Virgin Island (Panglao, Bohol)

Virgin Island

Part of the Panglao Bluewater Resort-sponsored CountrysideTour

The next day, after a buffet breakfast at the resort’s Aplaya Restaurant, we boarded a motorized outrigger boat just off the beach from the resort for our half-day, two island (Virgin Island and Balicasag Island) hopping tour.

Making landfall

A 15-20 minute boat ride brought us to Virgin Island, a 1-hectare (during low tide) stretch of white sandbar with small patches of mangroves, grass and coconut trees and surrounded by clear, shallow (the water is only up to your shins) waters and sea grass.  Walking to its far end, you will find lots and lots of red and blue starfish.

The author at Virgin Island.  Behind are makeshift stalls

Virgin Island turned out to be a “tourist trap” as a number of makeshift stalls have been set up there, selling pricey sea food such as fresh, edible abalone, soft and crunchy sea cucumber, tuna and sea urchins (swaki) as well as buko (coconut) drinks, banana-Q, fish ball, squid ball and snacks. Jewelry hawkers, who follow you around (they can’t seem to take “no” for an answer), also sell pearls (in its natural state or mounted as earrings, bracelets or necklaces).

The crystal-clear, shallow waters

Our tour boat only allowed us 15-20 minutes of stay before we headed to our next destination. It is best to go here early in the morning, tide permitting, as it can be a little too hot when the sun is already shining so bright.  Bring sunblock lotion.

An isolated patch of mangroves …….

There are no nipa huts or umbrella shades on the island. The island is not really a snorkeling spot of note. The sea grass beds only have a few shoals of very small fish but off the beds are loads of jack fish.

A piece of driftwood

Across the island is Isola di Francesco (“Island of St. Francis”) on Pungtud (or Pontod) Island. Owned by Mr. Ramon Rodriguez, a devotee of Italian Capuchin monk St. Pio (Francesco Forgione) of Pietrelcina, it has a chapel, a visitor’s center, a mini museum (filled with photos of the Francescan friars), a few restrooms, water tanks, guest houses and several religious sculptures of angels, cherubs, and the Holy Family. It is not often included in the island hopping packages.

Isola de Francesco

There’s nothing much you can do here except for a short photo ops and taking selfies. They should change the name of this Island. Not a virgin at all.  Like many beautiful spots on the Earth, this island has been ruined for commercial reasons but, minus the flocks of tourists, parked boats and the makeshift stalls, the island could be a great place to just sit and relax and enjoy the solitude.

A solitary mangrove……..

Island Hopping Rates (boat rental only): PhP2,300 (1-4 pax) and PhP2,750 (5-10 pax).

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail:

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: Website:  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

Potipot Island (Candelaria, Zambales)

Potipot Island (Isla de Potipot))

After a lengthy 7.5-hour drive (we left Manila at 3:30 AM and made stopovers at Jollibee Subic or breakfast, and at the Cathedral of St. Augustine of Hippo in Iba), we arrived at Brgy. Uacon at the town of Candelaria (between Masinloc and Sta.Cruz) and parked my Toyota Revo at the residence of Mr. Joel Gonzales (mobile numbers 0977-2044869 and 0947-3218687), a friend of Bryan.

 Check out “Cathedral of St. Augustine of Hippo

Car parking at Uacon

As it was already lunchtime, Bryan prepared a lunch of pork tocino, hot dogs and fried fish with steamed rice.  This done with, Joel loaded our gear on his tricycle, with Cheska and Kyle on board, for the short drive to the beach where our motorized outrigger boat to Potipot Island (or Isla de Potipot) awaited us.  Jandy, Bryan and I just walked the short distance.

Overcast skies at Uacon Beach

Boardng our 6-pax motorized outrigger boat along Uacon Beach

The closest island from mainland Zambales (about a kilometer away), we can actually see how near Potipot Island is from the beach of Uacon. The boat trip (PhP400/two-way) getting to the eastern side of the island (with its huge and colorful “Isla de Potipot” sign) just took a little over 10 minutes.

On our way to Potipot Island

It was already overcast when we arrived at the island. From the shore, it was just a short walk to the reception center. Visitors to the 7.5-hectare, privately owned Potipot Island are charged PhP100 per head for a day trip and PhP300 for overnight.

