Adventures in Malatapay and Apo Island, Negros Oriental, Philippines
ALL-TIME FAVORITE POST FROM 2011 RE-BLOGGED: If it's Wednesday and you're in Dumaguete, don't forget to drop by Malatapay Tabo Market! Do this if you don't want to miss out the fun. 30 Kilometers South of Dumaguete on good road will bring you to a feast for all the senses. The market every Wednesday comes alive as farmers, fishermen and townsfolk from the peninsula and in the surrounding islands like Apo, converge and trade goods. I couldn't thank destiny and the heavens above for making this trip possible.
Fresh from a good sleep, i was off to the bus station 2 hours after sunrise. With relatively good transportation around, taking the bus could save you the hassle of renting a tricycle to take you to Zamboanguita. It's good to ride the motorbike but it's more practical to just hop in and go down on the highway. 20 minutes after leaving the quaint bus station, i was dropped off in Baranggay Maluay in the town of Zamboanguita.
If you're worried that you will not be able to see where to stop. Let me tell you that it's never gonna happen! You will immediately notice those wooden tables set, quirky wares displayed, colorful banderitas and lots and lots of people walking. I was dropped off and this what welcomed me...
The best products and the freshest produce are displayed and sold. Local folks also get to barter trade which is unheard of if you're coming from Manila. I love this kind of place. Malatapay Market is actually a personal recommendation of my friend whyh8! But instead of hating it, he suggested i visit this place in his hometown because he loves it.
The other day, i was chatting with a couple of my colleagues from work who're from Dumaguete and Malatapay was one topic we discussed. Others say, it's such an ugly sight to see because poor animals are slaughtered right in front of you. I did see a couple of pigs, cows and even chicken freshly cut with blood spurting out. It's different from what i see everyday. But who am i to complain? I'm just visiting around. While walking along the strip, i got to see the wares up close: clothing, knives, ropes, fresh blue marlin, poultry and yes...cellphone accessories.
I arrived at the other side later that day, by the bay. I looked around and found countless number of people settled in with their stuff. They're all headed to one place... Apo Island.
This leaves me with a question... With no reservation and just me, myself and I... How will i get to Apo Island???
I asked the people manning the port. They were no help, to be honest. There weren't any schedule of boats leaving and arriving displayed, only price list of boats. A small boat for 4 people costs P1500 i think. A bigger boat that can fit 8 people costs roughly a few hundreds less than P3000. Of course, it's impractical for me to take either of the two considering I'm just traveling solo.
I puffed a cigarette and started to wander around. A few minutes later, a lady approached me and said she'll ask the group she was traveling with if they can squeeze one more. Thankfully, they said Yes. I paid for my share, around P300 or $5.
A few minutes later, i carried with me my backpack, slipped my flip-flops somewhere in the mesh pocket of my bag and was half-way the water when i realized the shorts i wore is the last pair i have. Who cares?
If you want me to tell you that the water from Zamboanguita to Apo Island is calm, i will be lying. It's rough and most of the time i was holding tight to the wooden deck where i was sitting and holding hands with a bamboo stick so i won't lose my balance.
I can see why this island is famous. It has this certain vibe where i know i will be amazed of what it has to offer. As soon as i arrived, i told the family i was traveling that i will be going on my own. They really wanted me to sit with them and eat because i didn't bring any food. As much as i want to mingle, i just have a no-talk policy for now. I want to relax, unwind and do this solo-no-talk therapy. We parted ways and planned to meet up around 3-4pm later that day.
After paying the entrance fee for about P100 or $2, i also paid the Marine Sanctuary fee for P50 or $1. I rented out a snorkel and aqua shoes ( i should have brought mine) and proceeded my way to the other side of the island where the sanctuary is. I passed by the village and was greeted with friendly smiles from the locals. There were a couple of shops, a few eateries and huts opened to give in to the growing number of tourists in Apo.
First things first, i am running out of clothing. Seeing the sea gypsies selling those funny Apo Island shirts was like Manna. I bought a couple of shirts as i still have a few days left before i fly back to Manila. I have no more clothing. Then, i was off to the underworld!
If you think the sanctuary looks plain and boring, wait till you see the world down there. It's really amazing. I've never spent that long time snorkeling. I swam away and far out to sea where it's deeper. The corals were spectacular and the fish were just so playful. Saw clown fish, a couple of sea snakes and other colorful fishy-fishy. I saw them dancing, doing the yin yang poses and swimming back and forth. I was ecstatic. (Remind me again to finally buy a digital underwater camera).
REMEMBER: DO NOT TOUCH THE CORALS!
After seeing all the wonders plus a sea snake. I slowly flipped away from the sea to the shore. ha ha ( Scared as hell!) I went to Apo Island Resort to eat lunch. It was a good meal, actually. After communing with myself for a while, i ordered for chicken adobo, garlic rice, potato salad, two bottles of 8 ounce coca cola and 4 bottles of San Mig Light. I was in heaven. And it only cost me less than P500 considering it's a high-end resort.
I sat there and watched as the waters glimmer, the rocks boasting its might and a couple of local tourists from the city speaking their native tongue. I don't understand Cebuano but i could sense that actually, they were talking about me. Who cares? ha ha
The rest of the day was spent doing absolutely nothing, which i loved. I would walk around and swim every now and then as i finish my bottle of beer. I regret not being able to snorkel some more near the rocks as i have heard great reviews about the place.
I was back to where the boat docked. It was about quarter before 4pm and i was just admiring the beautiful sun as it slowly dies. I see fishermen, little kids playing and dozen foreigners getting prepped up for a late afternoon dive.
I was told that this day was the day the people saw about five turtles swimming a few meters away from the shore. That was happening while I was goofing with one little kid as he tries to hide from the lone tree.
To be honest, i won't stay longer in Apo Island. A few hours was enough for me. I loved the vibe and the wonders underwater. I was searching for a place where i could feel i was discovering it, and not just touring it. I saw so many tourists and these tourists wind up doing the expected. I couldn't say i did something unique. At least, i had good sun and swim.
To the right are the cute huts of Apo Island Resort facing forward the majestic rock. If you look closely, there's a text written on it. I am not sure if this is the work of vandals. Slowly, the island of Apo fades away from the horizon.
The view from the boat was spectacular but again, the water was raging. I got to chat with the family: the father, the daughters and sons. Later on, i found out that the father is working in the states as an engineer and he just came back to Dumaguete for a short vacation. They are going to Apo island for a short vacation. Here i am, ruining their precious moment together. But it's okay, i felt at home with them. I suddenly missed my family. If only they know how my trips build the best of me, they would be proud of me.
I looked up in the sky as the sun sets and saw what's ahead of me. God, Negros is so beautiful!
After arriving in Zamboanguita, i was ready to head back to Dumaguete. As i was cleaning my feet from the sand in one of the poso, the family approached me once again and told me to hitch a ride with them heading back to the city. I left Zamboanguita via a multi-cab which the family owns. I passed through quaint little towns on my way back to the city. In between looking at the window, i share a laugh and smile for the family i met showed me what kindness and generosity is all about.
*This post is dedicated to the kindness of Engineer Conrado V. Del Carmen and his family. Thank you sir for making my trip to Apo Island.