Exploring the islands around the remote municipality of Burdeos the previous day had been a very satisfying experience for us, as we enjoy exploring the off the beaten track as much as the well-trodden path. Secluded and unknown, our journey to Burdeos had been a challenging quest, but certainly not an inconvenience. Our first day of island exploration had revealed not only beautiful natural wonders but also friendly and hospital people who had made our stay enjoyable and memorable.
On our second day in Burdeos, we set off again to explore its natural attractions that include beautiful caves, scenic beaches, a bird sanctuary and a mangrove forest. I had been looking forward to visiting the bird sanctuary, as I had seen it mentioned when we were researching noteworthy places to visit in Burdeos. We had visited a couple of island beaches and even camped on one of them the previous day so we thought it would be nice to do some bird watching especially on the islands of Polillo which are known as haven for a large number of different bird species.
Getting to the sanctuary, however, was a different story. It was the most challenging boat ride we had during our two-day island-island hopping trip. It is located off the coast of Patnanungan Island and quite isolated from the other islands of Burdeos. I had never seen such big waves despite the good weather conditions – it was rocking our small motorized banca like a matchbox. It didn’t help either that our boatman didn’t have life-jackets or that we were drawing closer to the menacing Pacific Ocean. I was actually eyeing the last two coconuts we had with a view to using them as floaters “just in case”, as my paranoia started to sink in.
Fortunately, we made it safely to the island around noon but we were in for a big surprise. Its shores were lined with many boats of different sizes and the island was packed with people. I was sort of expecting a remote island with no tourists at all except for a few bird watching fanatics. “Bird Sanctuary” for me conjures an image of remoteness, isolation and haven of quietness except for the sounds of nature. But I guess this time of the year was an exception because it was the Holy Week weekend. The good part however, was that the island has a good beach forest a nice beach – no wonder it is also very popular among the locals
So much for the sound of bird calls and crashing waves with videoke tunes blaring through the forest (yes on the island in the middle of nowhere). The food vendors on the other hand were blessings in disguise. We had no more food and had been eating and drinking coconuts for our last three meals except for a small cup noodles for dinner and breakfast.
Overall, it was still worth visiting the Minasawa Game Refuge and Bird Santuary. This 4-5 hectare island is a paradise for both bird watchers and beach lovers. Although we didn’t spot many birds at that time when we went for a walk through the forest, we could hear their loud twitters. Most of the birds are hovering high above the forest canopy and are better seen from the beach. Bird watching requires a lot of time and patience while a good set of binoculars will come in handy for the serious hobbyist.
After a short walk through the beach forest and a quick swim together with boatloads of other visitors, we finally left the island and headed to Binombonan Island for our last island of the day. The island is easily accessible from Sabang Port in Burdeos so it is also very popular among the locals for day trip visits. If you are in Burdeos but don’t have much time to visit the farther islands, this island is good enough for swimming and beach picnics. You can easily circumnavigate the whole island in a few minutes or simply enjoy a barbecue under the trees. It is also nice to walk along its long sandbar during low tide.
There are no cottages in the area or any tourist facilities so it is also advisable to bring your own food, picnic mats, and tent. The good thing is that there is no entrance fee here, but there was no caretaker as well. During our visit, there was rubbish strewn around especially within its small forested areas. Apparently the island is privately owned and is actually for sale. Except for the small rubbish problem, the beach around Binombonan Island is quite good for swimming too. The water is clear and some parts are covered with corals. We spent the rest of our day here before heading back to the town of Burdeos. On the way to the port, we had a short stop at Bakaw-Bakaw Island where our boatman proudly showed us hundreds of mangrove trees that are under the protection of its local government.
After a day in Polilio Town and two days off the coast of Burdeos we felt like we had only seen a bit of what the Polillo group of Islands have to offer. There are many more unexplored islands, sleepy towns with a lot of promise and surprise and many opportunities to explore the road less travelled – a lot of reasons to come back indeed.
(This is part of our 3 nights adventure at Pollilo Group of Islands in 2010)
Day 2: We rented a van together with the other guests of the resort and went to the quaint town of Burdeos. We went Island-hopping at Anilon Island and had a short walk to Anilon Cave at the end of the beach. We then had lunch and went swimming at Anawan Island before heading to Buguitay Island. Unfortunately the waves were too big so we weren’t able to dock near the shore so we asked the boatman to drop us at Ikulong Island where we camped for the night ala survivor.
Day 3: Our boatman fetched us the next day from Ikulong Island and took us to Puting Bato Island where we explored two of its caves. After that, we headed to the beautiful Island of Malaguinoan, which was my favorite among the beaches we had visited. We finally braved the big waves from the Pacific Ocean to get to the Minasawa Bird Sanctuary. On our way back to Burdeos Pier, we had a short stop at Binombonan Island and the Bakaw-Bakaw Island where hundreds of mangroves abound.
Fortunately, Mayor Gil allowed us to stay in his place for the night when we did a courtesy call. We then took the first and only trip of jeepney in the morning back to the pier and had a few hours of boat ride back to Real, Quezon Pier.