Feature On the go Places

Pescador Island adventure: dolphins, marine beauty make up for the “sharks”

onthego-icon Dolphins! They swam beside our boat as we neared Pescador Island off Moalboal for a day out snorkeling and enjoying the much better preserved underwater marine life in the southern town known for its long strip of white sand beach.

Our welcoming party of at least five dolphins dove and jumped and glided alongside our motorized outrigger banca for a time, entertaining all of us as we clapped, cheered, and took pictures.

We dropped anchor in the shallows of the small uninhabited island of Pescador so our party of 20 plus adults and kids can enjoy swimming and looking at the fish and corals underneath.

Pescador Island hopping

The dolphins and Pescador were the highlights of our island hopping experience.

Sad to say that things turned bad from there on.

After a short time in Pescador, the skippers of the two boats we rented for the day told us to climb back as we were going to another popular snorkeling area. They claimed they were bringing us to where the sardines congregate in Moalboal.

Dolphins in Pescador Island, Moalboal
Dolphins swim beside our boat as we approach Pescador Island off Moalboal in southern Cebu.


Though we wanted more time off Pescador, we agreed because we believed it would be another satisfying experience. The boat skippers did make the motion of bringing us somewhere else and we saw others there. But after shouting to each other and slowing down a bit, they went off again.

They said they were bringing us to a sanctuary. It was anything but. It was dirty, the corals were dead, and there was something in the sea that stings.

They thought that would discourage us and we would ask to go back. Some of us, including me, did stop swimming and just stayed on the boat. However, some children and a few adults continued to swim. It was then that they asked us to go back up the boat again.

Boat rental rates

We were surprised and thought they were bringing us to a new location after we complained about the dirty sea. What happened was they already dropped us back at White Beach.

We left at past 8 a.m. and they returned us before noon. Since we paid for two boats, at P2,500 each, for our party of 24 adults and kids, it’s not hard to see we were shortchanged.

Pescador Island, Moalboal
PESCADOR ISLAND is an uninhabited islet off Moalboal that is a favorite among divers for its fantastic underwater scene.

Pescador Island, Moalboal

The deception, actually, started way earlier. In the beginning, we asked for one big boat that can accommodate our party of over 20 adults and children. That was the day before our trip, and were were at White Beach in Basdaku, Moalboal. We were assured they have such a boat.

On the day of the trip, the person we negotiated with (a mainstay at White Beach) pointed the boat that bears the markings “ACS”. I told him it looked quite small as it was still some distance away and if it would fit all of us. He said yes.

As it is, the boat skipper of the motorized outrigger banca ACS waited until we (not one boat crew offered help) brought all our things aboard before saying his boat couldn’t accommodate all of us.

White beach

Keep away from this one, he’s crafty and rude and bad for Moalboal tourism. He has this style of walking away, muttering and mumbling, in the middle of your conversation if he doesn’t like what he’s hearing.

He told us we had to add another boat if we want to go island hopping. With the kids all excited to go and thinking of the hassle of bringing down large coolers and other provisions down from the boat again, we ended up paying for two boats.

Pescador Island, Moalboal
ISLAND HOPPING to Pescador Island is a popular activity in Moalboal. Just make sure you negotiate well for the boat you are renting.

This was not our first time in Moalboal and we never had problems in our past trips to White Beach. This was our first time to go island hopping, though, and realized we should have seen to the finer details.

If you’re planning to hie off to Pescador in Moalboal this summer, here are some tips to make the most of your experience. Never agree on a price without looking at the boat first as you can’t rely on them to be truthful. Ask how long you can be out at sea for such a price. Decide on the itinerary and make sure they stick to it.


First Suroy-Suroy Sugbo of 2015 to visit southern Cebu attractions

This year’s first Suroy-Suroy Sugbo will head to Cebu attractions in the southern city of Carcar and towns of Barili, Moalboal, Alegria, Malabuyoc, Oslob, Boljoon, Dalaguete, and Argao.

