Last summer of 2016, when I was still connected with one of Cebu’s real estate giants, I volunteered in an outreach program as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability initiative. Upon hearing that we were going to Kinatarcan Island as our community partner, the name didn’t ring a bell then. Out of curiosity, I googled it and to my surprise, there were several sterling photos of Kinatarcan Island already circulating online.
According to my research, Kinatarcan Island is politically within the jurisdiction of Santa Fe, Bantayan but it is not part of the Bantayan Group of Islands in geographical sense. It is an elongated island and comprised of three barangays: Kinatarcan (formerly known as Bito-on), Hagdan and Langub. Google maps even identified it as Guintacan Island which is even more puzzling for some to know the island’s official name. I also found out that underneath its paradisiacal beauty lies dreadful secrets brought about by the conspiracy of man’s indifference and nature’s wrath. It was almost wiped out when typhoon Yolanda wreaked havoc in 2013 (95% of the structures were destroyed). Miraculously there were no fatalities ~ thanks to the residents’ effective emergency preparedness and response.
Notwithstanding Guintacan (Kinatarcan) Island’s alluring features and interesting history, I wonder why the island as a whole hasn’t maximized its tourism potential and instead, stayed hidden from the sprawling life of urban Cebu. For some, it might be a good thing and I believe so.
THE FIRST VISIT
Onboard the company’s van bound for Daanbantayan, I couldn’t contain my excitement in undertaking that day’s volunteerism activity as much as relishing the beauty of Kinatarcan Island personally. After 3.5 hours road trip, we arrived in Daanbantayan’s town proper, parked the van at the corner of the town’s chapel and then headed to the port and rented an outrigger boat for the entire group. The journey was smooth and after 45 minutes, the azure waters surrounding Kinatarcan sland plus the long stretch of white sand greeted us. Everyone was ecstatic to jump out of the boat and marveled at the exquisite view before us.
The volunteerism activity was one of the company’s community engagements for the year, also providing its employees an avenue to drive positive change. For about three to four hours, the CSR team packed some school supplies and life bags. Simultaneously, a learning session on basic rescuing skills, basic hand signals, knot tying and fire building was conducted, designed to help equip the residents-fisherfolks on disaster readiness. When all was set, we then distributed the waterproof and buoyant bag and school supplies to 200 families and 150 students respectively. The life bags served as emergency starter kits, each containing water, rope, swiss knife whistle and flashlight, such life saving tools during emergencies. With my own eyes, I saw how resilient those locals were and I couldn’t be prouder how they’ve grown more as responsible capacity builder.
Around 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, I decided to take photos of the over-the-top beach, literally and figuratively. Bitoon beach of Guintacan Island is immaculately blessed with fine sand that can rival those of famed Boracay. The waters are crystal clear and appear turquoise from afar, just perfect for a “Hakuna Matata” moment. I didn’t have a chance to take a dip in the water due to time constraint but I promised myself that I will surely be back. Hosting a great potential for tourism, Guintacan Island is undeniably Cebu’s last frontier.
THE SWEET COMEBACK
Last February 2017, Marcus (@otepmercado), my IG buddy from Laguna, told me that he’s gonna spend his birthday in Cebu. I pitched to him the idea of traveling less-trodden places in the North for a change. Together with Em Smith (@emsmithcb), Elei (@iameleimath) and Tonet (Elei’s sister), we planned in visiting Carnaza Island. Yes, Guintacan (Kinatarcan) Island wasn’t even our original plan then. When we got to Tapilon port, the regular boat from/to Carnaza Island was nowhere to be seen. Faced with a dilemma of waiting too long, plus the fact that we weren’t even sure if the boat would really come to the mainland, the group agreed to take a detour and instead, go to Guintacan Island that is still accessible in Daanbantayan. From Tapilon port, we hailed two habal-habal (motor bikes) and rode our way to Daanbantayan wharf.
We took the regular boat trip going to barangay Bitoon (also known as barangay Kinatarcan), the same place where we did our outreach program just less than 10 months prior. And after a rather bumpy ride, a familiar exquisite view welcomed us.
Upon docking to the beach, the first-timers were all stunned. They couldn’t believe what a paradise Guintacan Island is. The last time I visited this place with CSR team, we were contained in Bitoon beach (east side) the reason I failed to visit the other two barangays of the island ~Hagdan and Langob. And so this time around, I was 100% ready to explore the island more and discover the last frontier of Cebu.
