Sibuyan Island in the province of Romblon has been dubbed as the Galapagos of Asia because of its lush biodiversity with many wildlife and plant and animal species endemic in the area. Unfortunately, the island has struggled with constant threats to its natural environment. Deforestation and mining activities were some of the major concerns of the locals.
Getting to Sibuyan is never easy. It takes 14 hours of travel by sea from Manila to Romblon, Romblon plus two more hours by boat to the town of Magdiwang in Sibuyan. From the Sibuyan sea and nearing its port, a line of mangrove forest is seen at its coast with the ragged tips of Mt. Guiting-Guiting at the backdrop. From the sea towards inland, Sibuyan unfolds its natural beauty, which everyone – residents and visitors alike – should endeavor to protect and preserve.
Starting from the waters surrounding the island, Sibuyan’s marine life is teeming with beauty. During the time when dynamite fishing was prevalent, most of its reefs and underwater habitat were damaged. There are reefs to explore near Cresta de Gallo, home of different species of fishes, sea creatures, corals and sea plants. Kanto Pating (literally means “the wall of the sharks”) is also a diving site near Sibuyan. As the name suggests, there are several sharks and huge fishes like dolphins and whales plying the area.
For those who cannot make it to the depths of the sea, they can snorkel off the coast of Sibuyan Island and enjoy the sight of the teeming and rich underwater life. Off Magdiwang Beach lies Ikaduha Fish Sanctuary, where schools of colorful fish can swim freely.
Waterfalls and rivers
Water is the source of life. As it flows from the uplands to the seas, it also carries the energy of the ecosystem throughout the island. Thanks to the vigilance of the locals, they band together in protecting their biodiversity from the ill-effects of man-made activities. One of the island’s pride is the Cantingas River, which, they claim, is the cleanest body of water inland throughout the country.
Sibuyan also has plenty of waterfalls – Busay Falls, Dagubdob Falls, Lambingan Falls, Cataja Falls, and Bila-Bila Falls. Visitors trek to these falls not only to marvel at the magnificent sites of these natural beauties but also to enjoy its clear waters.
These waterfalls and rivers are Sibuyan’s veins that naturally distribute water to various communities around the island. These bodies of water are the lifeblood of the people. They draw together the people – young and old, locals and tourists – as these have become a converging point for being a playground, source of livelihood, and venue for other household necessities. Moreover, indigenous plants abound in areas near these waterfalls and rivers.
The rugged peaks of Mt. Guiting-Guiting
Flora and Fauna and Wildlife
Within the periphery of the rivers and waterfalls are various plant species endemic in Sibuyan. Pitcher plants, vine flowers, ant-plant, tree fern, begonia, coralberry flowering plant, wild palm and hundreds of plant species, with an estimated 700 vascular plant kinds, are commonly seen in Mt. Guiting-Guiting. The mountain, its low-lying areas and Sibuyan’s coastline are covered by dense forests and vegetation.
A number of animal species are also pervasive in Sibuyan’s environs. The Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, the Philippine hawk-eagle, the Philippine Pygmy-woodpecker, the rufous-lored kingfisher and the Philippine hanging parrot are among the 130-or-so bird types found on the island. There are also rodents, reptiles, fruit bats, and other mammals that dwell in its forests.
Food and other activities
There are several local eateries in Sibuyan. Resorts also offer meals to their guests and some welcome walk-in diners. If you are going island hopping or snorkeling, you can ask your boatmen to include food in their package and they will serve you the fresh catch of the day. If you volunteer with local organizations, the communities can prepare local food.
One way to enjoy the island is to take a jeepney or tricycle ride going around its attractions. You can trek to the falls or bike along the highway near the beach. You can swim by the river or the pools beneath the waterfalls. You can also enjoy the beach.
The challenge for Sibuyanons
Since Sibuyan is difficult to access, there are still certain services or goods that get delayed. Sometimes, they have to go to Romblon Island for some of the things they need. But the biggest threat to Sibuyanons is mining. Because of its precious rocks and vast resources, the island has always been eyed as a mining haven. Socio-civic and environmental groups have been promoting the island as an eco-tourism destination to address issues like mining and poverty.
But the responsibility of protecting Sibuyan lies not only in the hands of its residents but also in every Filipino. By safeguarding its mountains, waters and lands, we are also caring for its people and every living creature that inhabits the island.