It is with great excitement that we reveal the six destinations for this year’s Challenge—six gems of the Western Visayas with inviting shores and more to offer than what meets the eye. (Do click on the photos for more images of the particular island/ resort!)
First dot on the map goes to Malapascua, off the northernmost tip of Cebu. While it does offer an idyllic white sand beach, its main draw lies beneath its sea—Monad Shoal, perhaps the only place where recreational divers can swim with deep-water thresher sharks. And as if that’s not exciting enough, divers are also in for big fish encounters and manta sightings. With a laidback beach vibe and rich marine life securing a steady stream of both local and foreign tourists, it’s no wonder Malapascua is high on many a travel list.
A long, wide, white, palm-fringed beach awaits sailors in Bantayan Island, Cebu,. It is the largest in a group of islands, named so for the Tagalog word bantay (watch), in reference to the watchtowers that the Spaniards built around the islands. In recent years, it has garnered a local reputation for being the serene alternative beach, where one can just lounge, snorkel or sample the best pasalubong it has on offer– its famous dried seafood delicacies.
Next stop is Cabugao Gamay Island of the Gigantes Islands, which gets far less footprints but offers far more allure. Those who do bother to make the trip out to this island are treated to a hidden lagoon that’s secretly connected to the sea, causing its own waters to rise and fall with the tides despite being enclosed in massive rocks. Also adding an exciting variety to the scenery are caves worth exploring.
Taking it’s name from the Cebuano word for “to walk”, Lakawon Island features sandbars on its either side, where beachbums can walk to and on, particularly during low tide. This banana-shaped island fits right into an itinerary of beautiful rural islands with little commercial developments, if any at all!
The fifth island on the list is probably the best “transition island”, as it continues to feed a love affair with charming beaches, while also introduces the rich history of the Western Visayas. Guimaras offers man-made landmarks that date back to the time when Spaniards were smitten by the beauty of this island’s natural attractions and decided to stay. It’s the perfect prelude to the final stop. Plus of course, there are the mangoes, famous locally and abroad for its sweetness and quality.
Finally, concluding the adventure is Iloilo. an old city steeped in Spanish colonial history. It owes to the Spaniards its architectural treasures and rich cuisine. Outside of the compact city proper lies relaxing beaches and quiet getaways where accommodations with urban comforts are available. #