Of sugar, sand and sun­set

Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - Text and pho­tos by Ap­ple Ta-as

THERE is some­thing spe­cial about things that are hard-earned. This rings true for trav­el­ling—when you dis­cover some­thing won­der­ful, say af­ter go­ing through a long and bumpy ride along un­paved roads.

Just like the se­cluded par­adise that is Si­palay City, lo­cated 175 kilo­me­ters south of Ba­colod, at the heel of the boot-shaped is­land of Ne­gros.

It’s a per­fect sum­mer get­away but only for de­ter­mined trav­ellers who are will­ing to spend four hours on the road in or­der to reach this trop­i­cal re­treat fac­ing West, that of­fers a breath­tak­ing show when the sun slowly sinks into the Sulu Sea.

As our tour guide Kuya Ray­mond tells us, the city got its name from an old na­tive phrase “si palay” which means “there is rice.”

The com­mu­nity thrives on agri­cul­ture and slow fish­ing, hand in hand with its grow­ing tourism in­dus­try that boasts white sand coast­lines con­cealed by cliffs and lush hills,

along­side caves, marine sanc­tu­ar­ies and rock for­ma­tions. All these against the back­drop of the pic­turesque Sulu sea, its crys­tal blue waters dot­ted with islets.

The four-hour land trip to the city wouldn’t mat­ter as soon as you set foot on the pow­der fine sand and feel the wind on your hair, while the sky turns into tan­ger­ine and presents a mag­nif­i­cent sun­set.

With the grow­ing num­ber of re­sorts and div­ing cen­ters, tourists can choose from ho­tel-like ac­co­mo­da­tion to back­pack­ing style, like what we did when we stayed at Artis­tic Div­ing, owned by Swiss na­tional Arthur Mueller and his Filip­ina wife Eva­lyn.

“So, unsa man jud pasabot sa artis­tic div­ing?” asked life­style pho­tog­ra­pher Jo­jie Alcantara.

“Mag bal­let daw un­der­wa­ter,” I re­sponded jok­ingly.

And pass­ing through snake-like roads, we ar­rived be­fore dusk at Artis­tic Div­ing, and learned that it was named af­ter the owner, Arthur.

The re­sort is sit­u­ated in Punta Ballo, a wide stretch of white sand beach hid­den be­hind a cliff.

“Di ba kung gana­han ka og da­gat ug bukid, di na kailan­gan mu­layo. Diri naa na tanan,” our lo­cal tour guide Kuya Mak said as we were leav­ing Artis­tic Div­ing Re­sort for a morn­ing visit to Sugar beach. We did de­tours to Nataasan Beach Re­sort and Perth Par­adise which is fa­mous for its scenic in­fin­ity pool and the islets sur­round­ing the Ti­nagong Da­gat.

Tak­ing a boat at Pobla­cion beach, it took us around 20 min­utes to ar­rive at Sugar Beach by boat, as we were met by rough waves, mak­ing it hard to dis­em­bark from the boat.

With green palm trees and lush hills that per­fectly frame the coast­line, the ham­mocks and some chairs laid out in the light gray sands that looks like sugar (where the beach got its name), one can only mar­vel at this se­cluded par­adise.

The kilo­me­ter-long stretch of creamy sand was orig­i­nally called as Lan­gub Beach and was later named to Sugar Beach as re­com- mended by Ger­man travel guide­book writer Jen Pe­ters, since its sand is as fine as sugar, which is just as abun­dant in the re­gion.

Ac­cord­ing to Chris­tine Mansinares from Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal tourism of­fice, there is no road ac­cess to Sugar Beach. This ex­plains why we didn't see a lot of peo­ple en­joy­ing the sprawl­ing coast­line.

You either cross a river or take that 20-minute boat ride to the is­land.

She said there was an at­tempt to build a bridge to con­nect Sugar Beach to the main­land but the res­i­dents and the re­sort own­ers did not agree.

As she puts it, most of the lo­cals want to pre­vent “ir­re­spon­si­ble tourists” —the harder the way is, the lesser the crowd, and those who will pay a visit, will cher­ish it more.

How to get there:

From Cebu: A plane can take you to Ba­colod City and there you be­gin the five-to six-hour drive to Si­palay. Cebu Pa­cific Air has an ex­ten­sive net­work of in­ter-re­gion and in­tra-re­gional routes, with 37 do­mes­tic des­ti­na­tions—spread across six hubs in Lu­zon, Visayas and Min­danao.

From Ba­colod: It’s a three-hour drive via pri­vate car, or take a bus at the Ceres South Ter­mi­nal along Luzuriaga St. for Hi­noba-an.

There is also a daily bus that plies be­tween Cebu City and Si­palay City, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cals but it would take 12 long hours, a long haul def­i­nitely. The bus de­parts 5 a.m. from either city.

Ac­tu­ally, while strolling at the beach, we hap­pened to see a Swiss fe­male tourist who came from a swim, with a hand­ful of candy wrap­pers and trash.

“In­gon ani ni sila diri. Ila i-make sure nga limpyo ang beach,” said Kuya Mak. CON­TIN­UED NEXT SATUR­DAY

A PANORAMIC view of the Punta Ballo Beach from the view­ing deck of Nataasan Re­sort NATAASAN'S view­ing deck SWING­ING by a co­conut at Punta Bu­lata, while wait­ing for the sun­set A GALLERY of books and board games. Re­sort own­ers main­tain a li­brary since most tourists want to do away with gad­gets and turn to books in­stead.

THE per­fect spot to wit­ness the sun­set

A TOWER of glass bot­tles at Takatuka

COF­FEE would def­i­nitely taste bet­ter with this view, over­look­ing the Sulu Sea

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.