Bringing “Balikbayan Boxes” to Bantayan Island

If you are planning to bring “Balikbayan Boxes” or other boxes of that size to Bantayan Island, expect that you may have to pay twice at Hagnaya and twice again at Santa Fe, to have these items loaded and unloaded onto the Ferry.

When you arrive at Hagnaya, the porters will quickly storm your vehicle in hopes of having the opportunity to move your belongings to the passenger waiting area, and then onto the Ferry once loading begins.

Pay special attention to the men who ask to move your belongings, as those without a shirt that says “Hupa” are not officially working for the port authority. If you allow these “unofficial” men to carry your boxes and then pay them a tip for doing so, you will have to pay a second time for a fee called “Arastre” which is the official fee set by the ports of Hagnaya and Santa Fe to pay the porters to move your belongings on to the Ferry.

As we have been told by the port authority, first you must go to the ticket office and tell them that you have boxes or other items to be moved, and they will dispatch men to move the boxes for you. These men are paid from the “Arastre” fee.

Whether or not this will be found to be true, is untested.

On recent trips to Bantayan Island, we have paid the porters who came to our vehicle to move our Balikbayan boxes and then had to pay a second time the Arastre fee to the ports of both Hagnaya and Santa Fe to move our 5 boxes. We paid a total fee of about P1,400, which is absurd.

When we argued the point with the guard at the Santa Fe Port, he told us that we could either pay the fee or unload our boxes from the van and leave them at the port entrance. He would not allow us to bring out Balikbayan boxes onto Bantayan Island unless we paid this second Arastre fee. This was despite explaining to the guard that we had already just paid several men who took our boxes from the Ferry to the shuttle van a fee of P300. He told us that this made no difference, we had to pay to move them a second time, even though they had only been moved once by the men who first entered the Ferry and moved our boxes.

This is an example of how unorganized and unfair sometimes the fees are when you need to bring larger items to Bantayan Island.

One would hope that someone from the port authority at Hagnaya and Santa Fe would make a policy that a customer only has to pay once to have their belongings moved from the passenger waiting area, to the Ferry, or off the Ferry once they arrive at their destination. It is unfair to the visiting guests of Bantayan Island to charge a fee twice for the same service, or to even permit this to happen. This unfair policy needs to be changed, the sooner the better.

To those guests who arrive on Bantayan Island and have experienced this unfair policy, voice your displeasure to the passenger offices in Hagnaya and Santa Fe, and tell the guard that this policy is wrong and unfair. If enough pressure is brought to bear on those who carry out these policies, they will be made to change.

It is my hope that your experience on Bantayan Island is a pleasant one and that policies such as this one will quickly be changed so that visitors will continue to come to our island paradise.

In Consideration of Others

I have been able to observe the guests who come to Bantayan Island now for the past two and a half months that I have lived on the island. Most of the people who come to Bantayan Island are very nice, friendly and consider the feelings and the rights of other guests to enjoy a peaceful and relaxing vacation on this island paradise.

There are however a few who think when they arrive on Bantayan Island that all the space in the resort belong to them. They remain load and obnoxious until all hours of the night, drinking and screaming at the top of their lungs, with no regard for the peace and tranquility of the other guests in the resort.

If they inhabit a room next to another guest, they open and slam the door to their room dozens of times during their stay. They leave their empty alcohol bottles and trash all over their patio for others to pick up.

This resident of Bantayan hopes that if you plan your vacation get-a-way here, that you remember when you arrive, that there are others who are also trying to enjoy a vacation here. They have also paid a large sum of their salary, taken time off work and are looking forward to some peace away from the stress of their daily careers and lives. Be considerate of others and be a good neighbor.

Otherwise, if you happen to display your inconsiderate behavior in front of this resident of the island, you will encounter my wrath and displeasure.

I’m just sayin’… be nice when you come here. Have fun, but remember the feelings of the other people who are here too.