The huge and colorful Isla de Potipot sign along the beach

Boat docking area

There are no hotels or inns available on Potipot Island. As it was a long weekend (August 19-21), the island was brimming with tourists (it easily gets fully booked during weekends), many camped in tents near where the boats dock.  Tent rentals are also available but it is not a regular service on the island. 

Reception pavilion

Campers can eat their meals at a pavilion with tables, without having to pay an additional fee.

Picnic tables

There is also a grilling area where they can grill their own food but they’ll have to bring everything, including the charcoal.

A 10-20-pax nipa cottage

An array of nipa and bamboo cottages

Others stayed in nipa cottages (PhP1,500, for 10-20-pax, and PhP2,000 for 5-10-pax) and more modern cottages on stilts (PhP2,500, 5-8-pax).

Tent city

Cheska and Bryan start setting up the tent with Kyle looking on

We opted to stay in the latter with our tent set up beside it for Kyle to experience his first camping. Jandy and I stayed at the very spartan, treetop height cottage on stilts which had a double bed with mosquito net.  We also had a table with 4 chairs (all are available for free around the island on a first come, first serve basis).

A modern, tree-height cottage on concrete stilts

The cottage interior

For cooking, we brought our own butane gas stove (we have to be careful not to burn any tree as we could be fined). Nearby is a citadel-like tree house said to belong to the island’s owner.

The citadel-like treehouse cottage

Normally, at day’s end, visitors are treated to a stunning sunset along the beach but, as a low pressure area was in the day’s forecast, it was already starting to rain.

Dusk at Potipot Island

This small but pristine and breathtaking beach bumming paradise, also known as the Little Boracay of the North, has shores surrounded by creamy white sand (the island’s name is derived from the native words puti po meaning “it’s white”), and turquoise blue water and offshore coral.

Potipot’s white sand beach

A good beach camping destination, it also has a lush array of trees to provide much-needed shade.  The different kinds of trees found here, some with roots extending out to the water, include mahogany, talisay, coconut, hanga (an indigenous source of petroleum nut oil), sampaloc, kamachile, guava, mango, duhat, suha, kamias, etc.

Grassy area at the center of the island

The center of the island is a grassy plain with another huge “Isla de Potipot” sign and a children’s playground.

Second Isla de Potipot sign

Children’s playground

There’s no potable water source in Potipot so we bought our water supply at the jump-off. The island has a number of clean and decent public shower rooms and toilets (one conveniently located just across from our cottage) so freshening up wasn’t much of a problem.

Public toilet

However, the water supply can lose pressure if a lot of people are taking a bath at the same time. Lighting on the island is provided by a generator so it is not totally dark at night. They also offer charging services, via solar panels, for any electronic gadget.

Early morning breakfast.  L-R: Cheska, Bryan, Jandy and the author

Kyle sleeping in a hammock we brought and slung between the concrete stilts of our cottage

The stay-in caretakers were friendly and more than willing to help you if you ever need anything. For a minimal fee, we could also ask them to cook our food.

“Leave No Trace Only Footprint” sign

They’re strict about cleaning up and bringing your trash with you when you leave (“Leave No Traces Only Footprints signs are everywhere). Segregated (plastic, leftovers and other waste) waste bins can also be found.

Segregated waste bins

Also nearby is a small sari-sari (convenience) store where we can buy bread, soft drinks, coffee, noodles, bottled water, snacks, canned goods, etc. as well as souvenirs, goggle and other knickknacks. Some vendors also sell foodstuff.  However, to avoid inconvenience, it is still advisable to bring your own food and water when you go there. Liquor or alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

Convenience store

It was sunny the next day (I missed out on the beautiful sunrise) and, after breakfast, we were supposed to hop over to Hermana Menor Island, a 2-hour boat ride away.  However, heavy waves made this impossible.  Instead, Jandy, Bryan, Cheska and Kyle went swimming along the nearby shoreline.

