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Isle Be Home for Christmas

Isle Be Home for Christmas

Bernard Supetran

A getaway in an idyllic island is a unique and stylish way to spend the Advent Season with the family. Frowned upon by old folks a generation ago, it has become a holiday norm of sort particularly in the post-pandemic era where many Filipinos try to make up for lost time and rediscovered the joy and excitement of travel.

And if home is where the heart is, then any of the archipelago’s 7,641 isles can be your home for Christmas. Below are some unique islands you can spend the most wonderful time of the year, minus the madding crowd.

Pit Stop 1: Danjugan. If it doesn’t register a blimp in your travel radar, the reason is this is not the usual resort that would pop up on your Google search.

Situated off Cauayan in Negros Occidental, this 43-hectare island is a nature conservation center which boasts of a rich biodiversity, which is among the best in the country’s central archipelago. It can be reached via 2.5-hour ride from the Bacolod-Silay Airport.

Managed by the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, this private island has 5 lagoons, white sand coves, bat caves, lush limestone and mangrove forests and surrounded by vast seagrass beds and fringing coral reefs.

It has no-frills lodges powered by solar energy, water supplied from the mainland, and very little of the usual amenities, so you can reconnect with Mother Nature, and savor that silent and holy night. What they lack on frills, they compensate with their warm hospitality and great-tasting home-cooked dishes.

If there’s no room in the inn, you could pitch tent and sleep under the stars, and feel how the first Christmas night was like. It also has trekking, kayaking and scuba diving activities to keep you fit while on vacation.

Danjugan recently opened a pawikan research center which will be key in the conservation and propagation of sea turtles in this part of the Sulu Sea. And if you want to pay it forward in a different and more meaningful way, you can take part in the island’s different environment initiatives and come home a changed man.

Pit Stop 2: Punta Bulata. Danjugan’s neighbor across the sea, this boutique resort is an equally-exciting way to complete your Holiday sojourn. Sitting on a 20-hectare landscape, manicured lawns, stunning, it exudes the archipelagic vibe of the Visayas with its tropical motifs, open spaces and greeneries, and less of concrete structures.

The resort’s claim to fame is its understated elegance— comfy native-themed rooms with a view, signature local massages at Ayu Spa, and succulent Ilonggo dishes and all-time favorites at La Veranda Restaurant, which can make a special beach table set-up to make dinner more special.

Its long beach by the Sulu Sea offers an exciting stroll from sunrise to sundown, with the mesmerizing panorama of the outlying islands, fisher folk village, bamboo rafts, and fishing boats passing through.

With its quaint allure, the Punta Bulata experience could be best perhaps described in the famed Italian idiom “dolce far niente,” literally meaning: “sweetness of doing nothing.”

It also offers scuba diving, and tours to nearby coves and islands, including Danjugan where they have forged a strong partnership for ecotourism endeavors.

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And much like little town of Bethlehem which lack allure on the outside, Cauayan is an unheralded destination but packs a lot of surprises.

Pit Stop 3: Siargao. This paradise got the spotlight, quite literally, in a movie of the same title at the Christmas-time Metro Manila Film Festival in 2017. Described by pundits as a “glorified vlog,” it featured the island’s Instagram-worthy sights which can provide you an infinity of social media content.

Visit this island to see that it is indeed a gem worthy of being a mainstay in the World’s Best Islands lists of prestigious lifestyle portals. The aerial gateway of Del Carmen should be your first stop in exploring, or vlogging your way around the island.

A must-try circuit is the Pamomoan-Kahwagan-Sugba Lagoon which takes you to the town’s must-see wonders. The first two islands are located a paddling distance away from each other, and have distinct topographies aside from their talcum white beaches. Pamomoan has a basic lodging for an overnight stay and watersports recreation to keep you worked up.

The most iconic site is Sugba Lagoon in Caub Island, a semi-enclosed cove framed by limestone cliffs, is known for its wooden jumping platform.

Del Carmen also hosts the vast 8,620-hectare mangrove forest, the biggest in the world, and is the size of several metro cities combined. The habitat of rare and endangered flora and fauna, this mangrove block forms the backbone of the Siargao Island Protected Landscape and Seacape, and is worth including in a tour with their mangrove scout guides.