|Parang sea turtle lang, ang laki ng shell. lol|
We finally finished our island tour. Though we had so much more spots in mind, it seems like time was not on our side. It was almost dusk. Looking back, we had such a great time contemplating at Trappist Monastery and Balaan Bukid, munching on oh-so-sweet mangoes, and getting amazed by the history and vista view at Guisi Lighthouse.
|Alubihod Beach. Sunset.|
It was almost dark when we arrived at Alubihon Cove Resort. We decided to take a quick dip before the sun finally went on a slumber. It was not as impressive as I expected it to be because the sunset was not advantageous to our location. Nonetheless, the sky looked like a play of colors vibrant enough for us to be amazed.
The resort has a common cabana for gatherings. Good thing there was a common videoke machine so it was off to socials after dinner.
DAY 3. ISLAND HOPPING
Based on prior research, Guimaras [specifically around Alubihod] offered a wide-array of spots to visit when you book on one of their island hopping package. I found myself making a list prior to this trip. I was ecstatic then because based on the blogs I found, there were tons of eco-friendly destination that Guimaras offers.
|Pardon the nip slip.|
|Spell Egg-sighted. Again, pardon the nip slip.|
Pack one, pack all. It's not difficult to book for an island hopping package in Alubihod. A group has been organized specifically for island tours. This was to standardize the packages and rates. They even have a booth infront of Raymen so tourists wouldn't find it difficult to book for a trip. It was a good thing, yes. That would avoid any of the boatmen to overprice, plus it gave an assurance to the boatmen that all of them got a fair chance in the business.
|The unhelpful/uninformed guide. He clearly needs some training.|
Alubihod's take on island hopping. I excitedly went to the booth to finalize and book for what-supposedly was a whole day activity on our itinerary. I was hoping to cover all the islands noted on my research - Baras Cave, Baras Beach, Natago, Ave Maria Island, SEAFDEC, Turtle Island, Lawi Turtle Rescue Center, Snorkeling around the sanctuary, and many more. But to my dismay, Alubihod has a different policy for their island hopping. Their packages charged by the hour. Yes, hourly. Shocked, I tried to bargain as this was the first time I encountered such policy. Apparently, I didn't research well enough. Sayang naman kung 'di namin mapuntahan ang mga nasa listahan namin. So with a bit of hesitation, we decided to just wing it and went for it. We booked for an open time. What was important to us was that all the spots featured were covered. Timecheck: 9:00++ AM.
|Some island found on the way to Ave Maria Island.|
|Ave Maria Island on the right. The guide promised to bring us to the island on the left. BUT HE DIDN'T.|
Island Hopping Spot 1: Ave Maria Island
About 10-15 minutes away from Alubihod cove, Ave Maria Island was the first stop of the package. I was ecstatic as our boat approached the island. In my head, I couldn't help but make out stories as to the reason why the island was called such. My mind flew and I was left with no logical explanation so I asked. Unfortunately, the boatmen were as dumbfounded as me. They didn't know why the island was called such. So much for having well-informed tour guides.
A big 'Private Property' signage was what welcomed us as we docked. As to who owned the island, our guides were as tongue-tied as we were. Second strike.
Ave Maria's clear waters and short fine sand shoreline would probably be the best assets of the island. But when we started to snorkel around, the underwater world wasn't as impressive as I thought. There were small fishes [not the colorful ones] here and there, broken corals, sea weeds [lots of them], sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and a few other creature. Nothing very impressive.
The seclusion was, for me, the best part. I'm not too sure if there were residents on the island but it seemed like we were the only ones there [except a few tourist of course].
|Pia alone and lost, or dumping a handful of crap.|
Photo courtesy of Tabian.
Regardless of a few let-downs, Ave Maria island's fine sand, pristine waters and isolation made it a perfect spot to beach bum and enjoy with friends.
Island Hopping Spot 2: Turtle Island
Sea Turtles are such timid and amazing creatures. I admire how these natural travelers can swim all over the world but still go back to the same spot where they broke out of their shell. It feels like they have a piece of home with them all the time that when the time comes for them to return, they always find their way back. Which is why I had it tattooed on my back to remind me about HOME.
One of the reason why I wanted to visit Guimaras was because of these sea turtle sanctuary I read over the net. I heard that people have made it a point to protect these gentle creatures. So when the guide told us the next stop was turtle island, I couldn't help but feel excited. I wanted to see how locals protect these sea travelers.
As soon as the boat docked, we were greeted with shabby huts and a table with a 5.00 peso entrance fee to the sanctuary. Before I set foot on the sand, I took advantage of the boat's elevation to visually scour where the turtles were placed. I couldn't find them anywhere so I decided to step off of the platform.
The next scene was, to me, so HEART-BREAKING and DISAPPOINTING that literally, we were in a loss of words.
THIS IS THEIR SO-CALLED TURTLE SANCTUARY.
|Red arrows pointed towards what they call, 'Turtle Sanctuary'.|
|The pen where they keep the lone turtle.|
Photo courtesy of tabian.
A sanctuary, as per definition, is a sacred place that safeguards sensitive entities. It is a place where one feels protected and safe.
But this so-called sanctuary didn't look like it was trying to protect the frailty of a gentle creature, rather, it was trying to abuse its vulnerability. And so there he was, the lone sea turtle, trapped in what looked like a concrete enclosure for aquarium-sized goldfishes. He can't barely move nor swim around the concrete tank. His condition was so horrid that I wanted so badly to set him free; let him go on to the ocean where he truly belonged.
|Broken and bruised, that's the sea turtle's condition.|
We hopelessly fell silent. All we can do was to observe and make mental notes of how bad his shape was. I could feel the rage amongst my friends. So when the 'caretaker' took the sea turtle out of the enclosure and offered a photo oppurtunity with the creature, I turned a cheek and insisted that he put the creature down. Its life's as precious as ours, therefore we must treat it with respect. The way he handled the sea turtle didn't look like he was trained for it. It was so disappointing but I can't do anything about it. #SuperBummer.While the others took pictures of the sea turtle, I approached the caretaker to get some answers.
