Bucas Grande: My Island, My Home

Serenity is where home is…

There are places you wanted to come home to even how far and remote it could be. A place where one can find comfort surrounded with green and blue waters listening the crashing waves, yet secluded from great structures. Bucas Grande Islands has always been my favorite get away.

After a lull of almost two years, I was back in the islands. There was no plan actually, my summer was void with trips except my farm visits. Things just fell its place, randomly our good friend in municipal tourism gave a ring and my travel buddy just pop up to visit the islands. My mind drift off to serene waters, blue lagoons, green environs, patch of white beaches, the nocturnal crickets singing, and the crashing waves that lull me to sleep. Simple pleasures that can be savored only in these remote islands.

We arrived Port Hayanggabon in time for lunch, so had a stop in a seafood shack while waiting for our boat. Lot of new structures sprouted at the port since my last visit. We found our boat and wasted no time for the cruise amid the waves, smiling our way as the sea breeze blew on our skins cooling the hot afternoon. And headed straight to tourism center for some pleasantries with our hosts and picking up where we left off since our last meeting.  After more than ten years there has been changes to cater the growing number of tourists and crew, and in a way surprised of new structures around the area.. The old tourism center almost dilapidated gave in to a larger shack with wider receiving area, surrounding ramps, platforms and docking area. There’s a floating cottage and floating restaurant nearby – well, I was wondering about its waste disposal!

Rushing up to get most of the remaining afternoon and the low tide, we head straight to Sohoton Cove – the mystical maze of islands covered in green foliage. We entered smoothly, our boat maneuvered perfectly with no hesitation or doubt. Once inside, I still had that same feeling of wonder like getting into a different realm, into another world – a city on the waters! We did our homage in Hagukan Cave, swam the warm waters glad of the super low tide, most importantly it was all to ourselves, such perfect timing! That rock in the middle was all to ourselves to stand on, as we view above the rock formations. I skipped the Magkakaub Cave, it was bit crowded. Angel did the climb and the plunge perfectly. 🙂 It started to drizzle as we did the last round and finally headed for the exit and in few minutes we were back in the center.  Later, we hopped to Puyo Island but decided to settle for Marka A Island for a swim.  We picked up few trash from the shores as we went around, the good thing was because it was already late, it was all to ourselves again.

We had a relaxing dinner back at the center, all the crew and tourists called it a day so we were left in tranquility, savoring again the serenity of the islands. The crickets started to chirp in the dusk. The center is now lit with few colored bulbs, a new improvement I guess as they were able to generate energy supply from few solar panels installed.

Unfortunately, Cinnamon Island where we had our lodgings for the night were full of guests so we missed its relaxing mode like it used to be. The crashing waves though, muffled the laughing and singing of the people.

Time was too limited, the next day though we revisited few sites we love. Our first agenda was the Tojoman Lake in search for the sting-less jellyfish, but there was none and instead looked up as brown giant bats started flying above the trees. We paddled around and our boat guide led us to Lubogon Lagoon, we found few juveniles silently floating the waters.  Tiktikan Lake used to be operated by fishermen coop, more structures were now at the entrance, bigger shack, slides, catwalk, platform and diving board. The interior lake itself was maintained but was deserted when we got there after a short trek, more people preferred the fronts which offered diving from heights.

La Fortuna was our last stop, the small strip of white beach at the front was an attraction but more was in store for us.  We trek for ten minutes for Bubon Lagoon, we have explored this secret nook before but now went beyond watching the placid waters. We kayaked around the lagoon, the lush foliage covering karst cliffs reflecting on the waters was purely a relaxing sight. It was all to ourselves! We’re on the run, yet we snatched few minutes to swam and play at the beach as we got back in the front.  Clottie joined us without complaining, this cute curly pup goof around with us, I gave her a bath but didn’t like it! And we enjoyed Raffy’s fresh buko, enough to quench our thirst and made us full!

