Bantayan Island Holy Week/Photo Shoots & Travel Tips
Holy Week Photography: Olympus E1 & E3 Digital SLR's, Olympus Zuiko 14-54mm, 50-200mm SWD & 7-14mm Digital Lens.
Holy Week, Bantayan Island Philippines: Begins Ash Wednesday March 27 through Easter Sunday March 31, 2013, and there are many Festivals, Processions & The Bantayan Beach Games that take place on the Island, but Holy Week also means huge crowds of tourists flock here, and hotel prices skyrocket (scroll down for more photography & Travel Tips) and I've assembled a few important tips & precautions for travelers who are planning to come here to enjoy Bantayan Island.
First and foremost, arrive here as early as you can, as come next Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, both the Cebu City North Bus Terminal & the Piers in Hagnaya Cebu & in Santa Fe will become extremely crowded with long wait times and everything that that entails (some are estimating that more than 75,000 to 100,000 people will converge on Bantayan Island for Holy Week)
The weather here the past month has been fantastic with clear blue skies and hot/humid temperatures of up to 34C to 40C daily, but be advised the sun has been very hot and if you are not personally acclimated to the hot sun, you could be susceptible to heat sickness & dehydration once you get here.
below: Matteo Guidicelli always makes time for me to shoot his Lifestyle Photographs when he's on Bantayan Island; Thanks Brother!
above: Matteo wearing the Hypermask from Rudy Project
above: getting some shade at the Bantayan Beach Games during Holy Week 2013
above: Commissioned Portraits photographed on location in Bantayan Island Cebu Philippines - CONTACT me to shoot your pictures when you're here during Holy Week. .
above: Bantayan Town on Good Friday: 20,000 people crowd St. Peter & Paul's Church for Bantayan Island's 2010 Holy Week Festivities.
above & below: the athletes competing in the long distance swim during the Bantayan Beach Games; Holy Week.
above: Red Mobile Telecom (posing with Vance) was one of the Primary Sponsors for Bantayan Island's 2009 Holy Week Festivities
above: Volleyball on Sugar Beach during Holy Week's Bantayan Beach Games, Bantayan Island Philippines
above: Inside Saint Peter & Paul's Church on Good Friday; this beautiful Church was built in 1580AD.
Important Tips for Holy Week:
1. Please note that all Hotels/Resorts are already Fully Booked (Sold Out) for Holy Week - and people arriving without prior reservations either stay with friends & Family, or camp out at approved areas or Resorts, or sleep on the Beaches. (some people have a small measure of luck wandering the streets and asking to rent rooms in peoples houses)
2. Pack as lightly as possible, as there is not much room for luggage/bags on the buses or ferry boats, where you'll end up navigating & tripping over everyone else's overstuffed luggage, 50kg. rice bags, etc. that are scattered about, and yes they'll stack them in the isles as the bus/boat fills up (all the more reason I suggest you try to get a seat as close to the door as possible, in the event of an emergency where you'd have to get off the bus quickly, where everyone else will be falling down like dominoes behind you)
3. North Bus Terminal, Cebu City: Be prepared to fight through a Zombie Apocalypse of local travelers who will swarm the buses when they arrive in the terminal; there's no crowd management or line cues - so crowds of people will mass by the bus door when it stops and you'll have to fight your way on, so don't have anything in your pockets, in your hands, around your neck or on your belt that you can't afford to lose, and keep your bags tight in front of you if you can manage to board the bus (you remembered to pack light, didn't you?)
North Bus Terminal below: During Holy week there will be many people who won't make it on board the buses at times, so you've been warned.
People traveling with elderly folk or small children: designate a person in your party if you can, to attempt to board the bus first and save some seats for you, until you can safely get on board.
*Choose an AIRCON BUS: I do not recommend the regular Non-Aircon Buses, as they are older, open air buses that let in all the pollution, vehicle smoke, road dust etc. and make for a very uncomfortable, unhealthy ride, compounded by #'s 2 & 3 above, as these are typically the buses that are most overloaded with too many people and too much luggage; not exactly the safest ride on the narrow, 2 lane winding north highway up through the mountains en route to Hagnaya.
4. Just get a TAXI from Cebu City and avoid the headaches & lunacy of dealing with #'s 2 & 3 above (call our driver RENE for a safe, Zombie-Free, no nonsense ride in a late model car: 0949-181-7587)
5. Stay hydrated before your trip, and keep drinking during the day even though you may not feel thirsty (thirst is not an accurate measure of your hydration levels) - all this of course to avoid the Hospital vist with an IV in your arm, because you didn't pay attention to the headaches, dizziness & weakness of the initial stages of heat sickness.
6. Oral Rehydration Salts in small sachets manufactured by Westmont labs are available throughout Philippines, and are available here on Bantayan Island at a host of Pharmacies - ask your Doctor for advice, and if you begin to get dehydrated while you're here this is a widely used product when mixed with water/juice/Gatorade to bring back proper water & electrolyte levels.
