand beaches are perfect for idle walks especially in the early morning or early afternoon.

    Stunning beach at Sta. Fe in Bantayan Island
    Beach at Sta. Fe

    We spent a lot of time just walking along the beach and checking out the resorts in Sta. Fe. Yes, you can go inside resorts and beachside hotels in Sta. Fe and stay at the beachfront even if you are not checked in.

    If you do get tired, just flop yourself on a beach bench, soak up the sun, and enjoy the relaxing waves and sea breeze.

    We spent most of our time at Anika Island Resort, which we definitely loved but you may check out other resorts like Beach Placid, Kota Beach, and Jelly's Haven.  

    2. Take a dip in Ogtong Cave


    Ogtong Cave is an underground cave with a natural pool located inside Sta. Fe Beach Club, which is just a few minutes away from Sta. Fe town via tricycle. Swimming at Ogtong Cave is one of the most highly-recommended activities in Bantayan Island. 

    Taking a dip in Ogtong Cave in Bantayan Island
    Swimming in Ogtong Cave

    We were expecting the water to be freezing cold but it was surprisingly warm. The spring water was clear and looked clean. It was a little uncomfortable swimming because the natural pool was small and the floor was uneven. As a matter of fact, since the cave is small and the floor is uneven, it's not advisable to swim here like one would normally do in a pool or on the beach.

    Sta. Fe Beach Club swimming pool in Bantayan Island
    Enjoying the swimming pool in Sta. Fe Beach Club

    The farthest end was lighted but there was a section of the cave that was dark that could make one feel claustrophobic. While the water was not deep, it's still best to take caution if you have a tendency to have panic attacks.

    By the way, one has to pay a minimal admission fee of Php100 per head at Sta. Fe Beach Club but that already included swimming in Ogtong Cave and use of the swimming pool.

    3. Check out Kota Beach Resort


    Kota Beach Resort,  considered as one of the best beach resorts in Bantayan Island, is where the popular movie Camp Sawi was filmed.

    Camp Sawi at Kota Beach in Bantayan Island
    Camp Sawi

    We went inside Kota Beach and took some photos of the spot where the Camp Sawi marker was located.

    Sandbar at Kota Beach in Bantayan Island
    Sandbar

    Also located at the beach behind the resort is a stunning sandbar so do include checking that out in your itinerary because it's one of the most Instagram-worthy locations in Bantayan Island.

    4. Visit Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church


    One of the magnificent structures that you may want to visit in Bantayan town is the oldest parish in Visayas and Mindanao, the Saints Peter and Paul Parish, which was established by the Augustinians on June 11, 1580. 

    Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church in Bantayan Island
    Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church

    The parish church, built in the 1800s, is made of coralline limestone and is considered unique among the many churches in the Philippines because of the stone relief sculptures that adorn its walls.

    5. Explore Bantayan town


    After visiting Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Church, you may want to take a walk around the Bantayan town plaza where you will see a lot of antique houses.

    Antique houses in Bantayan town
    Antique houses in Bantayan town

    Farther away from the town plaza is the public market where they sell souvenirs as well as dried fish and seafood, said to be much cheaper as compared to those sold in Cebu City.

    6. Visit Kota Park


    If you have time, take a multi-cab to Madridejos town and visit Kota Park where an old fort, a sentinel that has witnessed history throughout centuries, stands guard. 

    There is also a beach area and a pier with an observation platform if you want to enjoy the sunset. 

    7. Commune with nature at Bantayan Island Nature and Conservation Park 


    You may also want to visit the Bantayan Nature and Conservation Park as well as other mangrove conservation sites if you wish to visit eco-tourism sites and marvel at nature's unadulterated beauty. 

    Bantayan Island Nature and Conservation Park is actually a seaside leisure and wellness resort located in Tamiao.

    8. Try cliff-diving at German Ruins


    The German Ruins is known as the primary cliff-diving point in Bantayan Island. The German Ruins are not ruins per se but an unfinished house.

    Cliff-diving in Bantayan Island
    View from the cliff

    Travelers go here for the spectacular views, the breathtaking cliff-diving point, and the small beach where one may swim.

    9. See the heritage houses of Bantayan Island


    A heritage house in Bantayan Island
    Heritage house in Sta. Fe

    For history buffs, you may want to see the different heritage houses interspersed throughout Sta. Fe town.

    10. Try adventure activities


    Yes, that's right. There are unique adventure activities that you can try in Bantayan Island such as paddling in a lagoon, a not too physically-intensive activity but still fun because you get to explore a lagoon on a paddleboard, courtesy of SUP Bantayan.

