on a White Sand Beach
ponder the idea that you might retire on a white sandy beach island in
You may be
thinking to yourself, “In order to travel half way around the world one
would need a little more than just a retirement income. How a person
of moderate or limited can means, travel to and live for an extended period
of time in another country? It can be done, “believe me”!
As I have been doing, for the last ten years by taking advantage of searching
multiple low airfare websites.
tips of traveling, and even traveling at times as an Air Courier.
Six years ago I traveled to South America as an Air Courier and paid only
$500 round trip airfare. My last trip to the Philippines, I purchased
for just $800 R/T, from one of the many air consolidators.
Island is situated about 11 kilometers off the northwestern tip of
the long slender island of Cebu, in the Eastern Visayas. Cebu Province
is home to the Philippines second largest metropolis, Cebu City, and dubbed
the queen city of the south. With an international airport, it is
easy to fly into from all points in Southeast Asia, or from the US.
From Cebu one
can either ride a smooth air conditioned bus or private comfortable van
to the port of Hagnaya at the northern tip of the main island. About
two and a half hours of scenic seashore traveling you board a ferryboat
for the one-hour voyage to Bantayan Island.
a retired person on a limited income like myself, the high cost of living
in the United States was forcing me to live below the poverty level.
Ten years ago I decided to do something about my lifestyle. I started
traveling to different countries in search of cheaper and more comfortable
accommodation. In search of a place where I could live like a king,
and be able to enjoy my retirement without having to use my entire monthly
income to live under the poverty level.
Also high on
my list was climate, warm weather all year long. In the Philippines
and especially on Bantayan Island, “I live Like a King”! In
fact I will go as far to say a single person can live on Bantayan Island
for as little as $500 a month. I rented a cottage directly on the
white sandy beach for $100 a month; it was the same cottage I first checked
into upon my arrival.
stay of 5 months I just negotiated the price downward.
As in most
developing countries I have visited, this is the norm, you just need to
ask; to negotiate your accommodation is no different than negotiating with
a vendor for goods to purchase. In my experience, property owners
and managers would prefer a long term commitment of three to six months
at a lesser price, rather than have the property sit vacant for a lengthy
Island in the municipality of Santa Fe, I found about a dozen moderately
priced beach resorts to choose from. There are ample houses and apartments
for rent, however there is also real estate for sale or lease, should you
want to build your own cottage. Skilled construction labor is so
reasonable, I inquired about having a small bamboo cottage constructed,
and the builder told me it could be built for just under $2000. A
foreigner cannot own property outright in the Philippines, however the
alternatives are; a long-term lease (length is negotiable), some
foreigners I talked with has lease agreements for 25- 50 years. Or
you could establish a Philippine corporation whereby the corporation owns
the land. Another way is to marry one of the many beautiful quality
Island Girls and let her own the property.
is an exotic destination in the truest sense of the word, a paradise for
adventurers, retirees, and lovers of sand…sea…and nature. Diving
and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters, along with beachcombing or
just lazing in a hammock on one of the abundant white beaches. Although
the Island is home to 50 or so foreign retirees, a few who came here on
an adventure, “discovered” Bantayan Island, fell in love with the
place, married a quality island girl and never returned to their country.
There are those, including myself that have discovered Bantayan Island
for the first time, will say; Bantayan remains yet today a “secret” tourist
and retirement destination to only an elite few that has been privileged
willingly accepts her guests, but she tends not to let them leave that
foreign retirees, who relocate to the Philippines, do so for their own
various reasons. Some are looking for affordable living in this land
of enchantment. Others may be seeking a place to hang their hammock
for a short time on one of the white sandy beaches fronting the blue shimmering
Visayan Sea. For the salty cruising sailors, the reason might be
the 7,000 plus islands that make up the Archipelago of the Philippines.
As for others perhaps it is in search for the lady of your dreams…
More than just
the spectacular scenery, the warm climate, the lush verdant vegetation
along with the never ending supply of fresh sea food daily…it is the People
of the Philippines that left a lasting impression on me. In most
of the Philippines, English is taught in the school system from the start
of primary trough secondary classes, facilitating conversational ease.
All young people in the islands love to make small talk with a foreigner,
many of them initiating dialogue. On the laid back island of Bantayan,
the talk usually starts with, “Hey Joe, What is your name”?
The ease, with which even most adult Filipinos make foreigners feel, is
attributable to their warm hospitable smile. When meeting a Filipino
for the first time, and you want to make a good impression, maintain a
low profile, be friendly without being “artificial” and show a genuine
interest in the culture.
to this enchanted Country was in Cebu City, My stay in the city lasted
for just a week. For those who fare well in cities, it has many things
to offer. With its fine restaurants and shopping malls it leaves
nothing lacking. For this old Seadog (65), my quest was for something
more subdued that might fit in with a Hemingway or Jimmy Buffet like lifestyle.
The only thing
I wanted to have to worry about happening would be a coconut falling on
my head. The two and a half hour air conditioned bus ride from Cebu City
to the port town of Hagnaya, 125 km north, in addition to the one hour
smooth ferry boat ride across the Visayan Sea to the lush Island of Bantayan
was my salvation. Although I did not know at the time I first arrived,
that this coconut-laden island would become my home and the start of a
new adventurous life, I too would soon be a resident.
