What are you longing to see in the tropical country? White sands, crystal sea, coconut trees and deep starry sky at the night. But instead of it you usually get only crowded beach with annoying rattletrap-sellers, hundreds of all-the-same cafes and rude local “businessmen” trying to leave you without a penny. I have experienced it a lot traveling different Asian countries, but sometimes the road would lead me to surprisingly wonderful places.
Let me introduce you a place I had found staying at Philippines in winter. The most confusing thing of planning the trip was to choose one among the 7.000 beautiful islands of this country. My choice felt on Bohol, 10th biggest island of Philippines, but the high season was not the most pleasant time to stay there. Being tired of crowded seaside villages full of tourists and high prices I started busking the internet looking for some quiet place nearby. That’s when I found a hidden paradise called Pamilacan.
how to get there
If you are going directly from the airport of Bohol (Tagbilaran Airport) to Pamilacan then you should get the taxi or tricycle (it is the cheapest way to move on the island, but not the fastest – it will take you more than 2 hours travel) to port Baclayon. From the place where we had stayed on Panglao island we got a tricycle to the port of Baclayon, there we got the boat going to the Pamilacan Beach. The trip by boat usually takes about ah hour, but there are no regular schedules for the departure, so we had to wait a while for the boat to come. Our transfer was arranged by the guest house we were going to stay at (that’s why I suggest to book your accommodation beforehand) and cost nothing, but usually the prices start from 1200 peso one way. Some people say that it could be cheaper to find one of the local fishermen to lift you to the Pamilacan, but I could see none.
There are also a lot of touristic agencies offering a one-day-trip to Pamilacan from Alona beach of Panglao island. That kind of trip usually starts from 5-6 a.m. and includes dolphin watching tour around Pamilacan and Balicasag, usually it costs around 1000 peso per person but prices may vary according to the number of passengers, size of the boat and your bargaining skill.
where to stay
We were lucky to book the last available room in the whole island, as there are only a few guest houses offering accommodation for the tourists. Though there are also some of fisher families hosting the foreigners in their own houses for the extremely low prices. A hut we had booked for three persons cost only 600 peso per night including 3 meals a day of the delicious Philippine national dishes and fruits, that were cooked by our generous hostess(It was a fantastic opportunity to taste homemade exotic dishes). Though not every accommodation on the island have a hot water or even water pipes, local people mostly use only rain water in their everyday life. So be prepared to get back to the wild and take shower from the bucket. Electricity, as well, is a rare thing here: it starts function only from 5 in the evening and lasts till midnight, but the beauty of Pamilacan’s nature will surly make you forget about your cell phones and unread e-mails.
what to do
whale watching tours
Pamilacan island is famous for it’s whale and dolphin watching spots. As far as I was told, more than 20 years ago Philippines fishermen were hunting whales and dolphins on the other side of the island, but after the government has forbidden capturing the poor creatures, locals started earn for their living by giving the trips around the island for the tourists. Though, as one Philippine old lady had told me, there are still those who manage capturing dolphins illegal and sell the meat. Unfortunately, we were not so lucky to see those beautiful animals with our own eyes due to the weather conditions and the general lack of money(Usually it cost around a 1000 peso or more) That’s why we entertained ourselves with few snorkeling trips around the island.
Only for around 100 peso per hour you can get yourself a personal guide with a kayak to take you to the most beautiful coral reefs and turtle watching spots. And it is something worth seeing: virgin waters around the island are incredibly clear, so you don’t even need a mask to explore all the beauty of underwater world, that full of sea stars, corals, and sometimes even water turtles.
Pamilacan island is also a perfect place for diving, it will take only few minutes by boat to reach the proper depth. Diving suit or equipment can be rented easily at the guesthouse and costs much cheaper than at the any other touristic spots.
The only sights you may find on the island is an old Spanish church and ruins of the fortress rising picturesquely on the main beach of the island. At the cost you may see numbers of wooden pavilions: it is the places where local authorities gather to discuss the vital problems of the island.
Pamilacan island has everything to make you easily forget about everyday routine. It’s the best place to rest your head and forget about civilization: you will never find here intrusive sellers or noisy parties like at the most of the Philippines touristic spots. You won’t even find here a shop: all of the needed provisions are being delivered here every morning from Baclayon, so it’s better to make sure if you have everything, such as medicine or hygiene items prepared.
The population of the Pamilacan is not more than 2000 people living in the tiny settlements around the island. Taking a walk here can give you a good opportunity to find out what the local life on Philippines is like: barefooted children are running around, mangoes hanging from the trees and all kinds of cattle prowling with a harmony of the mother earth. Instead of the wildness, the beach of the island looks very clean and untouched by the human hand. Local people are very neat and proud of the piece of paradise they are living at. And I only hope this place would forever stay the same conciliating, glorious and wild.