Category Archives: #ProjectNegrosOccidental

The Awkward Traveler’s Guide to Carbin Reef

I was born and raised in Sagay, so I pretty much know how to get in and out of the place even with my eyes closed. This travel guide is mostly based on my experience.

HOW TO GET TO CARBIN REEF:

Carbin Reef is part of the bigger Sagay Marine Reserve which also includes the lesser known Maca Reef. It is a protected area so the number of visitors are limited each day. Before heading directly to Sagay, it is advised that you make the reservations first by contacting the Sagay Tourism Office:

Their office’s phone number and email address are (034) 488-0649 and sagaycityinfo@yahoo.com. You might also want to contact them via their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sagaycity.

The jump-off point is at the Old Sagay Port. From the Sagay City Bus Terminal, take a tricycle or a jeepney to go to Old Sagay. Fare is about P10/head. I’m not 100% sure about the fare because I just usually run from Sagay to Old Sagay. I’m not kidding.

From Bacolod City to Sagay City:

Sagay is very much accessible through Bacolod.

If you’re coming from the airport, take the shuttle van parked outside and tell the driver to drop you off at the Ceres North Terminal. Sometimes the drivers get confused on where the north or south is so make sure to mention that you’re going to Sagay. Fare is P150/head. If you’re a group of four or less, you might want to take the taxi instead at a rate of P500 for everyone.

If you’re coming from the BREDCO port, look for A jeepney that’s going to the Ceres North Terminal.  There are no regular jeepneys passing by the port, but usually during early trips, there is A jeepney that would take people to the North Terminal. Fair is around P20 to P25 (they ask for a bigger rate because as mentioned, there is no regular jeepney plying this route).

If you can’t find that jeepney, take a tricycle and ask them to take you anywhere in Lacson. They can take you directly to the North Terminal BUT they might ask you for a bigger rate, so just ask them to take you to Lacson St., and from there take a Bata-Libertad or Mandalagan-Libertad jeepney. The tricycle driver would usually ask for P30 (probably higher if you’re not a local so be ready to haggle) and minimum for the jeepney is P7 (subject to debate inside the jeepney so be ready to pay P8).

At the Ceres North Terminal, look for a two-stop bus going to Escalante. In a perfect world, the bus would only make two stops (Sagay and Escalante) but there will always be passengers that would alight before these cities (guilty here). Still, it is the preferred bus of Sagaynon commuters because most of the time, it is air-conditioned (they would sometimes use two-stop non-AC buses during peak seasons at a lower fare) and would take you directly to Sagay. Fare is P127. Travel time is around an hour and a half.

If you want to save P20 though and would like a longer ride, you can also take the non-AC non-two-stop buses going to San Carlos, Escalante or Minapasok. Fare is around P100 and travel time is around two and a half hours.

From Dumaguete City to Sagay City:

There are hourly Ceres buses going to Bacolod. But please ask any Ceres staff in the bus terminal to make sure that the bus is passing through Sagay. Most Bacolod-bound buses from Dumaguete pass through Mabinay or Don Salvador Benedicto, which are not the buses to take when you’re going to Sagay. If there are no buses passing through Sagay, just take a bus going to San Carlos, and from San Carlos, just take a bus going to Bacolod and again, please ask any staff around if the bus passes through Sagay. If the signboard indicates “via Escalante,” then that bus will pass through Sagay.

From Cebu City to Sagay City:

By plane:

Cebu Pacific has daily flights from Cebu to Bacolod, and vice versa. There is usually one flight in the morning and another flight in the afternoon. Fare for a one-way trip nowadays is around P800, so there’s not a lot of difference from the bus fare. You’ll have to consider, however, the distance of the airports from the city proper. Once you get to the Silay-Bacolod Airport, just follow the instructions above.

By bus/boat:

There are direct buses from Cebu to Bacolod. They’re all stationed at the North Bus Terminal. Please refer to this image for the schedule (current as of March 9, 2015):

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If you’re only going to Sagay, take any bus passing through Tabuelan/Escalante or Toledo/San Carlos/Escalante. If you see Escalante on the signboard, then take that.

Fare for the bus is P330 and you also have to pay around P180-P200 for the barge. Travel time is around 6-8 hours. Prepare for delays.

Another option, which is faster, is what we call the “cutting trip.” From Citilink, take a van going to Toledo. You may also take any Toledo-bound bus from the nearby South Bus Terminal, but the van is faster. The terminal for the passenger vans in Toledo is already near the port so you can just either walk or take a trisikad. Fare from Cebu to Toledo is P100.

You can then take a fastcraft or a barge going to San Carlos, Fare ranges from P180 for the barge (travel time: 2 hours) and around P220 for the fastcraft (travel time: 1 hour). Once you get to the San Carlos port, take a trisikad going to the bus terminal. Then take a Bacolod-bound bus that is passing through Sagay.

From Iloilo City to Sagay City:

Go to the Lapuz Port and choose between OceanJet, Weesam or SuperCat, all of which have daily trips to Bacolod. SuperCat has trips as early as 4:30am and as late as 8:10pm.

