If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths,
rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.
- John D Rockefeller
While our trip to Negros Occidental is mostly of historical and cultural experience, a journey further down South of the island to Negros Oriental is an exquisite date with nature.
Our Negros Oriental itinerary is as much hectic with our Negros Occidental adventure.
We experienced first hand how friendly & helpful Negrenses are, yet we were more impressed about how warm and hospitable our host can be. We arrived in Tanjay a little late as expected. I lost count on how many rough roads on maintenance and one-way route we passed through after Mabinay. Little did we know that the construction extends until Dumaguete. A dilemma we learned later.
We didn’t mind that our regular bus is non-ac as we got the best view of hectares & hectares of sugarcane plantations and the fresh October breeze is billowing against our skin.
We met Ging & her family in Tanjay & had dinner at Jo’s Chicken Inato by the sea. They brought us to Buglasan Festival in Dumaguete. You can read our first night in Negros Oriental in this link and scroll down to our Day 3 adventure.
Day 4 – Island Adventure & Mystic Lake
The day I’ve long been waiting for has arrived and we were blessed with a beautiful weather.
A little over 5 hours of sleep were our only comfort to start another exciting day. At 6 am, we prepared our things and got ready for breakfast. Nelia’s Place has a restaurant, videoke and gaming area. We were surprised that there were few bird’s nest hanging by the high ceiling. Having encountered hundreds of them at Mambukal Resort, it appeal to us that the breed might be indigenous to Negros Island.
Ging, accompanied by one of their employees arrived around 7 am. She offered to drop us off to Bais City and help us look for boatmen that will take us to Manjuyod Sandbar. We were really thankful and embarrass on how she goes out of her way to help us.
Around 7:30 AM we reached Bais City. At the town plaza they asked a group of men where we can rent out a boat and we negotiated the price. The small boat that can fit 15 persons is worth P2,500 while the big one is P5,000 which can fit up to 60 persons. The big boat is usually rented for birthday and family celebrations because it includes a videoke on it. The package includes a whole day rental of the boat to Manjuyod Sandbar and a tour to Bais City Bird Sanctuary and Mangrove Park. An additional of P1,000 is needed if we wish to go dolphin & whale watching.
Ging has to attend to some work, so off we go and savor the day. The small boat is roomy enough for just the two of us. We skip on doing dolphin and whale watching as we already experienced it during our trip to Bohol.
We went to the nearby market to get some snacks and cooked meal. We then followed the man who arranged our trip to the port. Here’s the contact person of the boat owner where you can make reservations:
Jun Cabanag – 09068787888
8:40 AM - Off we go sailing. It was the first time I sailed on a calm water. We are cruising Tańon Strait which connects Bohol Sea and Visayan Sea and is located in between the islands of Cebu and Negros.
The soothing smell of the sea kissed my lips and eased my tired soul. It’s like the world suddenly moved gently. I wish for the moment to last longer.
Our boatmen, 3 of them decided to take us to Manjuyod Sandbar first. A 25 -30 minutes ride from the port. Just in time to see the white sand beach stretch before the water rises.
It is paradise found, all 7 km white sand beach stretch! It is completely submerged during high tide and no trees and residents live here. There are 4 cottages though that can be rented for overnight stay through the government of Manjuyod.
We wasted no time to explore and take photos. Evidently, the water is fast approaching which left us to a limited dry sands here and there. In less than 30 minutes the island seemed nowhere amidst the calm sea. There were cute starfishes, impressive shell bed and small crabs, apparently because Tańon Strait is a sanctuary to rich marine life.
We just stayed for an hour, enough to enjoy the view, soak a little and feel the sun against our skin.
Next stop, Bais City Bird Sanctuary and Mangrove Park.
We sailed again for about an hour to get to this place. It is a 400 hectare protected mangrove forest started by local government and a nesting ground to many bird species and other wildlife. Certainly, I’m amazed and pleased about this project.
There is a long stretch of cemented bridge going to the BCBSM Park. While at it, I looked down through the waters and saw spikes everywhere, most commonly known as sea urchins, a lot of them, and humongous at that. There were small fishes too. Approaching the mangroves, the sound of mosquitoes is echoing. Yep, we were ready and applied our trusty Citronella Mosquito Repellant from Sonya’s Garden. :>
More old and new mangroves, and seedlings can be found at the end of the bridge, which only shows that it is a successful continuing project. Kudos to the support of local government and here’s hoping that the other coastal cities in the Philippines will also start the same endeavor.
