Sights southwest that turn out quite differently from what you had in mind
Text: Marian C. Baring
Images: Jan Sahilan
APART from preparing travel essentials, you should also brace yourself for disappointments, while keeping an open mind. Because what you see on travel blogs and websites aren’t always what they seem. That may be a good or a bad thing.
When it comes to destinations, the key is to never set your expectations high. And regardless of where you end up, make sure you enjoy the experience, make the most of the trip, and have fun anyway. After all, that is what traveling is all about.
This is what we learned the hard way on a recent trip to the island of Negros, with Dumaguete, being the gateway to Negros Oriental, as starting point. Reading about the white beaches of Cauayan town in Negros Occidental and seeing photos of a swing on a tree in front of a bamboo cottage makes you want to drop everything and go there. With these images in mind, we decided to hop on our cars, travel to Dumaguete, then make an additional six-hour land trip to the far-flung town.
Described as a “hidden paradise,” a high-end resort in Cauayan became our point of reference. But since accommodation there is obviously expensive, this group of adventure-seekers on a budget decided to book a cottage on a public beach adjacent to the high-end resort instead. When we asked the locals for directions (Google Maps and Waze were not helpful), with a befuddled look they replied, “Nga-a haw (why)?” We had to reach our destination to understand.
Beaches of Cauayan
Location: Barangay Elijan, Cauayan, Negros Occidental
Expectation: Worry-free travel to a beautiful beach.
Reality: For beach beings likes myself and my crew, the beaches of Cauayan are so-so. And for some weird reason, it was always low tide. You had to drive for four hours to get to Dumaguete, and another six hours to get to Cauayan, Negros. But wait, that’s not all.
Once you make that turn on the road that was supposed to lead you to the beach, be prepared for a long horrific ride along kilometers of dirt road. When you pass by the pearly gates of Punta Bulata, go further (you can’t afford that place). After a few more kilometers of dirt road, some festive flags by the roadside would somehow alleviate your worst road trip fears.
It was at that point when we feared for our lives that we understood why the locals, with a look of disbelief, wondered why we traveled that far for a beach. Well, we wanted adventure, and that’s what we got.
Silver Lining: Cauayan may have disappointed us in so many ways but all that disappeared when we saw the sunset. Majestic is an understatement. And also, an experience like that will make you bond with your friends stronger. It will be an anecdote you all would tell each other and laugh about for parties to come.
Location: Antulang Peninsula, Tambobo Bay, southernmost point of Negros Oriental
Expectation: Nothing special.
Reality: Though the road leading to the place can be quite an “adventure,” when you get there, the place gives you a sense of peace and, at day’s end, an unobstructed view of another spectacular sunset.
The place is nestled in a tiny private cove with a white beach and situated on a cliff surrounded by trees. The owners Jamie and Nikki Ingram designed the place to look like an eco-lodge, so everything from their cottages to the toilet is made of bamboo and Nipa. It couldn’t get more tropical than that.
The restaurant also offers sumptuous food and you can enjoy beach activities including Scuba diving as the resort has equipment maintained with high standards.
Tierra Alta Residential Resort
Location: Valencia, Dumaguete City
If you are already in Dumaguete, try taking a side trip to Tierra Alta in Valencia, Dumaguete. Waze can easily tell you how to get there as it is just a few kilometers from the city.
Expectation: I wanted to see a lighthouse on a secluded mountain. You don’t get to see that often.
Reality: There is a lighthouse on a mountain but it’s situated atop of a sprawling real estate development. The resort has a Greek-inspired club house and swimming pools. Zipline rides are offered for a fee.
To spare ourselves of the entrance fee, we told the guard that we were there to eat. We weren’t really planning on swimming, but you can actually roam around the place. You can have coffee or dine at their restaurant, which gives you a view of a beautiful landscape.
You can also climb on top of the lighthouse, which has become a major landmark for the area.
Central Azucarera de Bais
Expectation: A touristy look at the Mojon Chapel and steam locomotive
Reality: An insightful throwback experience that offers insights on how a town in the early 20th century thrived in the heydays of the sugar industry.
Central Azucarera de Bais is the largest producer of raw sugar in the province of Negros. Sugarcane plantations can be seen from both sides of the road that stretches for many kilometers.
In the past, the sugar industry brought the people of Bais plenty of revenue, such that they were able to build stately homes, some of which are still standing until now. At the end of a tree-lined street is the old chapel, known as the Mojon Chapel of Central Azucarera de Bais.
The chapel, estimated to have been built in the early 1900s, gives one an old world charm feel. The chipped off paint gives it a vintage, romantic look. Inside, the beautifully carved altar is well preserved.
Just a few meters away is the train on display on the side of the road. It is a narrow gauge steam locomotive manufactured by Baldwin in the United States. The Baldwin locomotives were the main cog in the sugar industry as these were used in hauling the produce.
Capilla Santa Ana and the Labyrinth
Location: Barangay Ibo, Toledo City, Cebu
Expectation: A challenging time finding your way through a complex labyrinth.
Reality: The the now famous Labyrinth Garden Maze is not really expansive, although “getting lost” within the maze is still a possibility. The Capilla Santa Ana Museum and Community Center, however, is what makes the trip really worth it.
The quaint chapel doubles as a museum that houses several religious relics from all over the world, including Italy, England and Canada. You will get a guided tour to explain the origin of the relics.
The entrance fee is P100 for locals and P200 for foreigners, and this will already include the tour inside the chapel and unlimited time at the manicured garden.
The bulk of the proceeds from the entrance fees will go to the scholarship program of owners Michael (deceased) and Lilian Overs. Lilian is from Toledo but the couple has permanently resided in Canada. The couple does not have kids and has dedicated their lives to charitable works.
The scholarship program not only sends the children beneficiaries to school but also provides them with their basic needs, alongside livelihood programs.