You may also take the RORO from the Dumangas port. I have never taken this route but I have been told that they have trips all throughout the day and fare is only about P70. These RORO ships also dock at the BREDCO Port in Bacolod. Once you get to the BREDCO Port, just follow the instructions above.

There are also boats from the Culasi port in Ajuy. These boats dock at the Victorias port. I do not have much information about this as well. But once you get to the Victorias port, take a tricycle to get you to Nona’s where you can wait for any Ceres bus going to Escalante, San Carlos or Minapasok. Don’t take the bus going to Cadiz.

From Manila to Bacolod City:

By plane:

Cebu Pacific, Tiger Airways and Philippine Airlines have several daily flights from Manila to Bacolod, and vice versa. Cebu Pacific Bacolod-bound flights are stationed at Terminal 3,  PAL Bacolod-bound flights are stationed at Terminal 2 and Tiger Airways Bacolod-bound flights are stationed at Terminal 4. When booking through Cebu Pacific, please take a look at the flight number – 5J is a Cebu Pacific flight while DG is a Tiger Airways flight.

Once you get to the Silay-Bacolod Airport, just follow the instructions above.

By boat:

2GO Travel has trips every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from Manila to Bacolod City. The ships are stationed at Pier 4 in Manila and they dock at the BREDCO Port in Bacolod. Travel time is around 20 hours.

Once you’re in the BREDCO Port, just follow the instructions above.

From Cagayan de Oro to Bacolod City:

2GO Travel has trips every Saturday at 11pm from Cagayan de Oro to Bacolod. Travel time is also around 20 hours. Once you’re in the BREDCO Port, just follow the instructions above

From Davao City to Bacolod City:

Cebu Pacific has direct flights from Davao to Bacolod every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Once you get to the Silay-Bacolod Airport, just follow the instructions above.

WHERE TO STAY IN SAGAY CITY:

Balay Kauswagan is the most popular accommodation in Sagay. It is managed by the city government of Sagay. It is located in Brgy. Rizal which is just right outside the city proper but can be easily accessed by a tricycle. I haven’t been here for quite a while but I believe they have dorm rooms and private rooms available at reasonable prices.

For more information, please check http://tourism.negros-occ.gov.ph/places-to-go/cities/sagay-city/

Lastly, if you happen to be in Sagay City, please make a comment here. If I won’t feel awkward, I’ll meet up. 🙂

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#ProjectNegrosOccidental: Carbin Reef, Sagay City, Negros Occidental

*This is part of my #ProjectNegrosOccidental series where I aim to visit all 32 towns and cities of Negros Occidental, my home province.

I was in second year high school when I last visited Carbin Reef, although I just live a few kilometers away. That was 15 years ago, before my brother was even born. Our entire batch went on a field trip to Carbin Reef. It was quite a memorable experience for all of us especially because we spent a night sleeping (or not sleeping) in the tower which had no walls. We didn’t have any tents so there was no camping that happened.

My classmates and yep, that was the tower where 50 or so of us spent a night.
My classmates and yep, that was the tower where 50 or so of us spent a night. Photo courtesy of Florence Monterola.

Back then, there was some paperwork to be done before we could even step on Carbin Reef. My teacher assigned me to do it and I took it willingly because that meant I could go home for a few days (I spent high school in Victorias). But it was my sister and mother who processed those papers and I took all the credit. Ha!

Anyway, I was supposed to be somewhere else during and after the Holy Week, but a few things came up so I decided to just go local. So Carbin Reef it was. I was planning to bring my parents with me, since this was just in Sagay after all, but they kept declining. Thankfully, my cousin Nang Irene and her sons were in Sagay for the Holy Week and gladly came along with their other relatives. Tito Moli, Nang Irene’s father, who helped us book this trip went with us too. I also persuaded my brother to come with us.

Initially, my plan was to do the trip on Black Saturday or Easter Sunday, but when Tito Moli inquired about it, Carbin Reef was already fully booked on those days, so we settled for Monday, April 6.

It was Ma’am Helen Cutillar of the Sagay Tourism Office who made the arrangements for us. Through her, we had a few freebies so we really appreciate that. Our family is very thankful.

I’m not sure if I can publish her mobile number, so I’ll just give you instead their office’s phone number and email address: (034) 488-0649 and sagaycityinfo@yahoo.com. You might also want to contact them via their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sagaycity.

They limit the number of people visiting Carbin Reef so you might want to make sure first that you have a reservation before going directly to Sagay.

We left our house at 8am and hired two tricycles for the nine of us to go to Brgy. Old Sagay. I usually run from our house to Old Sagay, and vice versa, and it seems near when I’m running it (it’s just 5 km from the city proper). But it seemed far when we rode the tricycle.

When we arrived at the port, we were directed to go to the office to make the necessary payments. We paid P1200 for the pumpboat and P20 each for the entrance fee (I think the fee is higher for non-residents of Sagay). The tent, which was supposed to be P300, was free, thanks to Ma’am Helen. Our snorkeling gear and guide also came free. Yipee! Payment for snorkeling, by the way, is P600 for every two people.