    Skydiving in Bantayan Island
    Photo courtesy of Skydive Cebu

    If you are thinking of finally ticking that skydiving activity off your bucket list, then this may be the perfect opportunity. If you want to arrange a skydiving activity, you may want to get in touch with Skydive Cebu Adventures.

    One more unusual activity to try on Bantayan Island is kite surfing which will allow you to enjoy the relaxing sea breeze of Bantayan Island. Check out Sea Breeze Kite Club to arrange for a kite surfing lesson or a tour.  

    11. Enjoy the quiet nightlife


    While nightlife might be sparse in Bantayan Island, there are still bars in Sta. Fe town where one can have a few drinks or just a cup of coffee. What's good about the nightlife in Bantayan Island is that it's not noisy and free from the rowdy and drunk crown found in other tourist destinations around the Philippines.

    12. Taste local food


    Fish tinola in Bantayan Island
    Fish tinola

    Bantayan Island is home to an abundant supply of seafood at a very affordable price. As such, you may want to take advantage of the opportunity to eat delicious seafood here whenever there is a chance to do so.

    13. Buy dried seafood


    Madridejos town is the dried seafood center of Bantayan Island. You can go here if you want an abundant selection of seafood.

    Dried seafood in Bantayan Island
    Dried seafood

    However, you can also buy dried fish at Bantayan town, where we bought several packs of danggit. According to the seller at the public market, most dried seafood at Taboan Market in Cebu are sourced here and are, thus, a lot cheaper if you buy them here.

    14. Enjoy a day at Paradise Beach


    Paradise Beach is a secluded beach that you can visit if you want to enjoy a day of utmost privacy and relaxation. That means sharing the beautiful sand and sea with just a handful of people. Bring your own food though because there are no establishments inside. The admission fee is Php50 per head. 

    15. Explore the island via bike


    One of the most popular ways to get around and explore Bantayan Island is by bike. There are many establishments offering bicycle and motorbike rentals; you can ask your hotel to help you with making arrangements.

    Exploring Bantayan Island
    Exploring Bantayan Island

    It's an enjoyable activity plus it allows you to work up a bit. Best of all, you have full control over your pace as well as the places that you want to visit.

    16. Enjoy the sunset


    There is no better way to end your day than sunset-watching. You can either sit on a bench or set up a blanket on the beach where you can just sit back and relax as you wait for the sun to set. Watch as the colors of the horizon shift from orange to red and behold as the waters magically transform into a postcard-perfect view.

    17. Go island-hopping


    If you want to try island-hopping in Bantayan Island, I suggest allotting at least half a day or at best a full day for this activity.

    On the way to Virgin Island in Bantayan Island
    On the way to Virgin Island

    Being surrounded by the Visayan Sea, the adjacent areas such as Virgin Island offers diving sites that are teeming with marine life. We did not get to try diving though but we did visit Virgin Island, 45 minutes away via boat ride from Bantayan Island.

    Arriving at Virgin Island in Bantayan Island
    At Virgin Island

    The island, made mostly of coralline limestone, is fringed by fine white sand and aquamarine waters. We did not ask why it was named as such but we reckoned that it was because the island is basically undeveloped, save for some cottages, a bamboo "restaurant" and a toilet. Other than these, the island is mostly covered in thick foliage.

    We snorkeled along the beach expecting to be greeted by colorful reef fishes but we only saw a handful. We enjoyed the clear aquamarine waters anyway and took many photographs along the beach.

    Exploring Virgin Island in Bantayan Island
    Exploring Virgin Island

    We were told by the receptionists at Anika Island Resort that one may bring fresh seafood (and seasonings and coal) with them to Virgin Island and request the boatmen to cook these for them. Unfortunately for us, we were not able to find fresh crabs or shrimps at the wet market so we settled for packed lunch from Anika's Chloe Cafe.

    There is a small store and restaurant on Virgin Island if you do not wish to bring anything with you. We checked the prices and these were reasonable enough.

    Island-hopping in Bantayan Island
    White sand beach in Virgin Island

    After 3 hours, we asked our boatmen to take us back to Anika Island Resort and journeyed through what may have been the longest boat ride of our lives. The weather was a bit windy and rainy at Bantayan for the past two days but the wind seemed to have picked up on our way back from Virgin Island.

    The waves were huge and twice we felt like our boat was almost flying. By the time we reached Sta. Fe shore, the rain turned to downpour and big waves were already pounding on the anchored boats.

    Enjoying the quaint beauty of Bantayan Island
    Relaxing at Virgin Island

    Aside from Virgin Island, you may also want to visit Hilantagaan Island. We did not get to visit this island though because we only availed of a half-day island-hopping tour, although we were glad that we did not include this because of the rough waters during our tour. If you can, book a whole day island-hopping tour to be able to visit Hilantagaan Island.