7. Sunscreen/Sunblock: buy it in Manila or Cebu at Robinsons Mall, Ayala or SM Malls and bring it with you on your trip, as there's very little sunblock available here on Bantayan Island, and the hotels & stores that have it will sell it out.
8. Money: Cash up before arriving on the Island, and bring plenty of smaller bills - "Money Talks" is now Santa Fe's Official Money Changer as of May 2009, and there are no other money changers on Bantayan Island, but I've always written that there are a few hotels that will change foreign currency at a lower than prefered rate, so come prepared & hit up the money changers on the main land if you need to before arriving here, and there are some very good money changers in BOGO Cebu, a few minutes tricycle ride from Hagnaya Pier.
The only ATM on Bantayan Island is at Allied Bank in Bantayan Town, and the only credit/debit card it accepts is VISA - along with Banc Net, Mega Link, Express Net, Union Pay. (expect long lines at this ATM if it's working)
9. Incidental Consumables: you may wish to bring a supply of items such as toilet tissue, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, powdered soft drink mix, assorted snacks etc. as many stores begin to run low or run out of many essentials during Holy Week, especially after Wednesday.
10. Bottled Water: there's plently of it here on the Island normally, so stock up on enough water after you arrive and avoid the shortages in the stores as Holy Week progresses.
11. Try to avoid arriving on Bantayan Wednesday/Holy Thurs/Good Friday. as it's extremely crowded at the transport points...I would suggest planning an arrival on either Sun/Mon/Tues to avoid these issues.
*Beginning sometime around Holy Wed. buses & boats will be operating nearly 24hrs. a day for the few days of Holy Week to get travelers from Cebu City to the Hagnaya Pier and onto Bantayan Island, and it's really a crowded mess at that point, so plan to arrive early.
12. Food is plentiful here with many Restaurants & road side BBQ stand for eating on the cheap, so just bring money.
13. Medicines: If you're already taking Prescription Medications, be sure to bring a personal supply with you on your trip, as Pharmacies here may not always have what you need.
14. Sunglasses: The sun here can be brutal on your eyes, so please bring a quality pair of sunglasses with you, as there are no quality name brands available here for purchase - check out Rudy Project Philippines and visit their store in SM Mall at the North Gate area on the 2nd. floor before you head up to Bantayan Island.
*If you can't afford the real name brands, please don't buy the P90 cheap garbage knock offs, as they'll just cause your retinas to burn slowly over time - just go to the optical stores in Ayala or SM Malls and check out the quality, but lesser known sunglass brands available there in the P500 to P1,000 range with UV protection.
15. Phone loads & Cards: are always plentiful here on Bantayan Island - we buy our P300 Cards at Rivmar Pharmacy in Santa Fe as well as other places, but expect a run the supply of Smart & Globe Cards as Holy Week progresses. (get to the Island with a good load already on your phone)
16. DONT DRINK & DRIVE: Drinking & Driving Enthusiasts: Piss Off & Stay Home; no one wants you here.
If you're going to drink, fine....just DON'T DRIVE - - - take responsibility for your own safety, and for those Families & children who live here on Bantayan Island who walk, play & ride in the very places that are vulnerable to drunk drivers riding by on motor bikes, cars & trucks.
17. Make sure your friends & Family know where you are going, where you are staying, and exactly how to reach you. (emergencies and unforseen accidents & issues are the exact reasons you should always have a calling load on your pre-paid mobile phone - as large a load as you can afford, and get it before you begin your trip)
The Good Friday Procession outside Saint Peter & Paul's Church in Bantayan Town; huge crowds gather inside the Plaza to witness this.
Travel Safety Issues
Stay Safe on Buses, Boats & Taxis - Always use common sence & pay attention to 'pre incident indicators' & the physical condition and capacity of the vehicles.
If any ship, boat or taxi does not appear to you as travel worthy, or if it looks obviously over crowded, or if high seas give you pause for thought, then don't get on (take another ride on another day or travel by other means)
Enjoy Your Holy Week - Stay Safe and Have Fun!
Once Holy Week passes, Bantayan Island is returned to a quiet and peaceful place, so I always recommend that travelers come & enjoy the Island either before or after April, if they like their peace & quiet.
* BEST OPTIONS for HOLY WEEK TRAVEL:
Grab a TAXI from Cebu City for P1,500 to P2,000 and multiple passengers can split the fare (please remember as it gets closer to Thursday April 1, 2010 the Hagnaya Pier will also become very crowded, so if you're traveling, remember to travel as early in the morning as possible!)
* HOLY WEEK UPDATE/Buses:
The North Bus Terminal is extremely crowded during Holy Week, and many people experience difficulty in finding buses with room onboard, as everyone travels this week - try to be at the Terminal by 4am/5am for the best chance at getting a seat on the busses.