Views From The Beach Bungalow

Making Bantayan Island our home has changed us. My idea of the perfect beach was one that was uncluttered, quiet and serene. The problem with my idealistic view was that the reality of everyday life on our beach is far different.

Returning from Cebu yesterday, we learned that a couple that moved in to a bungalow near ours has a special heart for the island children. Each morning beginning shortly after sunrise, the wife of this new couple gathers as many of the local children from the Santa Fe fishing village as she can find.

Crowded around her, she teaches them, laughs with them, plays and frolics all day under the tropical sunshine of Bantayan Island. She is chocolate brown from many such afternoon’s under the sun, herself probably once a small island girl watching foreigners from a distance with wonder.

Her husband appears to be Italian, probably meeting his island princess as most of us have, hunkered down for endless hours behind a laptop. He slumbers slowly from their cottage to the white sand beach, and lays his tanned body onto one of the bright white loungers on the beach. Children who have been taking their lessons from his wife, now come to rub suntan lotion over his body until he falls asleep in the afternoon sun.

When we first returned back to the island from Cebu and learned that this gathering of children right outside our bungalow was taking place everyday, I felt a sense of displeasure and bewilderment. How could they gather this noisy entourage day after day on my, ugh our beach? This will disrupt the serenity, the peace and the quiet. After all they call this resort “Beach Placid”. There will be no serenity with screaming children gathering day after day.

Then the reality of my heart overtook my mind. I actually believed that this beach was mine. Though I came here as a visitor, I was already staking my claim to this beach as my own in less than a month’s time.

Oh the deceitful heart of man. When Jeremiah the Prophet stated that the heart of man is “Deceitful above all things and desperately wicked”, he knew what he was talking about.

Perhaps on one similar morning,  he also found himself also trapped in a fit of anger over someone else disrupting his daily pleasure.

No there is no sin in nurturing the precious little lives of these island children. As they laugh and play, scream and shout, this beach exists as much for them as it does for me. I suppose that all of us who come to spend any lengthy time on this island paradise will have to change our hearts and our minds. It is for me to change, not them. I should adapt and accept, they should continue their joy.

Besides, I live here, these tourists are visitors for a few days and then they will be gone. Taking with them the wonderful experience of playful little brown boys and girls with smiles as big and bright as a Bantayan Sky. Forgive me Lord…

Rob Robinson

Making Bantayan Island Our Home

For many who visit Bantayan Island while on a week’s vacation or just a short weekend get-away, we quickly fall in love. A leisurely walk on the powdery white sand, a warm swim in the clear aquamarine waters, may be all it takes. The love affair begins quickly and the feelings you develop while here do not leave you after your departure.

For Marissa and I, it happened the moment our feet stepped off the ferry at Santa Fe.

By the time we had visited the island for the second time in 2010, on the last day we decided we wanted to buy a beach front lot and live here for the rest of our lives.

Today we have the joy of making the final plans before we start construction on our beach house. Though the details of building a home on Bantayan Island are long and complicated, we are confident that by the end of 2011 we will have the basic structure of the house on the beach completed and begin to live the dream.

If you have also fallen in love with this beautiful island, your dream can also come true. Property on Bantayan Island is still affordable, even for the smallest budget. Lots inland sell for as little as P600 per square meter. You can own a small lot for less than P200,000 and build a home on your chosen lot for less than 1 Million Pesos. By U.S. Standards, this put’s your total investment at about $52,000.00.

Add about a Million pesos or another $24,000.00 for a beach front lot.

If you have built a home on Bantayan Island, or dream of doing so, write and tell us of your experience. We look forward to hearing the wonderful stories of many more who have come to this island paradise, fallen in love, and have made this beautiful place their home.

Rob

New Future Photos From Nikon D-700

We are very excited to be back on Bantayan Island to live amongst the people and island that we have grown to love so much. We are currently renting a three bedroom house in Santa Fe and have completed the purchase of our beach front lot. All that is needed now is the funds to complete the construction of a small home for Marissa and I. As the Lord guides, He provides, so we are confident that we will have what is needed, when it is needed.