We had late light lunch back at the center with our hosts, had brief pleasantries and finally bid bye. It was so short.  We cruised the afternoon waves for the port, again the sea breeze blew gently on our skin as we watched the vast blue sea before us. So brief, yet it felt so refreshing!

Last Note

It’s now more than a decade since I kept coming back here and I am glad that the islands have maintained its pristine waters and still free from trash. As we get around hopping to our fave spots, my keen eyes noticed few scraps which I pointed out to our boatman, in turn he assured me that a team was assigned for such task on a daily basis. The lesson I learned from the locals was that, getting the community involved to protect and preserve their invaluable resources was an effective strategy, they understood that nobody would do it for them except themselves and its protection is their ultimate mission if not to sustain this nature’s gift for their livelihood.  The coastal communities around the islands understood well that natural resources is always worth of care and preservation for the next generation.

Charms of Camiguin

The island-province of Camiguin is a pear-shaped volcanic island in the northern tip of Mindanao. It is approximately 90 kilometers north of the City of Cagayan de Oro. It is bounded to the north by Bohol Sea, to the west by Macajalar Bay, to the southeast by Gingoog Bay and to the east by Butuan Bay.

This island paradise is inarguably my favorite local destination and as I said, it is so replete to cater for my whims and I have always reasons to be back again and again. My predilection on this island never wane a bit and last December I hit grounds to savor once again its grandeur. A weekend sojourn barely 32 hours yet it renewed my well-being enough to brace me for the year-end hullabaloo.

Cornucopia in Depths

If you are a diver and you haven’t explored the island’s underwater world, you have missed one psychedelic marine treasures and wonders. Luckily, all our transpo transfers went fluidly and we were already cruising at sunrise watching its golden splendor in the horizon.  Our divemaster was already waiting for us when we got to our refuge in Agoho preparing our gears.  The sun was perfectly shining and the water perfectly flat just waiting to be explored.

Our first descent was at Old Vulcan, after cruising for thirty minutes. The familiar granite boulders decorating in its front.  The large sea fans in variety of colors adorned the reefs, again I was engulfed in its vastness in a different world of silence. We sighted giant trevallies seven in all, there was even a tornado of snappers magnificently emphasized by surface sunlight.  Indeed there was a variety of tropical fishes colorful enough for my senses – emperors, angelfish, moorish idol, butterfly, spadefish, fusiliers, shrimp fish and assortment of anemone fish. I didn’t miss the triggerfish, and also the turtle swimming away quickly!  We linger in the large colorful coral area taking our time until we had our safety stop before the ascent.

P1050822
Giant clams scattered in the midst of corals!

The necessary surface interval was another colorful encounter and it was like shooting two birds with one stone.  🙂  We cruise to the Sunken Cemetery being our next descent, and we swam comfortably towards the Cross marker. I have been wanting to step on the underwater cross marker just at the back of monument. We snorkeled the surrounding area, the wide coral gardens housed also the giant clams and juveniles. Such wonderful discovery!

Back rolling for our last descent, we descend to a deep slope searching until we got to a coral area, There were nudis, feather stars, colorful chromis, damsels, bannerfish, cardinals, hawkfish, angels, clownfish and anthias.  We sighted too a giant puffer, a banded seasnake wiggling coyly searching for food perhaps.  We didn’t miss the cross markers, we found two just like last time, but more corals have tangled around almost covered now.  I hold on to Angel while having our safety stop, just too famished to steady my buoyancy.  🙂

Perhaps just two of the underrated dive sites but always rich and hidden surprises abound.

