Legend has it that there was once a group of fishermen who were out on the calm waters of the Sulu Sea, in the southern part of the Philippine archipelago, when they spotted an island with white, powder-fine sand and a lush growth of coconut trees. They anchored ashore and explored the island’s diverse flora and fauna, went home bearing coconuts and other forest finds, and then came back soon after that. Not long after, this same group of fishermen—and more—would make regular trips to this new island discovery, and the island was soon known as Pamalican Island. Its name was derived from the Filipino word “balikan”, which either means “to return to” or “back and forth”, depending on context and where the accent was placed.
It isn’t known exactly when this island retreat was first discovered by the fishermen, but it was brought to the public consciousness by Andres Soriano, a Spanish-Filipino industrialist who supposedly rediscovered Pamalican while on a yachting trip, fell in love with the island, and decided to purchase it from that family that then owned the island’s coconut plantation. Soon after that, the Soriano family decided to develop the property and establish their presence in Pamalican, and in neighboring islands through the Andres Soriano Foundation.
Gems of Cuyo
Pamalican is just one of the 40 islands in the Cuyo Archipelago, a group of islands divided into the Quiniluban Group in the north (of which Pamalican is part) and the Cuyo Group in the south. Enveloped by the Sulu Sea and located between mainland Palawan in the west and the Visayan province of Iloilo in the east, Pamalican is home to what is perhaps the whitest beach in the Philippines, and its most luxurious and prestigious resort, Amanpulo.
The tranquil waters of the Sulu Sea are a favorite among cruising enthusiasts who travel to this region to explore the largely untouched and virginal islands of Cuyo, as well as among divers who come from all over the world to explore Pamalican’s many coral reefs and vibrant marine life. On a sunny summer day, one will see baby reef sharks swimming playfully and excitedly by Shark’s Point, on the eastern tip of the island. Snorkelers will be rewarded with sightings of hawksbill and green sea turtles, parrot fish, rays, and other coral fish on House Reef, just facing the Beach Club; while divers will be treated to an amazing display of color and diversity in any of the reefs, coves, and dive points around the island. Pamalican Island is also a favorite nesting site for green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles, and guests visiting the island between March and October can be treated to an extraordinary show of life unfolding on the shores.
Inland, Pamalican is just as, if not more than, tranquil as onshore. The 89-hectare island is home to lush flora and fauna that embrace Amanpulo’s many amenities, and nature lovers will enjoy exploring its many tree-lined paths, its rolling hillside streets, and even the occasional rock from which a better vantage point of Sulu Sea may be had. Guests are encouraged to try out the resort’s Nature Walk, a leisurely walk through Pamalican’s 5.5-kilometer coastline, which can be completed in just 1.5 hours. The resort also rents out bicycles, and this is the perfect, eco-ideal way to explore the nature reserve that Pamalican is. Aside from the coconut trees that have long stood firmly on the island, lush green shrubs and shady trees also occupy the island, giving the sun-drenched beach lover enough cover from the sun’s stinging rays. For bird lovers, the stars of the show will be the white-breasted wood swallows, the kingfishers, the black-naped orioles, the sea eagles, and the egrets that also call Pamalican home.
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Aside from the abundance of Mother Nature’s gifts in this tropical island paradise, what guests will enjoy most of all while in Pamalican Island is life’s serene, unhurried pace. Here, one is given front-row seats to the best sunrises and sunsets that are easy to miss and take for granted in the Big City,; and all forms of pressure and worldly distractions melt away as one digs her heels into the soft, cool sand that has been formed by millennia of waves gently kissing shore and coral. One can attempt to wander aimlessly through the island’s maze of walkways, at any time of the day, and not worry about being accosted and dragged to oblivion. The conveniences of cosmopolitan living are just a stone’s throw away, yet everything else is delightfully distant, even whatever worries may be plaguing someone’s tired head.
When the fishermen of old christened the island Pamalican, little did they realize that they had rightfully named an island that will be a joy to return to over and over again. It is no wonder, then, that Hollywood superstars and celebrities from all parts of the globe choose to spend the best of their days here. When you’re in Pamalican Island, you feel the bliss of being back in Mother Nature’s arms, in an embrace which you wish would last forever.