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.