Every Januray, the peace loving Municipality of Bansalan celebrates DORONGAN FESTIVAL. This festival is a thanksgiving celebration honoring the child Jesus known to the FIlipinos as Santo Niño. A Sinulog-based celebration, Dorongan Festival is Bansalan’s way of reliving the tradition and culture of the Visayans whose devotion to the miraculous Santo Niño is widespread. The population of Bansalan is said to have roots in Cebu and other towns in the Visayas.
Since Bansalan is also home to the indigenous group called Bagobo, the festival is also adopted to symbolize Bagobo’s acceptance of Christianity when Catholicism was brought to Mindanao. The festival is also a celebration of unity and oneness despite diversity of culture and belief. Dorongan is a Bagobo term which literary means THANKSGIVING.
It was the reverberating sounds of flying fox bats that wakened me up that early dawn as they all flew back to the tall old trees in the hillside of Tuke Maklang in Sarangani Island. It lasted for almost an hour I couldn’t go back to sleep. Hence, I got up, fixed my things and readied myself for our final day at the seemingly enchanting Islands of Sarangani, Davao Del Sur, the southernmost town of the whole Davao Region.
As settled, our last day at Sarangani will be spent at most prized Island gem of this island town – the sparkling Island of Olaniban. I was as excited as everybody else for this Island is known for its powdery pearl white sand beach and vast shoreline the encircled the whole oval-shaped island. What’s more, the name of the island sounded clearly like my first name and the thought of it got me more excited.
“My name is OLAN and I am at OLANIBAN ISLAND.” Sounds cool, I thought…
It was still early when we left Tuke Maklang. The waters were gentle and quite friendly this time. Olaniban Island is quite far from where we stayed but the boat ride didn’t bore us because to we got see other interesting places that this island town boasts. We got to glimpse the view of the scenic Bolae Cove, some quiescent coastal villages and long stretch of white sand beaches nearby.
As we sailed further, the tiny view of Olaniban Island became clearer. Seeing it, I rushed to the edge of the boat to get a closer look and hoped to capture its enticing view. And it didn’t fail me. The oval shaped island is just so striking we wanted the boat to get there straight away. Its white sand beach sparkled luring us to bask and frolic on it.
When we finally reached the island, I was the first one to go down from vessel and immediately hurried to the white sand shore and yelled at the top of lungs the line I had been rehearsing in the boat. “My name is OLAN and I am at OLANIBAN ISLAND”, I shouted. I was like a little kid thrilled by sheer excitement. Finally, my feet touched the sparkling sands charming us from afar. And at one moment, I fell in love with the island.
It was high tide when we docked at Olaniban. I learned that the best way to enjoy the waters of the island is to go there during high tide as water level reaches the powdery white sand shores. At an instant, the call of the sea became so irresistible I wanted to soak to the waters but the view of the beach was most appealing I ended up photographing every captivating sight instead.
I walked around the 24-hectare island for two hours enjoying the powdery white sand that encircled the whole island. It is covered thickly by coconut trees although some mangrove trees of different species also abound the side. Talisay trees and dwarf coconut trees on the other hand are planted near the shores making it the best spot to just sit and enjoy the scenic view around.
As I walked further, I was amazed to see the powdery white sands slowly turning pinkish. I have been to a few pink sand beaches in the country but I didn’t know I can see one here at Olaniban. Red pipe organ corals abound at the island. The presence of these corals when mixed with white sands made the sands pinkish in color. Seeing this made me admire the island more.
Another photogenic site at Olaniban is the White Lighthouse built few meters from the shoreline. It was built in the area facing the great Sarangani Strait. I learned that the old lighthouse was built by the Americans during the American regime in the country to guide their ships en route to Australia. Today, the old lighthouse is an added attraction when visiting Olaniban Island.
The sun was high and scorching but I couldn’t care less. The island is just so perfect I could bask there for the whole day under the sun. And though the mighty sun was shining down pitilessly upon my sun-kissed skin, sea breeze in contrast was fanning the heat away. And the best way to cool down is to simply dip into the enticing waters of the island. And one second, I found myself rushing to the turquoise waters luxuriating in Olaniban’s own charm of island living.
