Galapagos of Asia
Trip Start Feb 10, 2013
72Trip End Sep 18, 2013
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Where I stayed
Early out of Romblon, Romblon, Romblon at 7 am and on to another ferry that cruised us over to the island of Sibuyan, the further most island in the Romblon Province. We were a little unsure what to expect from the description above given in the book as we could have turned up to an island that was literally undeveloped with nowhere to stay. In fact, the guidebook did go on to say that there were no hotels on the island, only home stays which was a little worrying. We had to do a little research which turned up a few places that weren't in the book and this meant we were more comfortable just turning up at the port in Magdiwang on the north coast of the island. We had chosen to find a place local beach "haus" (spelt weird but that's how it's spelt over here!) and off the ferry we wandered over to the tricycle area
We are so glad we made that decision. Pulling into the courtyard at the resort was like turning in to paradise garden. Impeccably manicured, beautifully architectured and incredibly welcoming.
I could talk about the resort for a lot longer but this was not the real attraction of Sibuyan. As previously mentioned, the island is know as the Galapagos of Asia. This stems from the natural beauty of the interior of the island. It is the tip of an underwater mountain, rising up out of the sea to it's pinnacle known as Mt Guiting-Guiting. The whole island is a nature reserve as stipulated by the local government, and despite it's rich plethora of marble beneath it surface, mining is banned on the island, leaving the island's richest attraction, its plants and animals, to thrive. The mountain in the middle is a formidable site from anywhere on the island
Wait, I forgot to introduce two new friends to you. David and J-R. Our arrival at the resort had spurned some interest from two of the resorts permanent residents and as they rattled their cage we couldn't help but go over and see what the commotion was... in a cage where two Philippine Macaques, monkeys found only in this country. Initial thoughts were obviously of sadness that these two were locked up on an island so abundant with natural habitats, however, there was a large sign above the cage, coupled with several photos, that explained the situation. Here is their story:
When they were very young (a few days) a farmer had shot their mother
Anyway, the plan was to hit some of the beauty of Sibuyan and the first thing we found out was that the island has over 40 waterfalls so we really wanted to check these out. The first morning we hired two bikes from the resort and cycled 8kms along the coastal road to get to the most accessible waterfall in the area. The road itself actually rotated from cement to dirt road (by dirt road I mean rocky and dusty pathway) and back to cement quite freely, making the ride actually quite brutal....especially considering the temperature was well into the 30s! Nevertheless we took our time and arrived at a little hut with a local lady sitting in it. Locked up the bikes and went over to say hello and pay the entry fee. For locals it is 20pesos, for native tourists it was 30pesos but for foreign visitors it was 100pesos! Remember I told you about a difference between Philippino and American prices... this never really is an issue though as when in a location such as Sibuyan, all the money goes back into the community to ensure the upkeep and preservation of the island. So donation made and we began a little walk through the jungle to the waterfall, and were treated to a most incredible sight. Nothing like the waterfall in Puerta Galera, this was like a scene out of a shampoo advert. Any alterations had been made to look completely natural and a small pool sat underneath a cascade of water flowing down, surrounded by towering trees and plants with the sun cascading through onto the crystal clear water...did i mention it was totally deserted? We had the entire place to ourselves for hours, it was bliss
We eventually decided to get moving as it was quite late afternoon by this point and incredibly relaxed we un chained the bikes, having to fight off some of the biggest ants I've ever seen, and began our short but bumpy ride back to the resort. On our way back we were greeted by every single local we passed (this also happened on the way!) and every woman, girl and old lady smiled and said "hello, what'd your name? Where are you going?" and every man and boy greeting me with the cry, "Hey Joe!". I had read about this in the book but this was the first place I really encountered it to this extent. The term Joe is used or any white foreign male, a term left over from the war when the American soldiers were referred to as Joes. Some have asked if I find this offensive however to me it is like someone saying, "hey visitor!" so not really. The locals were so happy to welcome us even three lads on a motorbike shot past us and we heard cries of, "Hey Joe! Are you having fun?!" Back at the resort we were so relaxed and an added bonus of cable TV meant we could chill out in the cool air and watch a film, excited about our next day.
The following morning we thought we would take advantage of the resorts surroundings and walked up the hill into the flower gardens enveloping the resort. From here you could see the coast in one direction and the other direction a view of G2 (the islands mountain) although it was covered in some cloud but still a wonderful view
Day three proved to be even more exciting, interesting and special as the previous two. Again, we hired some bikes as we had read about another waterfall, not too far from the town which was situated near the resort. We had to build ourselves up for it as the cycle to the town was 5kms and then another 6kms to the start of the hike up to the waterfall... it was going to be a little tough with the heat and dirt roads. A map under our arm and we set on our way..after some of the most bizarre instructions ever heard. The instructions told us to cycle along the road after the town. Then once we found a fork in the road, turn right and continue until you find the house of the one legged man (no joking
A few more kms on the bike and we could not find this one legged mans house, let alone the one legged man, but we continued on until we came across a group of kids sitting around, one of which stood up and said (as expected) "Hey Joe, you want to go to the waterfalls?" Amazing, yes please! He was maybe 12 or 13 years old and him and his mate walked us a bit further down the road to a house with some old locals playing cards. We locked up the bikes here and we were off. These two kids were scampering along the pathways, through rice fields and across rivers like they were walking on tarmac. We managed to keep up (just) and the hike took us through wide open rice paddies, across flowing rivers, through jungle thick and dense and across expansive grazing fields
Eventually we arrived back at the house (which I am guessing belongs to a one legged man) and headed off on our cycle back to the resort. As we reached the fork in the road which had caused us so much trouble in the first place, we noticed a small boy dragging what looked like a length of rope behind him, possibly a toy? Nope, as we passed we had to stop in wonder as we realised he was dragging a dead 12ft snake behind him....dinner maybe? I was too tired to really find out but what a sight!
Finally back at the resort after a very long and tiring day we marvelled in the sheer beauty we had experienced on the island of Sibuyan
What a place, what an experience and what the hell are we going to do to top it? I'm sure the next experience is just round the corner and after another evening of wonderful fresh Philipino food (particularly Sisig) and playtime with David and JR we retired to our slumber, ready to head off to the fourth and final Island in the group, Carabao....
Until next time
Ari Na Ko