When I first
checked into the beachside bamboo cottage (complete with verandah)
with a canopy of towering coconut palms fronting the deep blue sea, I agreed
to pay just a little less than $4 a night. I thought I had expired
and found the Garden of Eden. That first night found me consuming
a scrumptious Filipino dinner of Lapu-Lapu (fresh fish) with seasoned rice
and vegetables, in the open-air thatch roofed resort restaurant just steps
from my cottage. Afterwards with a cold San Miguel beer in hand,
I headed for the white sandy beach just meters from my cottage in the opposite
There, on the
soft carpet of sugar white sand, I found what would be my hammock for the
next six months. Nestled in the swaying hammock, listening to the
sound of the surf lapping at the beach, I gazed my eyes upward to see a
full moon peeking through the tall swaying coconut palms. I felt
as if I was thirty years old again. What a feeling of serenity.
is an uprising of coral that over time gave birth to (in my eyes),
the perfect island. The island has a land mass area of 116
square kilometers with a population of about 120,000 by the 2000 census.
is divided into three municipalities: Bantayan Town, the center of
economy and trade, Santa Fe, the resort town, and Madridejos, the fishing
capital of the island. The Port of Entry is located in the town of
Santa Fe, with its leafy tree lined streets, the dozen or so resorts and
many restaurants and festive ambiance, makes it a favorite with locals,
foreign residents and tourists alike. Santa Fe is known for its expansive
coastline; with sugary white sand and waters so clear one can watch the
small fish swim and feed. Off the beaten trail and without the commercial
bustle characteristic of more touristy areas, Santa Fe’s beautiful resorts
present more than just privacy; they offer the rare commodity, serenity.
Is A Good Idea
connectivity has been enhanced to a degree that just about all islanders
have cell phones now. There is a small airstrip on the island just
outside of Santa Fe that could accommodate small charter and commuter flights.
There is talk that in the near future of one of the national carriers may
consider service to the island. I have to wonder just how; by adding
air travel to the island, it would possibly affect the tranquility of this
quiet haven. I personally would not desire to see air travel
to the island begin. The islanders could not afford it, and I enjoy
riding on the ferryboat along with them. However, it will happen
someday and I suppose having a means to exit the island quickly in a medical
emergency would be beneficial.
Eleven km west
of Santa Fe, on the leeward side of the island is Bantayan Town, the largest
of the three towns, its roots as a Hispanic settlement are unmistakably
stamped in its layout, with the old church and its plaza located in the
center and the houses and other establishments built around it. The
town plaza and the well-preserved antebellum houses recall a bygone era.
It serves as the commercial hub for the island, with a population of around
north of Bantayan Town and 26 km from Santa Fe, at the northernmost tip
of the island is Madridejos, home to the fishing industry. Unlike
the resort town of Santa Fe, and the commercial center of Bantayan town,
the countryside of Madridejos is characterized by hectare upon hectare
of corn plantations and poultry farms, which are the major products of
the island. The fishing industry of the island yields a total annual
production of 945 metric tons, including mackerel, herring, snapper, barracuda
and blue marlin. The whole island is called the “Egg Basket of the
Visayas” having more than 50 poultry farms that produce around 1.5 million
eggs per day. These eggs are shipped all over the Philippines.
With all these industries plus the thriving potentials of tourism, Bantayan
Island affords its own mark on the tourist map. Connecting all three
towns on the island is an excellent 2-lane concrete road that makes motor
scooter riding an enjoyable pastime, the lack of four wheeled vehicles
adds to the pleasure.
It was on this
road tooling around the island on my rental Honda 125 just one week after
I arrived, I met Marissa, a beautiful smiling island girl working at a
local restaurant in Bantayan Town. When she asked, “What is your
order Sir”? I responded jokingly with, “What would you suggest”?
Her smile broadened. I was smitten.
do not mind being asked their age, so it is not unusual for them to ask
yours. Age difference does not seem to be an issue for most Filipinos,
as far as relationships go, many older foreign nationals visiting the Philippines
meet, marry and live very happy lives. Filipinos for the most part
are very social minded and extremely family oriented; trust, honesty and
commitment to family members are very important ideals and are the very
fabric that holds the Filipino family together.
In the Philippines,
religion plays a major role in the family structure; it is a Christian
Country; in that respect, makes it very unique in Southeast Asia.
While the rest
of the archipelago is obligated to abstain from meat on the most solemn
of days, Good Friday, the local islanders of Bantayan feast on pork, beef
and other carnivores’ delights. However, they are not shunning this
Catholic tradition. A papal decree issued decades ago, actually “exempts”
them from this religious obligation, being a fishing island that subsists
on bounties of the sea for the whole year. So annually, during Holy
Week, the local folk of Bantayan Island are sanctioned by the Church to
consume meat in recognition of the “penance” of fishermen who completely
cease fishing in order to take part in religious rites.
back to the US in March of 2006, knowing “I would return” by the first
of September. Each day I found myself singing…”Back to the Island…I’m
going to Bantayan”.
to Bantayan Island the 1st of September 2006, married my beautiful Marissa,
and we are expecting a new baby boy in July 2007.
I live in Santa Fe town, in a three bedroom two bath western style house
that we rent for about $200 USD per month. Our monthly electric bill
never exceeds $25.
with its white sandy beaches and docile towns present a welcome respite
from city life. Whether you come to this jewel of an island to discover
yourself, or to find your own affordable paradise, or just for a refreshing
holiday, you will certainly find yourself doing just as I did after I arrived;
walking the shoreline searching for a bottle with a note in it, or possibly
searching for a mermaid sunning on the white sandy beaches. It is
where I found my quiet waters…my affordable paradise and contentment…and
quite possibly where you can find yours.