Summer in December

The God of the seas and weather was with us indeed, the warm sun and the flat waters felt like it was summer.  The perfect weather prompted us for more, to drenched in its beauty and seizing moments while being offered freely.  We rushed off to Yumbing, the drop off point for White Island hoping to find a cheap boat for the round trip cruise.  The sandbar is not always accessible even on early mornings. Last September while on official trip, the cruise was restricted, the waves wasn’t cooperating and we felt dismayed. Our visitors from other regions was just eager to experience the sandbar.  We were fortunate enough, a Spanish couple offered us to join them for the boat ride, at first the operator was hesitant since we were staying in a different hotel. But the Español was too firm and argued for us! Sometimes you don’t need to fight for something if it is really meant for you.  🙂

The white island was beckoning as we cruised in the afternoon sun, we were excited for the sunset! It was a perfect unwinding after our two dives, just soaking ourselves in the shallows biding our time.  There were few people, the waters calm in low tide and the setting sun was the ideal backdrop of the scenery! 🙂

The next day was all riding our way to the two falls we have planned, but we attend mass first in Mambajao church. We dashed off after a hurried breakfast over a motorbike, the driver served as our tour guide as well. Katibawasan Falls is still beautiful but didn’t tried to swim, we feasted on the kiping instead.  🙂  Tuasan Falls was something new, it was a longer ride though, but the roads were completely paved up to the entrance.  It is beautiful also, its catch basin was big enough as a pool, got a dip but didn’t linger long the waters was just too cold. But soaking in its cold natural waters watching the gushing waters was perfectly refreshing!

Coming to Camiguin in December was an ideal year end get-away. We are coming back for a summer trip to explore off-beaten corners of the island.  As I said, there is always a reason to be in Camiguin, again and again and again!

Green for Summer!

IMG_20160307_185503[1]

There is one destination that awakens one’s awareness for nature, this remote place has been my refuge for quite a number of times.  It’s emerald green waters and green environs renew and restore my being in a deeper way, for me it is a sanctuary away from the stresses of modern living.  A perfect solace…

Last year, I was fortunate to visit this home (away from home) twice and it was pure joy!  Bucas Grande Group is my kind of haven. A water person will always seek its  freshness and wonder – wide horizon, smell of salt water, gentle breeze and roaring waves that lulled me to sleep. Seaside emerald waters restlessly wash ashore, orange skies at the end of the day, and the cicadas in the night are quite balmy!

I long for summer in Bucas Grande where everything is crisp, green and ever refreshing. Its wonders even more enticing. Yes, Bucas Grande is for summer!

Bits of Paradise!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Camiguin Island is one small paradise between Bohol Sea endowed with nature’s beauty and wonder as well as heritage treasures. Be in surface or in depths, amazing scenes and adventures awaits for you.  Here are few snaps during my recent travel in December 2015!

This small island province is undoubtedly one of the jewels in Mindanao. Have you visited the Island Born of Fire?

Endless Summer in Anini-y!

There are places that are meant for a return, exactly a year after a quirky trip to this town in the southern tip of Panay Island, I was back to dive once more its unspoiled depths. This town is not known in the diving map but my two deep dives last year inarguably convinced my innate sense that it was worth for more descents. Although I wasn’t in a rush, my beloved dive buddy’s persuasion ended with my ticket bookings for Iloilo and arranging reservations at The Divehouse – my home in Aninni-y.

Getting there on a morning was perfectly better passing the heritage towns and catching glimpse of the wide blue sea as we rolled off on the coastal road. Far from the night trip I had last year, when the dark night hid the rural scenery. Arriving early in our refuge at Siraan Spring Resort gave us ample time to explore the town which includes snorkeling in the turquoise waters of Nogas Island – for over an hour! Just floating, relaxing and watching the marine life silently with my dive buddy, and the mermaid in me was rejoicing. The gleaming white beach, the warm sun and blue waters was a perfect picture of summer, even if it was already end of August.

In our diving day, our unexpected warm-up pumped-up more energy for us, we walked three kilometers to the next barangay to attend the Sunday mass! The morning breeze, mild sunrise and rural scenery were good enough for the hike.  The adrenaline prod us rushing to the diveshop, we were expected at 8:00am. DM AJ welcomed us warmly, the smell of the kitchen and the sight of the long, heavy, wooden dining table reminded me of home.