One of the plans that we have as a part of our move to the island is to produce thousands of high quality photo images of Bantayan Island to show the world what a wonderful and special place this tiny island is.

We have acquired a new Nikon D-700 Digital DSLR Camera and Nikon Nikkor 14-24mm Ultra Wide Angle Lens to capture the splendor of Bantayan. This team of Camera body and Lens should allow us to display to the world just how incredible the beauty of Bantayan Island truly is.

I have begun taking a few pictures with the new wide angle team during our recent trip on Mid-Sea Express from Bantayan Island to Cebu and back. We were able to show the beauty of the island landscape and sea in a wide angle aspect that would otherwise be impossible without the new camera/lens team. Shots from inside the aircraft of Mid-Sea air show amazing detail of the passengers and crew cabin that would be impossible to see by use of a conventional prime lens.

The pictures of the passenger waiting area on Mactan Island reveal the entire panoramic scene of the lounge because of the wide angle, that we would not be able to show you without this equipment. I must say that the Nikon D-700 and Ultra Wide Lens are the best equipment that I have ever used. I am personally very excited about what we will be able to show you in upcoming days once the weather clears up here on the island.

Mid-Sea Express, Cebu to Bantayan Island

A few days ago, Marissa and I had the privilege of flying round trip on the new Mid-Sea Express Aircraft that has began service to Bantayan Island from Cebu.

What a joy it was to experience a short 30 minute flight compared to the normal 3 hour bus ride, followed by a 1 1/2 hour ferry ride to Bantayan Island.

The fare each way from Cebu to Bantayan Island is just P1,500 Pesos. When we compare this cost to those of flights in the U.S., the price seems very fair. We understand that the average Filipino may view the fare as a little steep, but when you consider what your time and safety is worth, P3,000 round trip for an extremely pleasant trip to Bantayan is a great value.

Traveling along the road from the North bus terminal in Cebu to the port at Hagnaya, one puts their life in the hands of a bus driver who seems to think he is in the Indianapolis 500 road race in America. Darting in and out of traffic with a thousand blasts of the bus horn can leave a person with frazzled nerves and a increased prayer life in thankfulness to the Lord that you finally arrived safe.

When you arrive at Hagnaya, the harrowing journey continues as two dozen porters surround you with their efforts to transport your baggage to the ferry waiting area for a few pesos.

Once you are upon the ferry to Santa Fe from Hagnaya, if the seas are rough on that particular day, you will find that the final hour and a half can leave you sea sick. Marissa and I always take a Dramamine before we board the ferry just in case.

I will leave you with a slideshow of some photos that I took on a recent round trip flight from Bantayan Island to Cebu and back. Hope you enjoy the pictures. Write us here and let everyone know about your travel experience to Bantayan Island.

Rob Robinson

A Slideshow of photos from Mid Sea Air, Bantayan Island to Cebu in July 2011

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Here is the return trip we made from Cebu back to Bantayan Island:

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The Blessedness of Simplicity

After nearly six grueling months in the States, we have finally returned to Bantayan Island where life has taken a soft slumber reminiscent of village life in the Philippines one hundred years ago.

The sale of our home completed, we packed up our few belongings and made the 20-hour journey to our tiny seven by ten mile island atol that is to be our new permanent home. I am writing to you today from our small rental home along the shores of Santa Fe Beach, on Bantayan Island.

From the moment that we stepped back upon the white sands of this beloved island, we felt a surge of peace and tranquility that we have not felt since our last stay here this past January. This morning as I prepared myself to open my Macbook and write the first article since settling in, my wife walked the short distance to the open air market to purchase our daily groceries.

Every morning at about six, the local fishermen and farmers gather in the town square to offer the public their proud display of fresh fish, meats and vegetables.

