Pandanon Island – Hidden No More
Archie Modequillo (The Freeman) - October 13, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Of the Philippines’ 7,107 islands there’s one very close to Cebu that has generally retained its raw natural beauty amid the surrounding modernity. Situated in the blue Camotes Sea is Pandanon Island. It belongs to the geographical jurisdiction of the town of Getafe, Bohol.

The island takes its name from the “pandan,” a grass that once lushly covered the whole place. It is said that the bigger “pandan” variety, the type that is used today as flavoring in desserts, also grew on the island. To this day, botanical experts still wonder how the latter “pandan” variety got to the island, since it is endemic in faraway places like Asia Pacific, Australia and Madagascar.

Pandanon has an estimated population of around 2000, presently. Fishing is the traditional livelihood of the island people. In these past years, however, tourism has increasingly taken over as the major source of income, alongside the selling of handmade accessories from shells found by the beach.

The island used to be quite hidden. In fact, during World War II many people from Cebu, Bohol and Leyte evacuated to Pandanon to avoid being spotted by the enemies. They stayed there, safely, until the Liberation.

Prior to the war, Pandanon was a world all its own. The very few people who were aware of the island’s existence called it a “hidden paradise.” Upon setting foot on it, they didn’t want to leave. 

But as the “hidden paradise” has since been exposed, the island people are making the most of the growing tourism industry in Pandanon. Visitors to the island are now charged an entrance fee of P150 per person. Campers may be charged an extra P100 group rate, while rentals for cottages start at P250.

The main attractions of the island are its powdery white sand bar and its cool, turquoise waters that are perfect for family excursions. The sandbar is a good place for picnics. It also allows for playing beach volleyball, Frisbee, and skimboarding.

Otherwise, a simple walk along the beach with one’s feet occasionally licked by the waves is already such an experience. Or one may just have to sit and relax on the sand, watch the sunset over drinks with friends. A few steps into the shallow waters usher in a sight of starfishes of different colors and sizes, sea urchins and sea shells.

The shallow waters of Pandanon may not be ideal for snorkeling or diving. But boatmen may take visitors to nearby islands for such activities. Visitors, though, shall bring their snorkeling or diving gears.

Major developments have not yet reached Pandanon. One of the very few standout structures on the island is a chapel. Thus, the island is a perfect getaway for the work-worn city folks. 

Visitors may as well bring their own food in going to Pandanon. Or they can do their own cooking on the island (there are designated cooking places there). Or, to avoid any hassle, the island people may be contracted to prepare the visitors’ meals; local produce and the freshest catch by local fishermen are often available. 

Getting to Pandanon Island is easy. From Getafe, Bohol, visitors get to the island in less than an hour aboard motorboats.  From Mactan Island, in Cebu, the boat ride takes about an hour and a half (there are rental motorboats at the Hilton Port in Lapulapu City).

There are respectable wash-up bathroom facilities on the island. There’s hardly any overnight accommodation, though. Visitors usually go to Pandanon Island for a day tour only or as part of their island hopping package, and head back to Cebu or Bohol mainland for their overnight stay.

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