The Philippines adventure has come to an end, and I am now writing from a cosy coffee place in Ho Chi Minh City. I still have some Filippino adventures to share, and will save Vietnam for the next blog.
Our time in Cebu called for another adventure, like Moalboal. Now it was time to head north of the island and we found two places close enough and worthwhile for a daytrip: Sogod and Catmon. Aiming for The Bagatayam Falls and Esoy Hot springs. We took the bus in the morning – non aircon, that was an experience in the heat with all the fumes coming through the open windows – and got dropped off in Sogod at first. Our day went a little different then expected:
In Sogod we ask locals to bring us to the falls, with habal-habal, the motorbike. On the map I see that the place is still about 20 kilometers away, so when the locals ask us for 20 pesos, we think that’s a bit cheap.
When they drop us off about 1 kilometer further, I try to explain to them this is not what I meant. ‘Springs’, they say while nodding and pointing. I ask them for the falls, and they point back to the highway. They don’t speak more words in English, and Google maps won’t show the location anymore as we are out of service. It seems we’re going to have to settle for this. Slightly annoyed, we descend the stairs to access the springs.
It turns out we’re at the Binoliw Springs (also a point of interest, but not the one we wanted to see). Locals are swimming and doing their washing in the stream, and up a little staircase there’s a statue of Holy Mary.
The water looks brown and all the locals are staring at me. I decide to take a quick dip, as we both feel like one after a hot, three hour bus ride. As soon as I take of my dress and am in my bathers, a Filippino man rushes towards us. Pointing a at the statue, he states that this is a holy place and we need to wear shorts. I didn’t bring my swimmer shorts..
Awkwardly I put back on my dress, and by now there are about 10 more locals, mainly children, who come very close to us and stare at me as if I am from space. I have gotten used to being stared at here, but this is a bit extreme. We pick up our things and leave.
We walk back to the main road ourselves to take the bus straight to Catmon. Here we take another Habal-habal to Esoy Springs. We pay 30 pesos each for a lovely ride on a windy path surrounded by beautiful green valleys with palm trees. The drivers ride very carefully, as this slightly ascending mountain path has quite a few cracks and bumps on the surface. Most cities in this country are concrete jungles filled with fumes and gasses, so this is a great change of scenery.
Esoy hot springs
When we arrive, there is a big metal gate, that displays the words ‘No booking, no entry’. Luckily I read that online last night, and emailed them to enquire. We pay 350 pesos each to get in, as opposed to locals who only pay 100. I have read some angry opinions about it, but it doesn’t bother me. AUD$10 is not much for what we experience here. Esoy, the owner, tells us a little background information about the falls, while letting us put our stuff in a little seated area with cover.
We get into the first hot pool, that has natural hot water coming in. It’s in the middle of limestone walls, and above us hangs a green net that catches all the branches and leaves falling from the trees. It’s relaxing and we’re in the middle of nature.
Next, Esoy comes back and asks if we want to go trekking to the waterfall. Apparently the past few days the weather has been bad and people have not been able to go to the falls at all. The water has turned brown due to the rain, which is a shame as the pictures show a clear stream.
To make our way to the water, we have to cross the ‘Indiana Jones’ bridge. The owner smiles and says it’s not that scary. It keeps our weight, but that’s all said . Putting one foot in front of the other, in the middle of the step, while my hands grip the ropes so tight my knuckles turn white.
We manage to reach the falls, and then let ourselves float back, lightly bumping into rocks here and there. Where finally the notorious bridge awaits us, and we sway our way back to the other side.
For more trip ideas on the north of the island:
Our next trip was Lake Danao in Ormoc. We had a floating cottage on the water.With a rope going to the far end of the bank, we could pull the little raft to the other side. There were a table and benches on the platform, and even a barbecue. Everything covered by a rooftop made out of the of bamboo leaves. About 10 cottages in total, surrounded by the jungle. No engines or boats, no jet skis and parasailing. A pieceful part of nature. When we were halfway on the lake, it started to rain. And in The Philippines it doesn’t rain; it pours. An incredible amount of water fell on the little bamboo roof and trickled down the sides. The temperature dropped about 10 degrees, and for the first time in three weeks, goosebumps appeared on my arms.
The tropical storm lasted for about an hour, and afterwards the clouds slowly parted to let the sun through again. Within no time it was back to a humid hot.
Shortly after the rain, we went for a swim by jumping of the edge of the raft. What a refreshment it was, to swim in such cool water in between the hills and palm trees.
We saw a massive eagle with slightly orange wings, diving towards the water surface to try and catch fish. It was an incredible sight to see the bird attempting to catch its prey.
Martial law and Bohol
Ormoc also gave us the experience of ‘checkpoints’. Military people empowered by government with guns were on specific points on the roads to check cars. Apparently Ormoc has an entrance from Mindanao and these checkpoints are to prevent terrorist activity in other parts. Mindanao highly flagged for danger, as this is where the terrorists squad. They have taken over hospitals and jails, and burnt down schools. The president has put ‘Martial Law’ in order, where the military operates in the street for a certain period, to remain safety and regain control.
Our last week was spent in Panglao Island, a beautiful paradise of Bohol Island. We saw the native and endangered tarsiers. They are tiny monkeys with huge, yellow eyes, which I am sure have inspired J.K. Rowling to create the character of Dobby. They were so much smaller than I had expected, and could have easily fitted in the palm of my hand.
We also saw The Chocolate Hills, more than 1700 oddly shaped hills who turn brown in the dry season. Hence the name, as there is no actual chocolate to be found. We had to climb about 300 steps, and the view was amazing indeed.
For the next six weeks, I will be indulging myself in pho, rice paper rolls and bahn mi.