Kyle, Bryan and Cheska savoring the warm, crystal clear waters of the island

Though calm, the crystal clear, warm waters here can get, within a few steps, from knee deep to neck deep.  At the back part of the island (the part not facing the main shore of Zambales), you also have to be careful with sea urchins. Later, Cheska, Bryan and Kyle went kayaking around the island (PhP300/hour).

An array of tandem kayaks for rent

Bryan, Cheska and Kyle try out kayaking

Or my part, I decided to circle the island and my leisurely walk took about 30 mins. On the opposite side of the island, facing the West Philippine Sea, is another campsite for those who want peace and quiet. The sand seems to be finer here and the waters clearer.

Pre-nuptial photo shoot atop a sea wall

A photo booth for couples

Along the way I passed a couple having a pre-nuptial photo shoot. There are also rock formations on the other side of the island (where the sun sets). The famous, iconic driftwood, located in a slightly rocky portion of the beach on the southwestern part, is the site of an obligatory photo shoot for tourists. At the northern side, sea grass are clearly visible underneath the clear waters.

The iconic driftwood, a site for obligatory photo shoots

The feel and ultimate charm of this relatively unknown and undiscovered little gem of an island was like Boracay during its pre-development years. Here, every now and then, you can bathe in its turquoise waters and stroll under its arboreal ceiling without bumping into boisterous tourists.

Hermana Menor Island as seen from Potipot Island

We left the island by noontime, again boarding Joel’s boat for the return trip back to the mainland.  After a late lunch, gain prepared by Bryan, at Joel’s place, we left Uacon by 2:30 PM and proceeded on our return trip back to Manila, making stopovers at the Church of St. Monica in Botolan, a viewpoint in Subic and dinner at a Pancake House outlet along NLEX.  We were back in Manila by 10:30 PM.

Check out “Church of St. Monica


On June 19, 2018, exactly 10 months after our first visit, Cheska and Bryan, with some mountaineering friends, returned to Potipot Island for overnight camping.

Unknown to Cheska, Jandy, Kyle and I, this time with my wife Grace and her officemates, followed suit and stayed in treehouses some distance from their campsite.

That afternoon, during a break in the stormy weather (Typhoon Domeng was in town), Bryan proposed marriage to Cheska, with us in attendance, and she accepted. Watch the heartwarming marriage proposal video here.

The Proposal. Bryan (third from right, with the “Me” shirt) popped the question to Cheska (at right) and she said YES. Kyle (wearing the “?”), between the two, acted as engagement ring bearer. Their friends wore individual lavender (Cheska’s favorite color) each with an individual letter which, when properly bunched together, spelled the words “Will you marry me?”

Isla de Potipot: Brgy. Uacon, Candelaria, Zambales. Mobile numbers: (0905) 456-7243 (Globe) and (0920) 499-9134 (Smart).  Look for Arjay, Jamie or Flor. E-mail: Instagram: Facebook:

How to Get There: To get to Brgy. Uacon, Candelaria by car (a 5-6-hour drive), take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) all the way to the Dau/Mabalacat Exit. For speed and ease of travel, travel the length of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) to the Tipo Exit (the shorter route, through San Fernando – Lubao in Pampanga, passes through narrower roads and congested town centers).  Upon exiting, pass through the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), on to Subic town and then take the national road all the way to Candelaria, passing the towns of Castillejos, San Marcelino, San Narciso, San Felipe, Cabangan, Botolan, Iba, Palauig and Masinloc before Candelaria. 

Sta. Cruz-bound Victory Liner buses also pass by Candelaria, the town just before Sta. Cruz). Get off at the Uacon Barangay Hall and, from there, take a tricycle (or even walk) to the nearest resort or the beach where you can get a boat to Potipot Island.

Guyam Island (Gen. Luna, Surigao del Norte)

Guyam Island

After lunch at Daku Island, we again boarded our respective boats for the short trip to our third and final island in our tour – Guyam Island.  Located just few hundred meters north of Daku Island, this small, 4,300 sq. m. (46,000 sq. ft.) tear-drop shaped island is 84 m. (276 ft.) long, 64 m. (210 ft.) wide and has a 230 m. (750 ft.) long coastline which one can walk leisurely around in a little more than 15 minutes. The island is unpretentious but is equally interesting as Naked and Daku Island.

