Of sugar, sand and sunset
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