Magalawa Island in Palauig
Magalawa Island in Palauig

Harry Belafonte’s 1957 movie theme “Island in the Sun” is a song I grew up with in the late 1970s which waxes nostalgia and makes me yearn for dreamy wind-swept isles.

The good thing is the Almighty God has blessed us with 7,641 hard choices (read: islands) under the tropical sun which we can visit this summer and beyond by land, air and sea.

Below is a short list of my must-visit islands in the sun, which in Belafonte’s words are “where my people have toiled since time begun” and “whose shores will always be home to me.”

Zambales. Urbanities need not spend a fortune for a smorgasbord of white sand islands in this province because of their accessibility by bus. Victory Liner plies the whole stretch of Zambales, round-the-clock, from various terminals in the metro and north Luzon.

The wonderful thing about these patches of land in the South China Sea are they are just minutes away from the jump-off points which will give you more time to soak in the gin-clear water.

San Antonio boasts of the IG-worthy islands of Camara and Capones which has a hilltop Spanish lighthouse, and Anawangin Cove, a favorite campsite canopied by agoho trees, which can only be accessed by boat and exudes that isolated feel.

Some 65 kms up north in Palauig is Magalawa, a 56-hectare isle which has a long white sandbar and abounds in starfish. To maximize time, do a hopping circuit around San Salvador Island, Oyon Bay Marine Reserve, and Bacala Sandbar, all located in neighboring Masinloc.

Retire at Sunset Villas by Alperi in Palauig which has a camper van and tropical-themed lodgings akin to Belafonte’s Caribbean hideaways.

A sought-after isle is Potipot in Candelaria, which is still under redevelopment, which is just paddling or swimming distance away from the Uacon Cove resort colony.

If you’re craving for more, go 41 kms further north to Hermana Menor Island which has an impressive marine life which you can easily snorkel and freedive.

From April 24 onwards, there’s the Dinamulag Mango Festival whose exciting fringe activity is mango pick and pay in selected orchards at farm gate prices.

Sailing tournament in Busuanga Cup

Busuanga. A top-of-mind getaway, it is the biggest and most-developed in the Calamian archipelago in northern Palawan, and riddled with high-end resorts all over. An island as large as the metropolis, it also covers its more popular twin town, Coron.

Of late, Busuanga town has been the choice of sailing events because of its contour and all-year round wind which made it a natural watersports playground. It hosted in February the BPI Busuanga Cup, a prestigious regatta which saw leading Filipino and foreign yachtsmen sailing for fame, fun and sun.

Organized by the Philippine Inter-Island Sailing Foundation and backed by the Bank of the Philippine Islands, the Cup was a grueling 144-nautical mile race from Punta Fuego in Batangas, and followed by a series of inshore races at Busuanga Bay, and a chill non-competitive cruise around the outlying islets.

A similar mix of competitive and recreational sailing is already slated next year for the eighth edition of the tournament.

On a typical day, you can simply laze at the beach, paddle a kayak, ride the wind on a sailboat or dive into the deep at Marina Del Sol Resort, and be among the first to revel in Asia’s emerging watersports mecca.

lakawon island in cadiz city

Lakawon. This once obscure island in Cadiz City shot to internet fame when it was developed into a hip resort along with the Tawhai Floating Bar, a huge barge which became the biggest sea-based watering hole in the Visayas. It is also regarded as the biggest of its kind in Asia.

Situated just a few kilometers off mainland Negros, this private resort can easily be reached by multimodal transport: bus from the airport-like Ceres North Terminal in Bacolod City, tricycle to the jetty, and an outrigger boat. There’s also the option of booking a Grab vehicle or hiring a van for group tours.

During the pandemic lull, it underwent renovations, built additional facilities, opened a new dining outlet, and began accepting overnight staycationers. Despite being a work in progress, Lakawon Island Resort hasn’t lost its tropical allure with its talcum sand and crystalline water all over, and just the right number of people on the beach.

Sun worshipers and party habitues are eagerly awaiting the recommissioning of the storm-battered Tawhai sometime soon for a consummate holiday with Belafonte’s calypso songs and Caribbean music wafting in the air. When that time comes, Lakawon can reclaim its place under the sun and its pre-pandemic glory.

Here’s a tip: Plan for a long sea odyssey and go afterwards on a hopping binge around the nearby islands in Concepcion, Iloilo or the farther but more diverse island of Bantayan in northern Cebu.