Check out “Naked Island” and “Daku Island

PDI writer Amadis Ma. Guerrero makes landfall on the island

This picturesque, privately owned island has resident caretakers that collect a PhP10 entrance fee from every visitor. This islet has a small stretch of powdery to coarse, ivory to white sand and is home to a small grove of coconut, talisay (beach almond) and pine trees that have thrived there for years. It also has interesting coral rock formations that are perfect for snorkeling.

The small grove of talisay and coconut trees

The part of the island facing the the Philippine Sea is littered with boulders and hard corals that protect the island from storm surges and from constant tidal terrain movement.

The author walking along the rocky part of the island (photo: Ms. Louise Santianen)

A few meters away from this miniature tropical paradise, tourists can enjoy surfing, fishing and swimming. Supposedly, the island also offers a nice view of the raging surfing waves that Siargao is best known for.

The author doing an Oblation pose …… (photo: Ms. Louise Santianen)

The island, located around 2 kms. (1.2 mi) south-southeast of General Luna municipality, can be seen when you are in General Luna boulevard.

Guyam Island seen from General Luna boulevard

Two to three wooden cottages are available for rent. If you wish to stay overnight, you can pitch your tent for a small fee. Bring your own food and water.

The best feature of the island is its stunning view of the sun setting in the west but we weren’t going to experience this as we had to return to the mainland, just a 10-min. boat ride away. Despite being small, this  island has quite a lot of charm for island lovers.

Siargao Tourism Office: Paseo De Cabuntog, Brgy. Catangnan, Gen. Luna, Siargao Island. Mobile number: (0921) 718-2268 (Ms. Donna Grace T. Estrella – Siargao Tourism Coordinator)

How to Get There: Skyjet Airlines has daily, 100-min. direct flights from Manila (NAIA Terminal 4) to Siargao (Sayak Airport). ETD Manila at 6 AM (M8-421), ETA Siargao at 7:40 AM. Return flights: ET Siargao at 8:10 AM (M8-422), ETD Manila at 9:50 AM.

Skyjet Airlines: Manila Domestic Airport, Parking A, Terminal 4, NAIA Complex, Brgy. 191, Pasay City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 863-1333 and (02) 823-3366. E-mail: Website:

Daku Island (Gen. Luna, Surigao del Norte)

Daku Island

After our short stopover at Naked Island, we again boarded our boats for the short trip to Daku (or Dako) Island, the biggest among the three popular island destinations in Siargao. Named after the Visayan word for “big,” it’s unlike the other two islands (Naked and Guyam Islands) as it is inhabited, with a village of 300 residents, mostly fisherman, grouped in less than a hundred families.

Check out “Naked Island” and “Guyam Island

This unheard of paradise, with its cool vibe and breathtaking, picturesque scenery, has one of the finest best beaches in the Philippines, with a long, powdery white sand beach sprinkled with countless tall coconut trees (the best sweet-tasting fresh coconuts are a-plenty here) and surrounded by superb crystalline waters. Seaweeds are non-existent here. Locals also say that the beach area changes every season.

Our boodle lunch

The island was our longest stopover as we were to experience a boodle lunch, prepared by Chris G. Estrella (husband of Siargao Tourism Coordinator Donna Grace T. Estrella) of Mayambago Catering Services. The fare included grilled chicken, squid, tambakol (yellow fin tuna), ganga (spider conch) and hot dogs; steamed rice; and a dessert of ripe mangoes, bananas and sliced watermelon; all washed down with fresh buko juice and soft drinks. For a first timer like me, the cleanliness of the place was etched in my memory and I found it unbelievable at how the locals managed to maintain the place, with no plastic or other waste materials scattered along the beach.

The two huts we occupied

With its fine white sand, very clean surroundings and pretty cool winds coming from the Pacific Ocean, I was enticed to swim in such a place. The island is also ideal for surfing. During the amihan (southwesterly wind), there are fun right-hander that breaks during large swells.  Its waves, small and great for beginners, break on the protected eastern side of the island.

Aside from swimming, other activities on the island include snorkeling (around the southern end of the island), fishing, skim boarding, beach bumming and kayaking (you can rent a double kayak at an affordable price and kayak as long as you want).

