First of all, the island hopping to Balicasag Island would not be possible without the hospitality and invitation of Panglao Tourism through Mayor Leonila P. Montero and Bb. Pilipinas-Miss World 2006 Anna Maris Igpit who brought us back to Bohol to cover the first-ever Panglao International Dive Fiesta last June 12-15. (RELATED: Panglao Tourism holds first-ever Panglao International Dive Fiesta) Balicasag is just one of the islands the make up of Panglao‘s Poblacion that is also rich in marine biodiversity and has that enchanting white sand beaches. One of the popular beach in Panglao is the Alona Beach which has attracted European and Chinese tourists ever since.
Panglao Island has been recognized as one of the Top Ten Philippine Gems last year. (RELATED: Netizens have chosen Top Ten Philippine Gems)
Balicasag Island is one of the island hopping destination for the amount of Php 1,300 – Php 1,500 which includes a whole-day boat ride to explore the nurturing islands in Panglao. The other islands are Gak-Ang and Pungtud, also referred to as the Virgin Island. It is best to start the island hopping at 5 in the morning to be able to witness the school of dolphins as they swim across the sea near the islands, according to our boatmen.
The ride from Alona Tropical Beach Resort, where we came from, to the port in Danao taking us to Balicasag was about less than 30 minutes, by land. From there, we were greeted by Panglao Tourism representative which led us to the small boat – a banca, that brought us to the famous island. We were assigned three boatmen who served us our ‘captain of the ship‘ and guide us we explored the Balicasag Island community.
By the way, due to hectic schedule during that day, it was the 2nd day of the #PanglaoDiveFiesta, we were able to do the island hopping by 2 in the afternoon, which could have been maximized if we have started early in the morning. Kind to say, it was already a bit late to do island hopping in that hour, according to our boatmen, because we were not able to see the dolphins.
But the weather when we came to the port was just fine with occasional rain shower as we sail for an almost one-hour boat ride. The boat travel was both exciting and agitating because of the long period that we have to stay in the water before we could reach the island. We remembered our trip to Khao Ping Kan in Phang Nga Bay, Thailand when we went heir to see the equally popular James Bond Island. It was the longest 1 hour boat ride of our life. The waves were humping and tried beating up our 12-passenger boat then. To cut the story short, it was an adventurous ride and you’ll just have to wait when you have to ride the boat again back to the port.
Same goes to our recent boat ride. Though the waves going to Balicasag were a bit tamed in the afternoon compared during the rest of the day, we were still in a bit anxious especially when on the first 10 minutes our boat’s engine stopped. The boatmen said it was because some sea weeds got tangled to the boat’s motor because the area we were sailing were almost shallow. Then there was this rain shower. Oh yeah! Was it going to be a trip gone wrong?
Not. We arrived at Balicasag Island safe and sound – and dry, and the first thing we did was snorkeling because it was kinda late already and we just wanted to spend the remaining daylight to be spent exploring this beautiful island.
Harvey, the caretaker of the snorkeling activity in Balicasag quickly showed us the gears we were about to use and told us that the rental would be Php 150. Not bad. And there was also this tour local diving guide who we must also pay another sum of Php 150. Fairly a good deal especially if you’re thinking of a good snorkeling experience here. But what would be a snorkeling dive without underwater camera shots? Ey? We don’t have one when we got there but Harvey was quick to pull off his Olympus camera equipped underwater casing which is available for Php 1,000 rent. Oh boy! That was just off our budget. But since Panglawenyos are simply amazing and has kind-heart, Harvey gave us half a discount price for the underwater camera rent. Now we’re talking!
We put our snorkeling dive mask and mouthpiece on, and headed on to the snorkeling dive spot which is not very far from the shore.
Once underwater, you can never stop appreciating life under the sea and the creatures, the fish and marine life underneath. It was breathtaking. We found a lot of colored fish and the beauty surrounding the depth of the sea. We were almost near the so-called ‘deep blue sea’ area which is enchantingly beautiful but at the same time not a very good spot for novice. It’s like a long-way down deep meters in that area. all we could do was just stare at it and kept reminded that we have to stay near the buoy for safety.
