aroundcuyo06

Around Cuyo

Fishing early in the morning at the coastline

The Cuyo Loop

Cuyo is in blue


In October of 2006, I visited the remote islands of Cuyo and Culion in Palawan for a photography assignment and passed Negros and Iloilo in transit. This is my account of that journey. This is the 6th of a series.

Be careful of what you wish for, it might come true. For many years, Cuyo is a fascination. A sprinkling of islets between Panay and Northern Palawan, I have wondered many times about its isolation, its people and the rich religious cultural heritage found on its soil.

It all started way back more than a decade ago when I used to collect butterflies. There was a specific subspecies that can only be found in this island and I was struck by the thought of the possibility of this very remote island with its undescribed and unique species for my discovery.

Over the years, I switched to beetles, got interested with Spanish colonial history and with it the old churches and fortresses followed by a sense of adventure and travel. Cuyo’s tug became all the more greater. With the church project, I finally realized visiting these isles, albeit briefly.

I was not able to go around much except spend a week at the town proper, Magsaysay and an overnight stay in Agutaya, another island before proceeding to Culion since I have to wait 4 days for the next trip to Palawan. Because of the short stop, I vowed to come back again some other time. And longer.


At the town center.

Cuyo is a municipality of Palawan with a total population of around 18,000 (census 2000) dispersed in 17 barangays with its own language. Fishing and agriculture are the main industry and top products are coconuts/copra and cashew. Life here is slow paced and bucolic. The main town center is quite small that walking through its streets can be accomplished in just a few hours.

Modern houses mix with the old and while electricity is present, when I was there, power is every other day. Not really much can be done here but if you want to just relax, want simple joys, fresh seafood and willing to forego modern amenities, this is a good place. Communication is not a problem here as mobile services c/o Smart, is available. Internet via satellite is also present but when I was there, it was not just working.


Sandy beach in the afternoon.

Beaches, white sandy shores, shallow and deep waters, wild birds, the gentle breezes and familiar sound of the waves is everywhere. Even near the pier and a few meters walk from the inn I stayed at and I was already bathing at the pristine waters located at a tongue of white sand.

Here, there is a good view of the town dominated by its fortress church at one side while the rest of the island with its sloping mountain can be seen at the other. It’s so cooling and soothing. A stone’s throw where I was at, and a flock of marine birds were scouring the sand and waters for food.


Sand, sea and sky.

Because of its location, these group of islands offer the tourist and diver unparalleled raw sea adventure. Raw in a sense that the beaches and spots are undeveloped. For the adventurer wanting to experience very out of the way places and weary of the usual beach party venues, this is the place to go. Speaking of resorts, Amanpulo, ultra high end, ultra exclusive and ultra expensive is in one of the islets in this municipality.


Fresh seafood anyone?

Think of cheap and fresh seafood and Cuyo has it. Very rich marine grounds where fishers from different parts of the Visayas and Palawan come. Early each morning (next post) fishermen come to the shore to trawl the shallow waters while some arrive from other islands with bigger catch.


Woman drying grain near the municipal hall.

Cuyo is quite remote. The best time to go is during the dry season as the sea is very treacherous especially when typhoons and bad weather systems affect the country. Transit points are either via Iloilo or Puerto Princesa. When traveling here, bring a basic first aid kit and one’s medications as the hospital is not that well equipped. Food is cheap, however.

While there are inns (the one I stayed in is airconditioned and popular with travelers and businessmen and provide a generator if power is not available) I think it is possible to arrange with the mayor for a homestay.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

14 Comments

  1. Oman
    June 27, 2008 @ 13:53

    The last time I was in Palawan was three years ago. I definitely want to go back there again sometime next year. I just have to find at least a four-day window. Great shots as always Estan.

  2. donG hO
    June 29, 2008 @ 16:29

    astig ng sand, sea sky shot. maganda din ang kuha mo sa mga isda. talagang ganun lang kadali kausapin ang mayor! kakatuwa naman at nakaka enganyo bumisita dyan pag ganyan ang mayor.

  3. Liezeil
    August 25, 2008 @ 14:48

    The sand, sea and sky is stunning. The silhouette of the island there is that of Agutaya, my hometown…

  4. estan
    August 27, 2008 @ 20:01

    oman, Palawan, while still pulling the tourist crowd still a great place to get lost in.

    Liezeil, Agutaya pala yan! 🙂

  5. Liezeil
    August 30, 2008 @ 15:29

    Yup

  6. norahd
    September 7, 2008 @ 14:01

    Hello Estan! Its me again.

    There are two things I cannot forget when I went to Cuyo. One, water is very scarce. Second: its the plane I took going to Cuyo from Manila.I went to the (old) domestic airport and proceeded to terminal of Pacific Air. When I entered the building, I noticed that there were two people (Japanese) sitting in the waiting area. Ooopss, I must be in the wrong place i told myself. Is this the terminal? After a short while, a lady asked me to check in na. So, it is the terminal!

    After checking in, i did some moving around the terminal for a look and see. I happened to enter one door and voila – I saw these small planes parked near the terminal. Whooaa- my immediate thought was – these must be the planes that students from PATS (old name) are experimenting on! I was excited to see them up close.

    Then the boarding call – what do you know?!?! We were to board one of the small planes…. uh uh… really? Oh wow.. are you sure?

    Ha ha ha.. it was exciting! I boarded the small plane just the same. (thank goodness I have a life insurance). Nakakatuwa, para akong nakasakay sa toy plane.

    Maraming nakakatuwa during that flight, like the pilot opening the window para we have some air, kasi maiinit, la aircon eh. Then I have to put my backpack sa lap ko kasi talagan walang space to put it(mas spacious pa ang kotse). Then we landed in one airport(i dont know where) where I asked the pilot kung talagang airport yun – kasi parang kalsada lang. When we landed I said – oopps oopps, bakod na mr. pilot, brake na! nyaahaha

  7. estan
    September 8, 2008 @ 15:12

    norahd, that’s one hell of an experience that I would want also and write about it! 🙂

    The smallest plane I got into was Seair’s and really, not as crazy and exciting as yours.

  8. Ariel
    April 10, 2009 @ 14:27

    Hi Im planning to visit Cuyo in January am just wondering if you still have the Inns number in cuyo. Thank you so much

  9. estan
    April 10, 2009 @ 16:17

  10. Planning at trip to Cuyo, Palawan Speedlinking – 04/10
    April 3, 2010 @ 12:01

    […] Around Cuyo […]

  11. » Langyaw #02: Cuyo | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    December 15, 2010 @ 23:56

    […] new issue of Langyaw as a downloadable PDF e-magazine The town of Cuyo, a remote municipality of Palawan, between this province and Panay Island, north of the Sulu Sea […]

  12. » End of the Cuyo Loop | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    March 18, 2012 @ 22:54

    […] at seeing the brick wonder of Cabatuan church. After many years of yearning, I have finally visited Cuyo, discovered Agutaya, endured a scary boat trip going there, took MV Catalyn D eight months before […]

  13. Lheajane Socrates
    August 29, 2013 @ 2:14

    Hello sir! Thank you for visiting our place. Whenever I feel homesick, I just visit your site and look at your photos. It’s been four years since I left Cuyo to study here in Manila. More power to you sir and continue capturing those beautiful images 🙂

  14. estancabigas
    August 29, 2013 @ 9:54

    Thanx Lheajane, I’m actually planning of going back there and stay longer pero wala pa final plans. baka next year or before the year ends.

    Estan

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