The Space INTRO:
This 4-hectare island has been used only by my Spanish-Filipino family since the 1980s as a simple and cosy getaway. We have decided to open it to selected guests since we use it only one month out of the year. The usable space, not including the mangroves that line the island, amounts to about 1 hectare, by the way.
Minimum of 3 nights stay.
It is located a 15-minute boat ride away from the port town of Tubigon on Bohol Island. You can get to Tubigon either by ferry from nearby islands like Cebu and Samar, or by plane-car combination. If you are traveling from Manila, the best combination is to travel 1 and half hours by plane to the island capital of Tagbilaran, and from the airport take a 45 minute to 1 hour van ride to the port of Tubigon.
Once in Tubigon port, our bangka (wooden motorboat) will pick you up and take you on the 15-minute boat ride to our island, at no extra charge.
There is the main beach in front, and a sand bar in the back which can be reached by kayak, swimming or by going on a 7-minute trek through a small path in the mangroves.
We like to swim at the end of the stone pier. We had some wide steps made in cement, so it´s kind of like a little swimming pool. You can sit in the water or jump off the steps and swim around. The water very near the beach is turquoise during high tide, but the sand can get kind of mucky as the tide recedes.
Over the years, my mother, Ditos, constructed three huts for simple, native-style living, with her trademark sense of laid-back native style. Nothing fancy, but totally comfy and very picturesque. The cottages were built thinking of a brood of four kids, extended family of many cousins and lots of family friends.
Each hut houses approximately 2-4 people.
The roofs are made of nipa grass, so you may get a few drips here and there when it rains. It's part of the experience.
THE COMMON AREAS:
There is a large dining pavilion (The Dining Room), where we eat our meals and hang out, as well as a smaller beach hut (The Living Room) with bamboo sofas that fold out into comfy beds for napping.
KITCHEN, FOOD & DRINKS:
Food and drinks are brought in daily by the friendly service crew from the market (a 15-minute boat ride away).
There is no fridge on the island. We preserve a few food items in ice coolers. We replenish the ice every day. If you have to buy stuff like milk, buy in small containers.
If you would like to cook, you have complete disposal of the kitchen hut, which has a wood-fired stove, a small gas range and a pit for roasting pigs. If you would rather the crew cook for you, we will prepare a special menu of island favourites so that you don't have to worry about a thing. To give you a general idea, we usually eat things like fresh crabs, crawfish, fresh fish, seaweed salad (super yummy, has been known to give people foreign stomachs a tough time, recommended for local guests only), spit-roasted chicken, pasta vongole, pork chops, mung bean and coconut milk stew, sour tamarind soup (sinigang), grilled eggplant salad, potato omelettes and boiled veggies. If you are a picky eater or want first-world treats (my Euro father is a big baguette fan), we suggest you bring in special items—such as olive oil, bread, fancy pasta, organic fennel, jam, cheese, dry sausages, jamón serrano, etc...— from Manila. You might find some fancy food items in Cebu City, but the selection won´t be too wide.
If you like coconut water, make sure to tell the crew to harvest some for you and put them in the ice box so that you can drink the juice nice and cold.
A generator was installed, but we only turn it on at sunset.
There is no fresh water on the island. An underground plumbing system brings fresh water, which is brought into the island by boat, to the houses and the kitchen. Toilets however flush with seawater thanks to a separate plumbing system.
The sea is rather calm in this area, as there are lots of small islands around. The main island of Bohol is clearly seen from the front beach, so if you want to go on excursions to the mainland (Chocolate Hills, Loboc River) we can recommend a van driver who will take you anywhere you want to go for a competitive price. There is some isolation factor, but it's not absolute. Fishermen do not go on the island, but they do fish in the waters nearby. They are quite respectful of guests and do not come near.
