Folklore has romanticized the name of Capul Island as derived from the seaside city in Mexico, Acapulco. There might be basis as it was the last stop for Spanish galleons before the perilous Pacific Ocean journey. Capul was part of the torneviaje that connected the Philippines to Spain via Mexico. Docked at the Bañadero, south of the present poblacion, they stocked on food and potable water before heading to Acapulco.
Capul Island’s history goes way back. Its original name is Abak with its own language, Abaknon. It is distinct from Bicolano and Waray and has affinity with the Sama Badjao language off the Zamboanga Peninsula. Oral tradition says that the ancestors of the Abaknons came from the southern Philippines or even beyond. Of a Datu, refusing Islam, left with his people eventually reaching and settling in the island. Thus, Inabaknon, with its few thousand speakers is one of the Philippines minority languages and might be in danger. The Spanish Jesuits arrived in 1610 and converted the natives to Christianity. Today, it’s a fifth-class municipality with fishing and agriculture the main industries.
Heritage structures in Capul Island
Fuerza de Capul
Walking around the narrow roads of the poblacion always leads you to the historic Fuerza de Capul. It is a fortress complex that incorporates the San Ignacio Church built in 1781 by Fray Mariano Valero. It was the island’s only defense from Moro slave raiders that ravaged these parts since the 17th century.
The old lighthouse and WWII
The Faro de Isla Capul with its 40m tower was constructed in 1891 and finished during the American period. It is located at the highest part of the island, at 143m above sea level. Guillermo Brockman designed the pavilion in the Victorian Renaissance Revival style. The view is sweeping. It’s an unhindered panorama of the San Bernardino Strait. On a clear day, one can see Sorsogon and Mt Bulusan and even a faint trace of Mt. Mayon. It is also an important naval landmark. During World War II, Capul Island was strategic with Japanese gun emplacements located below the lighthouse still seen today. As of writing, these two heritage structures are undergoing restoration works by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
With Capul Island’s historic backdrop, daily life just goes on. Fishermen going out to sea is a common sight. With its abundant coconut trees, copra making is an industry with several ‘smoking huts’ by the roadside. It’s a place where one can swim at the white sand beach with nary a distracting soul in sight. Or feast on cheap seafood for dinner or lunch. Or just gaze out into the sea at the wind-swept hill overlooking the San Bernardino Strait and imagine galleons coming in to dock.
Capul Island is reached by outrigger boats from Allen docked beside the port usually leaving around 12 noon or 1 PM. Average trip is around an hour but can go beyond depending on the sea condition.
WHERE TO STAY:
There are a few lodging houses in the poblacion or you can just ask around for a homestay.
WHERE TO EAT:
There are few carinderias in the town where you can arrange for meals. If at a homestay, arrange with your host. Seafood is cheap.