Thursday, April 24, 2014

Puntod Island: The Not-So-Virgin Island of Panglao, Bohol

Puntod (or Pungtod) Island is an uninhabited white sand islet off the coast of Panglao, Bohol. Depending on where you take off, it is 40 minutes to 1 hour boat ride from the main land. It is more popularly known to tourists as Virgin Island, a name which conjures an image of an unspoiled tropical oasis with turquoise blue waters lapping up it soft, white sand shores.

I had the opportunity to visit Panglao’s Virgin Island last year when I joined the Bohol International Marathon. I was with my wife Malou ,our couple friends James and Blessie and former college classmate Kerwin. Right after finishing the grueling distance, we rewarded ourselves by hopping to Puntod Island.

The owner of the resort where we stayed, Isola Bella Resort in Poblacion, Panglao, arranged for the boat that would take us to the island and back. It was a large outrigger and we went along with two other groups. Each group paid 500 pesos for the roundtrip transfer to Virgin Island.

Though the skies were gloomy, the waves were calm and it was a smooth sailing trip to the island. After about 40 minutes we reached Virgin Island and we all excitedly jumped off the boat right after it docked on the shores.

Puntod Island has a gorgeous crescent curve, fine white sands and a patch of mini-forest. It is actually just an islet which can be circled in less than 30 minutes by foot.  However, contrary to its more popular name, it is anything but virginal.

Probably due to its proximity to mainland Panglao and since it was a weekend, the island was teeming with tourists. There were also vendors selling sea urchins, buko (young coconut) and pearl bracelets roaming around. To top it all, this island is already privately owned. A billboard inside the fenced area indicates this claim together with the Original Certificate of Title and the owners’ names.  A shrine was built within this area and further development was on-going when we were there. It remains to be seen whether this development has a positive or negative effect on the island’s natural environment.

Nevertheless, its less-than-virginal state did not deter us from having a good time. It was low tide when we arrived and since we could not swim yet, we took the time to explore the whole island.  The absence of the heat of the sun due to the overcast skies made it easier for us to walk around.

Aside from the sea grasses washed ashore, the beach is generally clean. I definitely love the softness of its white sands.  And despite the crowd, there are still some quite spots for those who seek solitude.

After circling the island, we rested on a makeshift hut and enjoyed some fresh buko juice and sea urchins ("swaki"). And when the high tide started to engulfed portions of the sandbar, we took the opportunity to swim in the blue waters.

The dip soothed our bodies, tired and battered from running the marathon hours before. The swimming didn’t take too long though, as we have to get back to the resort before noon to check out and prepare our belongings for the journey back home.

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