Island Hopping


This blog entry about the events of Monday, January 17, 2005 was originally posted on January 23, 2005.

DAY 457:  “Island hopping” is a term often used in the tourism circuit in the Philippines, and for good reason; there are 7,107 islands in the archipelago, why just stick to one?  (Some of the smaller ones are even up for sale if you can afford it.)  It isn’t necessarily needed to fly from island to island as there are many modes of transportation available, from big ferries to jet-powered catamarans.  For the backpacker on the tightest budget, there is the Roro, an inter-island bus that travels on land by road and over water by vehicle transport ferry from island port to island port.

My goal of the day was to island hop from Boracay to Panay to Cebu to Bohol to Panglao, by air, land, and sea — all before nightfall.

THE SKIES WERE STILL GRAY when I woke up in the house in Boracay’s Bulabog Beach.  There was no time to wait around another day for the winds; I had a flight to catch at Caticlan Airport on neighboring Panay Island.  A spider boat ferry and tricycle ride later, I was at the airport on my second island of the day, with time to spare to catch up with my Tita Josie, who had arrived earlier via minivan from Kalibo.  She told me all about the shooting that had occurred in Kalibo the second day of a festival, an incident that sort of put a damper on the rest of the celebration.  The skies were still gray and gloomy over Panay, both figuratively and literally, and it was a sign for us to move on to sunnier skies.

IN 1521, SPANISH EXPLORER FERDINAND MAGELLAN, in his expedition to be the first guy to circumnavigate the globe, landed on the island of Cebu.  To mark his territory, he erected a Christian cross to christen the island in the name of the Spain and the Catholic Church.  He thought he was doing the natives a good service, but was killed two weeks later by Chief Lapu-Lapu who drove the Spanish away until their return forty-four years later.  Magellan never personally accomplished his around-the-world goal, but his crew managed to finish it for him.

Four hundred eighty-four years later, it was my turn to land on Cebu on my own global trip.  “It’s nicer here,” I said when we touched down on my third island of the day, in Cebu City’s airport.  Unlike at Boracay and Panay, the skies over Cebu were blue and sunny. 

We got our bags and hopped in a cab to take us not to one of the numerous resort in the Cebu City area, but to the town center where just days before the 25th anniversary of the Sinulog festival (Cebu’s version of Ati-atihan) took place.  Like two backpackers, Tita Josie and I lugged our gear around the city center, stopping first at one of the more significant monuments in town, Magellan’s Cross, the actual cross Magellan planted in 1521 before his death.  It was at the site of this cross where King Humabon of Cebu, his queen, and 800 of his subjects were baptized as the first Filipino Christians by Spanish priest Fr. Pedro Valderrama after the Spanish came back in 1565 and really began to colonize the archipelago.

My interests of being in the presence of the cross were not only religious, but significant in the parallels I could draw from it.  Where Magellan attempted to go around the world and failed mid-way, I was optimistic that my trip would come full circle in time for a big return in New York on DAY 503.

DOWN THE PROMENADE FROM THE CROSS was another monumental relic of the Spanish colonization:  the Basilica Del Santo Niño, the oldest church in the Philippines (reconstructed numerous time due to fires) and the resting place of the original black-faced baby Jesus holy statue, which draws pilgrims to come and wait on long lines to be in its presence.  The face wasn’t as dark as the festivals made it out to be — it was moreno than black — and the darker-skinned statues came from the ones in the sacristy, with Jesus and Mary.

A less colorful statue stood before me at the next historical site we went to in Cebu City, Fort San Pedro.  The statue was of Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi who forcefully colonized the Philippines under Spanish rule starting 1565.  Although Legazpi made peace with the local tribal chiefs, that peace was short-lived when violence began; Legazpi burned down Cebu to make room for the Spanish and their Fort San Pedro, a fortification of stone blocks and heavy cannons.  Nowadays, the fort is a quiet oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city with a gallery of pictures depicting the history of the arrival of the Spanish.

THE REST OF THE AFTERNOON was spent, not surprisingly, at the SM City Cebu shopping mall, where Tita Josie and I mistakenly filled our stomachs with ube/banana/peanut shakes before having a lunch of Cebuano “must-haves,” from flash fried crablettes and shrimp to ginataang langka (young jackfruit in coconut sauce) and bicol express, a spicy coconut-milk-based stew of pork and shrimp.

I spent the afternoon killing time walking around the mall, up and down escalators, until it was time for our transport to the ferry port to catch our ride to the fourth island of the day, Bohol.

“Super cat and super mouse,” my Tita Josie joked.  Our mode of transportation was a jet catamaran dubbed “SuperCat 2” (picture above) that would zip us across the sea in just under two hours.  Like in the hydrofoil I took from Hong Kong to Macau, the interior was similar to that of an airplane, with assigned seats, only a lot wider.  I was going to spend most of the ride catching up on Blog duties, but the Wayans brothers movie White Chicks came on and distracted me with laughter.

It was about sunset when we arrived at the port in Tagbilaran, capital city of Island #4 of the day, Bohol.  A guy at the docks had a sign with our names on it, for he was our assigned driver to pick us up and take us across town and over a small bridge to Island #5 of the day, Panglao, a small island of towns and resorts off the southwest coast of Bohol. 

Panglao was once a peaceful island unfettered by Western tourists, until the 1980s when the second “invasion” and “colonization” of Europeans began.  German backpackers “discovered” Panglao as a beach-goer and scuba diver paradise and began to come in droves.  Since the early 1990s, Filipino developers cashed in on the demand of accommodations and began building beachfront resorts for Germans and their wunderlust.  Today, many German and Swiss tourists still vacation in Panglao (as well as a few other countries) — mostly forty-something married couples.

The Alona Tropical Beach Resort, supposedly the original beach resort on Panglao’s Alona Beach, was where we checked in that night to rest up from a long day of island hopping.  We were led to a private bungalow a few meters from the beach, where the light of the sun was just about to disappear under the horizon.

With my time on Luzon and Guimaras, that made seven islands down by the end of that day.  Seven down, just 7,100 more to go. 


Next entry: Foreign Local

Previous entry: Waiting In Vain

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Comments for “Island Hopping”

  • It’s 3 am and just when I convinced myself I really should go to bed… another entry smile  Guess I’m gonna be really sleepy tomorrow

    Posted by Liz  on  01/22  at  03:57 PM

  • nice sunset

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/22  at  04:58 PM

  • Hey Erik,
    The Borcay looks awesome! By the time your trip ends mine will just be gearing up to start. Thanks for the prolific blog entries, they have tided me over till my departure date arrives. Did you have to take malaria pills on Borcay? Do you have any advice for a first timer? Take a look at my site, if you ever have time. It is called “On the Roads of the World”.
    Happy Trails

    Posted by Darlitia  on  01/22  at  10:41 PM

  • DARLITA:  Nice site.  Malaria pills in Boracay?  Officially in the Philippines yes, but no one ever does…  I was on Lariam the whole time anyway, since you have to take it after and before high-risk regions…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  01:56 AM

  • you do a great job writing, makes me want to add the phillipines to my itinerary!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  02:31 AM

  • I think that the Ministry of Tourism should be subsidizing Erik’s trip.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  01:54 PM

  • MARQUEE:  Thanks!  Welcome aboard!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  02:25 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Foreign Local

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Waiting In Vain


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