KALAMANSIG, Sultan Kudarat (MindaNews / 2 May) – One of the best-kept secrets in Mindanao beach lovers ought to explore this summer or anytime of the year can be found in this rustic remote fishing town – at an unspoiled and enchanting island facing the Celebes Sea sparsely inhabited by people.
Locals call it Balut Island, although it also goes by the name Donauang Island, about an hour away by motorized boat from the poblacion.
That gives Mindanao two fantastic Balut Islands, one here and the other in Sarangani town in Davao del Sur.
Unlike Balut Island in Sarangani with hundreds of households, Balut Island here hosts only 15 households of Manobo and Tausug ethnic tribes living in peaceful harmony.
“We have beautiful diving and snorkeling spots around the island,” Datu Kiram Ajijul, village councilor of Barangay Paril, told MindaNews.
Scuba divers from as far as Cebu City have gone around the diving sites in the island and found an amazing underwater ecosystem, he added.
Balut Island, so named because of its egg-shaped form, is part of the Paril-Sangay Marine Protected Area.
With turquoise waters fronting Balut Island’s stretches of white sand beachfront, swimming and sunbathing are all the more fun as big waves dash towards the coastlines.
And the good thing is this: tourists can enjoy the island for free. Yes, no entrance fees.
Pitch a tent, grill by the bay and swim to your heart’s content – some of the best things in life are still for free in Balut Island.
Just a word of caution though: do not bring pork because there are Tausugs in the island, believers of Islam.
It’s also best to first coordinate with Alijul or the elders in Purok Mangga and register at the visitors’ logbook as courtesy to the locals. Purok Mangga is adjacent to Balut Island and about 10 minutes apart by motorized boat.
Purok Mangga, which is inhabited by Tausugs, is itself already a beautiful beach destination with its white sand coastline and the enticing turquoise waters.
The purok, and eventually Balut Island, would be easier to access by land once the Kalamansig-Palimbang road is completed. Here, sun-dried dilis (anchovies) can be bought as pasalubong for P100 per kilo (can be cheaper if you’re good in bargaining).
It is a must to bring food and water to Balut Island or Purok Mangga, or tent if you’re planning to stay overnight, as there are no resorts or restaurants. Currently, although there are plans to build cottages for tourists in Purok Mangga, the area is a plain unspoiled island paradise.
For now, boat ride, which can be rented for P1,500 the whole day, is the most convenient way to reach Balut Island.
There is a daily passenger boat that charges P40 per head from the poblacion to Barangay Paril, from where tourists can hire a boat to reach Balut Island less than 30 minutes away.
The one-hour boat ride from the poblacion to Balut Island offers a breathtaking view of the coastal villages of the town where rock formations and cliffs abound with greeneries.
This town is about four hours away from Cotabato City, the closest urban center, and travelling the long, winding and mountainous road offers yet another spectacular experience with the stunning view of the rolling valleys dotted by greeneries.
There are daily passenger vans plying the route from Cotabato City at P350 per head.
Several lodging houses operate in the town, charging less than P1,000 per room or P250 per head either way. Cellular phone signal is strong both for Smart and Globe subscribers.
Minutes away from the poblacion, there are beaches that tourists can also splurge on like the Santiak and Poral Beach Resorts.
Other things to see in the locality are the mini-zoo housing wild animals right close to the municipal hall and the various waterfalls around town.
And oh, don’t ever come here without a camera.
Sunrises and sunsets are magnificently spectacular back-dropped by the sea.
Go and find out.