The Suroy-Suroy Sugbo Southern Getaway is a three-day, two-night trip that involves visits to heritage sites like ancestral homes and Spanish period structures as well as nature sites like hot springs and waterfalls.

Happening shortly after the Sinulog Festival 2015 celebration, the year’s first Suroy-Suroy Sugbo will run from January 21-23, 2015.

Badian Island Resort and Spa
Badian Island Resort and Spa is one of the accommodation options of the Suroy Suroy Sugbo Southern Getaway but only for guests paying the higher packages.

Suroy-Suroy Sugbo itinerary

The first stop of the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo itinerary is the historic city of Carcar where guests will be taken on a tour of Mancao’s ancestral house. They will then continue on to another sprawling early 20th century house in Barili before leaving for one of the town’s natural marvels.

Said to be the tallest in Cebu, the 98-meter high Mantayupan Falls will be the last stop in Barili before the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo group zooms off to a brief visit in Moalboal before departing for Alegria.

Other exciting things in store for Suroy-Suroy Sugbo guests:

Alegria – Visits to Alegria Heritage Park and demo farm
Malabuyoc – Swimming at Mainit Springs
Samboan – Swimming at Aguinid Falls and a tour of the church and Escala de Jacob
Oslob – Church and museum visit
Boljoon – Church and museum visit
Argao – Cabecera de Argao tour and Argao Nature Park visit

Sumilon Island. Guests paying the higher packages can stay in this island resort.
Sumilon Island. Guests paying the higher packages can stay in this island resort.

Southern Getaway rates

Suroy-Suroy Sugbo rates range from around P7,000 to P14,000 per person based on double occupancy or twin sharing room accommodations for the two nights of the trip.

Aside from resort rooms, the per person cost of the tour already includes meals and snacks as well as transportation all throughout the tour. The higher rates are for stays in luxury resorts like Badian Island Resort and Spa and Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort.

Other resorts tapped by organizers are Club Serena in Moalboal and Brumini Beds and Beach Resort in Oslob, Sole ‘E Mare in Panagsama Beach, Moalboal, BCD’s Place in Tanawan, Oslob, Loves Beach Resort, Villagio Italia Inc., Noblesse Resort, Marcosas, Club Fort Med, HK Beach Resort, MB’s Resort.

The lowest rates are based on triple or quad sharing room accommodations.

For booking and inquiries, visit the Cebu Provincial Tourism Office at the 2nd level, west wing of the Provincial Capitol Building or call 253-5642 (tap on number to call on your phone), Cezar Almirante at 0933-4541432, Lino Belarmino at 0923-9344519.


Cebu News Digest Jan. 6, 2015: Urgent need for clean water; steel bridge in Sibonga; 2 fires in Metro Cebu

The Department of Health (DOH) Central Visayas has asked municipal health officers to monitor water sources to make sure these have not been contaminated by damage wrought by Tropical Storm Seniang. Yesterday, 2 fires hit Metro Cebu, destroying 11 houses in Cebu City and damaging 1 in Lapu-Lapu City. Also yesterday, Capitol said it will be donating P1 million to the Sinulog Foundation for the holding of the country’s grandest festival. Pit senyor, indeed!

Here’s our roundup of the top Cebu news stories coming out in today’s papers:

Need for clean water in south Cebu urgent

The Manila Water consortium, which has a joint venture with the Cebu Provincial Government to pursue the Cebu Bulk Water Project, sent a mobile water treatment plant to Alcantara on Monday. That plant can transform murky stream water into potable water by 1,500 to 3,000 liters of per hour, according to a report by Sun.Star Cebu: Need for clean water urgent.

Officials are worried damages caused by Seniang might include contamination of water sources.

Mandaue City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Felix Suico said they have deployed a tanker to be filled with 50,000 to 75,000 liters of water in Moalboal for delivery to Ronda, which was badly damaged by Seniang.

Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Baltazar Tribunalo Jr. said that there are now four water treatment systems in place in the south. On top of that, Dr. Expedito Medalla of DOH-Central Visayas said he and his staff will be with other government officials to distribute 350 jerry cans in Sibonga, Dumanjug, Alcantara and Ronda. Each can hold up to 20 liters of water, he said.

Monitor water sources
CHECK IF IT’S SAFE. The Health Department has asked municipal health officers to monitor water sources to make sure these have not been contaminated after Tropical Storm Seniang hit Cebu. (Creative Commons Photo by Mel McC)

Start of classes brings, what else, heavy traffic!

The first day of class after the Christmas break was peaceful but the sudden influx of vehicles caused heavy traffic, an official told The Freeman.

Traffic Operations Management Operations Chief Jonathan Tumulak, however, told The Freeman they were able to manage the heavy traffic even during the peak hours. He particularly pointed out the Banilad-Talamban corridor as experiencing heavy traffic from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

“Tanan nag-expect na gyud nga ma-traffic ta kay ting klase na, ting-uli from the province, and ting-trabaho na,” — Cebu City Traffic Operations Management Operations Chief Jonathan Tumulak.

DPWH promises to complete steel bridge connecting Argao, Sibonga in 2 weeks

Public works officials said they are working to complete a temporary 2-lane steel bridge to reconnect Dumlog, Sibonga and Argao in 2 weeks. DPWH 7 Director Ador Canlas said the bridge panels are already at the site and the other components will be transported to Cebu from Cagayan de Oro City soon.

“We hope we can reopen the bridge to traffic before the Sinulog celebration,” he said.

Dumlog bridge
TEMPORARY. A temporary steel bridge is being built after the destruction of this bridge in Dumlog, Sibonga cut off southern Cebu towns from the rest f the province. (Photo by Allan Tangcawan)

Completing the bridge is important because many Negros and Bohol residents travel by land and pass the area to go to Cebu City for the Sinulog Festival, which will culminate with the grand parade on January 18. (Sun.Star Cebu: DPWH vows to complete steel bridge connecting Argao, Sibonga in 2 weeks)

Cebu 2nd District Representative Wilfredo Caminero, on the other hand, is asking that huge trucks be banned from using alternate roads on part of the so-called vegetable highway connecting Mompeller, Argao and Papan, Sibonga. He described the passage as in “critical situation” due to continuous rain and the passage of big trucks. (The Freeman: Caminero: Bar huge trucks from using alternate roads)

11 houses destroyed in 2 fires that hit Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City

11 houses were destroyed in a fire at an interior portion of Barangay Capitol Site yesterday morning. Firefighters reportedly had a hard time getting to the scene because of a creek. The 20-minute fire caused an estimate P250,000 in damage to properties. The Freeman quoted Senior Fire Officer 3 Roylin Maratas as speculating that lighted candles children in the area were playing with may have started the fire.

“Duna ta nadawat na information na magsige gyud ni sila og duwa og kandila. Kon biyaan ni sila sa ilang mga ginikanan,” — Senior Fire Officer 3 Roylin Maratas.

Capitol to donate P1 million to Sinulog Foundation

Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III yesterday said the Cebu Provincial Government will be donating P1 million to the Sinulog Foundation as financial assistance for the holding of the Philippines’ grandest festival. Sinulog Foundation executive director Ricky Ballesteros had sought the governor’s help. (Sun.Star CebuSinulog body to get P1M)

Also interesting:

Cebu Business News

Benedicto company to launch BPO building this year

Cebu-based Enrison Land Inc., the company behind the Be Resorts hotel brand, will be launching a business process outsourcing or BPO building this year in the IT Park. The company recently announced expansion plans for Be Resorts.

“Cebu is growing fast and we’d like to be part of such strong growth.” — Managing Director Enrilen Joy Benedicto said.

Feng Shui ‘expert’ sees rosy economic prospects for Philippines

Feng shui and astrology expert Hanz Cua told the The Freeman that the Year of the Wooden Sheep, which will begin on the Chinese New Year on February 19, will be “more prosperous, quiet and relaxed compared to previous years.”

