The small island of Pamilacan, 12 km from the main Bohol, will be our secluded stay for the next days. Measuring less than 2 km in length and width, about 1,000 inhabitants live here.
Our cargo ferry from Argao (Cebu) docked at Tagbilaran port around 3pm, on the southeastern coast of Bohol. From here we take a taxi to Baclayon pier some 10km away: here we are supposed to meet our host who will take us to Pamilacan island with his bangka, outrigger boat. Unfortunately the weather is not by our side, wind has risen strongly. We meet Junior and his crew, they made it to Bohol but they say it is not possible to go back to Pamilacan today as the sea is too wavy for his boat. They kindly address us to a travellers’ hotel in town, while they will have to spend the night on the boat! We are quite sad to lose one night on the island, we were already dreaming to be there!
Luckily in the morning the wind has calmed down, even though the open sea is still a little bit rough. We are already in our swimsuit, we don’t mind some water sprays! After a bit more than 1 hour sailing, we reach lovely Pamilacan, the approach is wonderful and we fall in love with this place the moment we step on its gorgeous beach.
Junior, the father, introduces us to his big family: his wife Nemesia and their 5 children Samfornie, Krista, Nova, Noveno and Baby Jane. All of them help with the family business, on the bangkas when fishing or dolphin-watching, in the dining area for meals, and assisting the customers in every need. In addition we also meet Melvin, a German man with Filipino background, who has recently moved to Cebu to start a new life. Nemesia shows us our cottage, one of the nine in their property: we are located straight on the beach 10 meters from the sea! It is nicely decorated with sea-shells, walls and floor are traditionally built using 100% bamboo and nipa, there are two beds with mosquito-nets, and an attached bathroom: there’s no running water, but we will soon learn how to deal with the water bucket and actually save liters of water everytime we shower!
Our first activity on Pamilacan is covering its whole perimeter on foot, which takes a couple of hours: it’s a very interesting stroll, encircled by an enchanting view.
At the beginning we walk the only path through the island to avoid the rocky coast, as we go past locals’ homes we realize that freedom reigns on the island: no fences, no gates, animals are free to wonder around (cocks, pigs, cats and dogs, cows), and also no cars, no traffic, no hotels, no internet… Just peace! There’s one school, one church, and of course we see a basketball court too!
Today it’s Sunday, day of rest and holiday, the main event on Pamilacan is the cock fight! We head up on the hill, there’s the island cock-pit. Men bring their fighting cocks, they get together and discuss very seriously whether a fight can take place or not, there are proper rules that must apply i.e. similar sizes, age, weight. When a match is approved, money starts flowing around, together with beer.
The fight itself is quite bloody, the cocks are laced with sharp blades on their toes, and there’s no end without a death. We attend to two fights that last a few minutes each, but we are told that during high season, when Pamilacan is busier with tourists and locals who return from Manila, there can be way more. Junior tells us that at the moment only between 600-900 people are on the island, while from January the number can rise up to 2.000. As for now we are the only two foreigners, we feel even more special to be here.
At sunset we enjoy a relaxing open air massage, which are very popular in here and in the Philippines generally, they are also cheaper than in Vietnam. After dinner we lay on the beach to admire the sky full of stars: with no lights around we can see the Milky-Way to the naked eye!
DOLPHINS, WHALES, SEA TURTLES!
On our second day we wake up at dawn, the best time to go dolphin-watching. Junior and one of his staff bring us in open sea on their bangka.
The water isn’t as placid as we wished, for the first half hour we can’t spot anything, until all of a sudden we see a few dolphins quickly swimming not far from us. As Junior stops the boat in order to quietly get closer, he points to some pilot-whales who have joined us on the other side! These whales are similar in size to dolphins, they are darker almost black, and they move more slowly up and down in the water, which makes them more appreciable than the sneaky dolphins who swam away rapidly. We spend some minutes among them in complete silence, the only sounds are the waves clashing and the pilot-whales puffing, some incredible moments of pure beauty.
Time on this island seems apparent, people wake up and go to sleep following the sun, they go fishing, feed their livestock, fix their bangkas when they need it, or just relax and enjoy life when they don’t, a really stress-less life style to our eyes, based on dedication and gratitude for what nature offers.
Unluckily our time in Pamilacan has flown quickly, after we lost the first night due to the bad weather. In the morning Junior together with his daughter Krista and Melvin, will take us one last time on his bangka back to Bohol, then a ferry will get us from Tagbilaran to Cebu (where we were last week), we have a flight to Palawan scheduled in the afternoon.
WHERE TO STAY:
- Junior&Nemesia’s Cottages, Pamilacan Island: sweet traditional Filipino cottages on the beach with sea-view, the best hosting by the Pingkian family with fresh meals and activities everyday. Pick up&drop off by boat from Bohol, for more info check their website and Facebook page;
- Check these options in Tagbilaran city in case you need to spend one night there.
HOW TO REACH BOHOL AND PAMILACAN:
- Cargo ferry boat from Argao (Cebu) to Tagbilaran (Bohol), 3h30, leaving reportedly at 4am and 12 daily; 200pesos/person; for more info check here;
- Fast ferry from Tagbilaran (Bohol) to Cebu city, 2hrs, several departures, follow link;
- Taxi from Tagbilaran port to Baclayon pier, 200 pesos;
- Pick up&drop off to/from Pamilacan by Junior, 1 hour;
- Flight Cebu-Palawan, Cebu Pacific or Air Asia, 1h15m, from 25$/person.
- Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.