“Amihan” and “Habagat” on Bantayan Island

The beauty of Bantayan Island depends of two variations of weather that are well known to the native islanders. “Amihan” and “Habagat”.

Beginning in late September or Early October the trade winds come across Bantayan Island from the northeast as a cool breeze. Temperatures are lower with little of no rainfall. These mainly easterly winds bring debris from the ocean onshore to the white sand beaches of the island, causing them to be littered with sea grass, garbage from Cebu and just about anything adrift on the ocean.

The beaches begin to taper off and at low tide, the sea grasses on the sea floor near the island are nearly exposed to the air, giving some pretty spectacular views to those who walk out onto the wet sand to view them.

These easterly winds usually change almost overnight beginning in late May or early June. The wind direction then begins to come from the West, taking all of the debris out into the deep ocean and away from Bantayan Island. This phenomenon is called “Habagat” by the native islanders.

During “Habagat”, the monsoon, or “wet season” is prevalent over Bantayan Island. The weather is much hotter, humid and can experience frequent heavy rainfall.

The change from Amihan to Habagat and back again, is caused solely by the change in wind direction.

Amihan: Winds from the East, cooler, more debris on the shoreline.

Habagat: Winds from the West, hotter, more humid, more rainfall, less debris on the beaches.

Whatever time of year you come to Bantayan Island, depending on Amihan or Habagat, Low tide or High tide, the beaches and water can vary tremendously. Most of the beautiful pictures that you see of Bantayan Island that display clear aquamarine blue water, and clean white sand beaches, are taken during “Habagat” when the hotter winds from the West push debris out into the sea and keep the water and white sand free of garbage and debris. These photos are also taken during high tide, as any photo taken during low tide will show a beach emptied of blue water, and the sea floor exposed.

Personally speaking, I have learned to enjoy all the seasons of Bantayan Island and love the rapid, almost daily changes in the beach and water.

On those rare days when the winds are calm, the water is clear blue, and the white sand is pure and clean, those photo’s taken are pristine and priceless. Swimming in the beautiful water and walking on the soft white sand beaches is pure delight.

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.

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

When Buying Property on Bantayan Island

Having just completed the purchase of a beach front lot on Bantayan Island, I have learned many things concerning the purchase of land and some of the correct procedures for doing so.

First of all, it is quite normal for a piece of land to have no title when you make an inquiry to purchase a lot or parcel of land. It may even be possible that the land has already been subdivided among family members who never formally had the land surveyed or acquired a title for each parcel.

The prospective sellers will assure you that they will give you a “Tax Declaration” and assure you that this document is enough to show ownership of the land. This is not true and should you pay the full cash price for the land and accept a tax declaration for the property, you do not own the land and may never be able to get a title for the property that you have just paid for.

There have been numerous cases in the Philippine courts where a person has purchased a parcel of land and accepted a tax declaration from the seller, that later lost the land and all of the money that they paid for the land. Under no circumstances ever accept a tax declaration as proof of ownership. You should not give the sellers the full cash price for the land before your name is on the title for the land.

It is customary and a normal part of the purchase of land in the Philippines, to have a “Contract to Sell” signed by yourself as the buyer and the seller of the land. Contained within this document are the various provisions that you and the seller will agree to upon the signing of the document.

Some of these provisions may include an agreement to give you a title upon the final payment of the amount owed on the land. At the signing of the Contract to Sell, you are formally entering into an agreement to purchase the land from the seller, and they are agreeing to sell you the property if the conditions of the contract are met. This document protects both the buyer and the seller from any future problems down the road and ensures that everything that both parties believed that they were going to receive as a part of the sale, are fulfilled.

I would suggest that you pay no more that 50% of the agreed price at the signing of the Contract to Sell. Also included would be the agreement that upon the signing of the agreement, you as the buyer will receive immediate possession of the land and have the right to start building a home or any other legal structure on the land. When I first became aware of this provision of the contract to sell, I was shocked that a seller would give the buyer possession of land that was not fully paid for and titled. I later learned that this is normal and customary in the Philippines.

It should be defined in the contract to sell, just who will pay for the fees necessary to secure the title, and how much the buyer and the seller will share in these costs. Although one would think that it is the seller’s sole responsibility to secure the title, Filipinos do not always see things this way. You may have to negotiate with your seller to come to an equitable agreement for how much they will pay and how much you will pay. Get it all in writing.

