Some people (myself included!) get into the lazy habit of slicing Cebu in half and ordering their trips according to North and South of Cebu. So when we were invited to head West, I was dubious. What allure does the midwest have that can beat the whale sharks of Oslob, the sprawling white beaches of Malapascua, Bantayan and Camotes Islands, the pull of canyoneering adventures in Alegria and the cold rushing waters of the majestic Kawasan Falls? How can ANYTHING top those?
Tucked away in the bosom (well, left hip) of the province of Cebu lies Pinamungajan City. My travel agenda allows for just a quick get-away, not too near Cebu City that you can still see the tops of Busay, and not too far away, that you dread the drive back as soon as you head out. When you are finally tired of doing all the touristy things and want to get away from the multi-cab pack and just want peace (with a capital P), head to the village of Tajao and follow these Awesome Things to do in Western Cebu:
1. Breathe in the view.
The Tajao shoreline is more than a kilometre long, unspoiled and silent on a regular weekend with a picture window view of Kanloan Volcano in Negros province. The beach is great for swimming during high tide and exploring during low tide (don’t forget to wear booties!). The coast is lined with small beach resorts and cottages that don’t gather too big of a crowd. We stayed at Borra Water Sports Depot (+639299647040 or +639173545252) which rents out four air conditioned rooms (at P1,500.00 a night), a service area where you can prepare and cook your own food (including a fridge you can use at your disposal), a swimming pool (with a slide!), a karaoke machine (which we never needed as we were there for the peace and quiet)…and a jet ski (now we’re talking!).
2. Head out.
The Campolabo sandbar is the pride of Pinamungajan. It is a 20 minute trip from mainland Tajao via pump boats that you can rent for P1,500.00 for a group of ten. It has a picturesque strip of white sand that is simply perfect for that Instagram shot every one of your followers is sure to heart. It also has a concrete shed used by sea watch volunteers (Bantay Dagat) on occasion and by visitors for more stunning photos. Time your island adventure and attempt to explore both the low and high tides for a full blown “off the grid” experience, or maybe for something as simple as a family picnic after hours of happy snorkeling.
3. Save a life.
Low tide at Campolabo Islet spans one hectare and is every biology teacher’s dream field trip. You can gather shells for lunch (ask the locals which ones are edible!). You can also catch a star fish or two stranded on the shore needing rescuing!
4. Savour the local fare.
Your boatman will most likely be willing (if you ask nicely!) to catch fresh sea urchins for you and share their homemade brew of spicy vinegar for that extra “umph”. You will never look at Uni Sashimi the same way again! Not feeling as adventurous? You can instead buy assorted fish and seafood from the local fisherman in the area for a very good deal!
5. Don’t go deep
You don’t have to go too far (or too deep) to find Nemo! The islet sits near a sanctuary teeming with marine life. What I love is that the waters are just chest deep when we headed out at high tide to a snorkeling spot, perfect for the not so confident swimmers and for kids.
6. SUP around!
Tajao is great for stand up paddle boarding and kayaking because of the clear waters and beautiful coral beds just waiting to be explored. You can try paddling from the mainland to the islet when the waters are flat – it took a novice paddler like me the same 20 minutes as you would a ride via a pump boat. Of course, that meant no time for selfies and no looking back in case I lose the nerve to keep going. The lovely owners of Borra Water Sports have committed to getting their own set of kayak and stand up paddle boards as part of their offering, and I simply-cannot-wait.
7. Eat Cassaube
And buy a box priced at P200.00 for “pasalubong” (or for solo pig out movie nights). It is cassava-ube (purple yam jam) cake rolled into one square of pure deliciousness – a definite must try. Cassaube is at the ground floor of AGM Building along D. Macapagal Highway in Toledo City. Stop by on your way to Pinamungajan (which our gracious hosts did!) and drop by before you head back to the city (or arrange for advance orders as they run out pretty quickly).
There are lots more to do in the area that I didn’t get around to doing (because I was not actively looking for adventure – read: getting old) Source: http://www.pinamungajan.gov.ph/ :
- Ride a wave pool and go glamping at the five hectare Hidden Valley Mountain Resort
- Visit at least ONE of the 118 (yes, 118) caves of Pinamungajan (the most famous is the Kamangon Cave in the village of Lamac where 108 of the 118 were said to be found)
- Swim in the Sinungkulan and Udlom Falls also in Barangay Lamac
- Ride a boat (or paddle) around the lush mangrove forest along the Sacsac river to Ulbohan Spring
My mission was to find the perfect weekend spot, off the beaten path but not too far away from the city, where I can take the kids, paddle around and experience something different. I came back still in time to attend the last church service (even after a horrendous ordeal battling the Minglanilla traffic) and stoked from a weekend of laid back, water loving, fun. The province of Cebu has a lot to offer true, so tick off Oslob, Malapascua, Bantayan, Camotes Island, Alegria and Badian from your bucket list. When you are done chasing one adventure after the other, find your way to Pinamungajan and breathe.
Ways to get there:
By private vehicle – You have two options if you are coming from Cebu City. You can take the Cebu Transcentral Highway headed to Balamban. You will be passing through Busay so prepare for winding roads and a bit of a steep drive (get your vehicles checked before venturing out). You can also take the Cebu South Road and take the Naga-Toledo Road/Naga-Uling Road. While you will cut through mountains, the roads are wider and well paved, and the climb not as steep (we took this route). You will have to just brave the Minglanilla congestion due to road constructions – we spent a good 20 minutes of our trip (per way) sitting it out in the area, the repairs hopefully should be completed before mid-December (of 2015, not 2016!), or so they said!
By Bus – You can take the Ceres or Jegans Liner bus from the Cebu South Bus Terminal and get dropped right off of Tajao.
By V-hire (van for hire) – Take a van heading south from the parking area fronting the Taboan Public Market. Note that the vans won’t leave until at full capacity (meaning at max 15 passengers) and will be P120.00 per way.
About the author
Michelle is a mom on a mission (and on a tight budget)! She runs a call center on weekdays and takes her weekends and holidays on the road. Her aspirations in life include writing a book, uploading a video with 1 million likes and raising children who know how to swim in the ocean, skate downhill and climb coconut trees. She currently lives in Cebu City with her husband Bobby, their kids Caleb and Kassia, their 11 (skate, long, short, paddle) boards and their pet flowerhorn Tukmod.