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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Things To Love in Sagada

 Cinematic view on the road!

I don’t know about you, but I love view (sounds like I love you too) I mean,  I love cinematic views. I’m gonna tell you something, one of the few things I dreamt of was to become a director-cinematographer but I disregard that dream of mine, for now. So while we were on the road, my mind was filming of the shots I wanted to capture. In my head, I was already a one-man prod team. LOL! Mountainscapes, roadside waterfalls, vegetable terraces and beautiful skies, these are just few of the things one can enjoy going back and forth to Sagada. <3

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The ‘bangil’ road to Mountain Province.

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Mid-day sun shining for us before it rained

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Bird’s-eye view from the highest point of the Philippine highway system in Atok Benguet. 7,400 feet above sea level.
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Waterfalls along the roadside

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There are a lot of roadside waterfalls but this one is the biggest.

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Chinese cabbage for P10/kg along the road, but they don’t have weighing scale so they just let me get all I can!
Cheap yet decent hotels

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Lodge Labanet
Hotels in Sagada is probably one of the cheapest in country ranging from P250-P350  per person a night. We stayed in Lodge Labanet for only P300/person. We had a private bathroom with hot and cold shower, and free WiFi too! Lodge Labanet also offers massage spa services for P350. Perfect night-ender after long exhausting activities in Sagada!

 

Cafés with charming sceneries

Sagada is a modest town yet has very alluring cafes. Curious of these character cafés, we ended up café hopping. HAHA!

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Sipping my hot tablea chocolate at Gaia Cafe
Imagine breathing the crisp scent of pine trees while sipping a cup of your choice from Sagada coffee, Tablea Chocolate or Sagada’s local mountain leaf tea with a view of rice terraces and breath-taking mountainscapes. Truly refreshing. What a wonderful break from the usual four-cornered cafés in the Metro that makes us all feel like inside a box.

 

Good culinary selection

More than I expected, there are actually variety of cuisines to choose from when in Sagada. There are Korean, Continental, American and of course Filpino cuisines to choose from in case one doesn’t want to eat Sagada’s local cuisines. Sagada has their own delicacy called ‘pinikpikan’, an Igorot way of cooking chicken stew. But PLEASE DO NOT EAT IT.

The live chicken is battered with stick until its skin turns blue. It’s their way to clot its blood so the meat will be tastier and tender. It’s literally “killing me softly” chicken. 🙁 Although I understand it’s a part of the Cordillera tradition, I just don’t like the idea of slowly torturing a live animal to its death.

Watch my quick review of the cafés and restaurants we’ve tried during stay in Sagada below:

 

Spelunking at Sumaging Cave

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The entrance to the mouth of Sumaging Cave
Sagada has around 20 caves in total but the municipal tourist only offers three to four caves open for public. If you’re a first timer or newbie in spelunking like me, I suggest choosing the short course caving in Sumaging. It is also called the Mother Cave because it is the main cave having connecting routes to the other caves in Sagada. Although entering the cave doesn’t require special training and equipment, the first 100m descent is very steep and even slippery especially during rainy days. After the very steep descent, we were required to take off our shoes as our feet have better grasps on the flowstones than our Nikes. Haha! The cave holds quirky limestone formations; some are even named after human genitalia.

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the pregnant queen

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the king

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The giant hot fudge

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the shy turtle

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king’s curtain

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flowstone
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Elephant’s head

Walking through the rice terraces

While on our way to Bomod-ok Falls we passed through narrow trails and rice terraces. Look at these beautiful man-made creation! I hope the locals will not forget to preserve these beauty.

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closer to the cloud 9

 

Chasing waterfalls 

There are actually A LOT of waterfalls to visit in Sagada, but we only visited Bomod-ok Falls since it is the biggest among all the waterfalls in town.

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Bomod-ok Falls
Going to Bomod-ok Falls requires descending through concrete steps along the mountainsides (one wrong step and goodbye Earth). I tried counting my steps but I lost count, one thing is for sure, it was a long exhausting descent. Imagine how much more exhausting it is going up. Good thing our guide’s dog accompanied our trek. I was fond of him because he’s so smart! He actually led the way. Haha!

Watch our video of our trek to Bomod-ok with our special guide below:

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It was raining when we trekked to Bomod-ok so as soon as we had a sight of the waterfalls, we refused to swim because it was icy cold and we don’t want to suffer from hypothermia. LOL! Ascending back was more exhausting. *Gasps air*

 

  Sunrise at Kiltepan Viewpoint

Sunrise in Sagada needs no filter! It’s afterglow colors changes from lilac-peachey-orange to golden hue when it’s full. AH-MAZE-ING!

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The famed sunrise at Kiltepan was worth the early wake. Before going to Sagada, make sure to check first the weather forecast because during bad weather fogs conceal the sun and be sure to come early so you get a good spot. Also, people flocks around weekends so better come on a weekday like we did.

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 Shout your hearts out at Echo Valley

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While most people shout their lover’s name, I didn’t know what to screech so I just shouted “Hoy!”

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On our way to Echo Valley we passed through an Episcopal Church and Calvary Hill

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Episcopal Church of  St. Mary the Virgin

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Calvary Hill
 Up-close view of the mysterious Hanging Coffins

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The Igorots practice unique funerary custom where the dead is buried in coffins that are nailed to the side of cliffs. The dead is placed inside the coffin in a fetal position due to their belief that a person should exit the earth the same way he/she entered it. They also believed that placing the coffin on the side of a cliff would bring the deceased closer to heaven.