Ideal for a family or group picnics, you can rent a centerpiece cottage lined up on the western side of the gorgeous beach for a day for PhP250. For PhP50/kg. cooking fee, you can also have your rice and fish cooked for you. Additionally, tourists and visitors alike can experience the cool vibe and island culture as well as feel the serenity and tranquility of the place with an overnight stay in simple beachfront native huts for as low as PhP700.

Keep in mind, though, that there is no electricity on the island. The community has a tiny chapel, a small community center, a day-care center but no commercial establishments (just a single, small sari-sari store where you could buy some snacks and drinks). Still, secluded Daku Island is certainly a truly wonderful destination to visit.  For me, it is even more beautiful than Boracay Island (minus the maddening crowd and the hustle and bustle of city life), making it a perfect getaway for those who want to have an unspoiled vacation.

Siargao Tourism Office: Paseo De Cabuntog, Brgy. Catangnan, Gen. Luna, Siargao Island. Mobile number: (0921) 718-2268 (Ms. Donna Grace T. Estrella – Siargao Tourism Coordinator)

How to Get There: Skyjet Airlines has daily, 100-min. direct flights from Manila (NAIA Terminal 4) to Siargao (Sayak Airport). ETD Manila at 6 AM (M8-421), ETA Siargao at 7:40 AM. Return flights: ET Siargao at 8:10 AM (M8-422), ETD Manila at 9:50 AM.

Skyjet Airlines: Manila Domestic Airport, Parking A, Terminal 4, NAIA Complex, Brgy. 191, Pasay City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 863-1333 and (02) 823-3366. E-mail: Website:

Naked Island (Gen. Luna, Surigao del Norte)

Naked Island

After our short visit to the Cloud Nine boardwalk at Gen. Luna, we again boarded our respective vans as we were scheduled to go on an island hopping tour sponsored by Surigao del Norte District I Cong. Francisco Jose “Bingo” Matugas II.  When we arrived at the port, we had to wade the shallow water, as it was low tide, to get to our two motorized outrigger boats moored some distance away.

General Luna Port at low tide

Offshore are the three white sand islands we were to visit – Naked Island, Daku Island (the biggest of the three) and Guyam Island (the tiniest).Once on board, we proceeded on our 25-min. boat ride to our first destination – Naked Island.

Check out “Daku Island” and “Guyam Island

A lone palm tree amidst sparse vegetation

Also called Pansukian Island, Naked Island is, in fact, only a bare, 200 m. long sandbar with no trees (just some occasional patches of bushes), no structures (save for a wooden bench), no nothing. It’s just a tiny speck of pristine, powdery white sand (with some patches of rock) in the horizon, surrounded by a deeper, crystal-clear lagoon between the blue sky and the turquoise sea, similar to the more famous White Island of Camiguin, only smaller. And, just like White Island, this sandbar also changes positions depending on the tide.

Check out “White Island

Patches of rock on the island

It was a good thing we arrived during low tide as this island submerges significantly during high tide.   With not a single tree in sight for you to rest under, Naked Island is a perfect place to get a tan without getting bugged by the crowd (though some take the “naked”” in the name too literally by posing naked). However, attempts have been made to green the island as some plants have now been growing in the sand.

Daku Island seen from Naked Island

For those afraid of getting a sunburn, it is advisable that you visit the island early in the morning to somehow avoid the peak of the sun’s heat. If you intend to stay longer, bring your own beach umbrellas, sunscreen lotion and mattresses. You can actually own Naked Island for a day and do whatever you like by actually renting it but you have to reserve it ahead of time.

L-R: Ms. Donna Grace T. Estrella (Siargao Tourism Coordinator), Mr. Donald Tapan (noted photographer) and the author

Aside from swimming with a school of fish, snorkeling and sunbathing, you can also take pictures of migratory birds such as terns who frequent the island or or just relax by the shore, with a book and a tall, cold glass of juice, while enjoying the great view of the neighboring islands. Additionally, it is also a perfect spot for surfing because of the large waves.

The author, with Mr. Pete Dacuycuy, seated on the lone wooden structure on the island

Siargao Tourism Office: Paseo De Cabuntog, Brgy. Catangnan, Gen. Luna, Siargao Island. Mobile number: (0921) 718-2268 (Ms. Donna Grace T. Estrella – Siargao Tourism Coordinator).

