Island hopping at Cresta de Gallo and Sibuyan in Romblon

Reynaldo Perez-Ramos

THE PHILIPPINES Is being recognized by various travel sites in the worldwide web to be growing as a top tourist spot. In 2013, the country was listed among the popular destinations in the Conde Nast Traveler Choice. In particular, Boracay Island was voted as one of the best beaches in Asia in 2013. And even before that, the island consistently made it into the top three in the awards for the best beaches in the world. In 2014, another island, Palawan, was included in the list of the 30 top islands in the world: Readers’ Choice Awards in the Conde Nast Traveler online survey. This is an added recognition after Palawan was chosen as the home to one of the new seven natural wonders of the world – the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River.

But Boracay and Palawan, despite their popularity, are not the only islands in the country with beautiful white sand beaches and crystal water. In fact, there are other more stunning and unexploited places that both local and foreign tourists have yet to explore and enjoy. Cresta de Gallo (aka Isla) is on top of the list – located at the heart of the Philippines!

Geographically, Isla is virtually invisible in the map and it is situated at the southern tip of Sibuyan Island, in the Province of Romblon. Romblon is known for its high-quality marble products and its majestic Mt. Guiting-Guiting Natural Park. But Sibuyan Island is also the historical site of WW2’s Battle of Sibuyan Sea where majority of the Americans’ and Japanese’s battleships were deployed, including the world famous Musashi, the biggest Japanese battleship which sunk in the moonlight on October 24, 1944. Last March, an expedition was organized by Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. Together with his research team, he broadcasted a live-stream tour of the wreckage of Musashi in Sibuyan Sea.

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As a rare jewel of nature, Isla is a place where you can really enjoy the blue crystal clear waters. The white sand massages your feet as you walk on the long stretch of sand bar with pulverized sea shells and corals. The islet, once a victim of man-made destruction that threatened its coral system and marine life with illegal dynamite fishing, is now fully recovered with an abundance of fish, starfish, seaweeds, and sea cucumbers flourishing in the area. Because it is not as popular as Boracay (five hours away), its quiet beaches offer serenity and much better unbothered scenery under water. Even with no source of potable water and permanent beach structures (except for one resident house for the family guarding the island), it is a paradise that awaits every one!

If you are in the area and have some flexibility in your schedule, you can also add some nature-filled wonder into your itinerary by visiting other natural attractions of Sibuyan. Dubbed the “Galapagos of Asia”, you can find the cleanest river system in the country which also provides the power supply for the entire island. You can also climb Mt. Guiting-Guiting, considered as one of the densest forests in the Philippines. The mountain’s difficult features save it for only the experienced lot of climbers, but its highest peak is one of the most breath-taking sites one can reach.

How does one reach the islet from Metro Manila? Take a bus or hire a van from any major cities going to Batangas City Port. From the port, ride a ship (Montenegro or Navios shipping lines) going to Sibuyan Island (which takes a total of 12-13 hours with two stop-overs in Tablas Island and Romblon). The long travel is not really boring, as you enjoy the seascapes of Romblon and by chance will be able to witness playful dolphins swimming at the sides of the ship.

In addition, it can be reached by motor boats from the mainland of Sibuyan. With an hour of sailing to Isla, you can also enjoy the panoramic view of the mystic saw-toothed landscape of Mt. Guiting-Guiting. Isla is also accessible with commercial motor boats leaving Boracay on a regular basis (between 4-5 hours travel time, depending on the weather) and via Tablas Island with Philippine Airlines’ three-times-a-week flight schedule or 2Go Travel’s’ weekly trips.

ULTIMATELY, YOU CAN always enjoy these beautiful islands at the heart of the Philippines where the sun, sand, and sea meet every day!

The author is now a fulltime faculty member of the Romblon State University. After more than 30 years of urban life, Engr. Ramos decided to go back to his home province Romblon and be able to share his knowledge, skills and expertise to his fellow Romblomanons. He is a travel photo hobbyist, a blogger (www.reymos.wordpress.com), collects beer mats and paints using coffee granules. He was the first President of 3Di (Third Eye) Photo Club established in October 2004.

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  • nomadstrails

    Thank you for featuring my travel journal. A simple way of promoting my hometown. Your monthly publication has a space in our Resource Reading Center at the Romblon State University, College of Engineering and Technology for faculty and students to browse while visiting our office. More power and kudos to the editorial staff!