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At Large

An island paradise

It’s said that in the dying years of martial law, especially after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, tourism prospects for the country were so bad destinations had to find “creative” ways to market themselves.

Cebu, then (and now) enjoying a boom in tourist arrivals, sold itself as “an island in the Pacific,” marketing its beach destinations without mention of the country it was in, given the Philippines’ reputation as a hotbed of violence.

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Bluewater Resort in Sumilon could very well adopt the same successful come-on. It’s a 24-hectare rocky outcrop off the tip of Oslob town, a four-hour drive from Cebu City but more accessible through Dumaguete, after about an hour’s boat ride. And indeed, the island retreat offers not just leisure and an escape from the hurly-burly of Manila life, but also an adventure-filled interlude, from the pools and lagoon, beaches and sandbar, spa services, and even a day trip to Oslob to visit the famous whale sharks and the exciting Aguinid Falls.

Actually, more day-trippers from Oslob visit Sumilon, where for P2,000 a day during weekends and P1,500 on weekdays per head, tourists enjoy a boat ride to and from the island, lunch, swimming at the lagoon pool or off its beaches, and water activities like snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boating, fishing as well as biking and trekking, all the way up to the site of the island’s lighthouse.

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One caveat though, especially for senior visitors. Be prepared for a lot of climbing and descending through Sumilon’s multilevel areas, although I must say all that exertion is guaranteed to offset all the food that Sumilon’s kitchen produces!

On our second day on the island, Bluewater publicist, Pete Dacuycuy, and Sumilon’s resident manager, EJ Barretto, had arranged for us a tour of southern Cebu’s attractions.

Our boat landed at  Bancogon port, a facility managed by Bluewater for both day-trippers and guests. From there, we drove some distance to Tan-awan beach where a mob of whale shark watchers was gathered. We were herded to a waiting area where we were first given an obligatory orientation (no sunblock

lotion or scents for those diving, no touching or feeding of the butanding, no loud sounds, and certainly no using the “gentle giants” as surfboards).

Being seniors, the hubby and I decided to stay put inside the boat, but Andrew and Amanda Masigan, son-in-law and granddaughter of colleague Deedee Siytangco, were gung ho about swimming with the sharks.

Thankfully, motor boats were not allowed, so for a few moments we savored the silence, the brilliant sunshine, the breeze — kilometers away from rainy, flooded Manila! In time, our paddlers inserted our boat in the circle of crafts just a few meters away in deeper water. A smaller craft entered the circle and a paddler started throwing krill, or alamang, in front of the butanding. All of a sudden, we spotted one whale shark and then another, maws wide open to feed on the little shrimp. The sight was both amazing and amusing, and we could only look on in envy as Andrew and Amanda, and then the Japanese tourists on board, slipped into the water and exclaim at the sight of the whale sharks up close.

As if the whale shark encounter was not enough, we then proceeded for a longish drive to Aguinid Falls in Samboan town, where, after a rather grueling trek up a rough hillside, we had a rather refined “boodle” lunch of roast chicken, seafood, roast pork, vegetables and  lechon in a local’s house just before the trail leading to the falls.

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Photos of the falls were certainly tantalizing but once again we seniors opted out, although we did make it as far as “Stage One” of the five stages of the falls, already a mesmerizing sight with a small pond and mini falls. Andrew and Amanda returned from their adventure with enthusiastic stories and mouth-watering photos. By the way, a pair of guides is required for every group going up the falls.

Then it was back to Sumilon Island for a night’s rest before returning to the city. We were sated with memories and experiences that we hope will sustain us as we face the rigors of city life.

rdavid@inquirer.com.ph

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TAGS: At Large, Bluewater Resort, cebu, Rina Jimenez-David
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