MORE PHOTOS OLANIBAN PHOTOS
Olaniban Island is truly Saragani’s precious gem. Every visitor – beach lover or not – would certainly fall in love with island’s fascinating charm. Staying there for one day is not enough. I left the island along with my equally-adventurous friends filled with hope of coming back here and perhaps stay longer to relish its incomparable allure.
My name is OLAN and I fell in love with OLANIBAN ISLAND!
The sea was calm that early morning. The dawning of the day was dramatic. While the sun mightily rose on the east, the moon on the opposite side was slowly devoured by the daylight. As the fresh morning sea breeze started to cuddle my worn-out body, I began to search for a perfect spot in that jagged boat where I can lay down and regain enough strength. That was what I needed so I could last the most anticipated trip I made that day – journeying to the southernmost islands of Mindanao’s Davao Region,the Municipality of Sarangani, Davao Del Sur.
I have long wanted to come to this part of Mindanao. I’ve read ample mystical stories about the Islands that made me think how exciting it could be if I would experience it myself. But what I didn’t realize was that the journey sailing the angry strait of Sarangani was an adventure in itself.
We were supposed to sail from General Santos City as our entry point to Islands but two days before the trip, we were told the 70-seater vessel was already fully booked. It was expected as it was in time for the Holy Week. Hence, we were compelled to find other ways just to succumb to the itch of being there. Luckily, we found the best other way to get there – sailing from Glan, Sarangani Province with a small fishing boat.
When we left Glan, the sea was completely unruffled and still. Since the boat ride would roughly take three hours, I opted to take a nap lying at one side of the boat. It was the most insane thing I’ve ever done sleeping in deep slumber at the spot with no safety measures at all – no life jacket, not even a wooden side brace. I guess the call to sleep overruled fears. Besides it is where real adventures begin, I thought.
Two hours passed. I was awakened by the splash of the seawater that hit my face. When I opened my eyes, the sight of the raging waves of Sarangani Channel was the first thing that was laid before my eyes. They were huge and strong swaying our tiny vessel from side to side. Instead of getting scared, there was an excitement in me that was truly invigorating waking up my snoozing senses. I cared less seeing those monstrous waves hitting our boat. For me, it was part of that journey, part of the whole adventure. And from afar, I could already see the two main Islands of the town – Balut Island and Sarangani Island. Both were so enticing! What’s more, the sight of the two sea cows playfully swimming in the clear waters was a welcoming scene to behold!
Another hour passed, we neared Balut Island, the town’s center of commerce and local government. As the water turn from dark blue to calmest turquoise blue, the corals thriving underwater started to get visible. It was so clear we can see the rich marine life underneath.
As we get closer to island’s port, the view of Balut Island seemed to get more vivid. It became so picturesque looking from afar. Although it is the center of the town, the island is mostly covered by greeneries and lush vegetation. Adding to the island’s innate allure is the island’s highest peak kissed by cotton-like clouds that seemed to be there since time immemorial. I find it very mystical because the Island’s highest elevation is only 2,828 feet above sea level yet those clouds up there covered the summit all day long. Later, I learned that Balut Island is actually a volcanic island and considered by PHIVOLCS as potentially active volcano. I thought, maybe that can explain it.
The sun was high and scorching when we finally reached Port of Mabila, the island’s main port. From there, we headed straight to our tour guide’s humble home where our scrumptious lunch awaited for us. The town seemed too silent as we go along the way. I didn’t see much people going around the town center even at the nearby Municipal Hall and covered court. It was a Holy Thursday, I thought. People were home resting, reflecting.
The food was great – unlimited fish recipes just apt for Lenten Season. Being a coastal town, fishing is one of main living of the Sarangans aside from vast coconut farms that abound the island. In fact, fishermen from this island would even go to the nearby islands of Indonesia for fishing. Being at the southernmost part of the Region, Balut Island is just two hours boat ride from the nearest Island of the Indonesian Archipelago. In fact, there are plenty of Filipinos living in those Island and likewise Indonesians living in Balut Island.