The wonderful bright colors of the vegetables, mixed with the smell of fresh fruit and meat leave you with a sensation in shopping that we have never experienced in the U.S.

colorful fresh vegetables on Bantayan Island

The people of Bantayan Island do not store a week’s worth of vegetables in their refrigerator or “Ref” as they refer to it here, they simply walk to the market every morning and buy what they need for that day. In this way they save on electricity in running a refrigerator and the unending waste that Americans experience in having unused food spoil in their refrigerators.

This past Friday we took a short 30 minute flight from the island of Bantayan, back to the larger island of Cebu. There we took a taxi to one of the very large and well supplied and modern malls.

When we arrived on Bantayan Island we brought with us a small television and DVD player from the states. These electronic appliances are manufactured to use 110 electric current. The Philippine islands supply 220 volt current. If you plug your American appliances into Philippine electrical outlets, you will immediately see a puff of smoke and hear the sound of crackling as your electronic appliance is “fried” from the inside-out.

Most Americans who bring these appliances to the islands, purchase a “step-down” transformer that lowers the 220 current of the Philippines to the American standard of 110. One of our purchases in Cebu was for one of these step down converters. Other purchases included a small German made hot water heater for our bathroom shower and sink.

In the Philippines, the majority of the 93 million people who live here, do not use any hot water in their homes whatsoever. They have grown accustomed to the shock of a cold shower and even enjoy the refreshment that the cold water gives them after a day in the hot and humid climate of their homeland.

The aircraft that we journeyed from Bantayan Island to Cebu in is a small 10-passenger plane that skims across the land and water at about 3-5,000 feet.

10 passenger aircraft from Bantayan Island to Cebu

This allows for a wonderful view of the clear emerald green waters of the islands and the lush tropical vegetation. It was a delight to be able to land in Cebu after just a 30-minute flight. The normal route to Cebu from Bantayan Island is by a 3-hour bus ride and 1 1/2-hour ferry.

Emerald green waters of Bantayan Island

After our first week back on Bantayan Island we have become aware that possessing less materially and in living a quiet and simple life everyday, is where the blessedness of life dwells.

It seems that the Lord did not create any of us to undergo the daily stress that an abundant material life provides us. It is in getting back to a simple and carefree lifestyle that we understand now just how wonderful life can be.

We look forward to future posts here in sharing with you the life and culture of Bantayan Island, as well as edifying and encouraging Bible studies and articles. Thank you to all of our readers who have patiently waited for us to complete our move, without the benefit of a flow of articles the past two months.

We look forward to sharing with you this incredible island and people from the perspective of an outsider who is daily becoming more “Filipino” in his inner man.

Rob Robinson

Back to Bantayan Island

After a 5 month absence from Bantayan Island, we are in our final preparations to return to the island in the next 3 weeks. We have sold our home in the U.S. and hope to be back with the people and land that we have grown to love, soon.

I will be writing daily updates on Bantayan Island once we return that will include a daily photo journal, weather updates, and news of local happening around the island.

Since our departure in January, and the launch of this web site in early December 2010, we have moved in our Google page rank from the 15th page, or about 150th place, to the first or second page, 10 or 11th place.

We are starting to see traffic numbers on the web site approaching several hundred per day. Once we are physically back on Bantayan Island and begin to write daily updates, that number should increase dramatically to thousands.

We receive several email inquiries each week about the resorts, recreation and happenings on the island. We alway return every email within two hours, whenever possible.

We are looking forward to seeing everyone on BI and hearing the wonderful stories of how blessed your life has been living on one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Rob


Phase One of Bantayan Island Ministry Completed

Marissa and I returned to the United States on Wednesday January 26, 2011. It was incredibly difficult to leave the people who need us so very much.

Knowing that we needed to return to the States to raise the funds necessary to help the people of the Island, we made the 10,000 mile journey back to our home to prepare to move to the island full time.

Please pray for us as we will be listing our home for sale so that we can provide our own financial needs while on the island and not be a burden to the ministry itself.

As the Lord leads, we will sell our home and most of our personal possessions so that we can raise the funds that we will live on while providing ministry to the people over the upcoming years.

