February 13-16, 2014
Part 3 of Sablayan and Apo Reef Series
Sablayan of Occidental Mindoro is famous for Pandan Island, a golden beach island just a few minutes of the coast of the town. But Pandan which is a favorite island stop and beach bum location of foreigners visiting the town, Sablayan offers much more. Being a town that is a jump-off to the 2nd largest contiguous coral reef of the world, the Apo Reef, the town provides a stunning history. A melting pot of culture from where the first inhabitants of the Mindoro settled until Spanish and American colonization, to Japanese occupation, the town preserved its tribal roots and endemic Taramaraws while opening its shores to modernization and tourism.
Sablayan is the largest town of the Occidental Mindoro province. Expanding its bounds from the vast mountain range of Mount Iglit-Baco National Park at the middle of the Mindoro Island up to the largest coral reef in the country, the Apo Reef which already borders the province of Palawan.
Mountains at the east are the only breeding ground in the world of the endangered Tamaraw (sci. Bubalus mindorensis), a dwarf wild buffalo. While its shores facing the west became a trading center of the island during the Spanish colonial era. The town is also a primary settlement of the Mangyan Tribe, who are the first settlers of the Mindoro island and over the years of colonization and foreign influences, they have maintained their culture while still being adept of modernization. The seas of Sablayan is also a part of the Verde Triangle, a part of the Earth's crust that had minimal geo-morphical change over eons which made the undersea environment be filled with almost one-third of the total marine species of the world thus making its shores extending until Apo Reef as one of the best dive sites in the world.
Sablayan can be accessed from Manila via land by going to Batangas Port and riding a Roro boat to cross the Verde Passage and drop off at Abra De Ilog Pier. From there is another 3.5-hour bus ride to Sablayan.
The town can also be accessed via plane which lands at San Jose, Occidental Mindoro and is a 2-hour bus ride from San Jose to Sablayan.
Pandan Island (north)
The Pandan Island is a resort island situated at only about 2.4 kilometers away from the shore of Sablayan. A mere 10-15 minute boat ride from Sablayan which surprises you with fine golden sand beach and a laid-back setting allowing you to sleep on Mangyan-inspired cottages as you stay.
|Tent out at the Pandan Island Beach
The beach facing the main Mindoro island allowing you to enjoy the sunrise over the mountain ranges of Mindoro including the Tamaraw-filled Mt. Iglit and the mighty Mount Halcon. At the back of the island allows you to be in awe with the seemingly limitless horizon of the Sulu Sea. A perfect place to watch the sunset. The waters are also noted for its pristine turquoise color and the beach is even a staging ground of Pawikans, a large endangered sea turtle.
|Golden Beach at Pandan Island facing Mt. Halcon
Pandan Island can be accessed via boat ride which costs Php 200 for one person or P550 if you are at most 8 in the group.
You can stay at the beach of Pandan for Php150 per day and head back to the mainland by sunset or avail of their overnight cottages starting at Php 800 per person per night.
A bar and restaurant is available. A dinner buffet costs Php 475.
Presing Park (Sablayan Lighthouse Park)
Back in the mainland, you can have a short trek over the highest point of the Sablayan shores at 32 meters above sea level where Presing Park or popularly known as the Sablayan Lighthouse park stands. The park features a great view of the north and south Pandan Island and is also a place where old Spanish canons are located to protect the town from invading pirates during the 16th and 17th century.
|Sablayan Lighthouse Park
|Old Spanish Canon
Soon, the longest zip-line in the country will open at this park which allows you to zip through 1.76 kilometers of inter-island adventure crossing the hill to the shore towards the South Pandan Island beach.
|Zipline at Sablayan Lighthouse Park
|South Pandan Island, the other end of the Zipline
Sablayan Old Church
By the base of the hill stands a 16th century old Spanish church beside the Sablayan port which is conserved but not properly preserved. The local tourism department must find ways to protect and further boost the town's tourism as the church is the first structure constructed in the island to Christianize the whole island of Mindoro.
|Old 16th Century Church of Sablayan
At the back of the main town of Sablayan by the bank of the Sablayan River is a suspension bridge which was constructed not only for easy access to the separated Barangay Tabuk but also for small vehicles such as motorcycles to pass by. Barangay Tabuk is a populated barangay that has a beach that is used as a staging dock for fishing boats and also by other boats going to the Pandan island and Apo Reef.
|Sablayan suspension bridge to Barangay Tabuk
A museum prepared by the local government of Sablayan stands at the plaza to have a short narrative of the history and tourist locations of Sablayan and Mindoro. This museum is the best place to start your vacation in Sablayan so you can learn more about the place before you see them in flesh.
Sablayan has numerous cheaper homestays and lodges to where you stay for the night when you tour the famous Pandan Island and the beautiful Apo Reef.
Schadow1 Expeditions was at Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro and the Apo Reef for three days and two nights mapping the town and the reef extensively. All dive sites, and locations mentioned in this article (and more) has been mapped and contributed to Openstreetmap Philippines to promote Philippine tourism and assist in disaster resiliency plans of local governments in the Philippines.
This blog also provides a semi-weekly update of the map compiled to GPS navigation systems to help travelers, drivers and marine navigators in Sablayan and the Apo Reef. It is downloadable for free on our #mapPHL page.
Google Maps (link)
Schadow1 Expeditions Contributions (link)
How to use for your Navigation System (link)
For a more detailed account of Schadow1 Expeditions on its Apo Reef and Sablayan mapping expedition, check on the links below:
- Part 1: The Captivating Apo Reef of Mindoro - A reef diver and beach fanatic's paradise
- Part 2: Apo Reef Travel Guide
- Part 3: A Travel Guide to Sablayan and Pandan Island of Occidental Mindoro