When I asked people about Ticao Island or Masbate, I got asked in return, “Where is it located?” What are the things to see and to do? Is it part of the Visayas region? I realized that Masbate is one of the least popular and most underrated provinces in the Philippines.
Masbate was part of our Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon tour or ALMASOR. In the second edition of ALMASOR’s “Soul of the South” coffee table book, former Gov. Joey Salceda said, “The tourism alliance of ALMASOR provides an opportunity for the three provinces to look into their shared history and culture.” One day, the province of Masbate with its untouched beauty, beaches, and marine sanctuary can match and keep up with its neighboring province.
Masbate is composed of three Major Islands namely, Masbate, Burias, and Ticao. Located at the crossroads of two island groups; Luzon and Visayas, it is the only island where three major Bisayan dialects are spoken as the first language. The people also speak Masbateño or Minasbate a unique language that is partly Visayan and partly Bicolano hence the term, Bisa-Kol.
We had a tight schedule on our 5-day ALMASOR trip allowing us just 1 day to explore the island of Ticao. “Due to the big waves and bad weather, our approximate travel time to Ticao Island is one and half hours,” said the boatman before we departed the port of Balan in Sorsogon. On our way to Ticao Island, the waves grew so large that almost everyone in our boat got wet. It was a fun and exciting boat ride going to Ticao Island.
The moment we entered the cove where the nine beachfront villas of Ticao Island Resort are perfectly built in the center, shaded under hundreds of tall coconut trees. The sea became calm and peaceful. The staff from the resort warmly welcomed us with fresh coconut juice.
The feeling was unbelievable; a few hours ago we were facing the strong waves then now it’s totally the opposite. I was amazed to see horses walking around freely, I love their nipa-hut inspired villa. It gave the provincial ambiance and comfort that I’m looking for.
Our beach front cabana is simple and basic. It’s an air-conditioned room with 2 beds, hot and cold shower, and free toiletries. The walls are built of Banig; a traditional woven mat made in the Philippine. I also love our small veranda where you can just sit, relax, and observe how exceptional and serene Ticao Island is.
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The resort is also a dive center where you can arrange a dive tour and visit the Manta bowl, located at Ticao pass few kilometers away from the shore. It is the only place in the Philippines included among the Manta Trust’s global tourism or “Hotspot” for manta ray sightings that’s why it is dubbed as the Manta Ray Capital of the Philippines. The best time to visit is from December to May.
The only island where we stopped due to big waves was Halea (San Miguel) Island. It’s a white beach nature park located at the far end of Ticao Island under the municipality of Monreal. The view was refreshing, I like how undisturbed the atmosphere was.
As I walked around the beach I found an elevated spot where I saw how beautiful Halea island is. The color of the sea was a dazzling blue; the sand is immaculately white, and the rich green trees covering the island. All of these can be found in Masbate.
I never missed the opportunity to swim around and spot baby sharks. It sounds scary at first when our guide said that this area is home to some baby sharks but he explained that they are small and won’t attack us. They moved away too fast once they felt that we were too close.
Though there are fewer fishes within the area, it was my first time being surrounded by tens if not hundreds of jellyfish. Having a bad impression on jellyfish I almost panicked. You can’t blame me, a sea full of jellyfish is bound to strike fear since I don’t know how to identify the stingless ones. I just swam and remained calm. This is a surreal experience. I can’t believe these close encounters with too many jellyfish.
As we travel to visit some other islands our guide pointed a small community called Sitio Mababoy. When he started to share the story of the people I can’t help but be amazed. He said back then when their community doesn’t have a school and enough boats. Children need to swim to another island to go to school. They put their things inside a plastic bag so it won’t get wet and change their school uniform once they reached the other side.
I can’t help but compare our sacrifices and rant going to school or in the office here in Manila. We always complain about traffic or poor train system, but on this side of our country, people are facing difficulty, swimming island to island every day to study.
But today, there are generous and kind-hearted people who helped improve the lives of the people in Sitio Mababoy. They now have classrooms that teach students in grade school. They now have more boat that they can use to move to the nearby island. We even saw some students who are traveling back home. I can see hope from them as they waved their hands to us.
How can you lose your hope with our country when you can see our new generation doing their best to learn and to achieve their goal? How can you not believe the power of humanity when you know that there are people out there ready to help others? They are one of the reasons, on how the life of people of Mababoy was changed. They are one of the reasons why someday I wouldn’t be surprised if our next teachers, doctors, and lawyers were kids from this island who never got tired of swimming to study.
I hope their story will bring more hope to our country. I promise to revisit here someday, bring whatever help that I could bring. I’m so excited to hear and share their inspiring life stories.
As we travel back to our resort, I saw kids playing their handmade boats. I walked over and asked for their condition. It was a joy to my ears to know that they have a small elementary school in their village. They invited me to walk around and do kayak to see mangroves but it’s too late and the sun is about to set. Nonetheless, I’m glad to play with the local kids and listen to short stories of their parents.
We ended the day watching dances prepared by the locals living near the resort. Life here is so simple and people are happy. Regardless of having basic or less necessity in life. They are blessed living in the stress-free island of Ticao. If you want to help the community you can coordinate with Ticao island resort and inquire about their community support program. Our donation can help build tables and chairs. Our small donations can make a better change in their lives.
Note: This is a sponsored FAM Tour by Tourism Promotions Board to promote the province of Masbate. All views, posts, and opinions shared here are my own.