    For our Virgin Island tour, we paid Php1,000 for the boat rental, admission fee of Php500, and snorkeling gear rental of Php150 for two.

    18. Try puto balanghoy


    One of the most popular snacks on Bantayan Island is puto balanghoy. It is made of grated cassava and coconut and then steamed. The puto balanghoy is delicious, healthy, filling, and definitely affordable.

    19. Learn how to dive


    Bantayan Island is home to some of the best dive sites in the Philippines. If you are a newbie who is interested to learn how to dive or an experienced diver who would like to marvel at the beautiful underwater flora and fauna of Bantayan Island, you will be fully satisfied with the breathtaking underwater ecosystem surrounding the area.

    Diving in Bantayan Island
    Diving in Bantayan Island (photo courtesy of Victory Divers Facebook page)

    If you would like to arrange a tour or a lesson, you may get in touch with Victory Divers Bantayan.

    20. Visit Omagieca Mangrove Garden


    Explore Omagieca Mangrove Garden, one of the most popular eco-tourism sites in Bantayan Island.

    Omagieca Mangrove Garden in Bantayan Island
    Omagieca Mangrove Garden (photo courtesy Team Bantayan Island Facebook page)

    It is home to thousands of mangroves that provide an amazing experience to guests. As you explore, you will also learn the significance of mangroves to the marine ecosystem.

    Where to eat in Bantayan Island


    Visiting Bantayan Island is not complete without sampling the best dishes the island has to offer. The Visayas, rich in both marine and land resources, is perhaps famous for sutokil which stands for sugba (to grill, mainly meats and seafood), tola (to cook in the broth, such as fish, shellfish, or chicken), and kilaw (to cook in acidic fruit juice and/or vinegar, primarily seafood).

    Seafood at Bantayan Island
    Seafood feast

    These are probably the most basic and yet the best techniques to prepare food to keep their fresh flavors intact. Being staples in Visayan cuisine, expect to find any of these dishes in every restaurant in the region.

    Here are some restaurants in Bantayan that offer some of the best cuisines while keeping prices affordable:

    1. Anika Island Resort's Chloe Cafe 


    The resort serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a variety of local as well as Italian cuisines. Try the fish tinola, which is the whole snapper cooked in a rich broth flavored with spring onions, tomatoes, and spicy green chilies. The hot soup is invigorating, perfect for warming the stomach.

    2. Beach Placid Resort


    One may also visit the nearby Beach Placid Resort. They have an open-air restaurant with free karaoke upon purchase of any drink. Seafood cooked in various ways is their specialty.

    3. HR Restaurant


    Nobody can resist seafood and perhaps the most recommended establishment in town for seafood dishes is the HR Restaurant. Here, we tried baked scallops (P255), grilled Lapu-Lapu (P165), fried garlic butter shrimp (P175), and chili garlic crab (P465). 

    Seafood at Bantayan Island
    Buttered shrimps

    Indeed, HR Restaurant did not disappoint. The food was superb and fresh. The scallops were cheesy, buttery, and plump while the crabs and fish were meaty. The shrimps, meanwhile, tasted of rich butter and fragrant garlic. This is definitely a must-try when in Bantayan.

    4. Kota Beach Resort


    Kota Beach Resort also has a restaurant but you will have to pay an admission fee should you wish to dine in here. That does not sound so customer-friendly though.

    5. Sta. Fe Beach Club


    Aside from Ogtong Cave, Sta. Fe Beach Club is also popular for its restaurant so you may also want 
    to check out their menu of local and international cuisine.

    6. Kermit's Café and Pastry


    When we went to Bantayan town, we learned that Kermit's Cafe and Pastry and Jala's Restaurant are two of the more popular restaurants in the area. Kermit's menu is mostly western cuisine so you might want to check them out if you want to eat pizza and pastries or just have coffee. They also have rice meals for a more filling option. 

    7. Jala's Restaurant


    Jala's Restaurant meanwhile serves mostly Filipino dishes and rice meals. If you want to enjoy a nice filling Filipino meal while exploring Bantayan town, then head over to Jala's Restaurant.

    Pancit at Bantayan Island
    Pancit

    Both Kermit's and Jala's are located very near the town plaza. But if you wish to eat something really affordable, try the row of cafeterias in the public market. Taste something exotic like baby shark adobo or a warm fish tinola soup. The shark adobo, unfortunately, was not available when we ate at the public market.

