Sibuyan is my mom’s birthplace. She is blessed really, to call this enchanting island her home.
Last summer, we braved the unpredictable sea for almost 20 hours to bring my mother back to the place where she spent her childhood. Hoping to reconcile with past memories and old friends, she went. Not really knowing that aside from her homecoming, my heart too, found a new home.
Sibuyan has been dubbed by some local and international natural scientists as “the Galapagos of Asia”, because it has remained in isolation from the rest of the world since its formation. Never in its geological history has it ever been connected with any part of the Philippine archipelago. Sibuyan Island remains as one of the most unspoiled ecosystems in the Philippines and the world. – Wikipedia
We took the MV Annabel ferry to reach this island. This vessel is way smaller than those I have taken in the past. Not only is this ferry tiny, but it is also old and the amenities are not what I will recommend for those who are too picky and demanding. I noticed that this is the choice of the locals as there are not much restrictions – some even brought live chickens, pets and their entire garden aboard. My mom said that almost everyone in this ship knows each other (or you know, a relative of a relative), we even saw her old professor in one of the bunk beds chitchatting with other passengers.
If you are a backpacker and would like to have an early experience on what Sibuyan feels like, take this ferry. The rate is just P700 ($13). Shared bathroom, airconditioned bunks are available, and the only store inside where you can get food only sells coffee and cup noodles.
There are other options for you to get to this elusive island, but one way or another, you will have to experience the erratic waves of the Sibuyan Sea.
MV Annabel set sail by 5:00 in the aternoon, the first few hours were calm and inviting. I get to read a book and fall asleep. Around 12 midnight, I woke up feeling a little dizzy. There are a handful of people awake, a baby is intensely crying and the ship – boy was it swaying! The ship danced and swayed with every crest and trough, I felt the pull in my stomach as the ship’s body collided with every raging wave. I didnt sleep anymore. Instinctively, I looked for the life jackets – it was under the bunk bed beside us. Good. Now, should I go out and look for my Jack Dawson? I opened a pack of crackers and listened to my newly downloaded songs. If Jack is outside, I have no plan of becoming Rose tonight. There is surely a beautiful island waiting for me in the morning. My mom is sleeping like a log. She told me about a time when she travelled from Sibuyan to Manila under a storm, also in this old ferry. She arrived in Batangas soaking wet after the water sipped thru windows and cracks. Tonight is not that bad, I said.
At sunrise, my sister and I got some coffee and went outside to watch the sky. The first time I went to Sibuyan (when I was around 14), we saw dolphins swimming beside our ship. It was one of best memories of my childhood. This morning, there was no dolphins, but a calm and beautiful ocean.
We docked in a port to unload. That port is still a mystery to me. I dont know its name or to what island it belongs to. Hopefully soon I will find out.
By 10 in the morning, we arrived in Azagra port. Our grandmother was there to welcome us!
For the next 6 days, we roamed around this elusive crescent shaped island. Six days of pure wonder and endless adventure.
Here are some of the reasons for me to go back and brave those crashing waves again. The beauty of this island is just, magic.
1. Mt Guiting-Guiting:
A famous 9/9-difficulty mountain for the adventurers, Mt Guiting-Guiting (aka G2) is known for its diverse forest and dangerous trails (aka “knife edge”) in the Philippines mountain scene. They say this majestic mountain is the primary reason why Sibuyan is dubbed as the “Galapagos of Asia” – G2’s forest floor and its entire natural park is recorded to be one of the densest and diverse in the country.
My dream is to conquer its peak in the future. (Shivers)
2. Cresta De Gallo
This beach’s raw beauty remains to be one of the reason why I will go back to this island despite the angry sea that protects this paradise. Its about an hour away from our jump off point in Campalingo, San Fernando via pump boat. The journey to this island is still the scariest boat ride of my life (waves crashing our tiny boat with force and height that made me pray for my life, for real). Still a paradise worth going to.
3. Chasing Waterfalls – Lambingan and Dagubdob Falls
With great mountain comes great waterfalls! 2 out of the many other unexplored and unspoilt falls within the island.
4. Cantingas River
Hailed as one of cleanest river in the world, this place is perfect for slow afternoons and picnic. If youre into cliff diving, there is a diving deck at your disposal.
5. Azagra – Lighthouse and Lamao Lake
And this view from the lighthouse:
6. Campalingo Beach Sunset
Grandma’s house is around 15mins away from this peebled beach wherein every afternoon, before dusk, we will sit by our favorite spot under a big tree to watch the sun sets. We watch with awe and listen as this little town quiets and settles in for the night.
7. The simple but magnificent island life.
With the island being so isolated from the rest of the Philippines, the lifestyle here remains to be simple and unassuming. Out of all the beautiful places I visited while Im here, the most beautiful in my memory remains to be my grandma’s small house and the local community.
My heart started to grow roots in this island. Where mobile signal is weak to non-existent. Where fresh water is over flowing.
Where the last thing you hear at night is the music carefully performed by cicadas.
Where life is slow and to which I find joy and peace in the setting sun.
I am beyond grateful to be travelling back to this jewel in the next few days. I am excited for more exploration, more wonderful landscape and to fall in love more and more for this island I now call HOME.
Sibuyan is a jewel worth finding. And if you find its beauty, grow roots in this magnificent place . Believe me, this island has magic that is enough to nurture your soul and to keep your heart beating, amidst the crashing waves.
For travel guide and accomodation, please view my related article here. Sibuyan Travel Guide by Jona Alday
If you need help looking for a local guide or a tricycle for rent, leave a comment here or msg me in Instagram. I will try my best to locate one for you! 🙂
Visit Dagubdob Falls in Brgy. Espana and spend a slow afternoon at Cantingas River in Brgy. Taclobo
Drop by at the town proper of San Fernando to visit the ruins of a Spanish Casa built during the World War II
Beach bumming at Cresta De Gallo
Pass by Lamao Lake and Watch the sunset at Azagra Lighthouse
Spend the day discovering the waterfalls in Brgy Olango including this secret haven:
Spend the late afternoon in Olango Bay
Charter a tricycle to tour you around the island.
Walk the lush forest of Mr Guiting Guiting Natural Park
Visit Lambingan Falls and the Sanctuary Resort
Follow my daily Sibuyan itinerary in the related posts.
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