How to Get There: Skyjet Airlines has daily, 100-min. direct flights from Manila (NAIA Terminal 4) to Siargao (Sayak Airport). ETD Manila at 6 AM (M8-421), ETA Siargao at 7:40 AM. Return flights: ET Siargao at 8:10 AM (M8-422), ETD Manila at 9:50 AM.

Skyjet Airlines: Manila Domestic Airport, Parking A, Terminal 4, NAIA Complex, Brgy. 191, Pasay City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 863-1333 and (02) 823-3366. E-mail: Website:

CYC Beach (Coron, Palawan)

CYC Beach

CYC Beach

After lunch at Atwayan Beach, we again boarded our boat and proceeded on to our next destination – CYC Island, a part of the Coron Island Ultimate Tour we availed of from Asia Gran View Hotel.  From our boat, we had to alight into the waist-high and clear waters of the sea and walk, a little way, to the island’s beach.

Approching CYC Island

Approching CYC Island

Guests are advised to put on booties and be extra careful walking as there are rocks under the water and they may injure their feet.  Although there were other tourists already there, the beach was not too crowded.

Cheska, Kyle and Jandy land on the beach

Cheska, Kyle and Jandy land on the beach

CYC, short for Coron Youth Club, is the only free beach in the area.  Other beaches charge a PhP100 entrance fee (Coron’s islands are jokingly called the “Hundred Islands”). The island’s beach sand is white (though not as white as Banol’s and the other beaches in Coron) and its surrounding waters are crystal clear.


Kyle playing in the sand

There were also some rock formations and beautiful mangrove trees located all over the island but guests are discouraged to go there by the guides due to the possible presence of stonefish partly hidden in the sand. There are also sea urchins and sea snakes (locally known as walo-walo).

Some of the mangroves surrounding the island

Some of the mangroves surrounding the island

Being a public beach, I expected the beach to be dirty but, surprisingly, it was clean. Its long, shallow sand approach makes it ideal for kids to swim in and its water temperature is perfectly lukewarm.  The sea breeze adds to the memorable experience.  Two dogs were serenely watching us as Kyle played with the sand.

The island's two resident dogs

The island’s two resident dogs

The dogs were said to have come from the opposite island, swimming back and forth before the day ends. The monkey who used to live here is already dead.  The wide beach has a division as part of its white sand was said to have been illegally quarried by a politician for his private beach, thus deforming the island’s beach.

View of the main island from CYC Beach

View of the main island from CYC Beach

The island has no cottages but the area is suitable for camping (just bring your own tent, food and water). Go there when it’s off season so you can get the most out of it. If you love snorkeling, you will love this beach as well.

A tangle of mangrove roots

A tangle of mangrove roots

There’s not much sea life in the shallows, with just a few sporadic clown fishes, but there’s some very good snorkeling farther off, in deeper water, to a coral forest on the reef to the east of this pretty beach. Here, you will find beautiful colorful coral walls and much sea life.  If you’re a non-diver, you can have your Discover Scuba Skills Test here.


CYC Beach, great for a swim and relaxation, is still good for a 30-minute to 1-hour stay even if you are not into snorkeling or camping.

The author at CYC Beach

The author at CYC Beach

Asia Grand View Hotel: Governor’s Ave., Jolo, Brgy. 5, Coron, Palawan.  Tel:(+632) 788-3385. Mobile number: (0999) 881-7848. E-mail: Manila sales office: Unit 504, Richmonde Plaza, 21 San Miguel Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City.  Tel: (+632) 695-3078 and 531-8380.  Mobile number: (0917) 550-7373 to 75 Fax: (+632) 695-3078.  E-mail: Website:

Seven Commando Beach (El Nido, Palawan)

Seven Commando Beach

Seven Commando Beach

The last part of our Island Tour A was to be spent at the picturesque and very laid back Seven Commando Beach which boasts the clearest beach waters in El Nido. Accessible only by boat, it is called as such because, a long time ago, seven soldiers (others say 7 fishermen) were stranded on the island. According to locals, their names can be seen printed on the rocks here.