With the ASEAN integration, Cua says economic relations among member countries will be more prosperous.

“2015 is also a good year to start a business for start-ups. The Philippine economy will be busier this year. Dahil paakyat yung ating economy, may job offers para sa mga walang trabaho.” — Feng shui and astrology expert Hanz Cua


With Bantayan, Malapascua still rebuilding, Capitol promotes Southern Cebu attractions

While the destination islands of Bantayan and Malapascua recover from super typhoon Yolanda, the Provincial Government encourages tourists to visit other Cebu attractions.

Cebu provincial tourism officer Mary Grace K. Paulino said heritage structures in southern Cebu such as Spanish period churches and buildings are intact.

“Our southern tour is very popular right now especially because the old churches and other heritage sites of Bohol had been destroyed or damaged during the earthquake,” she added.

Since Yolanda did not directly hit the towns or cities in the southern part of Cebu, nature sites like beach and mountain resorts and the dive spots of Moalboal were either spared or sustained only slight damages, according to Paulino.

“We suggest to tourists that they visit other Cebu destinations because we have plenty. The good thing that we’ve noticed is that our tourism industry is going back to normal,” she added.

MOALBOAL BEACH. While the destination islands of Bantayan and Malapascua recover from super typhoon Yolanda, the Provincial Government encourages tourists to visit other Cebu attractions like the beaches in Moalboal. (Photo by Max Limpag)
MOALBOAL BEACH. While the destination islands of Bantayan and Malapascua recover from super typhoon Yolanda, the Provincial Government encourages tourists to visit other Cebu attractions like the beaches in Moalboal. (Photo by Max Limpag)

In the case of Bantayan, she revealed, around 80 to 90 percent of resorts were damaged and couldn’t accommodate guests. There are almost 30 accommodation facilities in the Bantayan town of Sta. Fe alone, she added.

Only 3 or 4 resorts in Bantayan are currently operational, Paulino cited, adding the situation would have a huge impact on the local economy of the island which is being driven by tourism.

Right now, Paulino said the Provincial Government is helping in clean-up activities in affected Cebu areas, especially in Malapascua.

They’ve also met with affected establishments to determine how the province can help them get back on their feet.

According to her, one program they’ve identified is to provide livelihood to local employees of the resorts who currently do not have work.

Before the typhoon, the Provincial Government had been conducting trainings on community-based tourism programs. The goal, Paulino added, is to teach the local people to conduct tours for tourists as a way of providing them jobs.

Feature Travel

Camping out on Basdako beach in Moalboal

Sand is not the most comfortable of beds but our weekend camp-out on White Beach or Basdako in Moalboal, Cebu had its benefits.

It was cheap as a tent cost only P500 to rent, afforded us a front seat to a spectacular view of the night sky, and gave us first crack at the morning sea.

What’s even better was that all of us, kids in our party included, had a lot of fun.

Moalboal White Beach

Moalboal’s Basdako or White Beach is a long stretch of coast covered with fine white sand. It hosts a lot of cottages and resorts that offer a range of accommodations, from spartan to luxurious.

In our previous trips to Basdako in Barangay Saavedra, Moalboal, Cebu, we stayed in resorts like Hale Manna and Barefoot so it was our first camp-out experience on the beach.

CAMPING ON THE BEACH. You can rent tents for P500 a night and camp out in Basdako or White Beach in Moalboal. (Photo by Max Limpag)
CAMPING ON THE BEACH. You can rent tents for P500 a night and camp out in Basdako or White Beach in Moalboal. (Photo by Max Limpag)

Since our party of seven adults, four teenagers, and eight children travelled on a weekend to Moalboal with no prior reservation for a room, we went directly to White Beach to find somewhere to stay for the night.

Moalboal town center

The 100-kilometer drive to the Cebu town from Lapu-Lapu City took us close to three hours, including a short time spent at Molave Milk Station in Barili to stretch our legs.