Also, always remember to wear a life-vest if you’re not really into swimming and make sure to watch your steps. We just happened to had a minor cut on the right foot when we slipped into a coral. But that’s alright. It’s part of the experience.
That was fun. Another memorable experience that is. Balicasag waters is rich and inviting. There are no trash or pollutants when we came there and we just hope that during the peak-season will stay the same. We forgot to mention that when we went there was already the in-coming of the low-season so we weren’t able to meet tourists on the island. Though our boatmen and Harvey told us that there are a lot of visitors mostly coming in the morning.
We finished snorkeling by 4 PM and Reynante, one of our boatmen, toured us inside the island. Surprisingly, it has a well-populated community with a school, day care, and church. It has been home to many families who rely fishing as their main source of livelihood but according to Reynante, kids of the younger generations would prefer to work as tour guides than going to school because it makes an additional income for them. Furthermore, fishermen had also gone being local tour guides abandoning some of their fishing jobs done. Reynante attributed this to the rise of tourism in Panglao. Panglao has become a haven for diving spot and wonderful beaches and these are the reason why locals are now relying on tourism.
Reynante would not blame the local government, the tourism, nor the locals for giving up fishing as their main source of livelihood. He appreciated what the local government, especially what Mayor Montero was doing to uplift tourism in their municipality. What bothers Reynante was the lame attitude of the locals when off-peak season arrives. They simply forgot that fishing can do more aside from being local tourist guides.
And fortunately, the local government of Panglao is making up for this. Aside from building new classrooms to educate the Balicasag children, Panglao is developing projects and at the same time continuously doing its effort to bring more sustainable living opportunities for their people. Yup, they are still educating their people to become better fishermen for their future generations, teaching them on how to use and properly use techniques which are not harmful to marine environment.
After the tour, Reynante surprised us with their local hospitality by serving us freshly cooked Balicasag dishes such us grilled Tambakol, shrimps, sinigang na isda, and sweet mango for dessert. We shared the food with bare-hands while enjoying lively conversations altogether. As soon as we finished, we signaled Reynante to prepare for the boat and start its engine running. It’s already 5 in the afternoon and close to dusk. Our only concern was if we’ll be able to sail through darkness once the evening folds in and we’re still in the middle of the sea. To comfort us, Reynante told us not to worry because the full moon will guide our way back. I’m not sure if he’s joking or what but the thoughts of sailing on a small boat on a dark environment could not be a good idea.
We hurriedly left Basilicag Island with hopes that one day we’ll be able to visit once again and by that time on a perfect timing to be able to explore more without time constraint.
Behind the distant shore, the moon was slowly peeking and just as soon as we left the island, darkness enveloped the sea. Looking back at the island, the once clear vision almost now engulfed with thick black clouds almost hovering above the sea. We were sensing that a strong rain shower will befell on us. The wind was humid by that time and the waves were a bit heavy than before. It was almost pitch black. As soon as the waves finally set in, there was something strange in the water that even our boatmen would have noticed. After the waves, we sailed on for 10 minutes on a somehow dense and thick water which only meant that there is a strong current below. Now that is scary. No waves and all flat, and there’s a full moon above you.
As soon as we have overcome those dense area, boats from other directions were seen with a man standing at the rear. It signaled something for them and it’s just in a few minutes that we got what its meant for. We were crossing another area of shallow water and the guide has to stand up to signal the man on the engine if he’ll stop or continue to run the motor. It will be hard for the boat to run its engine on shallow waters thus turning it off and just use the paddle would be more advisable.
And so we continue sailing with on off-engine and two of the boatmen paddled the boat for us to reach the shore. It took us more than an hour that time going back to the port in Danao.
That was an experience we will never forget. And overall, it was a great adventure. A mix of fun, excitement, fear, and silent panic which at the end of the day, we’ll just laugh about it and continue to tell the story of our Balicasag Island Experience.
Oh didn’t we tell you that on that day was Friday the 13th coupled with Honey Moon and Mercury retrograde phenomenon? Just saying. Thanks for reading!
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