Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Notes from Tañon Strait, Day 3: Cruising the Bojo River , Visiting Aloguinsan Farmhouse and Finding Hale Manna

Trellis over path leading to The Farmhouse at Aloguinsan
Heading to our third morning on Bantayan island, I was already getting used to Anika Resort and its environs.  But as with other assignments, you have to leave and move on just when you've sort of settled in but that's work for you.  By mid-morning, we crossed over to the mainland via a ferry boat, then headed southwest to Aloguinsan, 59 km from Cebu City.   I drifted in and out of sleep on the van, recalling seeing roads after roads canopied by tall mango trees, a lot of which are just begging to be picked clean of their fruits (mango is my all-time favorite fruit).

A RIVER TOUR AND AN ELEGANT FARMHOUSE.  We were just in time for a belated lunch on the hut/cabana by the Bojo river.  Yeah, I know, most people will just automatically refer back to the more popular one being run on Bohol's Loboc river.  I personally welcome the thought of more river tours as these ecotourism endeavors help preserve the river, mangroves and natural resources of the place as well as provide livelihood to the locals who live along the river.  This one is no different though I must note that the lunch served was tastier, more substantial, than the one I tasted in the Bohol river cruise I took years ago.
The Bojo River tour banca heads towards the mouth of the sea
Riding out to the mouth of the sea where the water turned wavy, we passed through young mangroves and occasional swifts swooping into the thickets.  Our boatman was knowledgeable and confident, able to answer my questions on what kind of mangrove or tree this or that is.  The route to the sea is a bit short at 1.4 kilometers, taking approximately less than half an hour at a rather leisurely pace.  I made a mental note on how wonderful it would be to kayak the route.  

We pass by the remains of what was once a 400 meter boardwalk damaged years ago by a typhoon and still awaiting repair.  It could be a nice site to set up a tripod and shoot wildlife -- some 61 bird species calling the river home -- inside a makeshift hide.  When we got back to the hut, we grabbed a moment of rest and resisted being lulled to sleep by a lonely guitar plucking the strains of the classic, Visayan ditty, Usahay.  There was no time left to take the 150-step natural trail on the hillside to a gazebo overlooking the riverine landscape as it was approaching late afternoon and the waterways we passed from the road to the hut were already dry, rained by the lowering tide.  Next time, we will definitely explore that.
Simple, elegant interiors at The Farmouse at Aloguinsan
Going up to the main road, we alight at The Farmhouse at Aloguinsan for a quick snack.  The house was a surprise -- elegant and tastefully furnished while retaining the charms of a rural abode.  The food was very tasty to say the least with wonderful views to boot.  Just outside the large windows, you can see the organic vegetable garden and livestock areas which I could've scrutinized longer had we not been in a hurry to drive to Moalboal before the sun sets.  It's good to note that out here, the locals' creativity is showcased and presented very well, befitting the effort and love that they poured into it.

MOALBOAL AND AN EDEN CALLED HALE MANNA.  We knew we were going to miss the sunset that afternoon as the sun was already dipping past a bank of clouds even before we saw the rather anomalous Gaisano mall on the main road near the turn heading to Hale Mana.  It was rather strange finding a McDonald's in these parts, much less a mini mall in the middle of fields and mango trees, but it is there as writer, Cris Yabes and Oceana's communications director, Yas Arquiza, told us.

Hale Mana is still some 7 or so kilometers away so it was already a bit dark when our van pulled over at the resort's driveway.  Ahhh, maybe our cue to relax a bit for the night and enjoy the place.  By nightfall, my big toe has swelled a bit from repeated walking on the beach and getting soaked wading in the water.  I also have a localized infection on my back that has made the lymph nodes on my left torso swollen.   I sleep on the bed farthest from the air conditioner (good thing the rooms are really big and high-ceilinged), wondering if I'd be fit for next day's slew of activities.  Never mind the diving and swimming; I have to be well enough to work.  But for the time being, all I can think of was to grab some much-needed sleep.
Really spacious digs at Hale Manna
Notes:  This post is 3rd in a series of features for our 6-day photo safari along Tañon Strait for Oceana Philippines. Oceana is dedicated to helping protect and restore the world's oceans on a global scale.  In the Philippines, Oceana is seeking to restore the health, richness, and abundance of our local oceans by ensuring sustainable fisheries and vibrant marine ecosystems.

Info on the Bojo River Tour: Package 1 for walk-in guests cost P400/pax and includes the river cruise and swimming • Package 2 is the full tour and costs P650/pax (minimum of 5 pax) and includes welcome lei, welcome drinks, lunch at Bojo River, snack at the Farmhouse, handicraft demo, river cruise and swimming • Package 3 is the students package which costs P650/pax (minimum of 5 pax) and includes the ff: welcome lei, welcome drinks, lunch at Bojo River, snack at the Farmhouse, handicraft demo, river cruise, swimming, Baluarte Heritage Park tour, church tour, parola visit  • Contact the Tourist Office at 469-9042; Rudney at 0905-9133055; Jamaila at 0922-6580094 or 0949-3758978; Jerry at 09175-7309757

Info on Hale Manna:  Address: Barangay Saavedra, Moalboal (about 2 1/2 hour drive from Cebu City) • Contact Becky Pestaño-Smith at (+63-032) 316-2603; (+63+922) 842-4939; email: bpsmith888@gmail.com; visit www.halemanna.com
Day 3 Route Map by Oggie Ramos


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