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Sailing In Paradise: Sibale 

Sibale Island Romblon

Sibale is an extinct volcano and one of the numerous islands within Romblon Province. Sibale contains nine villages (barangays), forming the municipality of Conception and most of the residents still speak a dialect that is unique to Sibale and its two closest island neighbors: Banton and Simara (aka Corcuera).

Sailing on a yacht from Romblon Island the voyage takes around eight hours – the alternative would have been a ferry journey from Pinamalayan, on the East coast of Mindoro Island. We arrived off the town of Conception, on the southeast corner of Sibale Island, at around 4pm and anchored just South of the port in 8 meters of crystal clear water.

The island of Sibale was reportedly first populated by the Spanish because of its strategic position, enabling the monitoring of sea traffic to/from Cebu and Panay from/to Manila. However, Sibale may in fact have a history that predates human habitation of what we know today as the Philippines (more in this later).

The waters around Sibale a rich in a wide variety of marine species and most of its coast is effectively a Marine Protect Area, meaning only hand-line fishing is allowed. The water is crystal clear throughout the year and the corals abundant & brilliant of color.

Once abundant with native terrestrial species, Sibale has lost most of its forest cover and wildlife to coconut plantations. However, there is at least one beach where turtles still nest and where the unique tabon bird can be found. The (mostly) Green Sea Turtles come ashore during the amihan season (November to May) and bury their clutches of eggs on the beach, over the hill to the southwest of the town. In years past, the residents of the island would have collected the turtle eggs but in this century the habitat has been protected by municipal ordinance and fenced to deter the poachers. The tabon bird also chooses the same beach to lays its eggs. It scurries from the surrounding undergrowth, spends an hour or so digging a hole in the sand (up to a meter deep), lays its eggs and then scurries away again. It is a wonder how the emerging chicks know that they should climb up through the sand to freedom, but obviously enough of them do as the tabon bird has been a feature of this beach since as long as Man can remember.

Where the mangroves have been retained you may find puzzle nuts (mangrove seed pods the size and shape of a baseball that contain interlocking seeds – no two seeds are quite alike). The children of the island take the puzzle nuts as items of collective amusement, challenging each other to reassemble a dismembered nut and if the task is completed too swiftly, then multiple nuts are dismembered and the jumbled pieces offered for reassembly – in this way, many jovial minutes (and sometimes hours) are employed in reassembly. There are also snakes and lizards, believed endemic to the island, plus flying fox fruit bats. The fruit bats roost in trees by day and can be seen flying hither and thither by night.

Where the forest has been retained, to protect the watershed, there are many native birds and other wildlife. At its highest peak there is the signed remains of an American-installed flagpole at the look-out station.

Tour guides are available to take you around Sibale and to introduce you to the many wonders of the island. An island tour by motorcycle along the single, narrow path/road around the island takes anywhere from an hour to a whole day, depending on how many times you stop to photograph the fishermen, birds and other wildlife

Mentioned earlier, the island may have been inhabited long before Man arrived in the archipelago. The native Mangyan from the nearby island of Mindoro speak of a time before they arrived when Mindoro was home to “giants”.

Known as the “alintawo” these giants apparently left many traces of their existence on Mindoro Island and many places are named in their honor. However, there is no hard scientific evidence of their being. That is, perhaps except for in a cave on Sibale. There is a cave on Sibale that the residents are afraid to enter; afraid because it contains the “remains of giants” and they fear to disturb these remains, expecting misfortune to befall the island if someone does. Could this be the actual last resting place of the alintawo?

To get to Sibale without chartering a yacht you can take the daily ferry from Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro. The voyage from Pinamalayan takes about 90 minutes and during your voyage you may see passing turtles and dolphins among a variety of sea-life.

If you prefer to charter a yacht to visit Sibale then you can do this most easily in Puerto Galera, on the North coast of Mindoro Island. If you are interested to charter a sailing yacht in the Philippines then check out: www.philippineyachthcarter.com

When you really want to get away from the pressures of Metro Manila for a few days you could travel to the heart of the Philippines and discover Sibale.

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