After 30 minutes, we were back at the boat enjoying our lunch. We are headed to the port for our next adventure.
At the port, the man who arranged our boat ride was already waiting. We asked him if he knew where we can buy some dried fish & squids for pasalubong. We heard that it is cheaper in Negros than in Cebu. Fortunately, he knew someone who is into selling packed goods. We dropped by and bought some before boarding a bus going to San Jose Junction.
One and a half hour later, after the despairing bus ride due to road maintenance, we finally reached San Jose/Twin Lakes Junction at 2 in the afternoon. This is a jump-off for our ascend to Lake Balinsasayao. Ging’s uncle is waiting for us among the many motorcycle drivers that is up for rent when scaling Twin Lakes. We met his nephew beside the two motorcycles available for us. We negotiated with the price and got a deal at P350/ person / two way. From Dumaguete, certain tour groups also arrange trip to twin lakes via 4 wheel drive vehicles.
There are dark clouds approaching our area, and I felt hesitant that the road may get rough and dangerous. With that I learned that is an essential matter that our driver is skilled and knew his track well. And did I mention it is my first motorcycle ride? Ging’s uncle did an excellent job on maneuvering his vehicle while I am being a clueless backrider.
The ascend took about 30 minutes passing through cemented roads and occassional dry, dusty and rough terrain. The view is amazing as we pass by some huge volcanic rocks. I learned that we are actually scaling Mt. Kabalin-an and it sits in the town of Sibulan and San Jose. There are few residents that inhabit the mountains. Ging’s uncle also pointed out a military camp where he is at service. He mentioned that it is vital in keeping the peace and order in the area. I noticed that everyone, young and old are adept to the main transportation in the area, motorcycle also known locally as habal-habal.
The twin lakes namely Lake Balinsasayao and Lake Danao, are protected natural park. At the Visitors Center and entrance of Lake Balinsasayao, a small lake captivated us. The scenic and placid Lake Kabalin-an.
There is something mystic about Lake Kabalin-an. I don’t know what it is but all the photos and words may not justify well about it. The calm lake is located just at the right side of the road. It is the forefront of the lush green forest. Full bloom trees perched amidst the still water. An impressive display of reflection rest beyond.
We registered and paid the entrance fee of P10 each. From the Visitor’s Center, Lake Balinsasayao is only about 1 km. away. We decided to go by foot and hike through the paved way. We never realized it can be exhausting and had to take rest for nth times.
Nearing the passage to Lake Balinsasayao, our motorcycle heroes came to the rescue. They gave us a ride up to the restaurant at the gate.
From the parking, an endangered tarictic hornbill just landed. It is so friendly that it never budge while we were trying to get closer photos. We later learned that it has a thing for candies. Sweet.
We walked down the pathway crossing the gate to Lake Balinsasayao. With occassional tweeting of birds and sounds of nature, it felt like we’re lost in the middle of the forest. Further down, we saw the vast calm waters of Lake Balinsasayao. There is a small dock where boats can be rented to cross to the other side where Lake Danao is best viewed.
They say that on a low tide, we can just trek from the pathway and not use the boat going there. We wouldn’t want to risk though and decided to just enjoy the view from the dock and back to the restaurant. I wanted to go boating but the weather is getting gloomy and cold.
The nipa restaurant has a nice overlooking view of both lakes. Lake Danao is smaller than Lake Balinsasayao. Lake Kabalin-an is smallest of the three.
At 4:45, we started our descend. It kinda look scary at first because of all the steep slopes but I was assured by Ging’s uncle that he & his nephew are cautious about their driving and that they wouldn’t want us to get traumatized on our habal habal ride in Negros.
We reached the junction safely and waited for the bus to take us back to Tanjay. Our things were unloaded at Ging & Bang’s house earlier, and we need to gather it first before heading to Dumaguete where we plan to spend the night.
We didn’t get the chance to see the couple again as both of them were at work when we dropped by. To Ging & Bang, we deeply appreciate all your help. Thank you and we’ll meet again soon. You guys are the best. xoxo
After collecting our things, we headed to Dumaguete. Traffic was terrible. The usual 30 minutes ride, hit us with a dreadful 2.5 hours bus ride. Imagine how we felt after soaking from the sea, basking in the sand, our clothes wet & dried from sweat and an encounter with dusty road for the whole day. My feet were itching for a cold shower and a hotel blanket, but we can’t do much but wait for the bus’ turn in a one way road. Arrggh.
