We all have visions of paradise. Bantayan Island is one those places that could certainly fit the bill.
Located in the Visayas, approximately five hours from Cebu. Bantayan Island is a native island loaded with history and early exploration. The island has three main municipalities which include: Santa Fe, Bantayan, and Madridejos. Each of these towns have their own unique personality and would be worthy of a visit to the island. One of the best ways to explore the island is to rent a motorcycle in Santa Fe and traverse around the entire island.
Coming from Hagnaya by ferry-boat (approximately one hour) you arrive at the port of Santa Fe.It’s a short distance from the port to the main town and resorts by local trycycle. Santa Fe is known for its sugary white beaches, nice resorts, and a town with a central market, churches, schools and has a main street with many restaurants and bars, appealing to the tourists who visit the island. There is a mix of x-pats and seasonal tourists with a very strong x-pat community. Many of the x-pat residents agree this is one of the main reasons to live on the island.
On any given day you will meet Swedish (the most represented) Norwegians, English, Irish, Australian, Canadian, American and many other nationalities. If you are the type who likes to feel like you belong to a community…Santa Fe just might be the place for you. Rental houses are cheap and be had for as little as $100.00 per month, even though you can’t own land, you can still build a great house for under $35,000 US dollars. Labor is cheap, approximately five dollars per day for carpenters and maid service.
Beer is the favorite beverage of most foreigners and costs from 50 cents to a dollar depending on where you elect to drink. Restaurant meals vary and you can choose to eat like a native with rice and veggies from the markets plus local fish or pork for a few dollars a day. Or you can go to a fancy restaurant and spend eight dollars or more depending upon your meal selection. Overall the cost of living is very affordable compared to modern countries, however since many things are imported from the United States, you might get sticker shock on things like cheese, butter, milk, and imported items.
Bantayan is twenty-five minutes from Santa Fe and is the largest of the three municipalities. It is known for its Holy Week Celebration, fruit and vegetable market, a wet market for fresh fish and also has a large display of dried fish which most Filipino tourists take back home.
When you approach Bantayan you pass by the cemetery, schools, and businesses… arriving at the central park where they hold the annual Holy Week Celebration which draws 50,000 tourists onto the island. Directly across from the park is the historic Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Church 1580 A.D. which is a must see. They also have a port where you can travel to Negroes Island and Iloilo Island by native pumpboat. And if you are hungry visit Kermits Restaurant where you can get the best cheeseburgers, burritos, and baked goods on the island.
Madredijos is another 25 minutes from Bantayan and is famous for its excellent fish. It was once named “Little Alaska” because of the fishing and crab industry. While there a visit to Kota Park with its own museum and pier extending a large distance onto the sea makes a great photo opportunity.
As you travel around Bantayan Island you will see rich farm land, miles and miles of native palm trees swaying in the breeze and many small chicken farms. Bantayan Island is named “The Egg Basket” of the Philippines.The rural areas of Bantayan Island operate nearly the same as it has for hundreds of years. Natives gather firewood, raise a few chickens and pigs and fish from the sea for their staples. With the exception of the cell phone and motorcycles… nothing has changed since the days of Magellan.
However, growth is coming and our only hope is there is planned growth so this community doesn’t turn into another Boracay. We have a small airport and many of the communities are fixing up their towns. Quite a few new houses are being built…it’s still pristine, but don’t be late grasshopper or you will miss the boat.
Fun things to do while on the island would include: a snorkeling trip to Virgin Island, a visit to Ogtong Cave, a visit to the new Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort, with it new Olympic sized swimming pool and cave adventures, swimming in pristine waters of Santa Fe, renting a bicycle, kayak, wind surfing or just hanging out along the beach.
There are too many nice resorts, but to name a few would be: Kota Beach Resort, which has a brand new billiards semi-outdoor bar with a Brunswick table, Youneek Inn, great beach bar for sunset watching, St. Bernard Beach Resort for the person who wants that off the beaten path feeling,Marlin Beach Resort, great location, Tickety Boo Beach Resort with a swimming pool and restaurant, Santa Fe Beach Club, plus Maia’s Beach Resort that is a memorable experience, where you are treated like special guests.
A few restaurants worth noting are: Blue Ice, CouCou Bar Hotel and Restaurant, H and R Bar and Restaurant, Balikbayan, La Esquina, Portuguese, Italian-Cafee Del Mar, Tristans and so many more local choices.
So there you have it! An island that is quite remote and unspoiled that has a little of everything. So why not book your next trip to Bantayan Island and see why all of the permanent x-pat residents walk around saying: “mum is the word.”
QUOTE: “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”—Susan Sontag
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW:Bantayan 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.
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: Islands…where else would you run off to?
ZENTRAVELER SAYS:Visit Bantayan Island… it could become habit-forming.
From here to Infinity is a relatively short ride! The next leg takes eons and eons as you fly through the Barycentric Dynamical Time Zone! …and on and on and on.
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