ES­CAPE TO PALAUI

Cebu Libre - - FRONT PAGE - By Melvin Gas­con,

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

JAIME O. LORENZO

THE LIGHTHOUSE guards one end of the is­land.

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