Gazillion years later, we reached Dumaguete. We missed our street and just hired a local tricycle to take us to Harolds Mansion. My research on Dumaguete accommodation led me to Harolds Mansion as budget friendly and backpackers haven.
Fortunately, there are still rooms available. We didn’t made any reservation and just walked in. We noticed most of their clients are foreigners. Which led to another observation that I think 30% of the population in Dumaguete are made up of foreigners. An increasing number since Dumaguete is known for being a University Town and a city with low crime rate.
We settled in a Matrimonial AC Room that costs P665.50/night. It comes with free continental breakfast and unlimited coffee/tea/water all day.
We freshened up and decided to have dinner at the nearby Mc Donalds. We wanted to sample some Dumaguete’s best delicacies but we’re too tired and hungry to do so. A fast food resto like Mc Do is our haven in situations like this. Going back we decided to walk. We passed through Silliman University where I was eager to see any signs of ghost in the darkness. lol. I heard too much stories that would explain why.
We encountered and asked a security guard where the Anthropology Museum is located. Ahhh… getting ready for our early itinerary the next day. Too early, that the guard thought we would brave the night to go to the museum at that minute (was 10 pm, I think).
We also decided to avail an express laundry service for some of our used clothes. Harolds Mansion washing machines are out of service that day, so we opt to go to the laundry shop across the street. It was our first trip that we ran out of clothes to wear, or we didn’t pack well or we foresee that we will be using laundry service. Whatever, but my turquoise shirt got lost. I didn’t made a big fuss about it as it was hopeless that they will find it in piles clothings.
Finally off to bed. It was a looooooooooooooong marvelous day.
Day 5 – Dumaguete City & Cebu City
At 7:00 AM we set ourselves for our itinerary. We had breakfast at the hotel’s caffeteria where group of foreigners planned their schedule.
An hour later, we made our way to Silliman University Anthropology Museum. They require an ID to enter the campus. It was still close when we got in and waited until 9AM. Enough to tour the small campus. All over Dumaguete, cluster of SU campuses were built.
Silliman University is established in 1901 by American Missionaries and named after Dr. Horace Silliman, who gave the initial $10,000 budget to start the school. It is the oldest American-established University in Asia.
The Museum boasts interesting pieces, including a voodoo doll that a police confiscated from Siquijor, materials for local witchcraft, old jar coffins, and a lot more. We can’t take pictures inside, they only allow it at the balcony and third floor.
We finished the tour in less than 30 minutes. We headed to St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral and take some photos. Beside is the Belfry Tower or Campanario de Dumaguete. Both has been built during the Spanish period.
The sun is unforgiving and it is scorching hot. At 10:30 AM, we decided to have an early lunch at Lab-as Restaurant. On our way, I saw the Sisters of St. Paul Monument, a boat carrying the founders of St. Paul University.
The food at Lab-as restaurant is appetizing. They should improve more on customer service though.
After the sumptous lunch, we headed back to the hotel and prepared to check out.
The owner of Harolds Mansion was kind enough to direct us the way going to Sibulan Port where we will take a fastcraft to Cebu. He even gave us a contact person of a newly opened accommodation in Cebu where we can stay.
We hailed a tricycle and asked to be dropped off at the nearest multicab station to Sibulan. 30 minutes later, we arrived at Sibulan Port. Santander Express fastcraft leaves at 12:30 PM going to Liloan, the southernmost part of Cebu Island. The fare is P62 including the terminal fee of P10.
We cruised for 30 minutes that gave us 360 degrees scenic ocean & island views. A little tip though, if there are many passengers, you may want to sit near the exit door. This will give you a passage, if you’re quick enough, to get your choice of seat on the Ceres bus in Liloan.
Upon disembarking in Liloan, Ceres bus is already waiting for passengers going to Cebu South Terminal. Try to get the best window seat at the right side of the bus (from the driver’s viewpoint). You definitely wouldn’t want to miss the panoramic seaside & cliff view of Cebu Island.
For the most part of the 3.5 hours ride, our eyes feast at the breathtaking Cebu landscape. Bus fee is P155.
Traffic was good and the winding road is awesome. We reached Cebu South Terminal safely.
Cebu Adventure will continue on my next post.
I’m definitely coming back to Negros Oriental!