Picnic huts along the beach

Picnic huts along the beach

Store selling food and drinks

Store selling food and drinks

Ideal for swimming, beach volleyball, silhouette shots or just beach bumming, it has fine and clean but a little coarse white sands, turquoise clear waters, calm waves (very nice for snorkeling and swimming), fabulous rock formations and coconut trees.Despite having a souvenir shop, a stall that sells quite pricey smoothies, water, alcoholic drinks (beer, pina coladas, mango daiquiris, etc.)and food (chips and bananacue), and a restroom facility in this area, the wide, clean and white beach still retains its natural charm.

Swinging hammock

Swinging hammock

Sunset at Seven Commando Beach

Sunset at Seven Commando Beach

For those who are not into swimming, you can just lounge around and have very refreshing halo-halo on a coconut shell (PhP150), fruit shakes, fresh coconuts (PhP50) and other thirst quenching refreshments at the store while enjoying the view, especially during sunset time. There is also a swinging hammock seat and sheltered beach tables which can be used for free.

The author (third from left) with, L-R, Meng, Osang and Melissa

The author (third from left) with, L-R, Meng, Osang and Melissa

Also within this beach is the 4-room Vellagio’s Resort which opened last January 2015. Full moon parties are held on this island in February. As the beach is only a 10-min. boat ride from the mainland, it is sometimes the first stop on the island hopping tour as it gets really crowded by beach bums in the afternoon.

Secret Lagoon (El Nido, Palawan)


Boats parked offshore during low tide

Boats parked offshore during low tide

After lunch at Star Beach, we again boarded our motorized outrigger boat for Secret Lagoon, a part of Island Tour A. As it was low tide, our boat docked some distance from the shore of a white sand beach lined with coconut palms beneath a massive and towering limestone cliff face.  Alighting our boat, we had the choice of carefully wading on top of sharp rocks (aqua shoes highly recommended) or be pulled by our guides while floating on a life jacket. Most chose the latter while I did the former.

Being pulled to shore by our guides while floating on a life jacket

Being pulled to shore by our guides while floating on a life jacket

We came ashore a very beautiful beach, with huge alien-like limestone formations surrounding it, offering you majestic views of the open water between the cliffs and a peek of Shimizu Island. To the left of the beach is a huge cliff with a small opening.  That, my friends, was the entrance to the Secret Lagoon, also known as Hidden Lagoon of Miniloc Island.

The beautiful palm-lined white sand beach

The beautiful palm-lined white sand beach

Some of the huge alien-like limestone formations

Some of the huge alien-like limestone formations

During high tide, it might be impossible to access the Secret Lagoon as, due to safety reasons, tourists might bump their heads on the sharp rocks of the tiny opening while swimming through it.

Entering the Secret Lagoon via a small opening

Entering the Secret Lagoon via a small opening

Fortunately, since it was low tide, the opening was now above the water so we didn’t have to swim through it. We just had to carefully crawl in or twist our body, like a pretzel, into the Secret Lagoon, making it the trickiest attraction of the day to get into. The water leading to the lagoon was shallow, so we were extra careful with the sharp rocks and corals to avoid scrapes and wounds.

Limestone cliffs surrounding the Secret Lagoon

Limestone cliffs surrounding the Secret Lagoon

Once through, we were mesmerized by the majestic limestone rock formations and cliffs surrounding it, its shadows making the temperature inside much cooler. As it was low tide, swimming was not enticing since the stagnant water was quite murky. The water inside looked shallow, but it gets deeper as you go farther so we didn’t dare. As it’s quite small, there’s not much to inside. For the adventurous, there’s a small passageway meters deep into the water where one can deep dive into.

Posing inside the Secret Lagoon

Group posing inside the Secret Lagoon

However, we just posed beneath the massive, quite photogenic cliffs then left as there were lots of tourists waiting in the wings. It’s hard to consider the lagoon a secret with dozens of other tourists milling around you. To avoid the crowds, pay a bit extra and go later in the day. However, its adjacent, quieter white sand beach is one great spot for swimming and snorkeling.

