Scary transit to Agutaya

Categories The Loop
The pumpboat that took me from Cuyo to Agutaya island.
The pumpboat that took me from Cuyo to Agutaya island.

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 9th of a series

What a weird name! was my reaction the first time I heard about Agutaya Is. from my Palawan based company mates way back a few years ago. They were in-charge of the relay station/cellsite located in this very remote area. When I learned that there was another fortress church in this island, I immediately decided to travel there since I still have a few more days in Cuyo before my departure for Coron. Good thing that there was a pump boat that will be leaving for the island in the afternoon that I made arrangements to ride them.

It was already 3 o’clock that the boat departed for the three hour trip to Agutaya. The weather was good, sunny blue skies and the waters peaceful. An hour after the trip, the seas started to get rough as we approached open water. Scenes of islands and azure waters were quite stunning but unfortunately, as the waves and wind were rather strong and sprays of water entered, I placed my camera inside my bag and then wrapped it in plastic so that it won’t get wet. Waves continued to get stronger that the trip was kind of nauseating as I continued to get wet from the watersprays.

Six o’clock came and I can already see the trace of Agutaya from a distance. From a distance? By that time we were supposed to have been at the shores of the town but there we were, still at sea. I soon learned that because of the waves, the trip was extended and we will be arriving probably past 6:30 pm or even 7! Six thirty came and went. By that time, it was already dark outside. The island is now a silhouette and lamps from the few houses at the shore were lighted. Feeling hungry, I was munching on some biscuits that I brought with me.

The small banca that I took to shore.
The small banca that I took to shore.

It was already a few minutes past 7 PM when we were already in the vicinity of the shore of the town. A sigh of relief at last until I was told that since it’s low tide already, the boat can’t dock. What! I was just so tired and hungry and a bit wet and the boat can’t dock? The wind was strong as the boat rocked from side to side and there I was sitting at the center of a wooden plank that was my seat for the past four hours. A few minutes later, I was informed that they are arranging a banca to fetch me and bring me to shore.

Thirty minutes past and a small banca finally came, surprising me with its size. When I was finally seated, I noticed that the line of the water and the rim of the small vessel was just a few inches off. With the strong waves and wind, I was just scared that water might come in and submerge it! Though the shore was near, it was still a good distance and the surroundings dark. No strong lights but a few fluorescent lamps’ glow from the few houses beyond the shore. As we navigated slowly, I was just praying that nothing untoward will happen.

Fortunately enough, we came safely to shore. So much relieved I was that after around five minutes and before leaving, I opened my bag, took my camera and got a shot of the small banca (above).

Agutaya hotel
Agutaya "hotel"

This trip was just full of surprises. When I saw this kubo (hut) and was told that this will be where I will spend the night, I was just amused but held out laughing out loud as the owner was just beside me! P30! That’s less than a dollar per night and you’ve got this airy hut! Hahahaha!

"Hotel" quarters
"Hotel" quarters

Electricity is not 24 hours in Agutaya. That’s why, after being told that power will be cut off in a while, I ordered meals, took a bath from a deep water well under the pale yellow light of an incandescent lamp and fixed my things. Above, woven mat placed atop the narrow bed made from split bamboo. A single hard pillow and a small blanket completes my bed.

What's dinner?
What's dinner?

A plateful of rice and canned luncheon meat cooked with scrambled eggs and a glass of waterΒ  completes my meal. No fork here. I was just so hungry that I consumed all. Call me a clean plate hero! Also found atop the table, my beloved SE K700i and a pack of wet tissues.

Lion - tiger katol: patay ang lamok
Where's the lion? - tiger katol: patay ang lamok

The simple can be a surprise, the challenges an experience.And the last surprise before calling it a night, Tiger – Katol, anti mosquito coils. What happened to the lion? Hehehehe… When I was a child, we used to burn these to ward off mosquitos before sleeping. The brand name was Lion Tiger Katol with the same color, design and motif as the one above but with a photo of a lion and tiger facing each other, growling inside the white ellipse at front. It just made me smile.

Looking back, this trip was quite scary especially the banca ride. For a few minutes, I have never been so fearful in my life! But then, overcoming it and encountering these surprises, just made it a great day. That’s the beauty of travel especially in places way out into the boondocks. The simple can be a surprise, the challenges an experience.

And you just have to stop and enjoy the beach.

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).

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. Open for work, collaborations and inquiries for site features.