Answers, but more questions. The island was called Turtle Island because sea turtles come here to lay their eggs. Their thrust was to take care of the eggs and rescue harmed sea turtles. Eventually, they would release the sea turtles when they saw it fit for survival in the wild. But what I saw wasn't the case. There was no proper facility to house the 'rescued' sea turtle. The physical condition of the creature was horrible. It looked like it has undergone trauma. It looked like all its life was drained out. Apparently, DENR [is] aware of the situation. However, no action was done to stop this kind of treatment. I got more frustrated by the minute so we decided to leave the turtle, we named BITOY, and proceeded to the next spot.
Island Hopping Spot 3: Middle of nowhere, a so-called marine sanctuary.
When we got back to the boat, we were busy discussing what we just witnessed. It was unanimous. We were all disappointed but we're sure that there's a reason behind it. We just hoped that the community would understand how important the creatures were and how much damage they caused to its life.
|Whatever was left of a fish pen, on the way to the next spot.|
When we asked the guide, he said that the next stop was snorkeling on a marine sanctuary. I was excited to see the underwater world in Guimaras but I was still caught up with Bitoy's situation. We asked the guide if he could bring us to SEAFDEC first before snorkeling. This way, we could observe the correct way to take care of these marine organisms. The guide declined and told us that SEAFDEC WAS CLOSED. I protested and told him I just read a blog entry about it a week before our trip. But he insisted that it was closed for months now. My heart sank even further. But no fuss, we gave in and had him bring us to the sanctuary.
As the boat was threading through salt water, I decided to temporarily shun the disappointment, give it another go of positive energy and enjoy the moment. We stopped and the guide told us that we could swim around the area as it was a sanctuary. But I had second thoughts. I remembered that we passed by this area when we went to turtle island and this was the usual route for the boats going to that island. I didn't ask any further questions and just swam to cool my head off.
We got fed up with swimming around and decided to go to the next spot. The motor roared and off we went. As to where exactly, I didn't have any idea. I gave the decision to the guide as he knows which spot is closer. I was still so strung-up with Bitoy I was already lost in my thoughts. Suddenly, I felt a forceful nudge from tabian as she was wondering why we were moving slower than usual and that we were heading back to Alubihod. I looked around and indeed, we were. Puzzled, I asked the guide. He said that we're heading home because the waves were getting uncontrollably bigger. But it wasn't! He said that the other spots were no longer accessible so we had to go back. I took a moment and observed the waters, it wasn't that big at all. I couldn't believe it. I pleaded and pointed towards a shoreline [Baras Beach]. The guide said it was a private property which meant we were not allowed to dock there. Squinted my eye and found 2 boats docked on the beach. Ouch, I felt like we got ripped off! We can't believe this is happening. Almost 4 hours and only covered 2 spots?! What a let down! I understand that there were a lot of customers waiting for their turn but it shouldn't a reason for them to rush the trip. They were in it for the money, not sustainable tourism. I have no choice but gave in. I could feel disappointment painted around the faces of my friends. TIMECHECK: 1:30++PM.
|Indeed, very rough waters. Go figure.|
After we ate lunch, we were still hung up with what happened a few hours back. It felt like it was all too odd for the boatmen to rip us off of our time. We were not there for free. We're paying customers for crying out loud! It seemed like they don't care if we enjoyed our time. Heavy-hearted, we decided to soak under the sun and rinse off negative vibes with saline. When that didn't really worked, we decided to wallow our disappointment and hit the common cabana for some good 'ole fashion videoke session.
We chose Alubihod Beach because based on reviews, the sand was a lot finer and whiter, but waters are not that clear compared to that of Guisi. A blogger called this, a version of Boracay in Guimaras. I couldn't say it's much better as we had not set foot on Guisi but I wouldn't agree to it being similar to Boracay. Caramoan and Malapascua's white sand and clear waters were a tad closer to the so-called 'Boracay standards'.
It was our last day in Guimaras. I'd say, it was not a trip worth remembering. I hate to say it but we closed our trip with a heavy heart. But difficult as it may seem, I'd still give Guimaras another go. I'm not fully closing my doors on them. I'm sure that there were perfectly good reasons why that incident happened.
It was such a disappointing way to end our Guimaras trip. We started with high-off-the-ceiling-kind of excitement but ended up with a 6-feet-bottom heartbreak. I'm not closing my doors just as of yet but I see myself coming back anytime soon. I can't imagine going through the same shit. I know Guimaras is such a beautiful island province. It was just one of those bad moments. #Bummer.
Island Hopping [4 hours] = 850.00
Lunch+Dinner = 200.00 each
Island Hopping [4 hours] = 850.00
Lunch+Dinner = 200.00 each
Booze+videoke = 100.00 each
[Getting around Guimaras from Jordan Port.]
After signing off the registration form on the Tourism Booth, there are a lot of pedicab drivers at the port area you can negotiate with on how much their rates are when going around Guimaras or to a specific destination. Travel time depends on which destinations you have in mind or which spot the driver [slash] tour guide offers.
Guimaras Series: of sweet mangoes and memories
Check out the video we made just to stop that damn Nicki Minaj from ringing in our heads. Talk about LSS.