The plan was 6 AM, but the alarm clock snoozed until nine before we made up our mind to go for it. That trip kicked off summer, the glory days of beach bumming and getting enough of sun and sand. But, it wasn’t the beach we headed to. It’s a hot spring in Catmon, the lone hot spring in northern Cebu.
A hot spring in summer seemed to be off season, but who cares. The curiosity could no longer wait, not until the cold, rainy months. So, at 10AM, we were at the North Bus Terminal, confused if we would take a van or a bus. We went for the more spacious, colder bus. It’s a shorter trip in a van, but if your companion is a little claustrophobic, that can mean threatening his poor life during the whole trip.
Travel time: two and a half hours. Traffic wasn’t supposed to be that bad, but somewhere in Consolacion, a funeral march caused the slow motion. All the vans and jeepneys and cars moved in one lane, the dead setting the pace for them all. On another day, it could be a parade or another funeral, so give some thought to travel time.
The fare was P78, cheap enough for a comfortable aircon bus. Going there, you can take a bus bound for Maya Port in Daanbantayan, the jump off point to Bantayan and Malapascua. Going back, expect that buses are full, especially on weekends. You may end up standing on the aisles, although you can get a discount for giving up your seat. Charge it to experience, keep cool, and entertain yourself with Just For Laughs clips playing on the overhead TV.
ESOY HOT SPRING
Tell the driver to drop you off at JM Poultry. Every driver who takes the north road seems to know the landmark. You can’t miss it. There’s a big sign by the road announcing the destination: Esoy Hot Spring, 5 kilometers away.
From the highway, flag a habal-habal to take you to the hot spring. You pass through some rough road, which can get muddy and difficult on rainy days, but the ride, overall, is not that exhausting. Along the way, you’ll have a view of the green mountainside of Mt Tabayag, a good starter for the day’s adventure.
At P50 per trip, good for two passengers, you’ll reach Esoy in less than 30 minutes. Register and pay at the gate. The lady will tell you to take the stairs down, and you’ll find your way to the pools after about 150 steps.
The hot spring was named after the property’s developer, Celso Bustamante. If you happen to meet him, the first question to ask is where all the hot water comes from given there’s no volcano in Cebu. He’s prepared to explain in detail, complete with dates and all the science. Hot water, he said, not only comes from volcanoes—like in the case of hot springs at the foot of Hibok-Hibok in Camiguin, Kanlaon in Negros, and Mayon in Albay. Hot water, about 40 to 60 degrees Celsius, can also come from underground, naturally heated by the earth.
In 2013, the main pool dried up after the water source was disrupted by earthquake. Esoy, trusting his knowledge of gravity and the nature of water, explored a way to revive the hot spring by building a pool at the lower slopes. Now, Esoy Hot Spring maintains three pools.
- Rate: P350 per person (for cottage, access to hot spring, trekking to the waterfalls, life vest, guide)
- Booking is required; walk-ins not allowed (to manage the crowd)
- They serve food at P150 per person (We had grilled chicken and liempo.)
- Operating Hours: Opens at 8 AM, closes at 5 PM
- Contact Numbers: (032) 430.9250 / (032) 430. 9542 / 09218133296 / 09235537427
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From the hot spring, you’ll cross a hanging bridge to find your way to the waterfalls. The bridge is short [spoiler] but it sways enough to give some thrill—plus some fear factor from the steps that are already damaged. Don’t rush, it’s not a very long trek anyway. Enjoy the sound of the leaves rustling in the summer air, the water rushing down the stream, and the chattering of the birds. Crossing the boulders was an easy task for me, only that I was not ready for the swimming portion. Although it was a short swim and I had a life vest, the non-swimmer me still found it a deal breaker.
Some 30 to 45 minutes from Esoy, you’ll reach the drop off point for another adventure in Catmon. It’s Barangay Tabili, the home of the unpopular Tinubdan Falls and a good site for river trekking. Not many have been here. The habal-habal drivers will say it’s too far—which made me give it up for the day’s itinerary. But if you have enough time, I highly recommend seeing the place.
Hiking to Mt Kapayas aka Lantawan Peak or Torre is a popular crowd-drawer in Catmon. It’s the second highest peak in Cebu next to Osmena Peak, and getting there involves a habal-habal ride on a rough road, walking an open trail, crossing some streams, and climbing a vertical rock to get a view of Cebu and the nearby islands. You need to secure a permit from the municipal hall before trekking. Here’s a guide from Aldrich to help you plan your climb.
Catmon is also popular for its delicacy, the “budbud kabog”. The term budbud generally refers to ricecake wrapped in banana leaves. Catmon’s version is made of kabog or millet, which grows generously in the region. Millet seeds are ground, and then cooked in coconut milk and sugar for that unique sticky treat.
WHERE TO STAY
We only took a day tour during our visit, so we didn’t need a place for the night. If you want to stay long, however, here are our bets.
Contact #: 0932 630 3892
Facebook: Agua Villa Exclusive Beach House
Huna Huna Cliff Resort
Contact #: 0917 371 9741
Facebook: Huna Huna Cliff Resort