57 thoughts on “Scary transit to Agutaya

  1. Hey Estan,

    Were you able to shoot the fortress church in Agutaya?

    Your travel blog about Cuyo made me want to explore the island so longingly. Sana December na, that’s when I plan to travel.

    If you can share contact numbers/email addresses of the banca/pension/inn/accommodation owners whom you made business with, please do. Thank you in advance.

    Be safe always.

    Cheers,
    Tonie

  2. nyaha! kuyawa gud. pero its part of the adventure. boring if walay abnormalities sa trip. haha.

    kyut hotel. naay pakapin katol. hehe. our house was once like that. i missed it.

  3. Tonie, I definitely have photos of the three fortress churches in Cuyo, Agutaya and Culion. These are upcoming posts in this series. However, before that, I will make an introductory post regarding 18-19 century defenses against the Muslim slave raiders to put it into perspective which I’m still putting up and researching.

    Regarding the pension house I stayed at in Cuyo, I’m not sure if this is still their number but just try:

    Nikki’s Pension 09187944163/09189079276

    Even if there are power outages in the island, as long as the pension house have guests, they put on their generator. From there, you can ask for rates and contacts. They have a festival but check it out when as this place is really way off the beaten path and you can’t expect anything that you might usually find in more developed areas.

  4. bai, you’re right, an adventure is nothing special if no out of the ordinary happens. It makes the trip more fun and meaningful.

    Bitaw, hayahay ang “hotel.” Very airy πŸ™‚

  5. wow! what an experience? looking at the small fishing boat, i won’t even dare to ride that. but if i’m in your case, i’ll definitely do the same.

    the cuyo area is an open sea area making it more dangerous to cross its islands.

    at least memorable yang byaheng yan.

  6. Hey Estan, I like the first photo:) It’s very clear and sharp. While I was at wp-pinoy, I stumbled on your blog so I checked it out. You mentioned Negros in your introduction so I proceeded to read the entire thing because my mom’s from that province and it holds a special place in my heart. It’s a very interesting entry:)

  7. hehehe, what a nice, airy hotel. at paborito ko pa yung ulam mo πŸ™‚ actually, nakakatawa kasi yung camping areas dito sa alemanya e mas sosyal pa kesa dyan sa ‘hotel’ mo… pero am sure it’s a great adventure. yun na nga lang, ayoko sumakay ng ganyan kaliit na banca tapos ganon kalayo ang biyahe, takot ako πŸ™‚ welcome sa WPP

  8. I was also looking for a photo of the fortress church. he he.

    I admire people who can go on this kind of adventure. I can only ride a bangka that small if Im sure Im still above water should it flip over… and the electricity shortage is really something that would make me think twice. hehe

    Scared of moo moo. πŸ™‚

    More travel stories please.

  9. the trouble in batad and now this one. whew… i can’t wait to travel more. traveling indeed is exciting.

  10. dong ho, tama ka jan, this incident reminded me of Homonhon wherein I crossed open water going back to Guiuan on a small motorized banca too. Its already facing the Pacific Ocean and the waves are really scary.

    antonette, thanx for the visit. Negros is another place that I need to reacquaint again since its been quite a while since I’ve spent longer than a day or two.

    kengkay, thanx also for the visit. napansin ko sa blog mo sosyal pala kayo mag camping! kulang na lang may portalet πŸ™‚

    carlo, it doesn’t hurt to try this things once in a while. it provides for a rich experience and a good blog post.

    oman, hahaha, yan talaga basta magbiyahe. pero dami ko pang experiences gaya ng sa Marinduque wherein I was interrogated by the military since they suspected me to be an NPA!

    by the way, guys, oman was referring to my batad incident.

  11. naku bai, buti di ka naano. but makes for one heck of an interesting story. your cuyo posts make me want to explore those parts given a chance.

  12. Now this is a trip worth remembering! Hahaha.

    Buti na lang you arrived there safe. Talagang off the beaten track. Sana makapunta rin dyan oe of these days.

  13. It’s not a good time to travel to Agutaya from July to February. Believe me, the waves you’ve encountered are small compared to what we usually experience in December… bigger than what you can imagine, and considering the size of the outrigger boats plying there. Try to visist between March to June to have a much less scary experience. I can’t guarantee that the sea will always be calm during those periods, but the probability of having a more safe trip is higher.

