Bantayan now houses some local fishing villages, but it once served as a Spanish base against Moro invasions due to its strategic location. Its fortifications and watchtowers gave it the name “Bantayan sa Hari” (Watchtower of the King), which was later shortened to “Bantayan”.
Look hard enough and you can still find traces of its heritage, from old Spanish-era houses to dilapidated fort ruins. The Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Church was finished in 1863, making it over a century old. The church was built with coral and limestone and features stone carvings of saints (as opposed to the wood carvings typical of the time).
Fort ruins can be found at Sta. Fe, but more well-kept is Kota Park in Madridejos. The ruins were built in the 1790s, but the grounds have since been turned into a park. Some artifacts and relics are still on display.
Bantayan is also known as the Lenten Capital of the Visayas for its solemn Holy Week commemorations and processions.
Don’t think that dampens the spirits of this island getaway though!
Bantayan’s popularity is growing, particularly among the backpacking crowd, but its beaches remain well-kept and un-crowded.
Some places you should visit are the palm-fringed shores of Sugar Beach, Paradise Beach and Virgin Island.