Five things to do in Bantayan island

Posted at 05/17/2012 4:16 PM | Updated as of 05/18/2012 1:34 PM
A woman takes a stroll on the beach in Bantayan island. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA, Philippines – Bantayan island has been dubbed as the quiet version of tourist favorite Boracay, which is considered by many as one of the best beach destinations in the world.

How to get there

Bantayan island is accessible by ferry from Hagnaya, which is a three-hour drive from Cebu City. 

There are also chartered flights from the Mactan Cebu International Airport to the island.

Located just west off the northern tip of Cebu in Southern Philippines, Bantayan is known for its white sand, crystal clear waters, and friendly locals. It is composed of three municipalities – Sta. Fe (where most of the resorts are), Bantayan and Madrilejos.

The island got its name during the Spanish regime, when watchtowers (“bantayan” in Tagalog) were built around it to serve as lookouts for the invading Moros from Mindanao.

Bantayan island is the ideal place for beach-lovers who are not into the party scene, and those who want to do some soul-searching. Most foreign and local tourists visit Bantayan during the Holy Week, and the island has since been called the “Lenten Capital of the Visayas.”

For those who are planning to go to Bantayan island this year, here are five things that you can do to make the most out of your visit.

Enjoy the silence

Bantayan island is often called the quiet version of Boracay. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Probably one of the best things about Bantayan island is its lack of noise – no loud music from bars, no masseuses and vendors along the shoreline, and barely any kids running around.

The beaches are divided among resorts, which are mostly small and are relatively quieter than the ones in Boracay and other places in the country.

So, savor the peace and quiet while it lasts. Pick a spot on the beach and wait for the sun to rise. Take a barefoot stroll. Look into the horizon and listen to the waves. You will not be able to do any of these in the hustling and bustling city of Manila.

Sample the seafood

Don't forget to sample Bantayan island's dried fish. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Bantayan island is best known for its “buwad danggit,” which is not too salty and overpowering compared to other types of dried fish.

Go to any restaurant or resort to try this dried fish, which is best enjoyed with an extra runny sunny side up and garlic rice.

While on the island, stay away from meat and sample not only the buwad danggit but also the vast array of seafood. Almost everything here tastes fresh, from the scallops and squid to the “aninikad,” an exotic shellfish.

Try eating aninikad, a type of shellfish. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Go to the market

Instead of buying “pasalubong” (travel gifts) at the airport which are usually priced higher, drop by the Bantayan market, a quick drive from Sta. Fe.

Take in the sights and smells of the piles of buwad danggit, squid and other types of seafood, which is one of the most important industries of the island.

One of the many baskets of dried fish sold at the Bantayan market. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNews.com

Take a bag or two home for your family and friends. But don’t forget to store these in boxes – otherwise, you may have to leave your buwad danggit, known for its very fishy smell, at the airport.

The Bantayan market also has bottles of pickled danggit entrails, which vendors said are best paired with ground corn, as well as other Cebu specialties such as dried mangoes, otap (an oval-shaped puff pastry) and rosquillos (sweet, crunchy cookies).

Visit a church

Pay a visit to Sts. Peter and Paul Church. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Just a few steps from the market is Sts. Peter and Paul Church, an old yet beautiful structure made from corals and stones found on the island.

Locals said the church was destroyed by Muslims in the 1600s, and was eventually reconstructed.

Others, meanwhile, claim that parishioners here are exempted from the “no-meat” rule every Good Friday as they celebrate “victory over great hardship,” whatever that is.

Inside the Sts. Peter and Paul Church. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Whether the story is true or not, this church is worth a visit.

Try something new

Dive, snorkel, or learn how to swim. Explore the island. Learn a few words from the local dialect. Sing karaoke with a stranger.

A blue starfish is seen from a glass-bottomed boat. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

For nature lovers, drop by the School of the Sea and Earth Advocates, just a few minutes away from the resorts in Sta. Fe. Here, you can learn firsthand about building coral nurseries and “fish condos,” structures made to replace corals damaged by dynamite fishing.

Time seems to flow slowly in this peaceful island, giving you a great opportunity to relax, be happy and feel genuinely at home.