Curiously enough, there is no island named ‘Camotes’ in Camotes. The said group of islands located in the eastern portion of Cebu is actually composed of the following: Poro, Pacijan, Ponson and Tulang.
How it got that name could be anyone’s guess but the popular version is that the Spaniards once asked the natives the name of their place. The islanders of course did not understand a single Spanish word and thought that their visitors were referring to what they were doing at that time – planting sweet potatoes or camote.
But my fellow interns and I did not know all this little piece of history when we visited Camotes almost 7 years ago. We all just wanted to get out of Isabel in Leyte back then.
After docking at two other islets, the names of which I could no longer remember, our group then settled at Santiago Bay Garden and Resort in Pacijan.
My best memory of that weekend was when our small bangka or motorized outrigger boat lost its propeller just when we were about to return to Leyte. The good thing is that we were still in the middle of Ponson and Pacijan that time so help is just within reach. The bad thing is that the only person in the group who knows how to swim went with the boatman to buy a new blade at the town nearby.
I know too that it was an incredible moment for another good friend who had an upset stomach that time. The waves were gently but continuously rocking our boat which probably would explain why he had to creatively relieve himself afterwards.
When I visited the same resort last year, some things have changed and some have remained the same. It now has an infinity pool, multi-storey facilities and airconditioned rooms. But the view of the bay has never changed. It is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful Philippine beaches I’ve been to.
Bukilat Cave and San Fran Baywalk
After checking in at the resort, we proceeded to Bukilat Cave in Tudela, which was also the farthest destination in our Camotes itinerary. Along the way we passed by the San Fran Baywalk and the Poro Church.
Boho Rock was next in the itinerary. It is a cliff park maintained and run by the local government. It has picnic huts propped on what seemed to be big rocks connected by concrete stairways and bridges. The vicinity is mostly rocky so one has to be extra careful in taking a dip. When a sea snake passed by our swimming spot, we immediately left for Timubo Cave.
The Timubo Cave in Sunog, San Francisco, used to be the town’s source of water. People also washed clothes and cooked food inside. Nonetheless, the small pool inside the cave is still surprisingly clear.
We then dropped by Lake Danao, the largest natural lake in the Cebu province. There is also an 18 km hiking trail for the extra adventurous who would like to cover the entire perimeter of the lake.
Our last destination was Mangodlong Rock Resort. This is managed by the same owner of Santiago Bay Resort. Huts and view decks are also constructed on the Mangodlong rock. A sandbar connects this area to the other facilities in the resort.
My second time in Camotes surprised me because I actually had no hand in planning this trip. I never knew about the caves, the lake and the causeway.
All I knew was that there is a beautiful bay in Santiago that we accidentally stumbled upon one summer day in 2004. I am indeed glad to be given another opportunity to re-visit that memory somehow, this time in the company of new friends who have the same appetite for silly jokes, good food and great adventure.
How to get there
Camotes can be reached by taking a ferry at Danao or a fast craft at Cebu City. You can then flag a multicab to get around the island. Motorbikes may be rented for those who are not traveling in groups.