P1050637
Rich unspoiled marine environment!

DM AJ arranged our first descent at Mamam, a deep dive with those tricky swim throughs – I can only remember my wonderful sightings last year. So we sailed westward with our dive guide Paldon leading, we were joined with two divers from Iloilo. We dropped anchors after a little detour to Nogas Island dropping off a couple guest, after more than thirty minutes trying to find a favorable spot. We descend to a white sandy slope, the viz was somewhat hazy. In a while we found the rocks with those tunnels just enough for a person to swim. It felt playful like doing some hide and seek over the rocks, but I miss the giant jacks which the others crossed path in the tunnel, including Angel. We found angels, moorish idol, cardinals and wrasses, I noticed clown triggerfish swimming along nearby but wiggled away when it noticed me. There were few nudis too and variety of corals. I was hoping to see again the school of silver barracudas and the leaf frogfish but none appeared. I think early mornings are best to find them as they trouped for early preys! We lingered a bit more circling the area until we slowly hover up for ascent after 41 minutes conscious of my NDL, my deepest at 28.6 meters.

P1050651
Yellow breams contently swimming among the reesf…

Our surface interval was utilized for checking out from our lodgings and a bit of lounging at the dining area exchanging pleasantries with DM AJ, Owie and RJ while preparing for our next descent with them. DM AJ finally got the chance to guide us tagging with him his Japanese diver guest. We were a bunch, all my companions are guys but after some time I got used to it already, my dive buddy’s company is always comforting. 

P1050662
The ubiquitous clown fish always adds color over anemones!

We sailed off Nogas Island aiming for Malou’s Rock for our last descent after a short briefing from DM AJ, the warm afternoon waters ushered us to a sandy slope with big boulders bringing us to a wall. We tread the waters with the wall on our left shoulder, drifting as we passed the thriving marine life. Colorful juveniles hovering on corals, yellow breams parading in herd alternated with sew whips and colorful crinoids. There were trumpet fish, sand perches, triggers and scorpion fish! Invertebrates also abound, the obscured bivalves of different species silently lurked in corners abruptly closing in a faint shadow or movements. There were few nudis and even flatworms that adorned the reef. We signaled for ascent after 50 minutes, my deepest was 26.5 meters. I guess I feel more comfortable having back my dive computer, Suunto D4i is the great all-rounder indeed! We ended our stay at the resort after we agreed for a diving expedition summer next year in the Sulu seas!

Have you gone to Antique province or Panay Island?

Travel Notes:
1. Buses going to Anini-y and other Antique towns are stationed at Molo terminal, first trip is at 6:30am. Catching the 5:00pm trip back to Iloilo is ideal, reaching the city about 7:00pm.
2. The only diveshop in Anitque is The Divehouse, a friendly accredited PADI shop, accommodations can be arranged also in this dive facility.
3. This lowly town offers other interesting spots – Nogas Island, Siraan Hotsprings and a heritage church.
4. Direct flight to Iloilo from Cagayan de Oro is now available daily!

Island Myth

P1050587
This rustic paradise in Panay was one of the reason for the return in the town of Anini-y

Catching up summer in this uninhabited island in south of Panay, was purely relaxing and everything was perfectly lackadaisical.  Simple pleasures that feed one’s soul sans superficiality.

Snorkeling for an hour watching in silence the marine life amid turquoise waters, walking along the kalachuchi-lined road towards the lighthouse, climbing the lighthouse, and while on top, watch the giant bats hanging on that big tree. We were accompanied by white kitty-meow, which for me unusual since there are no residents in the island. We capped our hop by circling the island on foot which was bit tricky, we lost a bit but the old giant banyan tree was a surprise yet mystical in a way!

And yes! We dove in its waters the next day.  🙂 Nogas Island is simply replete with hidden beauty…

Siquijor: Pristine Paradise, Surface and Beyond

P1050337
The iconic St. Francis of Assissi Church welcomes you to Isla de Fuego!

