New year of 2016 is one of the best new years I have had so far. Although I spent it away from my family, God has provided me a family here in Cebu anyway. And for that, I am much thankful.
It was a not-very-well-planned trip but it was great because sometimes the best things happen unplanned.
We chose to spend our three-day off from internship duty in an island six hours away from Cebu City (1 hour jeep ride, 4 hours bus ride, and 1 hour ferry ride). Bantayan Island is how the locals call it.
I was expecting that the island is like the ones we have back in my home province—Palawan. But I was surprised when I found out that it is more like Boracay Island in Aklan. It is like a small town with beaches and resorts around it. We chose Sugar Beach Resort for our three-day stay. I would say it is not an ‘ideal’ resort for those who wanted a vacation grande but it sufficed the needs of student travelers like us. We were given the choice of tents or cottages. We chose the cottages for security reasons.
There were lots of restaurants around the island so food is not a problem. Their menus are not quite special but the manner with which the place is set up is an attraction to tourists who seek relaxation. There was even one Resto where instead of tables they have cavannas where we could just comfortably do “indian sit” with our pillow chairs. Besides the restaurants, there are also several Cafes and Bakeshops in the island which are mostly owned by foreigners.
The beach has fine white sand like that of Boracay but I would say that beaches in Palawan are still the best. We have clearer waters and cleaner shores. And in Palawan, fishes and corals are just meters away from the shore. I found not a single fish in Bantayan Beaches.
Aside from Sugar Beach Resort where we checked-in, we also enjoyed Santa Fe Beach Club and Ogtong Cave. Beautiful beach with rock formations to jump from, man-made cave with clear water to swim on, and a large pool for swimmers and non-swimmers to relax on.
We rented bicycles (and a motorcycle) so we could tour around the island more conveniently. We bike at midnight, at noon, at morning, at almost any time of the day. To me, biking together is one of the best activities we did during this trip.
And guess what? Two of our companions who do not bike just biked during this weekend trip. It was a combined effort of everybody to help these two befriend the bicycle. Pure joy!
Not all of us in this trip were geared with smart gadgets that is why not everything we did were documented. Although Levin got his DSLR, there were still moments we left uncaptured. It has been a cliché during the trip that the best moments we had are those not captured in photographs but are instead engraved in our memories and deeply in our hearts.
Let me change that to FAMILY. Yes, they are my family now. I praise God for this trip because it made a way for us to grow closer with each other and not only to Him. Since it was a weekend trip, we spent the Sabbath together by the seaside sharing things about our personal lives, reading the Bible, singing hymns and most especially praying. On Sabbath vespers, with our wet swimming clothes still on we had united prayer by the shore with the stars looking down on us. Such wonderful experience! On Sabbath day, upon reading and reflecting on Psalm 51 we ended up apologizing with one another for the little things we’ve done that somehow hurt or offended each other. It was indeed a wonderful Sabbath experience.
On New Year’s Eve, we watched fireworks all over the island. And with our own “torotot” we joined the whole Bantayan Community in welcoming 2016. We were shouting and laughing so hard. Yep, everybody’s on hyper mood. HAHA. When the whole island is done with their fireworks, we took our moment to light up our own. As I watch my friends light up their own fireworks, I can see the Light that led us to choose Cebu, the Light that guided us in this journey and the same Light that will be with us as we finish through.
New Year’s Day. We spent it at Santa Fe Beach Club and Ogtong Cave. We swam together, played together, took pictures together, and enjoyed each moment together. We did one activity wherein we formed a circle in the waters, held hands, and made each other float. That meant something to me and I want to quote from the words Guilther pronounced, “Tayo-tayo na nga lang ang magkakasama kaya tayo-tayo lang rin ang magtutulungan.”
By 4pm, we biked going to a cliff where we watched the sunset and welcomed the Sabbath. On that moment as I look at my friends silhouetted on the orange sky, all the beauty of the place became of no wonder to me compared to the realization of how much stronger our friendships became during this trip. Although we all feel incomplete because the other five were not able to come with us ( we missed them, really), we were on the other hand renewed and refreshed from the toxic busy life of a Medical Laboratory Science Intern.
And yes, we praise the Lord for all these!
Bountiful New Year Ahead!
(Credits to Levin R. Santos for the photos)