There is a small medical center in Tubigon, 15 minutes away by boat and about 10 minutes by tricycle. For bigger medical needs, there is a hospital in Tagbilaran City, about 45 minutes away by car from Tubigon. If you have a preexisting medical condition that requires medication or special attention, do take the necessary precautions before renting the island.
Side note: many things can be cured with herbal remedies. Ask the crew. We have successfully attended to stuff like kidney stones a couple of times with a smoked-leaf herbal "plaster" and lots and lots of coconut water.
Guest Access PRICE INCLUDES:
1) ROOM, CLEANING AND COOKING/MARKET SERVICE FOR ALL MEALS.
The price includes room, cleaning service, fresh water delivery for the plumbing and market service, as well as the attention of the boat and housekeeping crew for your needs.
Market service means that you pay for the cost of the food itself, but we go to market for you (unless you want to go yourself, in which case you will have to leave every morning at around 7 or 8 am), and we can also cook it for you if you like. Not to worry, food prices in the area are very affordable. You will also have to pay for your drinks (this includes bottled drinking water). Unfortunately, it is not safe to drink tap water.
2) ACCESS TO THE WHOLE ISLAND
Any hut of you like (you can choose on arrival, or let us surprise you), plus the main dining "pavillion" for meals, and one small beach hut for lounging around. There are electric outlets in every hut for charging your gadgets when the sun goes down.
3) USE OF THE LARGE MOTOR BOAT FOR A) 1 EXCURSION A DAY; B) TRAVEL TO-FROM MAINLAND FOR ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE; AND C) ANY OTHER TRIPS NECESSARY AND WITHIN REASON.
You will also be able to use our wooden motor boat, which fits about 20 people quite comfortably (including the 4-man crew), to go on excursions. We try to keep our fuel usage to a sustainable minimum, so we generally do one-destination excursions and only to the islands nearby.
4) OUR SET OF "LEISURE" EQUIPMENT
We also have two kayaks with oars which we use to row around the island. My parents like to golf, so we also have a set of pitching and approach clubs and many golf balls for you to use. Just don't forget to yell FORE and make sure no one is doing any gardening, the island is small.
We have a couple of ancient board games, some cards, liar's dice, a petanca set (like croquet but with no mallets) and a domino set. All very Mediterranean-type pursuits.
5) THE PRICE, BY THE WAY, IS FOR THE WHOLE ISLAND, NOT PER PERSON.
But! Up to 6 people can stay on the island for the quoted price. If you are more than 6 people, there is a surcharge of 30$ for every person in excess of 6.
PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE:
Cost of food and drinks
Roughly about 2000 pesos or 45 USD per day, for all meals, for 4-6 people, depending on the amount and type of food you consume).
Cost of petrol for generator and boat. Roughly 70 USD for a 3-4 day period, give or take a bit depending on the gas prices at the time of your stay. Interaction with Guests The nautical and housekeeping crew of 5 people is made up of fisherfolk from the nearby towns. They have all been working with us for a few years, and so are trusted members of our extended household.
If you stay for long periods, one of us family members might come and settle you in for a day or so, just so you get your bearings on how the island works and what activities you might be able to do around the area.
For short periods, we might just leave the settling in to the crew. They have lots of experience in this and know exactly what to do. The Neighborhood Stuff People Like to Do on Day Trips to the Mainland
-Go see the Chocolate Hills
-Go on a Loboc River Raft Cruise
-See tiny tarsier monkeys
They're in a kind of small and depressing zoo, but they're interesting looking creatures, if you really just want to say you've seen one of them. Don't take flash photographs of the poor things. They are nocturnal, so flash photos during the day interrupt their sleep and probably hasten the onset of neuroses.
Island Hopping Suggestions
-Snorkeling or diving on Cabilao Island
-Swim at the little sand bar near the island Remember to bring a cooler on the boat with some cold drinks, maybe even some steamed crab to picnic on the sand bar.
