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Interaksyon | Southern Cebu Beaches

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There is nothing more honest than a map. It shows the shapes and sizes of the islands of this archipelagic country. It shows that some provinces are landlocked, while some are coastal.

There is nothing more deceiving than a map. What looks small can actually take two days or even a week to navigate.

On the map, there are only few islands that look like long strips of bacon: Zamboanga, Palawan, and, yes, Cebu: purportedly my home. With their elongated shape, their roads sporadically—if not constantly—hug the coastline.

In Cebu, I travel north to go home and south to remember home. Unlike northern Cebu, down south has a road loyal to its coast. From the bus window, the scenes can be varying yet similar: locals scouring the rocky shore, waves lapping the cliff, trees perched on the road’s edge and tilting towards the sea, fishermen sailing asea or ashore, and kids abandoning their weight to the welcoming deepness.

Southern Cebu presents its travelers with crystallized saltiness that cakes the arms, legs, and face. You’ll notice this once you are aboard the bus—that moment when you unconsciously rub your arm, and it feels rough. Or that moment you lick your upper lip and it tastes salty like southern Cebu.

Tingko Beach, Alcoy 

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“I’ve never seen water this clear!” said a seasoned Japanese wanderlust whom I tagged along with for a town-hopping escapade last January.  It takes two hours and a half to reach Tingko from the city. It is the first Southern town that has a wide stretch of the sought-after sand.

What I love about Tingko is not its white-sand coast and crystal waters—which can be a cliché when you go beaching all the time in Cebu—rather its communal act of fishing. Locals gather and exchange banter as they drag their net ashore and laugh regardless of their catch.

Seaside Park, Boljoon

From Tingko, it roughly takes fifteen minutes to reach Boljoon.  What distinguishes Boljoon from other Cebu towns is its boulevard. It is squeezed between a rocky hill and the sea. It is a sexy curve that forces the bus to slow down and provides the passengers an unrestricted view of its plaza and Nuestra Señora de Patrocino Parish—one of the oldest churches in Cebu.

True, Boljoon does not have the pristine-looking sand, but it is the place to take swimming and plunging seriously. There used to be two diving boards perched on the seawall’s edge before Pablo (Bopha) wrecked half of the park. And yes, the memory of diving and frolicking one dusky day with local kids still rings in my head.

Pebble Beach, Santander

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Coincidence brought me to this beach. It was one of those moments when I—together with a friend—randomly hopped on a bus without a specific destination in mind. Such longing brought us to Cebu’s tail: Liloan, Santander.

Pag-amping mos tubig ha! (Watch out for the sea!),”warned a fisherman. Santander’s waters pass through a narrow strait that separates Cebu from Dumaguete: a strait that can be boated in fifteen minutes. Due to the strong current, it is said that lilo (whirlpool) sometimes forms and can suck anyone in who is not cautious enough.

It is one of the beaches where I snorkeled and swam for hours without entertaining thoughts of SPF, sunburn, and whirlpools with locals who thought a heartbreak brought us in Liloan. No, it was love: the love to wander.

Public Beaches, Samboan 

It was the falls—not the sea—that brought me to Samboan. This southern town has three of the most refreshing yet unknown falls to many in the province.

We trailed a fall down, and it unsurprisingly led us to a sea blanketed with white pebbles. Not far from the shore, a fellow wanderer who had been there shared that Samboan has a rich marine paradise for the curious. Too bad, I forgot to bring my goggles.

During our short visit, it was rather quite. Nobody was around except my fellow climbers and an angling local boy. That’s one of the rewards of dipping in an untouristed sea: it becomes momentarily yours.

Palanas Beach, Ginatilan 

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When I look for beach stories, I travel on weekends. But when I long for momentary solitude, I wander on weekdays. Palanas falls on the latter.  It greeted us with similar Santander waters There were no locals in sight except for a passing frozen fruit salad vendor who shared the beach’s name.

While my companion shed her clothes and confidently took a dip in her bikini, I read Pico Iyer’s Falling off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World.

With the waves’ endless voyage to the shore and the sun setting, Palanas sounds and looks solitary, not lonely.

Lambug Beach, Badian 

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Kawasan Falls—the river I found the most adorable in Cebu—makes Badian popular. Aside from this lively river, there is Lambug, a kilometer-long stretch of natural marvel.

Low tide transforms this place into a seashell and swaki (sea urchin) hunting feast. I concluded my 2012 travels here with a book and with a conversation with a local lad.

Though relatively popular, Lambug still has the kindred spirit, not marred by tourism and touts, where a kid waved good-bye to me with “Amping, ate! Balik nya!” (Take care, Ate! Come back soon!)

Bas Dako, Moalboal 

“Have you tried snorkeling? The corals are not the same anymore. They’re dying. But the sea is still beautiful,” mused a Cebuana traveler.

Moalboal, aside from Kawasan, makes southern Cebu a household name.  Indeed, Bas Dako has the crowd, sea, sand, and activities that any beach lover desires. I particularly love the way Pescador Island—a famous diving spot—dots the depths of Tañon Strait. But I could not contend my fellow traveler’s words: the corals are on the verge of dying. It’s my earnest hope that the other towns will not suffer the same fate.

So, fellow nomads, let us travel responsibly. Snorkel without touching the corals. Wander beaches with trash tucked in the bag’s side pockets. Go home without any guilt. Leave no trace. Trace memories instead.

Published on Interaksyon.com | May 3, 2013

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Jona | Backpacking with a Book

Hi, I'm Jona! I write stories and poetry and take a lot of photos, which I'm too lazy to upload. If you want to receive some photos that I don't share here on the blog, please leave your email here. I'm crazy about cats too. Feel free to browse through BWAB, and I would love it if you say hi! For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com For more stories about BWAB, check here. Connect with us through

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7 Comments

  1. doi says:

    *sigh* makasuya jud imo sinuwatan jona oi. 😀
    such beautiful words 🙂 syet! nice kaayo 🙂

  2. hana banana says:

    amazing jud ang southern part kay daghaaaan beach na nice 🙂

  3. Nonoy says:

    Such distinct style in writing. Vivid words and stunning prose.

    Cebu: the city I will always love. 🙂

    • Thank you, Nonoy, for the kind of words. I remember our Smart Traffic days, where everyone antagonized us for our writing style. It is still a long way to have that original voice. You know what I mean. 🙂

  4. […] For S1Expeditions, summer is a fling with his GPS.  The tracks are his treasures, the roads his guides, the seas his comfort, the mountains his  ambitions, and the sands as uncountable as  memories. Travel mapping is something that intrigues me because how can you trace something as deceiving, honest as a map. […]

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