It was one splashy ride. We’re midway through hour 2-hour journey along Surigao strait for our first island hopping stop in Dinagat Islands, the Pangabangan Island. I knew the weather would be intermittent in a September but my birthday was coming up and I wanted to go to a place I haven’t been before. I’m fascinated about Dinagat Islands after seeing photos from friends who went there. The natural wonders looks raw and beautiful. The province is curiously wrapped in a mysterious culture and religion.
Aside from Bonbon Beach, the main island of Romblon has some island hopping activities too with its fare share of equally stunning islands and beaches. Since we’re covering the Biniray Festival and Tonton ng Sto Niño that day, we only have the morning to visit one of the three islands at the northwestern side of Romblon island, the Cobrador Island. The island is the farthest of the three and a 45 minute boat ride away from the poblacion.
It took Typhoon Yolanda’s devastation to bring this beautiful archipelago in Northern Iloilo to light. Carles, Northern Iloilo was one of the hard hit areas. Rescue aids and volunteers went out of their way to find remote communities that needed assistance. Their perseverance paid off as they found these communities. At the same time, they also found the islands of Isla de Gigantes. An enchanting set of islands that was once solely enjoyed by the locals. Gradually, photos of the stunning white beach and captivating rock formations became viral online. Isla de Gigantes name came big. Every body wants to experience this piece of paradise and that includes me.
There’s more to Oriental Mindoro than the famed white beach of Puerto Galera. At the southern tip of the province is the municipality of Bulalacao. A place locals used to fondly call “Bula-layo” (layo means far) due to its remoteness from the rest of the towns in the province. It was a time when the roads were rough and people had to bear almost a day’s travel to get to Bulalacao. Now with paved roads, sea ports and nearby airport, Bulalacao opened up a set of islands and beaches sans the tourist crowd. A place still with provincial feel, less commercial and genuinely laid back good time.
Not to be mistaken by the similarly sounding Caramoan in Camarines Sur, Caramoran is a municipality, northwest of Catanduanes. The name admittedly came from the former when people would point to the former which is just on the opposite side of the strait separating the provinces. Not to be left off as a shade of its homonymic neighbor, Caramoran, one of the largest municipality in Catanduanes, boast the idyllic isles of Palumbanes Islands and languid Hitoma Lake on land. This is the second part of my return visit to the Happy Island of Catanduanes in conjunction with the 2018 Abaca Festival.
Purple hues enveloped the sky as I watch over the ocean greeting the sun good morning at Sambawan Island. I am mindful of the tide’s ebb and flow at the beach below, the grass swaying from the breeze, the cool air touching my skin and gently the warm light creeping in the hut where I’m seated. Such a calm morning up the highest point of the island where I have a full panoramic view of the surrounding area. The volcanic Maripipi island looms over like a big brother.
There’s an advantage and disadvantage of staying in San Vicente town proper as I have learned. Advantage is that I get to stay real close to San Vicente’s Long Beach, the longest white beach in Palawan which I have immensely enjoyed combing through. Disadvantage is that Island Hopping here is costly unlike if I stay in Port Barton. The Island hopping tours (A to D) only cost Php 700 per head for a minimum of four people in a group. But since I’m travelling alone, I would have to shell out Php 2,000 to get to Port Barton by boat. The people at tourism office said if there are any groups from here that would do the tours I could always join in but from the looks of the people coming and going through this town, chances are pretty slim. I was resigned to spend my last full day in San Vicente by the beach when Ate Flor, the owner of Ursula Long Beach Travaller’s Inn called me up while having breakfast that she’s at the tourism office and managed to get me a slot to join a group doing a Port Barton Island Hopping Tour. I immediately said yes, quickly packed my camera and gear and hopped on a motorbike to take me to the port.