Onok Island: Nature’s gift to man

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If you are the techie-savvy, GPS-toting traveler, you won’t find “Onok” on the map; instead, you’ll find “Roughton Island”.

That is because Roughton Island is the “official name” of Onok, the latter being a local nickname for this wonderful piece of real estate right in the middle of nowhere.

Fronting the main beach of Onok island is a massive reef, rife with a variety of soft and colorful corals that extend towards a sheer drop of about 80 feet, where large pelagic fish swim about — on occasion, you’ll be lucky to encounter a school of yellow fins! The surroundings of this small island is also home to “taklobos” or giant sea clams, and of course, sea turtles! Never have I seen sea turtles — oblivious to our presence — in such quantity!

If I were to go back to Balabac, this is where I would stay longer.

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P.S.

Thank you SB Toto for the hospitality and these mouth-watering dishes!

Notes:
  • The best time to visit Onok and the other islands in the municipality of Balabac is during the summer months of March, April and May, as the waters in and around the islands can be treacherous and rough.
  • Prior arrangements should be made before visiting some islands, particularly Punta Sibaring in Bugsuk Island and Onok Island.
  • Balabac is accessible via 4-hour motorized boat ride from Rio Tuba. There are commuter vans and buses plying the Puerto Prinsesa-Rio Tuba route, which is a 5-hour travel time.
  • A PhP5,000 fee is now collected from each visitor to Onok. This covers the entrance fee, boat transfers from and to  Balabac proper, and meals while on the island. NOTE: There are many boat operators offering Onok trips; however, only a select few are allowed to bring in guests. You may contact SB Toto Astami, Onok administrator, for access to the island and/or to verify if the boatman you hired has permission to enter Onok.
  • IMPORTANT: Waterproof your bags.
  • For a hassle-free Balabac experience, contact +63998 944 7242.

The ABC of Summer 2015

After weekend-upon-weekend of hopping from one island to the next, discovering heavens on earth and overdosing on #VitaminSea — satiating the #AQUAholic in me — I finally have a weekend off!

As #Summer2015 begins to wind down, I sit back and take a moment to relive the fun and adventure that I embarked on — each journey made with different groups of people, most of them became dear friends.

I know, I know… we have yet a week to go before #Summer2015 officially ends. Hmmmm…. Do I hear an #endlesssummer cheer from out there? Well, might as well be, as we have 7,107 reasons to want an all-year-round summer extravaganza!

My #Summer2015 was spent exploring, discovering, and revisiting destinations that you seldom hear about… as well as, going back to the basics of travelling and adventurism, where hotel reservations are shunned. Have backpack? Will travel.

Doing so, I uncovered the wonders of ABC: Alibijaban, Balabac and Burias, and Culebra.

Paradise, Lost?
Alibijaban Island, San Andres, Quezon

Paradise, Found.
Balabac, Palawan

Paradise, Regained.
Burias, Masbate

Paradise, Revisited
Culebra Island, Dasol, Pangasinan

Rombo Balabac: Onok and Comiaran Islands

Onok Island

Managed by Balabac Mayor Shuaib Astami and family, Onok Island is an epitome of bliss… and perhaps the more popular destination in the Balabac group of islands — well, apart from Punta Sibaring. We owe much of Onok’s “discovery” to famed photographer George Tapan, who captured the essence of this island paradise, earning him the 2011 National Geographic Photo Contest (Category: Places) plume.

Fronting the main beach of Onok island is a massive reef, rife with a variety of soft and colorful corals that extend towards a sheer drop of about 80 feet, where large pelagic fish swim about — on occasion, you’ll be lucky to encounter a school of yellow fins! The surroundings of this small island is also home to “taklobos” or giant sea clams, and of course, sea turtles! Never have I seen sea turtles — oblivious to our presence — in such quantity! Although a family-owned property, no fees are collected when you visit Onok. If I were to go back to Balabac, this is where I would camp.

Comiaran Island

On our way to Cape Melville, the designated campsite for the fourth leg of our Rombo Balabac Island Safari, we made a quick stop in Comiaran Island. The lush vegetation on the island was no match to the scorching heat of the April sun, giving us the impression that we were on a desert island! Well, no sun nor heat could stop us from exploring though, as the pinkish sands of Comiaran was so inviting.

 Next: Cape Melville and Lighthouse >>>

Rombo Balabac: An island-hopping safari

Cape Melville Lighthouse

Constructed in 1892, the lighthouse in Cape Melville, Balabac is among the country’s oldest light towers.

The first time I heard about Balabac was when I was commissioned to do a 2012 calendar featuring Philippine lighthouses. That time, my interest in this remote town at the southwestern tip of Palawan was solely on its Cape Melville lighthouse. Little did I know that there is more to Balabac than its ancient light tower!

Balabac: Palawan’s “South Sea Pearl”

The municipality of Balabac is composed of 14 baranggays spread across 33 islands and islets, the largest of which are:

  • Balabac, its socio-economic-political center;
  • Bugsuk, where Jewelmer Joaillerie operates a vast pearl farm;
  • Pandanan, home to various endemic species of birds, including the katala or Philippine cockatoo;
  • Ramos, which — locals say — was the real site of Gen. Douglas McArthur’s first landing after his “I shall return” promise;
  • Bancalan; and
  • Mantangule.
Balabac Municipal Hall

Balabac Municipal Hall

Located about 30 km southwest of the southern tip of Palawan, its Poblacion in the main island of Balabac is roughly twice that distance north of the island of Sabah, Malaysia.

The Molbogs, a Muslim ethnolinguistic group, is concentrated in this island. Their livelihood includes farming, fishing and barter trading with the nearby Sulu, Bangsamoro, and Sabah market centers.

Balabac is blessed with magnificent coral reefs or ‘bahura’ , and is particularly noted for its rare glory-of-the-seas cone shells. Sightings of the elusive dwarf spinner dolphins have also been recorded in the waters of Balabac, as well as Irrawaddy and bottle-nose dolphins. Its waters is also home to several species of marine turtles. It is not uncommon to be swimming with a Hawkbill every now and then.

Many of the straits and passes; coves, beaches and sandbars; caves and caverns; and islets and rock formations are yet to be explored and charted. If Palawan is the Philippines’ last frontier, then hands-down, Balabac is Palawan’s!

Rombo Balabac!

“Rombo” in the dialect of the natives here means: Let’s go!… or in Filipino, Tara!

But first, here’s a teaser:

Next: Punta Sibaring >>>
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