The pristine waters of this idyllic province which is a come-on for tourists is no doubt one good reason for water enthusiasts to tread its depths. We have been planning to be back not just for a detour but to explore the deeper vista of Isla de Fuego. Five years was long enough for the wait and making most of a long weekend in June, we finally made it. Cherry, Angel and I was looking forward for this passage, my tickets were bought in last November yet!

The heat and humid air suggested for a long summer, the weather perfectly cooperated our cruise from Cebu to Tagbilaran, to Dumaguete and finally to Siquijor. Angel joined us in Dumaguete port to Siquijor under the scorching heat. The low tide perfectly revealed a long stretch of white sand shores as we step on the port. Local kids swam and enjoyed the waters, how alluring that even the port offered an immaculate scene and unspoiled view of the province!

Sandugan Beach

P1050444
We lingered over a wide area of colorful corals

Our booking was in Kiwi Dive Resort, a self-contained and homey refuge that offered everything we need – diving facility, lodging, food and friendly staff. The tricycle we hired from the port brought us south of the island in Larena, and later served as our transpo as we went around making most of the remaining hours before dark. We need to show Cherry around, we ended up in Salagdoong Beach passing the picturesque mini-forest already dark, yet in a festive mood which gave us a reason to linger – and munched the pasta, bread and cold cuts we had. We wanted to stay longer until our trike summoned us for our ride home.

P1050398
I was inside a small cavern watching the golden cardinals swimming around the entrance

The next morning was gloomy as if a storm was coming, but the waters was perfectly calm for our two dives, our DM Raul had an interesting flair as he briefed us and told about possible sightings. Our first descent was a boat dive, we cruised shortly to Sandugan Canyon which our DM suggested as replete with critters but not with pelagics.

P1050420
Look closely, can you see it? 🙂

It was a wall dive and indeed, there were variety of nudis – in different bright colors and sizes. We entered a cavern which housed variety of fishes, the herd of golden cardinals swirling around as if disturbed by our presence, was a sight to behold! I stayed longer feeling the serenity and warmth of the scenery. We found more nudis as we went around, cleaner shrimp and variety of juveniles. We went over a wide coral area, in different colors and assortment. After twelve weeks of lull, it felt good to be back in the depths. We ascend after 65 minutes! 

P1050431
The graceful Bedford’s Flatworm surprised us!

After an hour of surface interval back at the resort, we head for our next descent at the  Sanctuary with DM Cedric , it was a sloping sandy area and as soon as we were down, a sea moth was resting mimicking the sand’s color! It was my first sighting of the specie, but it didn’t swim, or fly – the sight of a sea Pegasus flapping its wing-like pectoral fins would be an interesting sight. We sighted also garden eels peeking on the sand but quickly disappear as we got near. There were a lot of nudis again, and swam over a wide coral area. The unspoiled marine environment was inspiring, less exposure to threats could only mean healthy marine life. Less population, less pollutants, and rare disturbance is always an advantage. We ascend after 66 minutes with my air still at 90 bars!

P1050409
This striped pyjama nudi gave a colorful touch among the corals

Meeting A Shaman

Until today, the island is still known for shaman and healers, and many anecdotes have been passed around. Some even have reservations visiting Siquijor for this reason. Seeing one is a welcome thought but have never expected we had the opportunity. But our guide cum driver was enthusiastic to suggest we should visit, he knew one who have healed him and provided help when once he lost his wallet. So, we made most of our time as we wait for the last trip boat for Dumaguete. It was a brief encounter but his stories were more than enough to compensate for our long wait as he went out for a patient. Perhaps, beyond what we see on him was some supernatural powers to read our appearance!  He was normal though, like us!

P1050367
The balmy sundown at Kagusuan Beach!

Coming again in Siquijor is not impossible, with the wonderful discovery we had on its depths it is another destination in Central Visayas worthy for another visit in the future!

Have you been to this island?