Star Beach (El Nido, Palawan)

Star Beach

Back to the wharf, we again boarded our boat for the short trip to the simple yet pretty Star Beach, a small, secluded area of white sand nestled between two large rock outcroppings. It was named Star Beach because this is the place in El Nido where you can find a lot of blue starfish. Unfortunately, I didn’t even see one.

Star Beach

Star Beach

Star Beach (8)

Located on one side of the narrow Tapiutan Strait, the relatively small Star Beach is nothing remarkable.  However, it offered rest and yes, food! Here, we had lunch of grilled fish, squid and chicken; steamed crab and fruits (pineapple, bananas and water melon).

Star Beach (7)

An overhang, over a small cave, offered us protection from the noontime sun. Star Beach offered good photographic opportunities, with the towering limestone formation as a background, and the place is also good for snorkeling just a few meters off the beach without walking over sharp rocks to see different corals and plenty of species of colorful little fish and other marine life from its vast reef.

Star Beach (26)

After lunch, we floated around the clear crystal blue-green waters. It was oh-so relaxing! The place can be littered with boats on peak season.

Matinloc Shrine (El Nido, Palawan)

Matinloc Island

Matinloc Island

The next day, we commenced with our resort-sponsored grandiose Combination Tour A and C, an island-hopping tour, boarding a big outrigger boat from Las Cabanas Beach, a 5-min. walk or 69 steps down the hill from the resort. Set on a headland, the beach offers a panoramic view of the lush and lovely outlying islands we were to visit, the first of which was the heart-shaped Matinloc Island.  It got its name from the native (Cuyunin) word matinlo which means maganda in Filipino or “beautiful” in English.

Las Cabanas Beach

Las Cabanas Beach

On our way .....

On our way …..

The weather that day was pleasant and the waves were gentler than usual. Along the way, we passed by several islands.  Upon arrival, we docked our boat at a small concrete pier.  Matinloc Island has gorgeous limestone cliffs, beautiful white sand beaches and a shrine to Our Lady of Matinloc, inaugurated and blessed on May 31, 1993, the Feast of Our Lady of Matinloc.

Making landfall

Making landfall


The concrete landing dock

The concrete landing dock

The dome-shaped shrine, with 12 columns, has an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a cross on a circular altar.  This may sound kind of strange but this isolated, remote island also has a small “museum.” Inside this said museum are photos and newspaper clippings that explain the history of Matinloc Shrine, how it was built, and the miracles that supposedly occurred in the area after the shrine was constructed.

Matinloc Shrine

Matinloc Shrine

The author at Matinloc Shrine

The author inside Matinloc Shrine

Beside the shrine are the ruins of the mansion of religious El Nido resident Jablon Fernadez, said to be a lodging facility for pilgrims.  It was abandoned to rot due to, according to different accounts by the islanders, lack of funds, family quarrels, broken heart, charges of tax evasion, etc..  Only debris and some toilet fixtures were left inside and a stainless water tank outside.

Ruins of the abandoned nunnery

Ruins of the abandoned mansion

White sand beach behind the shrine

White sand beach behind the shrine

Some of the walls were demolished by scavengers to get the door jambs but a number of window jambs, with their glass panels still intact, remain.  However, its abandonment seems to add to the overall appeal of this mysterious place. Still, I hope that the ruins would be put into adaptive reuse and be functional.

The view deck

The view deck

The long queue

The long queue

We also climbed up a stair-like path, up a steep limestone cliff with sharp craggy outcrops, to a vantage point bordered by sharp, towering limestone rock faces. Here, we had a panoramic view of some of the limestone cliffs of the island, other nearby islands and beaches and the clear, blue waters of the Matinloc Channel. The awe-inspiring view and the great photo op, by itself, makes this island stop worthwhile.  We didn’t long here as there was a queue of visitors waiting for us to get down.

View from a crack in the rocks

View from a crack in the rocks

Another view from the top

Another view from the top

The Resort Bayview Hotel El Nido: Sitio Marimegmeg, Brgy. Corong-Corong, El Nido, 5313, Palawan.  Tel: + 66(0) 76 281 406. Fax: + 66(0) 76 384 369. Mobile numbers: (0915) 250-7368 (Globe) and (0920) 975-8690. E-mail: Website: