It’s summer! Only two more days to go before the much awaited Lenten vacation begins. Everyone’s itching to get these remaining days over with so they can get out of Manila and spend a few days at the beach.
For many years, I was one of those people. I used to fly to Boracay and Ibajay (my hometown) every summer just to unwind and get my juice back. But as Boracay got more and more crowded each year, I have since looked for alternative beaches. The Philippines is after all, made up of 7, 107 islands and a lifetime is not enough to explore each of them. We can only try. Which is what I do when I have the time. So in honor of my favorite season, I will roundup my Top 10 Beach Destinations in the Philippines over the next few days.
1. DINALUNGAN, AURORA PROVINCE
Dinalungan is a quiet town located in the province of Aurora. From what I know, it is also the smallest and least populated. From Baler (Aurora’s capital), it’s a good three hours drive along rough roads and rugged terrain. You can also take a 4-5 hour boat ride if you’re more adventurous. But don’t worry. All that travel time is worth it once you get to this little piece of paradise.
Dinalungan’s coastal waters is one of the richest and most diverse in the Philippines. Dugongs (sea cows) and Butandings (whale sharks) are said to thrive here, a genuine treat for marine wildlife enthusiasts.
For the beachcombers, the beaches in Dinalungan are stretches of pure white sand heaven. And since these are non-commercial, don’t expect cabanas or waiters who will serve you fruit shakes with tiny umbrellas. In fact, don’t expect anything at all. It will just be the beach, your bathing suit and you.
Exploring the mangrove forest is also a must for nature-lovers. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the century-old mangrove tree inside the mangrove forest. It will be an awe-inspiring experience, I promise.
For years, Dinalungan has been subjected to overfishing and deforestation. But through the initiative of their local government (LGU), the community is slowly regaining what they have lost. The coastal waters of Dinalungan are now protected areas with community leaders at the helm of its coastal management efforts. Today, they rank first in Coastal Resource Management governance among all LGUs in the country. To learn more about the Dinalungan success story, visit this link.
2. BALICASAG ISLAND, BOHOL
I have very fond memories of this beautiful island just off the south of the island of Panglao in Bohol. A few years ago, I shot a story about an American couple—Dan and Nancy Harrington— who put up a wonderful foundation called Books for the Barrios. Balicasag Elementary School happened to be one of their pilot schools. I wasn’t expecting much as we traveled to this island so imagine my surprise and joy when I saw it for the first time.
If scuba diving is your thing, then Balicasag is perfect for you. It boasts of a magnificent marine life teeming with healthy coral reefs. One can also spot large fishes such as barracuda, parrot fish, jack fish and garoupa in its pristine waters. And maybe even hammerhead sharks and dolphins on a good day!
Since there is only one resort on the island, there’s a general feeling that you have the island all to your self. But sometimes, daytrippers flock to the island especially during the summer. This is because Balicasag is easily accessible by pumpboat and is only about 30 minutes away from Panglao Island.
The best time to go is during the winter months (December to January) so you can witness the annual migration of hammerheads and dolphins. There are also two spots worth diving into: Black Forest and Heaven. These are part of the 400 meters of protected marine reserve around the island. For professional diving lessons, check out the Balicasag Island Dive Resort for more info. (To be continued)