If all of the documents are in order, it should take about 3 months to obtain the title to the property you are purchasing. At least six weeks of this time are dedicated to the publication notice for a title in a local newspaper for six consecutive weeks. The other six weeks are the time that an attorney or qualified person would require to process the documents necessary to obtain the title for your new parcel of land.

As a part of and an attachment to the Contract to Sell is a “Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement” for the parcel of land you are buying. This document defines the legal area of land that you are buying in relation to the land around it. In many cases the land you are buying was originally a part of a “Mother Deed” that has never been subdivided. Although all the heirs of the land may currently be occupying the property or may have already sold their share of land to someone else, the land may not have ever been formally subdivided with a title for each parcel.

Unfortunately, you must have the signature of everyone who is an heir of the land, with their proper identity indicated on the document and have the entire document notarized by an attorney.

In the Philippines, only an attorney can notarize documents. This means that the person who will sign your documents as having authentic signatures, has gone to 8 years of college. His or her fee will be from 1-5 percent of the contract price. On a parcel of land that is being purchased for 1.5 million Pesos, the attorney can charge you from P15,000 to P75,000 Pesos. This fee is negotiable, so make sure that you find a good reputable attorney who is familiar with real estate law in the Philippines and has processed land titles in the past. It is acceptable to offer the attorney less than 1-5 percent, but many will not budge on at least 1 percent of the contract price.

The actual processing of the title will require additional documents such as a “Deed of Absolute Sale”, a complete survey of the land and subdivision of the lots on the Mother Title, and a processing fee with documents drawn up by an attorney to obtain the title. All of this can cost you from 15,000 Pesos to over 200,000 pesos depending on the attorney you hire. Take in to account these amounts when you begin your negotiation with the seller. Note the amounts or percentage to be shared between the buyer and seller on the Contract to Sell.

In future posts on this subject I will give you additional information regarding the purchase of land on Bantayan Island and the correct procedure for buying land and obtaining a title to that land. I will also discuss how to build a home on Bantayan Island and the correct procedure for the construction process.

Rob Robinson

A Note About Licensing a Vehicle in the Philippines

When my wife and I purchased our new Honda Beat, we assumed that we were paying all of the require taxes and fees associated with the purchase of the new scooter. We were wrong.

Upon paying cash for the scooter “Cheng” at Honda Motor World in Cebu City told us that the License plate would arrive in about three weeks. We had to pay for “A Conduction Permit” which allowed us to drive the scooter on the streets of Cebu for seven days. The cost of this permit, as well as an insurance rider that is also required, cost us an additional 500 Peso’s.

At the end of the seven days, we returned to the Honda Motor World dealer and were told we had to purchase an additional Conduction Permit for another seven days. The problem is that the Philippine Land Transportation Office is “Off line” for days at a time and during the time that they are off line, no one can get anything done regarding their vehicle registration or licensing.

We were forced to drive our new scooter all over Cebu for days without a Conduction Permit because of the inefficiency of the Philippine Government.

If by chance we were stopped by a police officer and it was found that we did not have a current conduction permit, our new scooter would have been impounded and we would have to pay a 5,000 Peso penalty plus a fee to get our scooter released from their impound yard.

All this because the Philippine Land Transportation Office does not allow the Honda dealer to issue a purchaser of a new Motorcycle a temporary permit to drive for the 30 days or so that it takes for LTO to get the license plates to you by mail.

It is during moments such as this that you will realize that this is why they define the Philippines as a “Third World Country”. They refuse to adapt the reasonable and efficient ways of conducting business that developed countries use because of greed, corruption and ignorance.

When I logged on to the Land Transportation Web site for the Philippines I discovered that in all of the links for dozens of categories on the web site, they all linked to the exact same page with the exact same information which was meaningless and useless.

I clicked on their link to send an email with a comment or suggestion and the link came back “Non Functional”.

The problem is that those in authority in the Philippines do not think that it is important to develop procedures that are efficient and helpful. They prefer to make a customer who purchased a new vehicle, come back twice a week to get a conduction permit and pay an additional 500 Peso’s.

If they simply charged the customer the fee for the 30 day permit when they purchased the motorcycle, as they do in the United States of other developed countries, then all the work required by the dealer staff and the customer in requiring them to come back over and over again, could be eliminated.

Sometimes when you are living in the Philippines and trying to conduct business, you feel like you are living in the days of the cave man. As long as these types of unfair and unreasonable procedures exist in the Philippines I will write and inform the consumer so that perhaps someone will take notice and make changes to this archaic method of registering new vehicles in the Philippines.