From the town center, our first destination was Sabang Hotspring, about an hour boat ride from Port of Mabila. It was past one in the afternoon and the waves were getting bigger at that time. Hence, the supposedly one hour boat ride extended for another 30 minutes. While others took it horrendous, I on the other hand, found it more adventurous.
As we docked at the shores of Sabang, it was the sight of volcanic rocks and pebbles scattered on the shores that first captured my eyes. The rocks are of different sizes, colors and textures. It was a new sight to me.
Just meters away from where we docked, Sabang Hotspring can already be seen. As I went nearer, I gradually smelled the sulfuric odor of the hotspring. It became more intense I get closer. And when at last the fenced hotspring was right in front of me, I froze in wonder as the see the boiling water and the sulfuric vapor coming from it. I have been to quite a few hot springs in the country but seeing a boiling one was truly incredible. My eyes resisted from believing what I saw – such an unbelievable view.
As expected, hotsprings like Sabang abound on areas where volcanoes are found. Balut Island, being a volcano island is one great example. But what’s more amazing about this particular hot spring is that it is located just across the beach. In fact it is part of the shoreline of the beach. Most of hot springs I know are those in highlands or higher than sea level. What’s more, its sulfuric content is high making its natural pool yellowish in color in the sides along with its water passage. We can’t help but get some and tried it on our skin. It really smelled like sulfur soap.
Bathing is not advised at Sabang Hot spring. Who would dare to swim there anyway? The boiling waters alone looked really scary. I braved dipping my feet at the water passage but I can never stand a minute. It was really hot. And so I just contented myself just going around taking photos of it – that’s the only way to enjoy it.
I learned that Sabang Hotspring was developed years back to become a major tourist attraction in the Island. At one point, tourism flourished servicing local and domestic tourists in the region. It didn’t last though. For some reasons, development was stopped. What’s left there now is an old memory and ruins of once-a-beautiful resort. Today, people can just come there for free. It is still an amazing sight to see though.
From Sabang Hotspring, we hurried back to our boat and sailed further for two hours to the other island, the Sarangani Island. Like Balut Island, Sarangani Island is also considered an important island in the town. In fact most of the best white sand beaches, pristine coves, untouched lagoons and various rock formations can be found here like the first one we visited – Tuke Nunsol Beach.
Tuke Nunsol Beach teems with dazzling white sand beach and rock formation that wowed me the moment we docked there. The water is clear and underneath abound rich marine life. I regretted at an instant for not bringing snorkeling set with me. I could have seen the beauty underwater. So instead, I managed to enjoy the beach, swam like a child and even jumped at a shallow cliff.
Still at Tuke Nunsol, came dusk. On the opposite island, the mighty sun was starting to set. As it retired, it left us with a perfect sunset scene that froze us from where we stood. It was like everything had to halt to glimpse the most wonderful scene of the day – the setting of the sun. And so I grabbed my camera and pointed it to the most glorious sight of the day. Still not contented, I went up to the rocks and worshiped a stunning sunset view before me. It was just so beautiful. Done and satisfied, I muttered this to myself, “The Travel Teller is forever a sunset lover. Always will.”
As darkness slowly devoured the skies, we left Tuke Nunsol bound to our final destination for the day – Tuke Maklang Beach. Just when I thought surprises and beautiful scene ended with that spectacular sunset at the opposite Island, another surprising sight awaited for us at the Tuke Maklang. As we our boat neared the beach, an old familiar sound started to get louder. When it got deafening, there was one thing I was so sure of – it was the sound of a bat colony. And when I looked up the skies, it was a colony of flying fox bats that was incredibly laid before my eyes. It was an incredible twilight scene seeing thousands of bats flying out at dusk. I glued myself from where I sit and just stared at the heavens as huge bats flew in beautiful choreography thickening harder the dusking skies. What an astounding sight!
When that breathtaking nightfall scene cleared up, it was time to proceed to the resort. Tuke Maklang Beach is situated at one the Island’s unspoiled lagoons. Like most of the beaches around the Island, it also boasts a white sand beach and shallow calm sea waters perfect for swimming. Thick vegetation envelops the place. Though the beach resort is not equipped with first class facilities, it is modest enough to make our stay comfortable.