  14. Of course, hurdling those turbulent waves also tests ones strength, character and faith… Anyway, I’m saddened that you had to stay overnight in a very modest airy hut in Agutaya. There are actually no hotels, pension houses or anything of that sort because strangers rarely visit our place. But a lot of homes do accept strangers to stay for a night or even up to a week for free, that is… if you’ve made prior arrangements or if you arrive on a daytime. In my case, we have been accustomed to accommodating strangers in our home as I was growing up. But then, your trip would have been a little less adventurous without your “hotel” experience. πŸ™‚

  15. Og, Ferdz, the Cuyo is one of the remote areas in the country. But its beauty and pristine condition is one thing. No wonder Amanpulo is in one of the islands.

    Liezeil, wow, now that I’ve known about the accommodation that could be had in Agutaya, I would avail of it whenever I can come back. The “hotel hut” is indeed a nice touch. It brought me back down to the simpler things in life. And really, the whole experience, even brief was enjoyable!

  16. Well, that’s a travel tip which you can probably consider in your future island escapades… find a foster home! The people in these islands are usually trusting and trustworthy as well, so no need to worry. You can’t avoid stares though because the people would notice a stranger easily as everybody in the place knows everyone. πŸ™‚ Send me an email if you want to avail of free accommodation in Agutaya should you wish to visit its shores again.

  17. Hi liezel,

    I’m planning to go to Agutaya because I heared that my grand mother was from this Island… How can I contact you so that I can ask some inform on how to get on your Island…

    Thanks

  18. Hi Richard,

    Please email me at [email protected], so I can give you details on how to reach Agutaya. It’s great to know that you are trying to trace your roots. I will be very glad to assist you. People in this island municipality knows almost everyone, so I suppose I know your grandmother ‘s relatives.

    Liezeil

  19. hahahaha….

    “Thirty minutes past and a small banca finally came, surprising me with its size. When I was finally seated, I noticed that the line of the water and the rim of the small vessel was just a few inches off. With the strong waves and wind, I was just scared that water might come in and submerge it!”

    makahadlok jud na…bisag ako…

  20. I don’t mean to disillusion anyone here, but that small banca was purposely built to transfer passengers from the bigger boat to the shore during low tide because the bigger boat would run aground if it would come any closer. Only a boat as small as that or a flat one could traverse the very low waters to protect passengers from getting wet as they alight to the shore. Those of us who know that the water is actually just above the waistline or about a meter high usually prefer to wade through the waters than wait for the crew to fetch a small banca. The water is a little itchy though during low tide. But for first timers, it’s really scary especially when dark. More so if the boatman did not bother to give information that it was safe to ride on so long as the passenger sits in the middle and maintains the balance, or that even if it would submerge, it will only drench the passenger but would not cause him to drown. Boatman’s fault! I would tell him the next time I’ll go home. πŸ™‚

  21. u really have a sense of humor and the moment i think about it, i really laugh on my own.on the other hand, i agree with you about the experiences of travelling.you dont know what will happen next and that makes life surprising.isn’t it? especially when it’s the first time you’ve been there on that particular place…enjoy and have fun on your next travel!

  22. luigi, one really has to take the lighter side of things especially in an unknown place. thanx, by the way πŸ™‚

  23. That was quite scary!!! Naa sab ko experience ana September 2001 in El Nido. I was joining a group of fisherman doing compressor fishing (I’m sure you knew it and it’s illegal) tapos naabutan mi ug unos. I thought that was the end of my life. I was just thinking that if ever our boat would sink, I’ll just hold on to its outrigger. Seguradong dili man gyod na mounlod…

  24. estan,
    i really enjoyed reading your experience in my hometown he he he but for us islandeers thst’s quite ordinary…. anyway, i appreciated your visit a least we’re on the web…. i am writing abut my hometown maybe we can be freinds on line…….

  25. alam ko yung hotel sa lola ella ko un… at bangka na transportation na papunta dun….hindi naman nakakatakot dun…hindi lang kayo sanay s ganong lugar kasi mejo malayo siya sa kabihasnan….anyways… maganda talaga dun, peaceful and quiet…na mimiz ko na ung lugar na un…sana makapag-bakasyon ukit ako dun…thanx…

  26. wow…na feel ko talaga ung adventure mo…we need more like this para makita ng buong mundo how beautiful our country is…i am here in thailand…di hamak na mas maganda ang lugar natin..kulang lng tayo sa ad…and i agree,the hotel experience added color…yan na ang trend ngayon..ma experience ng mga turista ang buhay ng mga tao sa isang lugar…more blogs ..more power ..mabuhay ang pilipinas.

