If you were asked to travel to a secret destination for three days, with a budget of P10,000, would you?
Cebu Pacific’s Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge is unfolding soon. Now on its 6th year, Juan For Fun Backpacker Challenge is something “Juan-of-a-Kind”, for 5 chosen teams of 3 college students or fresh graduates.
These lucky teams not only get to travel for free, but they also get to choose what fun activities they want to do. They will only find out where they’re going at the send-off ceremony. Along the way, adventure coaches will help them out. Last year’s winning team received a “Travel-All-You-Can” pass!
In relation, I received an invite from Cebu Pacific on March 2 to travel to a secret destination on March 27-29, 2017. There weren’t any details given. We would definitely be up for an adventure! Who would say no to that?
No further details were revealed until four hours before the actual trip. Ten bloggers from all over the country were chosen to be part of a special bloggers edition of The Juan For Fun Backpacker Challenge. The mechanics were similar. We’d have to survive three days and two nights in the secret destination with P10,000. Sounds doable.
I’m the kind of traveler who loves to plan up to the littlest detail, an obsessive-compulsive one who prepares for a trip days up to a week before, to the extent of printing a checklist just so I wouldn’t leave anything behind. Taking this challenge would definitely push me off my comfort zone but… game!
I really had no idea what my assigned destination was, so I didn’t know what to pack. But since summer is just around the corner, I opted to bring light clothes, a pair of black shorts, and swim shorts, plus basic toiletries.
The Moment of Truth
Moments before I left home for the airport, I received my e-ticket, and found out that my destination was Roxas City. At first, I’ll admit I was disappointed. Aside from being the “seafood capital” of the country, I haven’t heard of anything else that makes the place special.
Nonetheless, this is a challenge. I quickly searched for things to do in Roxas, and budget places to stay. I think I’m ready.
At the Airport
The only instruction that was given to me was to approach the Cebu Pacific counter personnel upon arrival at the airport to redeem the Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge Adventure Passport, which has a list of simple tasks we could complete for some extra points.
Boarding Cebgo flight DG6376 bound for Roxas
Disclaimer: The itinerary you will read below isn’t a guide because I had to adjust with the circumstances.
One of the challenges was to ride four different types of local transport. Since I reckoned that there would be many tricycles in the city, I opted to ride a taxi to my chosen hotel.
After a quick research, I chose to stay at Sky Garden Hotel on my first night. I didn’t immediately book two nights so I could be as mobile as possible. The published rate for a Deluxe Room is P1,250 a night, but I managed to get it at half the price!
Sky Garden Hotel Deluxe Room
View of Roxas Public Market from my room
Really great rate considering that the hotel is located at the very heart of Roxas City, across a mall, a five-minute walk to the city plaza, and the room has free wifi, a bidet, a rain shower head, and free breakfast! What a steal!
When I got acclimated with the environment, I decided to have dinner. When you’re at the seafood capital, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have seafood for dinner!
Outside the hotel, I asked an idle “habal-habal” driver how much it would cost me to get to Baybay Beach, where all seafood restaurants in Roxas are. But to make the long story short, I paid for the ride with a filling meal!
Dinner is served at Coco Veranda
We had dinner at Coco Veranda, the top-rated seafood restaurant in Roxas City (based on TripAdvisor). I was already ready to order “diwal” (angel wings) when I was told that they’re off-season. Bummer! I settled for scallops instead, and a serving of beef tadyang.
Roxas City Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Capiz Provincial Capitol
City Hall of Roxas
Roxas City bandstand
One of the few bridges over the Panay River
After dinner, I asked the driver to drop me off at the city plaza so I could take night shots of the city. I then just walked back to the hotel after. When I got back to my room, I searched for things to do on my second day in Roxas.
Options, options, options. I initially wanted to visit Islas de Gigantes, but since it is not yet the peak of summer, “joining tours” (those tours where solo travellers can join other groups) were not yet available. I opted to visit Olotayan Island, an interesting and photogenic island community just thirty minutes northeast of Roxas City. I woke up at 6:30am and availed of my free breakfast. By 7:30am, I took a tricycle to the jump-off point to the island, Banika Port.
At the port, I found myself disappointed when the coast guard informed me that the pump boats had no drivers yet and that I should come back an hour or two later. There’s no way I’m going to wait that long for something that has no assurance. I was about to ride a tricycle going back to the hotel so I could come up with something else to do, when suddenly heavy rain poured. This further dampened my mood. Sigh.
Roxas – an alternative gateway to Boracay
Having said that, I decided to momentarily leave Roxas City and seek more vibrant colors in Boracay. Is that even possible? I trusted my instincts and took a tricycle to the van terminal in “Pueblo”, the new mini-township of Roxas City. There, I was greeted enthusiastically like I was a “balikbayan” with a lot of pasalubong. Vans and buses bound for different points in Western Visayas abound. I boarded a van to Kalibo, and upon arrival in Kalibo, boarded another bound for Caticlan.
In around three hours, I found myself in the island of Boracay. At this point, I was already famished. It was lunch time and I had to eat. A quick search online led to the top-rated restaurant in Boracay for lunch.
Carbonara and Asparagus at the top-rated restaurant in Boracay, Aria.
