Scary transit to Agutaya

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 water  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) 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.


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  1. Gillian
    July 1, 2011 @ 19:30

    Opo nga 🙂 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 🙂 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…… 🙂

  2. cheap tickets to cebu
    September 8, 2011 @ 18:35

    hotels in cebu philippines…

    […]» Scary transit to Agutaya | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels[…]…

  3. Www Raguinstore
    February 28, 2012 @ 22:29

    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%..

  4. Www Raguinstore
    February 29, 2012 @ 8:08

    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.

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    October 5, 2012 @ 11:37

    […] was a scary transit to Agutaya. Share […]

  6. Visita Iglesia: 14 remote heritage churches in the Philippines
    April 10, 2014 @ 19:22

    […] Cuyo town which is an overnight boat trip from either Iloilo City or Puerto Princesa City. Read my scary boat experience going to this […]

  7. matthew bard
    December 12, 2016 @ 7:52

    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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