From the Moalboal town center, we proceeded another six kilometers to Basdako. Along the way, we stopped by a barangay outpost to pay a P5 charge for each person in our party, small kids included.

Upon arriving at a public area of White Beach, where the cottages are located, the adults in our party had to pay P10 each and a parking fee of P60 for both vehicles.

Austere accomodation

We were able to get a cottage for only P1,200 but it was austere at most. It had one medium-sized bed, a fan, and a comfort room but it was not clean. You had to buy water for your toilet and shower needs at P25 per container.

What we did was use the common toilets and shower rooms for a fee per use.

Since we couldn’t fit in the room, some us decided to rent tents. We saw some group with their tents already up and thought it would be a great idea to sleep out under the stars.

WHITE BEACH. Basdako in Moalboal is one of the best white sand beach coastlines in Cebu. This one's at the public beach area. (Photo by Max Limpag)
WHITE BEACH. Basdako in Moalboal is one of the best white sand beach coastlines in Cebu. This one’s at the public beach area. (Photo by Max Limpag)

Camping out on the beach

My husband and I and our two kids decided a tent would be fun so camped out we did. All the sleeping bags were taken so we made do with oversized beach scarves and towels.

Down on the sand with only the tent and thin piece of cloth between you is not the most comfortable of arrangements but we still managed to get a good night’s sleep after a wonderful swim in the warm sea.

We had a lot of company on the beach in the huge number of tents put up. Others lay down on mats in the open.

Starry sky

While we were grilling our dinner on the beachfront, there was a power outage. Locals say the outages are common but they only last an hour or so.

It happened while we were cooking so there were exclamations of exasperation.

One of the children silenced us by saying ‘look’ and pointing at the sky. Up there, with the electricity out, is a black sky twinkling with a million stars and it was the most beautiful sight we’ve seen in a long time.

Getting there

You can choose to drive or commute by bus to Moalboal. Buses leave for the southwestern town of Cebu several times daily from the South Bus Terminal in Cebu City.

Bus fare is a little over a hundred pesos. Passengers pay a fee of five pesos each at the terminal.

If you have time, take a side trip to Barangay Matutinao in Badian. It is one town farther away and home of the popular Kawasan Falls.

Moalboal's Basdako or White Beach is a long stretch of coast covered with fine white sand. It hosts a lot of cottages and resorts that offer a range of accommodations, from spartan to luxurious.
Moalboal’s Basdako or White Beach is a long stretch of coast covered with fine white sand. It hosts a lot of cottages and resorts that offer a range of accommodations, from spartan to luxurious. (Photo by Max Limpag)

Hale Manna: House of Good Energy

Hale Manna shore

Nature never travels in a straight line and at Hale Manna, which is Hawaiian for House of Good Energy, great pains are taken to ensure that this natural order of things is followed.

The ground is uneven and rocky and trees are planted to match this terrain, steps are carved from rocks to serve as pathways around the 2.8-hectare property and to the seashore, and wild flowers are allowed to grow in abundance.

Walkways at the Hale Manna Beach Resort and Coastal Gardens in Moalboal, Cebu follow a winding course, and its owner Rebecca Pestano-Smith, a permaculture enthusiast, said this is in keeping with nature’s ways.
“A seawall is the sea’s natural enemy. A wave has a lot of energy and when it makes contact with the seawall, the surrounding environment will suffer from the force it brings,” she said, to explain the scouring of the sand in some areas where structures have been built so near the sea.

She explained that permaculture is a discipline that encourages ecological sustainability in human actions, and she brings it to her resort by building into the existing environment as well as through her rainwater catchment, herb and vegetable gardens, and composting methods.

Smith, whose work in coastal resource management with USAID brought her to live in Hawaii for several years, said she was impressed by how this US state took care of its lifeblood that is the sea and wanted to do something similar in her home province Cebu.