Getting Around BOAT
Tagbilaran is Bohol's main port - other ports include Tubigon, Jagna, Ubay, Talibon. There are many ways to get here from Cebu City as well as connections to Manila, Leyte, Mindanao, Siquijor and Negros.
You can also ask the crew to find out any relevant travel info when they go into town in the mornings.
There are several daily flights from both Manila and Cebu to Tagbilaran airport and back again.
Some airlines that fly to Tagbilaran:
There is no shortage of rental vans at the Tagbilaran airport to take you to Tubigon port. Price from Tagbilaran to Tubigon (one way) should be around 1800 pesos. If you liked the driver who took you to Tubigon, you can arrange for him to pick you up on your departure as well. Best to confirm again with your driver one day ahead of your departure date via SMS message.
If you came by boat and need a van later on, we can help put you in touch with some drivers. Costs may vary slightly, it really depends on the driver and on the time of year that you hire the van :)
Other Things to Note NO WIFI, BUT MOBILE 3G SIGNAL IS PRETTY DECENT
We don't have a Wifi modem, sorry, but we get by quite well using a local SIM card with a data plan. You can get pre-paid SIM cards with pay-as-you-go data/3G plans. They're quite affordable.
YOU MIGHT GET BITTEN BY SAND FLIES AT NIGHT WHEN ITS NOT WINDY.
Bring copious amounts of citronella or bug spray, as well as over-the-counter anti-allergy medication if your skin is reactive to mosquito or sand fly bites (anti-histamine such as Virlix can be bought in town, most people tolerate Virlix just fine, but do check that you aren't allergic to it LOL). Over-the-counter cortisone cream for skin irritations may help with the itchiness and swelling, you can also buy that in town.
IF YOU SWIM OR WADE ON THE BEACH, WEAR SOMETHING ON YOUR FEET.
You might step on a sea urchin, which is not life threatening, just painful. If you step on a sea urchin (or get stung by a jellyfish), just pee on the affected area. The ammonia in your urine will work wonders. Gross but true.
BLOW OUT ANY CANDLES IF YOU ARE LEAVING THE AREA WHERE THEY ARE BURNING, AND AS MUCH AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE, DO NOT USE THEM INSIDE THE BAMBOO HUTS.
Standard safety protocol for living in a bamboo hut.
WHEN IN DOUBT, ASK THE CREW.
The nature on the island is rather idyllic. As far as we know, the flora is innocuous and no weird predatory fish are in the water. The sea is generally calm, and as there are many islands in this area of the Philippine archipelago, tsunamis aren't really an issue. The island is surrounded by an active mangrove forest, which means you are staying in a habitat for all sorts of wildlife. When in doubt or when curious, ask the crew for advice.
IF YOU GO SWIMMING FAR AWAY FROM THE BEACH, KAYAKING, OR WANT TO TREK THROUGH THE MANGROVE PATH TO THE BACK OF THE ISLAND, LET SOMEONE KNOW.
The sea is calm and there are no really dangerous currents around, but it's just safe to let someone know if you're going to swim or kayak somewhere out of sight.
TREKKING THROUGH MANGROVES TO THE REAR SAND BAR ON THE ISLAND IS OK, BUT ONLY IF YOU STICK TO THE LITTLE PATH AND ONLY DURING LOW TIDE.
Trust me, you don't want to get stuck in the swamp when the tide is coming up. It's gross. The walk through the mangrove forest is short, but very special, if you've never been in one.
Since an earthquake hit the area in 2013, all the islands and the coastline on this side of Bohol have sunk about 0.8 m. This means that when the tides are high (1.5-1.8m) the sea creeps into a portion of the island. This is a slight inconvenience, as you may have to wade a few meters to get to your hut, but as long as you wear slippers, roll up your pants and carry a flashlight, you should be ok. This is only for a few hours, usually during the evening, right around dinner or bedtime. The huts are elevated, so no water reaches the rooms. The common areas (living and dining room) out of the water's reach, all good.