If the Lord is in our being on the Island full time then we are confident that we will sell our home, despite the decreasing housing market across the U.S. When I began my ministry many years ago, a similar situation presented itself. I needed to sell my home and possessions in order to fund our ministry. Despite a slow market at that time, the Lord sold our home for the asking price just 30 days after we listed it when no one else in the entire neighborhood could sell their home even at a reduced price.

When the Lord is in it, then it is always easier than when we try to force our will.

We return with heavy hearts because we have seen how great the need is on Bantayan Island and how much we were able to do there in just two visits of 10 days total.

We hope and pray that many hundreds will find our web site as being led by the Lord and contribute the finances necessary to help thousands of people on the Island.

Please pray for us that we will be able to return to Bantayan Island later this year and stay for months instead of days.

We will keep you updated on the progress we are making and any needs that arise over the course of the next few months.

Thank you to all of you who are already supporting our efforts to the people of Bantayan Island. When we went out to the villages on our second trip the week before our departure, we told the people that you had given of your finances to help them. All of them cried and said to thank you for thinking of them and their families from across all across the world.

We ministered to over 40 families during our 4 day stay January 19-22, 2011. Each time we go into the fishing villages and speak the people and tell them that we have been sent there by the Lord to help them they always weep with tears of joy and they realize they are loved by God even in such a remote place on the earth.

You make this love for these people possible, we thank you from the recesses of our heart.

Pastor Rob and Marissa

Back To Bantayan Island

After the Christmas and New Years celebrations with family in Cebu, we are headed back to Bantayan Island on Wednesday morning. On this trip we will forgo the usual trip via Air Conditioned bus and take our Honda Beat Scooter instead.

Our favorite Resort on Bantayan Island is Beach Placid and the Tri-Plex Cottage is perfect for us as just a few steps in the white sand and we are in the Aquamarine water swimming and snorkeling once again.

It will be interesting to see what the weather will be like on Wednesday since we have been inundated with tremendous thunderstorms and torrential rains for days now. We are taking the rain coats and helmets just in case.

What normally takes about 3 hours by bus, should only take us 2 hours by scooter. We can take our time and see the sights and stop at anything that perks our interest. There are so many interesting and photogenic places between Cebu City and Hagnaya, riding a bike is a perfect way to really see the sights.

Strapped to the back of our scooter will be our dive bag containing the fins, snorkels and masks for both Marissa and I. Taking just shorts, t shirts and flip flops it is sure to be a wonderful 4 days and nights on the Island we love so dearly.

On the schedule is another wonderful opportunity to walk amongst the fishing villages and talk to the quiet and gentle people who live there. We love to gather with them and see their homes, children and the stories about their lives that always touch our heart. There will be once again, an opportunity to give them some of the much needed basic essentials for life. Every time we walk through the villages and give money to the people who live there to buy rice and their basic needs, it leaves me in tears as I walk away stunned at how wonderful it feels to help people who have such great need.

If you are planning on making a trip to Bantayan Island soon from some distant land, you can be assured that the time it takes to travel to this small tropical paradise will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Unlike most overdeveloped resorts in the Philippines, Bantayan Island is slow paced, casual and a delight to the senses that need rest and relaxation.

Plan to feel a peace here that you cannot find anywhere else in the Philippines. The noise, congestion and hurriedness of the Big Island of Cebu and Manila are non existent here. If you are coming from America or Europe get ready to experience what it is like to live on an Island paradise.

Make sure you visit our main web site where we have lots of information on the Resorts, Airlines, Maps, Customs and even a section on how to learn Cebuano so that you can speak a few words of the native language of Bantayan Island. Even though most of the people in the resorts speak English, they always appreciate it when a foreign guest takes the time to try and speak a few words of Cebuano. They will often giggle when they hear your accent speaking their language, they really seem to get enjoyment out of our efforts.

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Looking forward to hearing about your trip to Bantayan Island as you post your experience here on our new blog and all the pictures and observations you can make about your dream vacation to paradise island.

Rob