Hale Manna gardens and grounds

She bought the coastal property in Moalboal sometime in 1995 but only opened her resort in February this year.

Gift from heaven

The Hale Manna house is huge, sprawling, and open. Sunlight streams in and the breeze flows through. The seven rooms of various sizes are large and airy, and cool even without the air-conditioning turned on.

All the rooms have access to a common or private veranda with a view of the nearby gardens and, farther away, the sea’s blue vastness.

The wide receiving area at the ground floor is designed so that a guest can choose to read in solitude or be with others talking or playing board games.

Open cottages, hammocks, and seats are placed strategically near the sea, and the sound it makes as it breaks against the shore is all you hear.

Two cottages nearest the sea have beds and Smith said some guests choose to sleep there where there is no better lullaby than the sea’s strange song.

So that the resort will have access to the sea, Smith has carved steps from the rocks leading down to it in at least three parts of the property.

The main steps are wide and lead to the main beach while the two other stairways go down to private coves sheltered by trees. Smith’s favourite spot is a place near the farthest cove, where she sees only the sea and hears only the surf, and it is there where she is truly one with the world.

Smith said the two letters “n” in the word manna means gift and manna is from heaven and this place in faraway Moalboal is a gift from heaven, and it is easy to see why.

Floating raft

Because of its well-kept corals and wide variety of marine life, the Moalboal sea has gained a reputation as a scuba diver’s paradise but diving does have its stringent requirements.

The next best thing would be to snorkel there and Hale Manna makes this easy by providing its services and equipment for free when you check in at the resort.

Some 500 meters away from the shoreline is Hale Manna’s floating raft, which is anchored at the boundary where the sea’s eight feet-deep bottom gives way to the blue nothingness that divers call the wall because the descent is sudden and steep.

The raft is tied by rope to a huge concrete slab in the bottom of the shallows.

Hale Manna brings guests to this raft using its kayak and while they snorkel in the area, two experienced swimmers serve as lifeguards. The resort provides life vests and snorkelling equipment.

What guests can see underwater are corals in various forms as well as schools of fish in every conceivable color.

Out of the sea, Hale Manna also has a billiards table for those who wish a crack at the game.

Rooms, food rates

The months from December to June are peak season and rooms at Hale Manna range from P3,800 for the four superior rooms that can fit in up to four people and P4,800 for the largest family room that can accommodate up to seven guests.

The superior room is only P3,040 while the biggest family room is just P3,840 during non-peak months.

Buffet breakfast is priced at P180 to P250 per person while lunch and dinner cost from P250 to P385 per guest depending on the menu.

Smith said guests can book the entire resort for exclusive events. They will need to pay for all the rooms and there is a small charge for the garden.

Hale Manna is full on most weekends and can host wedding receptions or, in the case of divers Mitch Dumlao and Sarah Laigo, a venue for a proposal.

The resort has a regular staff of 10 people, who are all from Moalboal, and eight others who are on call, added Smith, who also owns Handuraw along Gorordo in Cebu City.

She said she plans to hold cultural activities in the resort and bring in local bands to play in events like full moon parties.

Publicity-wise, Smith said she is only relying on the resort website and online social networks like Facebook as well as through word of mouth.

This is probably why Hale Manna is not as well known as other resorts in the town, but in terms of facilities and amenities it certainly is among the best.

Hale Manna location map



Moalboal in Cebu hosts over 10 dive sites

When people talk of diving in Cebu, they usually mention the small town of Moalboal in the province’s southwestern coast that is famous for the thousands of sardines that have come to populate its seas.

Italian Sergio Forti, who manages a dive resort named Sampaguita in Moalboal’s Panagsama Beach or what they call Bas Diot (Cebuano words that literally translate to “few sand”), said the sardines arrive in and leave Moalboal as part of their normal migration process but they’ve come to stay for good around three years ago.

“Sardines are always migrating but they’ve been in the town for some time. Biologists couldn’t explain why. They say that let’s enjoy them while they’re still around,” he added.