Siesta time demanded that I had to relax somewhere, and the perfect place would be Puka Beach, where I spent most of my brief stay in Boracay. Don’t judge me but I spent a huge amount for a mango shake, which could buy me a large serving of crispy pata back home, just so I could have a cottage and rest for a bit, and have a place where I can confidently leave my stuff while I swim and take some photos.
Alone but never lonely
The 400-peso mango shake
When you’ve been awake since the early morning, you’d be tempted to catch a few zzzzs during midday. Puka Beach was the perfect place for that. I wasn’t ready to move on but the sun was already setting, so I transferred to Station 1 for Happy Hour.
CHALLENGE: Take a sunset photo at a popular landmark
Only the best for this trip. For dinner, I went to Two Seasons, another top restaurant in Boracay for their popular four cheese pizza, and buy one-take one cocktails.
The ever-famous Four Cheese Pizza at Two Seasons Boracay + a glass of mojito
I wasn’t able to consume the whole pizza, so I had it packed for takeaway so I’d have something to eat when I’d feel hungry somewhere on this trip.
The night has settled and my “day trip” in Boracay had to end. Fast-forward to two hours later, I was already in the bustling capital of Aklan, the town of Kalibo.
As soon as I arrived in Kalibo, I asked a group of tricycle drivers parked on one corner for the best affordable place to stay overnight. I then double checked with online reviews to be sure. My quest led me to Kalibo Hotel, which was just walking distance from where I got off.
Kalibo Hotel Economy room
I asked the front desk officer if they still had rooms for the night. I was offered their Economy Room, for P1,200 a night, but they slashed the price to P1,100. With an innocent face, I politely asked if the rate could be further lowered to P1,000, since I would be staying for less than 12 hours only. I was just joking, but was pleasantly surprised when they agreed. Yes to savings! Let’s call it a night then.
I woke up to my alarm at 6:30AM, and checked if my pizza was still okay to eat. Yay for breakfast! I checked out of the hotel and thanked them for their hospitality. Feeling re-energized, I took leisurely morning stroll to the van terminal. Before lunch, I was already back in Roxas City and did a quick photo walk at the city center.
Roxas City by day
The Capiz Provincial Capitol, which of course has capiz shell windows.
After which, I decided to visit the Sta. Monica Church in the neighboring time of Panay to check out the largest bell in the Philippines and Asia.
My last meal in Roxas City had to be spectacular so I’d end the trip on a high note.
I went back to Baybay Beach to see how it looks like at daytime, and have lunch at Bitoy’s Balay Barbekyuhan, a place well-known to serve the best pork barbecue in the whole city!
Great tasting barbecue and a generous serving of shrimp tempura. I approve!
Baybay Beach has very fine brown/gray sand, it’s actually nice for swimming
I still had an hour at my disposal so I walked around the beach to ponder upon what happened during this trip.
Although quick and short, this Juan-of-a-kind adventure taught me a few things. When traveling, one should always keep an open mind, and be flexible to adjust to certain circumstances and things beyond one’s control. Roxas City has given me a lot of reasons to come back: the diwal! Islas de Gigantes! Olotayan Island, and several other attractions in Capiz, and Western Visayas. On this trip, I also learned that Roxas could be a laidback alternative gateway to Boracay when fares to Caticlan and Kalibo are way too steep.
Join the Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge
Get the experience of a lifetime by joining the Cebu Pacific Juan For Fun Backpacker Challenge! If you have a team of three (3) college students or fresh graduates aged 18-23 years old, upload your team video answering the question, “How can you share the FUN in Juan for Fun?”, fill out the sign-up form, submit and share! If you are one of the lucky ten groups that will get chosen, prepare for an unforgettable week-long fun challenge all over the country. Members of the winning group will get a one year travel all-you-can pass to any of the local and international destinations on Cebu Pacific’s ever-growing network.
DAY 1 EXPENSES
P250 – taxi from airport to Sky Garden Hotel
P668 – overnight at Sky Garden Hotel
P676 – dinner at Coco Veranda
P1,594 – total for Day 1
DAY 2 EXPENSES
P20 – tricycle to Banika Port
P40 – tricycle to Pueblo terminal
P120 – van fare to Kalibo
P200 – van fare to Caticlan
P100 – Boracay environmental fee
P75 – Caticlan jetty port terminal fee
P25 – Boat fare from Caticlan to Boracay
P20 – Tricycle from Cagban Jetty Port in Boracay to D’Mall
P700 – Lunch at Aria
P150 – Tricycle to Puka Beach
P400 – Mango Shake/Cottage rental at Puka Beach
P150 – Tricyle to Two Seasons Resort
P1,000 – Happy Hour and Dinner at Two Seasons Resort
P120 – Tricycle to Cagban
P250 – Combo Boat fare to Caticlan and Van fare to Kalibo
P100 – Cagban Jetty Port terminal fee
P1,000 – Kalibo Hotel
P4,470 – Total for Day 2
DAY 3 EXPENSES
P120 – van from Kalibo to Roxas
P75 – tricyle from Roxas terminal to city proper
P80 – tricycle to Panay church
P100 – tricycle to Baybay beach
P350 – lunch at Bitoy’s Balay Barbekyuhan
P50 – tricycle to airport
P150 – Roxas airport terminal fee
P925 – Total for Day 3