This is the continuation of our South Cebu-Negros Oriental excursion way back in November 2015.

November 30, 2015

Without preamble, the tide started to surge. Slowly, it begun swallowing back the fine sands of Manjuyod. This is the signal for us to retreat to our outrigger boat. Just like the mythical Atlantis, the sandbar of Manjuyod was absorbed by the sea it was surrounded with. In a couple of minutes, it has completely disappeared from our view. But even though it was immersed in blue waters, the white sand still glimmers from the bottom of the sea.

With the white gem safely hidden from view, we proceeded with the next stop in our half-day itinerary: the mangrove forest of Bais Bay.

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It was like as though it was never there; it appears and disappears. Photo by Rey Ernesto

Mangrove forests have belatedly become an alternative to make seawater ecosystems thrive again. It has been adapted by numerous coastal areas all over the Philippines and other South East Asian nations as well. Aside from cultivating ecosystems, mangrove trees have proven to be effective safeguards against unexpected sea surges and sand erosion as well.

Slowly, these mangrove forests are also being transformed into viable tourism markets and they are proving to be prolific source of income for residents of the areas concerned. The opening of the Talabong Mangrove Forest and Bird Sanctuary on Bais Bay for tourism purposes comes as no surprise.

One of the access points to the mangrove park is through the bay. A small wharf extended towards the bay and it is there that our boat docked and waited for us while we explored the 400-hectare natural enclave. However, before we could officially enter the park, we first registered after which we walked the hundred-meter-long wharf towards the forest.

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For tourists and for caretakers to access the forest, a path was built amidst the mangrove trees. Within minutes of walking, we found ourselves covered in trees, sans any signs of the tumult that all of us try to run away from. The honking of the cars was replaced by the rhythmic humming of sea creatures and birds which were obscured by the trees. The sweltering heat was soothed by the cold breeze blowing from the sea.

Walking the mangrove path is similar to trudging the mountain trails – tranquil, restful. But alas, our reprieve is short-lived. But the forest isn’t home to just sea creatures. During the migration period, the mangrove is a sanctuary for birds. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of these birds when we were there. The path didn’t penetrate further into the heart of the forest. At the dead-end, we walked back to the wharf towards our idled boat.

A few minutes after departing from the mangrove forest, we anchored on a shallow part of the bay, in the middle of the bay. According to our seasoned boatman, the area is a great diving and snorkeling spot. Underneath the cerulean waters is a rich, colorful, and diverse coral garden which is home to an equally rich and colorful ecosystem.

My companions were only too happy to get themselves immersed in the water after that treacherous trip in the middle of Tañon Strait. Partly due to exhaustion and partly to the heat, I declined to take part in the snorkeling adventure. Perhaps I regret that decision now? Of course not because it opens an opportunity for me to go back. It is almost similar to my decision of foregoing the Kawasan Fall jump. There is always a next time as the famous adage goes.

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They’re just too happy to get into the water. Photo by Rey Ernesto
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I am fine on my own guys. Haha! With the cottages of Manjuyod Sandbar on the background. Photo by Rey Ernesto

One by one, our boatman guided my companions in touring the snorkeling spot. For everyone’s safety, it is always best to have a guide – the water goes deep unexpectedly, especially on the peripheries. So there I way, patiently waiting for my companions as our boatman gives them the round. They have but one word to express what they have just witnessed – “Wow!”. I guess they were amazed beyond words, but I wasn’t giving in – I was too exhausted. The rush and the stress ultimately caught up with me.

While we were resting, our boatman went diving. One by one he lifted different starfishes he found from the seabed. The variety of starfishes astounded us to say the least. Who’d have thought or imagined that such a plethora of creatures thrive beyond what the naked eye can see. We were beyond astonished. After taking pictures, the boatman returned the starfishes back to the seafloor.

Years later, I have learned that we shouldn’t have let our boatman take the starfishes from the waters. He should’ve let them be in consonance with the principles of leaving no trace. By simply taking them out of the water, he is endangering the starfishes which is a big no-no. This is something everyone should take note of. We should never try to disrupt the different ecosystems.

Our boatman also exhibited to us the opulence of the sea. Sea urchins were aplenty that time of the year so he kept harvesting them. A local delicacy, sea urchins are usually sold for consumption. Out of curiosity, we asked if it can be eaten raw. He answered in the affirmative so he took one and cracked it open to serve to us. After washing the phlegmy content, he dipped it in vinegar (yes, kilawin style so to speak), then offered it to us. As I have an aversion on seafood, I have foregone the opportunity. The feedback from my friends – not really different from your usual seafood.

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Disclaimer: it was our boatman who voluntarily took the starfishes from the seabed. It was later returned when all the pictures were taken. I guess this is just to remind everyone of the Leave No Trace principle. Photo by Rey Ernesto

Having gone through all the motions, we drove back to the wharf to have our lunch. It also concludes our exploration of Bais City. After taking a bath and changing our clothes, we rushed back to Dumaguete to retrieve our things. We have to catch our flight later the day. Here’s the catch, our return flight will be departing from Cebu.

As fate would have it – we beat the buzzer. But barely. Just barely – we nearly missed the last boat going to Cebu. We also had to endure standing on the bus for four hours because all buses were full. Due to exasperation, we sat on the bus floor for the duration of our trip; when we woke up, we have already reached Cebu City, just in time for our flight. *Sigh*. Practical advice – always have plan B, plan C, and even until plan Z in case everything doesn’t go your way.

So thus concludes our four-day South Cebu-Negros Oriental excursion. It was indeed a surreal experience. Both provinces have won me over with their contrasting charms. One year later, I’d find myself back in Cebu. Do look forward to my writeup on that experience.

For information on how to go to Bais Bay, you can check the travel guide located at the end of this post: Negros Oriental 2015: The Maldives of the Philippines.

Here are more pictures from Manjuyod Sandbar to captivate you, and perhaps convince you to include it in your bucket lists.

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Disclaimer: Pictures featured in this article are not owned by the author. Pictures are owned by Rey Ernesto and Jorella Doga-ong.

To check the rest of this travel series, you may click on the links provided below:

South Cebu 2015: Canyoneering
South Cebu 2015: Swimming With The Gentle Giants
South Cebu 2015: Side Trip to Tumalog Falls
South Cebu 2015: Osmena Peak, Mother Mountain
South Cebu 2015: A Spanish Affair
Negros Oriental 2015: Into the Island of Turtles
Negros Oriental 2015: The Maldives of the Philippines

 

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