Friday, January 1, 2010

White islands hopping in southern Philippines

We've scratched out Boracay from our list of must-revisit places.  The second trip turned us off.  The white sand beach was still there but we felt something has gone wrong with the environment and eerily, that the island is ruined forever. 

We have just gone to the white island off the town of Jasaan, Misamis Oriental and it's worth revisiting with a picnic box and snorkeling gears.   Jasaan is about an hour and a half drive from Cagayan de Oro, and the boat ride from the old shipbuilding port to the island takes less than an hour.

There's an army outpost on the island that serves as a lighthouse at night, but its primary purpose is to protect the farm of endangered giant clams (Tridacna gigas, taklobo to Visayans and mel-let to Ilocanos).  They're being raised for their preservation.  These came all the way from Bolinao in Pangasinan where a similar farm is also being maintained by the UP Institute of Marine Sciences.  We asked if there had been poachers because we read about the theft of the clams in Bolinao sometime in 2009.  We were told a couple had been stolen sometime ago too.

The white island farm was very shallow--knee-high--during our visit. While we could see the taklobos, it was best to don the snorkeling gear for a close-up look of the blueish and greenish flesh and the gaping round mouth of the giant clams.  Folk stories about pearl divers came to mind, but we did not see any precious stone resting on a giant clam flesh. 

We wore wading shoes because there were plenty of sea urchins.  There were long seaworms too that we thought at first were sea snakes.  We were cautioned that these are itchy so we contented ourselves with holding up blue and orange starfishes for close-up photographs.  It was just too bad we did not have a discardable underwater camera for the close-ups of the worms and the taklobos.

During the last Holy Week, we spent one morning swimming at the white island off Camiguin. It was a very short boat ride away.  This was the marine counterpoint to our holiday of hot and cold spring water pools in the big island.

No hotel or a cottage has been built to destroy the pristine beauty of this island.  People go there for sheer enjoyment of the swim in clear shallow waters or a nap on very clean, properly maintained white sand beach.  Very un-Boracay!

A couple of years ago, our very good friend in Cebu City brought us by speedboat from Alegria town of Cebu to the Manjuyod (Negros Oriental) white sand bar in the middle of North Bais Bay.  It was not a short trip from Alegria, and thinking about it now, it would be more convenient for revisiting the place from Manjuyod itself if ever we go to Dumaguete City.

We remember the cottages on the sand bar and the myriad of sea life in the shallow waters.  We rented one of them for the lunch picnic, and we read lately that there are carboys of fresh water to buy for the rinsing after a good swim.  There are no comfort amenities in the cottages and that means one must have a very healthy stomach before embarking on a trip to the Manjuyod white sand bar.

It's a dream at the moment but hopping on these three white islands would be a quality family-oriented un-Boracay trip during the summer.  And that's our third wish list items for friends and readers in 2010.


  1. I have never been to Boracay and will never intend to go there. Thanks for visiting some of the beautiful places in northern Mindanao. There's more to this southern Philippine island than the usual circus stuff one sees/hears on TV.

  2. I like your blog post.:D I actually enjoyed reading it. :D Hope you'll get to stay longer in Cagayan de Oro and tour around the city. :)