Pink Beach in the Great Sta. Cruz Island Zamboanga PH

Hi everyone! I am still in Zamboanga and yes, I’m in the mood to write an almost up-to-date blog post about my adventure last weekend. It was an adventure that almost didn’t happen. Almost. But of course it did! I, together with my aunties (the 90s’ kids) pushed through.  I am staying in my father’s auntie & uncle (meaning, my lola & lolo) for a week now. Of course being a protective granny, daddy (lolo) didn’t let me go to the island. You know, perks of living in Mindanao (haha!) and being a retired Navy, he’s just worried I’d be kidnapped. And me being stubborn (a member of “you tell me don’t do it and I will do it” squad), I still pushed through with what I wanted. Okay guys, relax. Mommy (lola) gave us the blessing to do it, okay?   She works in the Coast Guard and she knows, the island is S-A-F-E. PNP escorts are everywhere in the island. I actually feel safer here than in Manila. LOL! 

So on a Saturday morning, we got up at six and prepared our stuff then drove to the nearest Jollibee drive-thru to grab some food to bring along in the island. Yes, we didn’t bring the usual food prepared on a normal beach outing but instead brought our Chickenjoy. Haha! 

Our starting point going to Great Santa Cruz Island was Paseo Del Mar. I can’t remember how many minutes we waited for the weather to be steady. While waiting, I already munched my Chickenjoy. The weather was a little gloomy and we were advised that if the weather won’t cooperate, our boatman (provided by the tourism office)  will pick us earlier than our scheduled time. 

So after we got the signal from the tourism office that the weather is safe to board, we payed our terminal fee (5php), proceeded to our assigned motorized boat, advised to wear our life jacket at all times while in the boat because the water current of the adjacent Basilan Straight is strong. Did I just say Basilan? Omg.  And after 20 minutes, we arrived in the island! 

The island greeted us with its warm hues of faint pink even from the boat. I expected it to look like an ordinary white sand because it’s what I saw from the photos online. But it looked pretty pink when we arrived. According to our guide, the color varies depending on position of the sun (position of the earth towards the sun actually). During noon time, where the sun’s reflection is direct, it looks more white. But during 9am to 11am it looks pinkier. Perfect timing for us because we arrived past 9am! 

The Great Sta Cruz Island is probably Zamboanga’s pride among its gems. There are more spots for adventures like mountain climbing and waterfalling in Zamboanga but I chose to prioritized Sta Cruz because there are only few pink beaches in the world. And I cannot miss this one. 😁

The weather that day was a little bit unpredictable from gloomy to fair to little gloomy again but nonetheless, everything was perfect. And this is my photo diary from my little adventure in Great Sta Cruz Island..

*My photos were all post-processed in VSCO because I can’t help it, VSCO IS LIFE. Hehe! But believe me, it looks pink even without VSCO. 😊 

The island is actually white sand but due to years of surf erosion, the red organ pipe corals were pulverized and  mixed with the white sand making it look like a pink sand in the naked eye. Look at my photo below. 👇🏻

The red organ pipe corals in this photo (👇🏻)  are actually 70 kilos in weight. According to our guide, the red organ pipe corals don’t look this vibrant when alive. The coral’s color turns  into vibrant orangey to red when it is dead. 

I was lucky enough that the island wasn’t crowded on a weekend during my visit. So of course, I did a mini photoshoot with the help of my company, kuya Jhong (our guide), and my tripod for self-portraits. 😅



I love this spot in the island because the sand is so fine. 

The sea gets deeper with just few feet away from the shore. So be careful when swimming, especially that current is strong.  I was snorkeling few minutes while trying to shoot a video a school of fish, and it was kind of tiring to swim against the current. Really. 


The island is one of the protected areas in the Philippines. High security and officials from the City Mayor’s Office are always present supervising the landscapes and seascapes of the island. We met Kuya Jhong, our tour guide to the old Muslim burial site. He is the resident forester in the island, he told us that the island doesn’t only boast on its pink sand and mangrove forest lagoon but also on its rich history. The island was first inhabited by the Subanens and then the Badjaos. At the current, there is a Badjao village near the mangoves but we didn’t get to visit but instead we visited the old burial site. 

This is the sight going to the old burial site. 👇🏻 It’s solemn and untouched. 

I find it interesting to visit unique burial sites like this one in our country. I remember the hanging coffins in Sagada. But this is special too. Instead of ‘lapida’, the Badjaos used a boat miniature placed on the ground of their deceased loved one. It is a symbolism of their journey on the sea throughout their lifetime. The Badjao tribe is widely known as the “sea gypsies” living on houseboats where they make their livelihood solely on the sea as expert fishermen, deep sea divers, and navigators. Isn’t it amazing? 

For this area, kuya Jhong said that deceased  are mostly the Sama Bangingi tribe with some Tausugs and Yakans who are our Muslim brothers. As you can observed, there are mostly mosques on their ground. 


I also saw these wild grasses that look like sea urchins in the island . Kuya Jhong took this photo btw. Hehe! 

 I am planning to come back  hopefully I will be able to witness the releasing of the newly hatched hawksbill sea turtles. This breed of sea turtles are critically endangered according to kuya Jhong.  He let us watch the video of his footage of the last time they released the hawksbill and they were so many but sadly one 1% of the population of the baby sea turtles will survived according to Kuya Jhong. 🐢😔

On our way back home, I wanted to make a stop at the Little Sta. Cruz Island. This island is a protected area and a military base so going to the island without  permission is illegal. We weren’t able to explore the island itself but we were able to dropped by at the sand bar connecting to Little Sta. Cruz. It wasn’t low tide enought to see the full bar afloat.  The sand is little course but then it’s worth the stop for a jump shot. Lol! 

The Great Sta. Cruz is a very interesting island that I’ve been to with a lot of stories to be told. And all I can say is..

I ❤️ Zamboanga
 

Helpful tips: 

🐚 Paseo del Mar is the starting point going to  The Great Sta Cruz Island Pink Beach. 

🐚 Register and pay your terminal fee for 5php/person.  

🐚 The trip going to the island is from 8am-3pm only. But subject to change depending on the  weather situation.

🐚 Travel time is about 15-20minutes by motorized boat/vinta. 

🐚Boat rental is 100/person roundtrip for a group of ten (1000php). Tip: for solo travelers or less than ten, ask for other travelers if you can join their group, or else you have to pay for the whole 1000php. 

🐚 In the island, entrance fee is 20php/person and cottage rentals range from 100php-200php. Tip: you may stay under the Talisay trees if you want more laidback feel and of course, no rent! 

🐚 Camping is not allowed. 

🐚 There is no resort/restaurants in the island, so bring your own food. But during my visit, there were fresh seafood for sale. There is also a grilling facility that you can use for ihaw-ihaw. 

🐚 There is no fresh water in the island, so bring your own water. 💦

🐚 If you plan to explore the island, please ask for a tour guide. You’ll thank him/her for the knowledge after the tour. 

🐚 Visit the mangrove forest when it’s high tide. 

🐚 Ask to visit the sand bar in the Little Santa Cruz Island, because it’s pretty cool it the lowest tide. 

🐚 Play volleyball and meet new friends! 🏐

🐚 The island is a protected area, so LNT. Leave no trace. 

‘Til next time! 


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Gigantes Islands: BEST BUDGET EXPERIENCE SO FAR!!!

 

I was able to side trip during my work while I was in Ilo-ilo. I planned it quickly when my boss told me he’s going to send me to Ilo-ilo. Since it’s biglaan, I have no company. I decided to travel  with or without companion. Fortunately, a friend from Cebu accompanied me (thanks Gelo!). Although I did all the planning and diskarte (like asking around where to go and what to do), he did one of most important things, to capture moments. He was my official photographer. haha! 😀

Before my trip, I did a little research on how to travel Gigantes Island. I read about the famous places to stay  (like Hideaway Inn) and some travel packages. I learned about the pros and the cons and all in between too. 

So my initial plan was to stay in a non-airconditioned room in Hideaway Inn but not avail their island hopping package because I’ve read a bad review on its monopolization in the island (whether it’s true or not). Who knows that could be a black propaganda. lol!

So what did I do?

I made a DIY travel plan. Asking around the cheapest way possible on how I can enjoy Gigantes, I discovered a remote area in Gigantes Sur, it is not the usual place tourists would choose to stay because there’s no hotel or any resort in the area. But I chose to stay here because of Joy. The place is not commercialized. You’ll enjoy a pure local experience.

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DISCLAIMER: THIS IS A TRAVEL DIARY NOT A TRAVEL GUIDE. I do not encourage anyone to do the same like I did. But if you’re a risk taker and kind of adventurous, you’re welcome. 🙂 I spent around 1500php-2000php my whole trip. Expenses tallied from my starting point: Tagbak Terminal to Gigantes Island and vice versa.

DAY 1. Exploring Gigantes Sur

As soon as our pump boat boarded the shore, we immediately settle our things in the house and headed to the beach for a stroll. Accompanied by the local children, we went to stroll around as far as our feet can go. Some kids were following us wherever we go. lol! Gigantes Sur is a laid-back island rich in sea shells. Toilet, water, and electricity are very limited.  

Here are some cool stuff I found in the island:

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rock fomations

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A mini cave along the beach
And a land of shells!

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While strolling the island to look for food, we met these ladies cleaning scallops. They excitingly shared to us how the scallops are prepared for export. They separate the white meat from the black and orange meat using scissors. They sell scallops (with shell) for 15php-20php per kilo. While the tenga (white meat) which are ready for export are sold for 150php/kilo.

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This is how the scallops look like before cleaning. They only get the white round piece for export.

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I just imagined how much my family pays for a few pieces of scallops in Gloria Maris, and I got all these for only 150php! H E A V E N!

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These are the parts of the scallops which they don’t export. I forgot how they call it, but it taste like an exotic chicharon/ tuyong seafood.

We stayed at Joy’s house during the trip. They were very welcoming and hospitable. Even their neighbors were joyous to welcome us in the island. Some even invited us to a small chat and they were telling us that they are so happy that a visitor chose to stay in their island. 

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DAY 2. ISLAND HOPPING

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My morning view from my bed. It’s so cold! ( insert rooster’s crow here).

Our second day was the my most anticipated day! Right after I woke up, I  immediately ran to the shore to buy fresh fish the fishermen caught. 

Joy found a small scale pump boat for the island hopping for 1000php. 500php each for Gelo and I! Way cheaper than the island hopping packages offered in the internet! 

While waiting for our boat, I was busy putting tattoo stickers on these kids! haha!

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My glitter tattoo disciples. haha!

ISLAND HOPPING! THIS IS IT!

FIRST STOP: BANTIGUE SAND BAR

They say the best time to go here is during the sunset and during low tide but it was too late for me to know because we went here during high tide. The sand bar wasn’t full, but at least there were few people so that means less photo bombers. haha!

The water is crystal clear perfect for snorkeling and swimming. The sand bar is too clean, the cleanest island among the Gigantes group of islands if I may say.

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Kudos to Gelo who’s game to take me photos!

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I direct the angles, he does the taking.

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Except for this one. DAT TOES DOE. :))  Btw, this is how the sand looks without filter. Locals say that it used to be powdery white before typhoon Yolanda hit the area. Today,  it’s more of creamy color but still beautiful.
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Gelo with our new found friend

SECOND STOP: CABUGAO GAMAY

Cabugao Gamay is the said to be the icon and the most photographed island among the Gigantes group of Islands although there are more equally beautiful islands around.

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So here I am again doing mah thang. haha! The happy kiddo.
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My favorite. Kunwari senti. (insert hugot quotes here)

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This is Cabugao Gamay in no filter. I failed in my panoramic skills though. haha!

THIRD STOP: ANTONIA ISLAND

Antonia Island is famous as camping site for those who would love to camp out. You just have to pay P100-P150 per person if you have your own tent. For those who don’t have their own tent I think the locals offer P200/ person a night on a first come first serve basis because of the limited tents. For day tours, the entrance is 40php per person.

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My first impression? Loaves of BREAD! or maybe I’m just hungry.

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Candid. Literally checking myself. lol.

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The different side of the rocks.
Few feet away from the shore lies the coral reefs rich in marine life. It’s best to bring snorkeling gears and fins with you or if not, you can rent snorkeling gear for 50php.

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Antonia Island also provides a venue for spelunking. They say it will take 15min to reach the end of the cave where you have the option to cliff dive during high tide. Since we do not have a tourist guide with us, we did not explore the end of the cave. We might end up somewhere and not be able to find our way back. LOL!

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I just enjoyed the beach view from the cave though.

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Perfect chill spot.

FOURTH STOP: TANGKE SALT WATER LAGOON

Tangke literally looks like a water tank. It’s a natural swimming pool surrounded with a beautiful rock formations. Truly enchanting! The color of the water changes depending on the tide. During low tide, it’s kinda greenish and it becomes bluer during high tide.

We dropped by during the low tide, which the water was just my knee-level. The good thing about it was that there was no crowd, only monkeys around. WILD MONKEYS.

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Before leaving Tangke, don’t forget to ask for the cliff dive spot! My knees were shaking but it was worth it! (see my video on facebook)

FIFTH STOP: SEA URCHIN HUNTING/ SNORKELING

Our fifth stop was the sea urchin experience and a bit of snorkeling 🙂 This is not offered by the usual island hopping package, but you can request if you really want to. I was taught how to eat fresh sea urchin and giant seashells. It’s a little gross but worth the experience. 🙂

(video will be uploaded soon)

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The father of our hosts is a fisherman, we’ve eaten his catch. 🙂

DAY 3. DEPARTURE

BUDGET BREAKDOWN. (From Tagbak terminal as our starting point to Gigantes Island and vice versa.)

DAY 1:

 VAN FROM ILO-ILO TERMINAL TO ESTANCIA TERMINAL -150PHP

TRICYCLE FROM ESTANCIA TERMINAL TO ESTANCIA PORT -10PHP

PUMP BOAT FROM ESTANCIA PORT TO GIGANTES SUR- 50PHP

DAY 2:

PUMP BOAT RENTAL FOR ISLAND HOPPING (INCLUSIVE OF GAS)-1000PHP (500PHP EACH FOR GELO & I)

ANTONIA ISLAND ENTRANCE-40PHP

CABUGAO ENTRANCE-20PHP

DAY 3:

BOAT FROM GIGANTES TO ESTANCIA- 80PHP

TRICYCLE FROM ESTANCIA PORT TO ESTANCIA TERMINAL-10PHP

VAN FROM ESTANCIA TERMINAL TO ILO-ILO-150PHP

TOTAL: 1,010PHP

*HOMESTAY AND FOOD NOT INCLUDED IN THE TALLY.

For home-stay, the original plan was a 200php/night  budget the same rate for non-airconditioned room in Hideaway Inn, but we decided to give Joy more because our experience was more than worth it. 

For food, I wasn’t able to record the exact amount spent. But seafood is really CHEAP AND PLENTY in the island. You can even fish if you know how to! 

So if we stick to our original plan, we would only spend 1,410php for our transpo + entrance fees+homestay. 

Tips: 

 Always do a research before going to unknown place to avoid being taken advantage of.

 Always be VIGILANT and WISE when talking to strangers.

 Be polite, courteous and friendly.

And pray.

Love lots,

Claudine Jay

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A Roadtrip to Pagudpud Ilocos Norte PH

I tagged along my friend Tristan to Pagudpud during my stay in Ilocos Sur. We left Sta. Maria around 8am and then dropped by at the nearby Jollibee for breakfast. After our breakfast, we headed to Pagudpud sleeping throughout the trip because we only had 3 hours of sleep the night before. We arrived in Pagudpud around noon time.

Our first plan was to visit the lighthouse, but when we arrived at the entrance, we were told that we cannot bring our car due to road construction, because it was so hot and we were all hungry, we decided to skip the lighthouse and headed to the beach right away. 

Since I was still groggy, I don’t have my usual energy. But the moment I saw the beach, Bam! I GOT MY ENERGY BACK! So after our lunch at Hannah’s Restaurant I ran off to the beach and started shooting with my iPhone. I use my phone in almost all my travels. 

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Since the weather that time was a bit darkcast, most of my photos were bad. Good thing I was able to adjust the lighting during post-processing, thanks to VSCO. For most of my photos, I used hb2, hb1, a6 or c1 depending on the mood I want for my photos. 

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No filter. The skies turned darker and we suspected it would rain, so before it happened we managed to change location so we can maximize our road trip.

 

Our next stop was Patapat Viaduct. It is long bridge connecting Ilocos Norte and the Cagayan Valley. And it’s the fourth longest bridge in the Philippines.

The bridge offers great view of the bay. Truly breathtaking and enchanting. <3

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I just have to try the Nature’s spring. hehe!

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After Patapat Bridge we headed to Bangui Wind Farm, unfortunately it rained so I asked our driver to leave and hopefully catch the sunset in Kapurpurawan. Luckily, leaving Bangui as soon as the rain started was a good choice. We arrived in Kapurpurawan right before the sunset.

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I captured this beautiful rainbow. I love rainbows. For me, it’s a personal reminder that God keeps His promise. 

I enjoyed horseback-riding to the White Rock Formations. This is Jay-Ar, my assigned horse. Thank you for being well-behaved Jay-Ar. I hope to see you again when I come back. 🙂

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When we got to the White Rocks, I wasn’t able to maximize the beauty of the whole rock formations because there were a lot of tourists that came before us. So I am in the corners, trying to enjoy my own view. haha!

 

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We waited for the sun to set before we head back to Ilocos Sur.
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We had different route on our way back home and dropped by this beautiful Catholic Church in Paoay.

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There were lots of places and experiences that I have missed. But it’s fine because I’m coming back to Ilocos anyway. 🙂
PS. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to include budget and expenses breakdown because this trip was free. Hehe!  

Love lots.💕

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