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 Latang Underground River

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The road going to Latang underground river is just a 300-meter walk from an old gasoline station in Nangunogan. The trails are narrow and slippery at the time we passed because it was raining at the same time. When we entered the cave, I immediately heard the flowing sound of the river inside the cave but I couldn’t see anything. But of course, our phones have flashlights so that saved us.

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  Sagada Weaving Shop

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Sagada Weaving Shop is the town’s pioneer institution when it comes to weaving. When we got to the shop, it was already 6pm so we were not able to witness how the fabrics are done, but we met a local outside the shop named, Kuya Ezra. We were unaware that he is the owner of the shop, but we had a wonderful time chatting with him.

 

 Rock climbing a 99 feet cliff

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My dope tour-guide/photographer in this case
So lately I’ve been overcoming acrophobia by cliff jumping whenever I have the chance. But during my trip to Sagada, I tried to experience something I haven’t done before, and it was rock climbing. I honestly didn’t feel nervous at the time I climbed but I felt tired of finding a spot to grasp my hands onto (wala kaseng pointers kung san hahawak, bahala ka maghanap, ganon.) So I asked my guide to let me down but he told me to keep going because I’m near to the topmost so I carried on and continued ascending until I reached the top. OH YES! I MADE IT! My rock climbing experience was like a parable of never quitting until you reach your dreams. Because the moment when we are about to give up, it is the moment when we are the closest to reaching our dreams. Analogy it is!

 

 Getting my hands dirty at Sagada Pottery

Get your hands dirty with pottery. It’s a wonderful experience of turning a piece of mud into a beautiful piece of art. Like a metaphor, my experience speaks much of God as the Potter and we are just a mud. It’s a wonderful reminder that even in our nothingness and filthiness, God can create a beautiful work of art with His gentle hands. <3

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Sagada is the perfect place for people who love nature and adventure at the same time. Packed with bunch of natural beauty from caves to falls, from sunrise to sunsets, and even sea of clouds. Sagada also has one of the most unique landscapes and mountainscapes I’ve ever laid my eyes on. I’m personally planning to comeback to trek to Marlboro Hill and Blue Soil Hill and experience all the things I haven’t experienced during my four days stay. Actually, there are a lot of things I missed, but it’s a good thing at the same time so I have a reason to come back again. 🙂

Love lots,

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How I Spent 1,639php to Southern Cebu -Canyoneering, Kawasan Falls, Sardine Run, Snorkeling,White Beach included

Disclaimer: Costs and expenses may vary depending on how you negotiate. But this was how I did my ‘diskarte’, I hope you’ll get some tips from me. LOL!

Happy bargain! 😉

I’ve been eyeing to come back to Southern Cebu ever since the day I experienced the whale shark watching & swimming in Oslob. So when I had the chance to return to Cebu for work (meaning airfare cared of my work expenses), I immediately took advantage of my chance to explore the South, particularly, Moalboal.

I only had one and a half day in Southern Cebu to check off my to-do list that could fit in my budget.

My ‘to-do’ list:

1. Try Carcar’s Chicharon

Carcar is known as the heritage city of Cebu and a home to diversified Spanish- and American-eras structures. It is evident along highway when traveling to Southern Cebu. Aside from that, Carcar is also known as the major purchasing capital of chicharon (Crunch!) along with lechon, ampao, bocarillo, and shoes.

Being time-restricted I wasn’t able explore Carcar even there are a lot of reasons to. Luckily, our bus stopped in Carcar, so we bought some chicharon and ampao brought to us by the vendors inside the bus.

Since it was already past lunchtime when passed by Carcar, para na din kaming nag kanin at ulam sa chicharon (pork cracklings) at ampao (pop rice). HAHA!

Continue reading “How I Spent 1,639php to Southern Cebu -Canyoneering, Kawasan Falls, Sardine Run, Snorkeling,White Beach included”

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Baler: Love at First Surf

My beach-bum friends and I decided to head to Aurora Province over the weekend. Our first plan was to stay in Baler but later we changed our minds and stayed in a laidback cottage in Dinadiawan instead. Surfing in Baler was on the last list of our agendas (of course not the least).

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So we headed to Baler on our last day. We arrived in the town proper around 12noon and had our lunch at Yolly’s Ihaw-Ihaw and Seafood Resto. After our lunch, we set off to Sabang Surf Beach immediately!

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As a first timer to surfing, I was freaking excited to try. My adrenaline were already pumping at the same time I was nervous because I heard a story of a friend who was hit by the surfboard and broke his front teeth.  I don’t want that to happen to me! No! Haha! But as soon as I caught my first wave, all the inhibitions were GONE. Surf is life! LOL.

Another item checked off my buckelist! ✔️

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I want bigger waves. I want my own surfboard. I want more of this! ❤️ Looking forward to the ‘ber months. Counting days before I hit Siargao this September! Hopefully, it will not be postponed! Fingers-crossed.

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Most of my frames were post-processed in HB2 preset in VSCO. The sky that day was kinda gloomy so I had to adjust the exposure to lighten the photo. I also used Snapseed to heal. Blurred areas are commonly due to water spots in GoPro, others due to Snapseed healing. I know, my healing skills are kinda bad. 😁✌🏻️

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Here’s my edited video:

’til our next wave!

Love lots,

Claudine Jay

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