    7. Bantayan public market


    While at the public market, you may also buy native delicacies like the puto balanghoy, a popular snack made of grated balanghoy (cassava) and coconut, and then steamed. There are also suman and chunks of cassava cooked in syrup. Price ranges from Php10 to Php20.

    Bantayan Island is also rich in fresh seafood so you may enjoy this anywhere without having to break your wallet.

    Where to stay in Bantayan Island


    Kota Beach in Bantayan Island
    Kota Beach

    Since Bantayan Island is a popular destination, accommodation is never a problem. Aside from Anika Island Resort, here are some of the best hotels and resorts in Bantayan Island:

    1. Sta. Fe Beach Club (check rates here)
    2. Kota Beach Resort (check rates here)
    3. Beach Placid Resort (check rates here)
    4. Bantayan Island Nature Park & Resort (check rates here)
    5. Micky Santoro Hotel and Restaurant (check rates here)
    6. Kandugyap House by the Sea (check rates here)

    Sample Itinerary


    Here is a sample three-day itinerary for your Bantayan Island adventure:

    Day 1

    • Arrival and check-in
    • Explore the beaches of Sta. Fe
    • Watch the sunset
    • Dinner

    Day 2

    • Breakfast
    • Island-hopping tour
    • Dinner

    Day 3

    • Breakfast
    • Visit Saints Peter and Paul Parish
    • Explore Bantayan town
    • Proceed to Madridejos town and visit Kota Park
    • Dinner

    For tours and island-hopping packages in Bantayan Island, you may get in touch with South Shore Cebu Travel and Tours or Team Bantayan Island.

    Other things to remember


    Here are some more things to keep in mind to make your Bantayan Island trip enjoyable:

    1. You can buy fresh seafood and scallops in the public market at an affordable price. It's best to go there early in the morning. If you are planning to go on an island-hopping tour, you can bring fresh seafood with you and request your boat operator to cook it for you.

    2. You can rent a tricycle to take you around Sta. Fe town. The usual fare is Php100. 

    3. To be on the safe side, prepare a budget of Php5,000 to Php6,000 per head. That will already cover food, accommodation, tours, and emergency fund.

    4. There are ATMs on the island where you can withdraw cash. All credit cards are accepted in major establishments. 

    5. Bantayanons are very appreciative people. As such, they would be happy to accept tips of any amount. Be sure to be generous though! :)

    Epilogue


    Bantayan Island is one of those places that we were really sad to leave. We would have wanted to stay longer but we needed to catch a bus going to Dumaguete City. As such, we promised to go back to Bantayan Island when an opportunity presents itself.

    The stairs leading down to Ogtong Cave in Bantayan Island
    At the entrance of Ogtong Cave

    What we also loved most about Bantayan Island is its friendly citizens who were all genuinely helpful, the tricycle drivers especially those who were always ready to provide recommendations and give the best options when going around the island.

    PIN THIS BANTAYAN ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE

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      17 comments

      1. I'm really looking forward to visiting The Philippines on my upcoming trip to Asia, thanks for sharing these wonderful photos!

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      2. Thank you. I hope you enjoy your stay here.

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      3. Looks like your patience paid off, because that location is stunning! Thanks for all of the wonderful photos! x
        Lots of love,
        Marina Rosie xx
        http://marinawriteslife.blogspot.fr/

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      4. You took great photos! I enjoyed reading your post and it definitely made me want to visit the Bantayan Island; hopefully someday in the future :)

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      5. Thank you also for your kind words!

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      6. Thank you! Hope you get to visit the Philippines soon.

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      7. I love that even though it's pretty overcast, the water is still so bright! I would love to swim around in that cave! It looks beautiful.

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      8. Thank you so much! It was a bit overcast but the sights are still stunning.

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      9. Your photos are beautiful, especially of the cave. Bantayan island looks a gorgeous island to visit. My dad lives in Cebu so I always love reading posts about the Phillipines.

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      10. Thank you very much! Wow, great to hear that your Dad is in Cebu. He must be in love with the place. I hope you get to visit the Philippines someday.

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      11. Another stunning photographic post about Bantayan island or Philippines I came across. I have to visit it soon.
        Thanks for sharing such a nice post

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      12. Thank you for the kind words! Hope you'll visit the Philippines soon.

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      13. I have to say that I really enjoyed the pictures of the natural pool. It looked very beautiful there. That's great that the water was nice there to, temperature wise.

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      14. Thank you very much! Yup, it was beautiful.

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      15. I have lots of friends from Philippines and they told me how beautiful the place is. Never got a chance to go there but I am hoping to visit at least once in lifetime.
        - Fatima

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      16. Wonderful narration of visit with photos . Happy traveling

        ReplyDelete
      17. Thank you very much for the kind words!

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