ESCAPE TO PALAUI
SANTA ANA, Cagayan—For the adventurous who are willing to endure the more than 12-hour, 600-kilometer road trip from Metro Manila to Palaui Island, a piece of paradise awaits in the Babuyan Channel in northeastern Luzon.
The 2,439-hectare Palaui Island offers a virtually untouched landscape of grass meadows, rice fields and thick tropical forests, enclosed by a 10-km shoreline with stretches of white sand and coral beaches, mangroves and jagged rock formations.
Last year, its beaches were ranked by the US-based media company CNN 10th best in the world for their “raw beauty.”
“[It is where] glorious white sands meet volcanic rocks and blue-green waters topside, while coral gardens and a rich marine reserve meet divers under the surface,” CNN said.
When 65-year-old basket weaver Catalina Baloloy, her husband, Sixto, and their four children moved out of Camiguin Island in the Babuyan Chan- nel in 1986, all they hoped for was to find a better life in one of the towns of Cagayan province.
Palaui Island has since become the Baloloys’ home. The Island’s attractions lured other villagers here joining a small Agta community decades ago.
They are the residents of Punta Verde, a sub-village of about 100 households and the only inhabited portion on the southwest edge of the island that has been declared a marine reserve.
But it seems nature has a grand design to put Palaui in a remote location because this deters a tourist invasion, something officials of the local government and the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza) are wary about.
“Much as we would like to promote it, we are also aware of any possible abuse due to the anticipated heavy volume of visitors. Besides, we need to provide more amenities so that tourists who have high expectations from all the publicity will not be disappointed once they get here,” said Santa Ana Mayor Darwin Tobias.
Grace Berbano-Ruiz, who heads the Ceza tourism promotions department, said they deliberately made the prices of tour packages a bit steep in order to regulate the arrival of visitors and stop the exploitation of the island’s tourism potentials.
The island can accommodate 175 people on a single day, so she said they had to limit the number of visitors.
BLU DAENERYS Targaryen
THE LIGHTHOUSE guards one end of the island.