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Malapascua Island: Living a simple life on a ‘virgin island’

Children play on the sand near the Malapascua Island port.

Children play on the sand near the Malapascua Island port. | Doris C. Bongcac

MANDAUE CITY, Cebu – Malapascua Island may already be a popular tourism destination, but local people on the island continue to live simple lives.

Barangay Captain Lemuel Daño said this would help them keep the status of their island barangay of Logon as a ‘virgin island.’

It is for this reason that they did not have four-wheeled vehicles as they also tried to minimize the construction of buildings on the island, Daño said.

“Nindot man gud nga magpabilin ta nga virgin island kay dili siya langas. Maconsider gihapon namo nga virgin island ang Malapascua,” he added.

(It is good that the we remain a virgin island because there are not a lot of noise. We can still consider that Malapascua is still a virgin island.)

Motorcycle ride cost P50 for visitors. | Doris C. Bongcac

When on the island, it’s either you walk, ride a bicycle or take a motorcycle ride for a fee of P20 for the locals and P50 for visitors.

Islanders also use motorcycles with sidecars to transport their goods to and from the port.

Motorcycle driver Eric Roque said that since they did not have their own depot or gasoline station, enterprising individuals would buy gasoline in bulk from mainland Daanbantayan town and sell these to motorcycle owners on the island at an increased price.

Simple life

Daño said that while they welcomed the arrival of tourists and embrace development, people on their virgin island continued with the way of life that they had inherited from their forefathers.

Most of their residents, he said, continued the use of deep wells for their water consumption.  Some buy distilled water, which they sourced from the mainland, if they could afford it.

Their men continue to go out to sea for their consumption.  If they have more than enough catch, they are also able to sell these to buyers.

A residents prepares his “kitang” or a fishing line with many hooks that they would use for fishing. | Doris C. Bongcac

Roque said he would go out to sea at about 2 a.m. to fish. When he would come back home by 6 a.m., he would rest for a while before he would start to transport passengers on his motorcycle.

And in the afternoon, Roque would then report to work as a maintenance personnel of a resort on the island. He is tasked to especially oversee the maintenance of the beds and furniture at the resort.

“Dili gyud mi mobiya sa panagat kay dili man pud pirmaninti nga naay mangabot nga turista. Naa man say mga buwan nga mingaw labi na kun maglain ang panahon,” he said.

(We will leave fishing because tourists will not permanently be here all the time. There are months where only a few tourists would visit because of the bad weather.)

Based on the 2022 population census, Barangay Logon now has a population of 6,257.

Daño said about 95 percent of their residents continued to rely on the sea while the remaining five percent were professionals.

Residents continue to use deep well for their water source. | Doris C. Bongcac

Tourism arrivals

Daño recalled that it was only in the 1980s that they started the use of a generator set to power important infrastructure that were on the island.

Power was only available for use between 6 p.m. to around midnight then while residents continued to use kerosene lamps.

Since the late 1990s and as tourist arrivals increased, the island started to draw the interest of investors.

It now had two private power providers and three water desalination plants that catered especially to the resorts, dive shops and other businesses that were on the island, Daño said.

At present, they also have three cell sites.

Daño said foreign tourist arrivals would be at its peak from November to May.  The island’s top tourists included the Koreans, Europeans and Chinese.

Locals, on the other hand, come between April and May.

“Linaw gyud kaayo na siya. Dili rough ang dagat,” he said.

(The sea at that time is calm. The sea is not rough.)

Malapascua Island. Motor banca are docked on the shores of Malapascua Island. | Doris C. Bongcac

Motor banca are docked on the shores of Malapascua Island. | Doris C. Bongcac

Limit development in Malapascua

Daño said that as they continued to welcome guests into the island, barangay officials were also in agreement of the need to implement measures that would lessen the impact of tourism visits and progress on their virgin island.

In the days to come, they wanted to focus on strictly implementing the island’s carrying capacity that would limit the number of guests at a particular time.

“Before tungod sa kadaghan [sa turista], ang uban magtent na lang. Amo na na gihinay-hinay og limit para sa safety og aron dili pud maguba ang dagat,” he said.

(Before because of the number [of tourists], others will just pitch tents there. We are slowly limiting this for safety and so that the sea will not be destroyed.)

Daño said the need to limit the island’s carrying capacity was also the reason why visiting tourists were required to pass by the Tourism Information Center that is located at the Maya Port to register and pay the corresponding environmental fee.

They intend to continue to limit the presence of buildings as they also continue to preserve their marine resources.

In the area of transportation, Daño said, they were now waiting for the implementation of a circumferential road project by the Cebu provincial government to improve mobility on the island.

At present most of the island’s roads are small, just enough to accommodate two motorcycles at a time.  There are also those that are not even paved.

But even if the project was implemented, Daño said, he was inclined to continue to prohibit the presence of four-wheeled vehicles there, except for emergency vehicles and garbage trucks.

Malapascua Island

Islanders use a motorcycle with sidecar to transport their goods to and from the post of Malapascua. | Doris C. Bongcac


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TAGS: life, Malapascua Island, Motorcycle, residents, Simple, Virgin island
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