  27. Maganda talaga sa Agutaya, wrong timing ka lang po siguro sa pagpunta. Gusto kong bumalik don this summer. maraming Events don, gya ng fiesta at Holy week. sana makabalik ka, maganda yun gawan ng story. Feel na Feel mo kasi un kysa kpag fiesta sa City.

  28. Maganda nga talaga sa Agutaya, wrong timing ka lang po siguro sa pagpunta. Gusto kong bumalik don this summer. maraming Events don, gya ng fiesta at Holy week. sana makabalik ka, maganda yun gawan ng story. Feel na Feel mo kasi un kysa kpag fiesta sa City.

  29. korek ka jan arsky..how beautiful talaga ang AGUTAYA,,,parang kilala kita,,,agutynen ka dba,,

  30. Thanks that you’ve visited Palawan Mr. Estan πŸ™‚ But your story seems a little bit funny for some PalaweΓ±os like us po who are using those SCARY TRANSITS to go home to our hometown ……. The things you considered shocking,scary and unusual are the things we considered normal hahaha :)…….Like those Nipa Hut, few fluorescent lamps (lmapara pa nga po hehehe),woven mat (banig) and a lot more…..We also experienced na lumubog yung bankang sinasakyan namin,buti lang po medyo malapit na kaya lumangoy nalang po kami papunta sa aplaya hehehe, we also never waits until the small banca (baroto) arrives to pick us up, basta pagdating ng bangka malapit sa baybay (seashore baba nalang po kami, hindi rin po kasi malalim hehehe….. ung mga bata lang pong maliliit ng sinusundo at kinakarga :)….. Sana po makabalik po kau ulit sa Palawan at sa Agutaya…… πŸ™‚ God bless and more power po πŸ™‚

  31. Thanks that you’ve visited Palawan Mr. Estan πŸ™‚ But your story seems a little bit funny for some PalaweΓ±os like us po who are using those SCARY TRANSITS to go home to our hometown ……. The things you considered shocking,scary and unusual are the things we considered normal hahaha :)…….Like those Nipa Hut, few fluorescent lamps (lampara pa nga po hehehe),woven mat (banig) and a lot more…..We also experienced na lumubog yung bankang sinasakyan namin,buti lang po medyo malapit na kaya lumangoy nalang po kami papunta sa aplaya hehehe, we also never waits until the small banca (baroto) arrives to pick us up, basta pagdating ng bangka malapit sa baybay (seashore) baba nalang po kami, hindi rin po kasi malalim hehehe….. ung mga bata nalang pong maliliit ung sinusundo at kinakarga :)….. Sana po makabalik po kau ulit sa Palawan at sa Agutaya…… πŸ™‚ God bless and more power po πŸ™‚

  32. Opo nga πŸ™‚ Ako po hindi rin po taga-Agutaya but we had the same kind of transportation hehehe, before, noong wala pa pong kalsada pauwi sa hometown namin πŸ™‚ Maienjoy niyo pong talaga ang Palawan…. Masaya po at marami po kayong maiexperience na wala sa city hehehe, nakatatanggal pa ng stress, very relaxing po
    kasi ang kapaligiran…… πŸ™‚

  33. Hindi ko gusto yong mga pinagsasabi mo dito,. sana nakita morin or inikot mo din ang Bayan. nakakalungkot nga lang po talaga sa mga lider ng aming Bayan na hindi pinapriority ang improvements ng aming bayan. meron namang 20%..

  34. ka insulto tang mga innaning atan ni estan dapat xa maisip tang mga lider mga monopa magrecive ta mga bisita, tokawen tang transportasyon ang pantalan taz magigampang ta mga kapitalista, katulad tang mga barko, kayang kaya xa tang Agutaya ang mapaunlad basta ang 20% gamiten lang indi mabursa. indi dapat manalig ong Cuyo tang mga taga Agutaya matoman ang manadili dumiskarte para indi ta ka ga insulto mga may mga bisita, iparyo ta ra lang ong mga pamaly balay ta. MAPOAW ITA RA KANAY MAKAEYAK.

  35. hi, last year i spent a month on Cuyo. A really nice place. I wish i had gone to agutaya, Great story, thanks.

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