We had visiting guests from California over the weekend and it was an opportunity for us to finally get to visit and see for ourselves a not-so-open secret anymore of a quiet hideway in Southern Leyte.

Traveling straight from the US of A, our guests arrived at NAIA early Saturday morning, then took a connecting flight for Tacloban. So after lunch at Rafael’s Farm in Babatngon we were off for the 3 1/2-hour drive to Macrohon, Southern Leyte.

We had a brief stop-over at the country’s tallest bridge, the Agas-agas Bridge in Sogod, So. Leyte, and we finally reached Kuting Reef around 7PM just in time for a sumptuous dinner.

After a long day, most of which was spent on the road, Kuting Reef was simply a cozy, relaxing haven to dig into.

The food was great; service was good and the staff are friendly and accommodating.

Those wanting to escape from the usual routine of web surfing and mobile phone SMS would love it here – mobile phone signals are almost non-existent, save for a few spots where one can freeze and do FB sneaks using the cellphone.

I had no doubt I would survive a weekend without the internet… and I was right. ;) What I was more worried about was when they turned on the huge projector screen and started showing “Just for Laughs” video…

Uh oh… could videoke be not far behind and ruin an otherwise quiet, perfect evening???

Well, the gods heard my prayers: no videoke here. Great. I hate videoke.

With special thanks to Raquel Nazario Espiritusanto who made this visit happen. ;) Thanks, Rocky!

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Before summer of 2010 ends, we just had to go visit again our island paradise – the Island of San Pedro in Hinunangan, So. Leyte.

Although I’ve featured it here several times already, the family just cannot have enough of it.

So without further ado, here are the photos…

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We had a quick opportunity to visit San Antonio in Dalupiri Island, Northern Samar last May 26 & 27, 2010.

San Antonio (mistakenly called, San Antonio Island) is the name of the sole municipality in the island of Dalupiri in Northern Samar.

It can be reached either via the town of San Isidro or the much nearer Victoria; both towns are along the Maharlika Highway. From the jump off point at the Victoria pier, it is a mere 30-minute motorboat ride across to the island.

San Antonio seems to be the preferred excursion site specially for people living in the northwestern part of the island of Samar and we could understand why. The beaches are still unspoiled and the waters are unpolluted.

And one has a choice among several beach resorts offering overnight accommodations (airconditioned & non-aircon rooms & cottages) at reasonable rates.

We stayed at the Haven of Fun. ;)

Enjoyed a couple of beers at the beach bathed by the light of an exoctic, full moon.

It was awesome.

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Much has been written about the success story of Donsol, Sorsogon and its transformation from being a sleepy, rustic, 5th Class municipality to its current 1st Class stature since the discovery of hundreds of whale sharks or butanding congregating in its murky but food-rich bay.

Donsol now stands proudly as the site with the largest number of recorded sightings of whale sharks anywhere in the world. It has become a world-class tourist destination and is now known as the “Whale Shark Capital of the World”. Their presence has become a major income generator, as thousands arrive each season to swim and witness the friendly behavior of these giant fish.

Donsol’s local residents have long known about the presence of the butandings in their area for over 100 years. The locals believed, however, that the butanding sharks were dangerous. This all changed in 1998 when a group of divers came in contact with them where their interaction with the gentle giants was documented and publicized by the media and got the attention of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), an international non-governmental organization working on issues regarding the conservation, research and restoration of the environment.

The Whale Shark (scientific name: Rhincodon Typus) is considered the biggest fish in the world and is included in the list of endangered species, with only about 1,000 identified worldwide. (For those not in the know, the huge and enormous blue whale is a mammal, not a fish.) Butandings seen in Donsol measure from 3 meters to as long as 10 meters (15 ft. – 40 ft.) in length and weigh up to 40 tons. The butanding has leathery grayish brown skin with silvery polka dots all over its huge body. They feed only on plankton and krill and are harmless and gentle, allowing humans to swim alongside with them.

Whale sharks are migratory and are found in warm tropical waters as they follow their food supply. They have been observed to converge in vast numbers off plankton-rich waters of Donsol starting in October and November and peaks in the months of February to May. After this time, they move on to other areas.

In Eastern Visayas, sightings of butandings have been reported in Pintuyan, Southern Leyte and in Dulag, Leyte.

Interaction with the whale sharks at Donsol is regulated by a triumvirate group – the Donsol Local Government Unit, the Department of Tourism (DOT) and WWF-Philippines. WWF guidelines are generally observed which are intended to maintain safety and to defend the creatures from over exploitation.

Rules include limiting number of motorized bancas to one boat per butanding, the number of swimmers per boat to six, and no scuba divers and flash photography allowed.

The swimming interaction is simple: a group of six hires a boat (this includes a swimmer guide, a spotter and banca operators), the group finds a shark and slips into the water alongside the creature. Snorkeling gear are available for rent.

We went to Donsol, Sorosogon March 16-18, 2010. It was an experience for a lifetime.

The banca trip is a mere 10-minuter ride from the beach. Once the spotter spots a butanding, the boat maneuvers near it and swimmers, led by the guide, slip into the water and swim towards the fish.

The first time you see the giant creature, one naturally freezes. Your instinct forces you to push away to safer distance. But after recovering from the initial shock, you get by and start to marvel at the butanding’s enormous size and natural beauty.

It’s one truly awesome and memorable experience, guaranteed to last over a lifetime.

Thanks to DOT Regional Offices  No. 8 (Eastern Visayas) and No. 5 (Bicol), Regional Development Council for Region 8, Donsol LGU, and to our guide – the best of them – Allan. Salamat sa lahat!

View more photos and slideshow: http://gerryruiz.callezaragosa.com/p435649078

Gae Samson

Ludette Ruiz

Peace!

Gae Samson & Ludette Ruiz

Ludette & Gae

View more photos and slideshow: http://gerryruiz.callezaragosa.com/p435649078

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