Tañon Strait | Oceana Philippines Photo Safari Chronicles

Expedition map of Tañon Strait photo safari
Expedition map of Tañon Strait photo safari

Sometimes it takes someone else’s eyes to see the beauty that surrounds us. Familiarity can be numbing at times and comfort can make us overlook what’s in front of us. That can be said the same to some people living along the area of Tañon Strait, the largest protected seascape in the country sandwiched between two major islands, Cebu and Negros. Ask where the strait is to a few, they would show a blank face, not knowing that the sea in front of them is part of it. Oceana Philippines, organized a photo safari to explore the length of Tañon Strait and I was fortunate to be part of this 6-day expedition. It was an exciting project as everything was new to me. Our objective was to capture and showcase the beauty and bounty of Tañon Strait. Maybe, just maybe, through our photographer eyes we could share and let more people appreciate this natural wonder.

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Tañon Strait | Bais Dolphin Watching and Talabong Mangrove Park

A cup of coffee taste so great while at sea. Our breakfast of bread with peanut butter, saba bananas and a unique concoction of crushed cereal with honey made by Harold himself of Harold’s Dive Center was enough to energize our morning. It’s the last full day of our Oceana Philippines Photo Safari and time simply flew by fast here while at Tañon Strait. From Mantalip Reef in Bindoy we were headed to our last stop in Dumaguete but not before we do some Bais Dolphin Watching and a visit to the largest remaining mangrove forest in Negros Oriental, the Talabong Mangrove Park and Bird Sanctuary.

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Tañon Strait | Mantalip Reef: From Starfishes to Starry Skies

Sunrise at Mantalip Reef station at Bindoy, Negros Oriental
Sunrise at Mantalip Reef station at Bindoy, Negros Oriental

It was hard to get used to the comforts of Hale Manna and explore more the beauty of the underwater world of Moalboal as in day 5 of our Oceana Philippines Photo Safari, we were on the move again. Off the coast the large white liveaboard outrigger vessel from Harold’s Dive Center in Dumaguete awaits to ferry us from Cebu, across Tañon Strait to Mantalip Reef in Bindoy, Negros Oriental. It was an impressive boat, spacious with lots of sitting and lounging areas, a well-kept mess area, restroom, and solar charging area. Ocean travel always had that soothing comfort, embraced by the breeze with boundless possibilities seen across the horizon.

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A Budbud Kabog Treat at Dumaguete’s Painitan

Budbud Kabog vendor stall
Budbud Kabog vendor stall

One thing I distinctly remember in my first visit to Dumaguete in 2007, I bought this delicacy which I thought was the typical suman (a glutinous rice cake wrapped in banana leaves). The vendor at the market told me its a Budbud Kabog (some spelled Budbod or bod-bod), which at first I thought was their local term for suman. As I unwrapped a piece while sitting at the boulevard, its distinct aroma caught me that this wasn’t ordinary. The grains also looks finer. A bite made a lot of difference as the delicacy quickly melts in my mouth spreading a rich delightful flavor hint of coconut flavor that’s moderately sweet. So this is Budbud Kabog!

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Lake Balanan, a Lake Borne from an Earthquake

Some locals fishing at Lake Balanan
Some locals fishing at Lake Balanan

Weather can be a bummer at times. Just when I brought my full snorkeling gears (which I rarely do these days) as I was ready and excited to commune with sea turtles at Apo Island but found out later we can’t cross the seas because of the weather. “So where are we going now?”, Adi and Jacq, our gracious host from GoHotels handed me a brochure for Lake Balanan while having dinner. Okay, this bone-shaped lake looks interesting with a few waterfalls, I thought but I still remained skeptical. So next day, we took a drive south of the island for the town of Siaton in Negros . While I still feel glum as the weather, I kept an open mind on what we’ll see.

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Dumaguete City Strolling

Dumaguete Church Plaza Garden

Dumaguete Church Plaza Garden

The coastal city of Dumaguete in Negros Oriental is also considered the land of the gentle people. At some sense I had to agree with that since I found Dumaguete upon first impression very peaceful. You don’t have that sense of danger or urgency. It’s almost like any rural city but this one dominated by the large Silliman University and a lot cleaner in my opinion. And it was a surprise to see a lot of foreign backpackers and nationals are here. Just says something about the place.

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Dumaguete: Casaroro Falls

Cascades of Casaroro Falls

Cascades of Casaroro Falls

I thought I would never be able to go on with this trip. I had a flu that seems to resurface for the past couple of weeks. And when I thought I was well already, I swam and had my flu back again. Talking about stubborn. I knew I had a trip coming real soon which made me a bit frustrated being in sickbay. Come November 1 morning, the day we were about to leave, I decided to push through despite having a fever the night before and some persistent dry cough. I was feeling a bit better when I woke up so off I go headed to the domestic airport for Dumaguete and Siquijor. I always thought, hey this may be the best time to see if those Mananambals (healers) in Siquijor could relieve me of my sickness.

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