When we were all settled, I opted to sleep early that night. My body ached from a long non-stop beach adventure and I needed enough rest for yet another island escapade the following day. So off to bed – Balut Island and Sarangani Island are both worth the long trip!
I am writing this post today still bearing the ache of first degree sunburns I’ve got from a long trip I made to one destination in my Island Mindanao that I have long wanted to visit. But these itches and pains are worth it knowing I was able to realize one dream – to finally set foot in the southernmost islands of the whole Davao Region, the three islands of Municipality of Sarangani in Davao Del Sur.
Do not be confused. I am not referring to Manny Pacquiao’sSarangani Province but to this town more popularly known as Balut Island.
Have you ever seen a boiling hotspring no one dares to swim or bathe? Have you ever witnessed a huge colony of flyingfox bats flying out of dusk? Or seacows playing freely underwater? Have you ever wandered around to a 17-hectare oval-shape island surrounded purely by sparkling white sands?
These are the many things to savor and enjoy in the side of the Philippine Archipelago. These are among the many reasons why I got sunkissed, sunburnt, suntanned while relishing every single moment I stayed at Sarangani.
Join me as I chronicle my JOURNEY TO THE SOUTHERMOST ISLANDS OF DAVAO REGION.
Few years back, I discovered the cheapest way to experience beach bumming that is incredibly so affordable without sacrificing beach quality, comfort and fun. I got three reasons why I love coming back there. One, it is 45 minutes away from my Davao City. Two, the place is damn relaxing. And three, there’s a lot of fun I can do there. I’m talking about the “secret no more” beach haven called Passig Islet Aqua-Eco Park Resort.
The “secret no more” beach haven called Passig Islet Aqua-Eco Park Resort.
Passig Islet Aqua-Eco Park Resort lies on the waters of Sitio Bato in Santa Cruz, Davao Del Sur. This is 15 minutes away from the nearby City of Digos. The municipality of Santa Cruz, on the other hand,is the nearest town of Davao Del Sur from Davao City.
“The Foot Bridge”
I used to call this place before as a secret beach hidden away from the clamoring sound of the Big City. In fact, on my first visit here, I described it as a secret beach haven kept by a few from the crowd craving for beach escape. Today, two years after that visit, the name Passig is widely known in the region.
Few years back, Passig Islet used to be a very tiny white islet open to the public. It was the locals’ favorite beach hang-out. Soon, the Provincial Government of Davao del Sur saw its eco-tourism potential and later they allocated funds to develop the Islet into a stunning and relaxing resort with an astonishing ambience of tropical leisure. Managed by the Provincial Tourism Office, today, it is one of the province’s pride and honor.
In getting to the islet, a concrete foot bridge is constructed in the middle of the bushy mangroves leading to the mouth of the coast where pump boats are readily available to take its guests to the resort. Walking on the footbridge surrounded by century old mangroves is in itself a great experience. On the other hand, the 5 minute boat ride to the islet gives a 360 degrees panoramic view of the sea, the islet and the mountains behind.
On my recent visit, I was impressed to notice that the tidy ambience and the tranquility of the Islet are still maintained. It is still so relaxing and comfortable. I used to call it a beach sanctuary and now it is still the same.
Going around the islet, everything is still in place. From small cottages to its main function hall, everything seemed to be just right. The whole surrounding is still so clean and well maintained. Tropical trees and palm trees are now fully grown and surroundings are still neatly manicured. Bathrooms and restrooms are clean and fresh waters are provided.
The Islet’s abundant white sand is not as refined as those of Boracay’s but its color gives the Islet a real tropical beach touch. The ocean surrounds it is clean and green. There were small fishes nearby.
With an entrance fee of Php 15.00 per person, roundtrip boat fare of Php 20.00 and cottages ranging from Php 100.00 to Php 500.00, Passig Islet Aqua-Eco Park Resort is surprisingly cheap yet undeniably worth to visit.
Visiting back Passig Islet Aqua-Eco Park Resort is like coming back to an old playground. I just love to be there. For me, it is one of the great beach escapes in Davao Region to come and just laze around after a hard days’ work. In fact, writing this makes me want to come back there – NOW!