After our payment, Nang Irene and I tried to see if we could get into the nearby Museo Sang Bata sa Negros. There wasn’t exactly a gate, only an opening in the fence, so we weren’t sure if it was open. Then a woman came out from the museum so we just asked her how much the entrance fee was. We were told P50 for adults and P20 for children. Maybe we’ll visit next time.

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When Tito Moli arrived (they had to go back to our house because they left a bag), we went to the pumpboat immediately.IMG_7259

Carbin Reef is just about a 15-minute boat ride away from the Old Sagay Port. While on the way there, I noticed another watchtower on the very far left of the horizon. I assumed it was Maca Reef, because that’s the only other reef I know in the area. But when I asked our pumpboat operators, they said it was Panal which can be accessed. Maca Reef was on the other side and could not be accessed for now.  I forgot to ask how much it would cost if one would go to Panal, so I can only assume that it might just cost the same. We also saw the other islands of Sagay, which were Suyac and Molocaboc. We had wonderful memories of Molocaboc too. Ha!

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Approaching Carbin Reef.

 

The waters surrounding Carbin was immaculately clean. The Sagay City government and the Bantay Dagat people are doing a good job maintaining the area. According to Tito Moli, the place looked very different back then. Dynamite fishing was common in this sea.

And speaking of dynamite fishing, I remember it was such a big issue when I was in elementary. It is still an issue now but it’s not as talked about as it was back then. Call me naive, but I think people standing up against it worked.

We arrived in Carbin Reef around 9:15am. We had the perfect summer weather, but that also meant it was hot.

There were two other groups in Carbin when we arrived. We were told they only allow four groups each day but I saw five tents standing, or maybe that was four.

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The tower wasn’t like it was used to. As you can see in the old picture above, it still had two storeys. Now what’s left is that small room on the side, which probably used to be the bathroom. The typhoon Yolanda might have done a lot of damage to it.

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Sagay is just a few kilometers south of the midpoint between Bantayan, Cebu and Concepcion, Iloilo. The typhoon made landfall on both towns but the eye of the storm spared Sagay. The eye might have been visible had one been standing on Carbin Reef when it passed by. Not that it was a good idea even if it was really visible.

We took pictures first of the area right after settling into our cottage.

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Then we hit the water! We were advised by the Bantay Dagat people to only swim in front of the cottages to be safe. That part of the beach was perfect for swimming especially if you’re not exactly a good swimmer.  That side also offered a nice view of Negros and the mountains.

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Photo courtesy of Nang Irene.
Photo courtesy of Nang Irene.

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The kids, Ram and Rave, were really enjoying the beach so it was fun to watch them.

Then it was time for more pictures!

My baby brother is now a grownup.
My baby brother is now a grownup.
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My signature pose.

Tito Moli grilled pork chops for lunch. You don’t need to worry about having barbecue on the beach as they have a grill available for use for everyone. Nang Irene also brought chicken adobo. We were in charge of the rice and the drinks.  We had an early lunch.

After lunch, we rested for a few minutes then we went back to the water.

Manong Ginny (or Jenny, he said he had a feminine name) then approached us to bring us our snorkeling gear and to tell us that we could just start snorkeling anytime. We had to go in pairs because there were only two life jackets. I paired up with Nang Irene.

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The gear also included flippers which got me excited because I could finally wear a pair! I was once told that I could move faster in the water with these but I was also warned that it could pull me down. I had a life jacket anyway. My excitement later turned into regret when I was already in the water.

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I had to walk backwards until it was deep enough for me to swim with the flippers on. And dang it was really heavy in the water. Moving my feet was five times the effort I would do when I run. But they say it always happens to first-timers.

Anyway, I had to hold hands with Nang Irene who also had to hold onto Nong Ginny with her other hand because we’re not exactly experienced snorkelers. When we got to the end of the snorkeling area, Nong Ginny pointed to us the many giant clams dotting the seafloor. It was amazing how big they were. He said these clams were brought here eight years ago when they were still young and had since then grew and proliferated. There were also plenty of fishes. Nong Ginny said that there were more fishes during low tide but they only do snorkeling during high tides to avoid damaging the corals.

I could only tell you what I saw since I don’t have a GoPro. I really need to get one.

When everyone who went snorkeling got back, we hit the water again. This whole time, Ram and Rave were just in the water. They were really having so much fun.

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Because of the length of time we spent in the water, I was able to practice my swimming and even taught my brother the basics. I can teach swimming now! Ha!

The other group of visitors started leaving until it was only us left. We had Carbin Reef all to ourselves!

Around 2pm, we also started to prepare to leave. But of course, more pictures!

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We got back to the Old Sagay Port around 2:30pm where we hailed two tricycles to take us back to Sagay City proper. We reached home around 2:45pm.

Carbin Reef is a nice place to take your friends or family for a summer outing. It’s beautiful and well kept. It’s a very good starting point for my #ProjectNegrosOccidental. Again, good job to the government of Sagay and thank you to Ms. Helen Cutillar of the Sagay Tourism Office.