Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bislig, Surigao del Sur: Hagonoy Island and a Series of Very Fortunate Events

Bislig - Hagonoy Pier Blues
Hagonoy Island blues
So there I was, lying on a hammock lulled to sleep by the breeze coming from the bay.  The sun hung low in the horizon, the haze obscuring the lay of Bislig City.  While the northern part of Luzon was experiencing the effects of a typhoon, here we were given the privilege of enjoying sunny weather.  How we found our way to Hagonoy Island was a series of very, very fortunate events.

Finding our digs, finding our way.  We came to Bislig in Surigao del Sur, Mindanao, on the heels of a big convention and not having made reservations in advance, we went from inn to inn in Mangagoy looking for accommodations with no luck.  Tipped off by the kind lass manning Pension La Salle, we tried our luck one more time in One Eleven, the oldest inn in the barangay.  The place was vacant because its water pump was busted.  We cajoled the owner, Mang Carding Cejoco, to let us stay even for a night even if it means we have to fetch water for bathing.

Now, who would've thought that Mang Carding was the brother of the owner of Hagonoy Island?  We first spotted the flyer advertising this destination in Pension La Salle and called.  After a series of text messages and calls, we earned an invitation to visit the very next day from no less than its owner, Aling Ambing Cejoco, who was preparing for the arrival of guests from out-of-town at the break of dawn.
Bislig - Hagonoy Island Sunrise
Hagonoy Island sunrise silhouette
Sunrise island-hopping.  Fighting off diazepam-induced sleepiness (I had to visit the community clinic after midnight for a check-up), it was rewarding to venture out to sea before the full brunt of the sun was upon us.  The sea was calm, the 30-minute ride from the market-side pier, smooth.  Along the way, we passed by big boats yet to set sail and fishing platforms strewn with nets, also bancas "parked" on wooden stilts, perhaps due to the lack of a real sandy shoreline.

To my mind, Hagonoy seems to be a palm-fringed sand bar that mysteriously rose from the sea.  The sand, while not very white, was fine and kind to the feet.  It only takes a few minutes to go from one end to the other but the island has its charms.   The facilities are spartan but adequate -- several cottages/huts, showers and restrooms with running water, a volleyball court and barbecue grill.  Oh, and a solitary hammock facing the east -- something I put to good use.
Bislig - Fishing Nets at Sunrise
Fishing platform in the sunrise hours
Hospitality, Bislig-style.  A privately-owned island, Hagonoy is open to guests who'd want to island-hop instead of staying land-locked.  Understandably, the local government is grooming it to be the next major natural attraction for tourists second to Tinuy-an Falls.  In the early morning with no visitors yet in sight, the island is a picture of, pardon the cliche, tropical tranquility.  We had the opportunity to revisit later in the afternoon, thanks to our incredible luck of being at the receiving end of Aling Ambing's hospitality.
Bislig - Hagonoy Island Beach
Hagonoy tree-lined shoreline
We concluded our day spending the sunset and early evening hours on the island.  To compound our good fortune, we met Bislig's Vice Mayor, Conrad Cejoco, Aling Ambing's son, who was spending the night on the island with friends (Unbeknown to us at that time, he was a buddy and classmate of a friend). An ordinary meal would taste like a feast here.  But call it luck, serendipity or blessedness, we got treated to a real, honest-to-goodness feast come dinner time with prawns, lobsters, crabs, bangus and chicken hot off the grill served under a canopy of stars and palm trees swaying lazily to the rhythm of the gentle sea breeze.  If this isn't Bislig bliss, I don't know what is.
Bislig - Hagonoy Pier
Hagonoy Pier in the early morning
Info:  Hagonoy Island can be reached via pumpboat from the Bislig pier, travel time: approximately 30 minutes • Entrance fee: P50; parking for pumpboat: P60; cottage rental P100 (small) and P200 (big) • The grounds are also ideal for setting up tents • Pumpboat rental fee: P1,000 (10 pax, roundtrip) or P1,500 (20 pax, roundtrip)


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