PLACES TO VISIT IN GUINTACAN (KINATARCAN) ISLAND
The island’s topography is hilly for the most part. All three barangays are connected with each other by a circumferential road. The coast of the island is dominated by numerous towering rock cliffs, which are mixed by mini-cove and untouched beaches. Lush vegetation is also evident in the upland and agricultural portion of the island. Little did some people know that the island is a virtual goldmine for intrepid travelers and adventure seekers like us. So what does Guintacan Island offers?
The island is composed of rocky cliffs facing the north and reasonably situated in the most elevated part of the island. Hagdan boasts this hidden mysterious inlet lagoon called La-aw Lagoon. The surrounding rock formations give this lagoon added charm. The lagoon area is thickly forested with a sharp trail (due to dead corals) and entails a hike duration of about 15-20 minutes from the jump-off point. Don’t worry, habal-habal drivers will take you to the area for Php 30.00 fare. Please note, however, that they will charge you way beyond the regular rate so don’t hesitate to haggle.
This clip was taken by Elei (@iameleimath), showing aerial shot of Laaw Lagoon. The lagoon is abundant with edible seaweeds called as sea grapes (or locally known as lato) underneath but I was kind of freaking out when I floated my way to the center thinking something creepy will swallow me from behind. Haha! And oh, it is best to go there during high tide or in the morning.
From Laaw Lagoon, you can visit its neighboring attraction called Coral Cliffs.
You can perch on the cliff while marveling at the pristine saltwater below.
We decided to swim in the cold saltwater coast that is dramatically surrounded by big boulders made of corals, worthy of every IG snap.
I love my underwater shot of the clear saltwater cove. Living corals are scattered in the area so be careful with your steps.
From the coral cliff cove, a tunnel-like passage will lead you back to the inland Laaw lagoon mentioned above.
Remote small bay or coastal inlet nestled among the rocky cliffs are also found in this top-most part of Guintacan Island. You can clearly see it from the cliff view (notable in the picture above) however, we didn’t go there due to lack of time.
And before we head back to the jump-off point where our habal-habal drivers are patiently waiting for us, we took this cute groufie by the cliff.
Long strips of white sand are scattered on both eastern and western sides of Bitoon (also known as Kinatarcan).
We decided to have an unplanned visit of the western part of Kinatarcan to chase the sunset. And it didn’t disappoint.
After a looooong day, we deserve something magical such as this alluring sundown phenomenon. We headed back to our accommodation, on the other side of this beach where sunrise awaits.
WHERE TO STAY IN GUINTACAN (KINATARCAN) ISLAND
Guintacan Island is free from commercial development, so one shouldn’t expect any hotel or resort of sort in the area. However, there are a few family-run cottages at Kinatarcan (Bitoon) that you may wish to rent during your stay, or you may bring your own tent. We stayed at Vicky Homestay in the center of Bitoon (Kinatarcan proper). Contact the caretaker, Nonoy, via mobile 0921-573-7658 for reservations.
HOW TO GET TO GUINTACAN (KINATARCAN) ISLAND
Kinatarcan Island is located 40 to 60 minutes off the coast of Daanbantayan in Northern Cebu, depending on the sea’s mood. From the North Bus Terminal, take a bus bound for Daanbantayan and pay P180.00 (subject for adjustment). Travel time is 4 hours. When you reach the town terminal, you may opt to ride either a tricycle or electronic sikad2x (Php 10) or a trisikad (Php 5) and tell the driver to bring you to the municipal abattoir and port where outrigger boats are lining up. If you are on a budget, you may take the regular passenger boat (Fare is Php 40.00 each) with unfixed schedule of trip from 8AM to 11AM depending on the number of passangers onboard. You can also hire a private boat for your group costing from Php 1,500 to Php 2,500 that would take you to Guintacan Island anytime of the day. From Guintacan Island, the first and only trip going back to mainland is scheduled at 7:00 AM. If you wish to depart at a later time, then hiring a private boat is best for you.
It was indeed a fun-filled weekend in Guintacan Island and everyone was giddy with our newly-bonded friendship and exploration. As the cliche goes, “Not everything always goes the way we planned. Sometimes, life takes you to places that turned out better than ever could have imagined.” Now, if you love to deviate from the norm and experience nature at its best, then it’s your turn to explore Guintacan Island and discover the last frontier of Cebu.