I remember about four or five years ago, local traveling was not really something that a lot of Pinoys fancied on. It was easier to book local flights during promo fares back then because people preferred going for international destinations. The past years have seen a significant growth on the tourism industry specifically with the local market. We have seen a number of FB local travel organizers springing into action turning weekends, especially the long ones, into opportunities for quick vacation escapes. Weekend destinations have become instant hits whether you prefer hiking up the mountains or hitting the beach.
Burias Group of Islands in the northern side of Masbate have seen a significant increase in tourism activity. From an off-beat destination, it became a quick favorite among weekend travel organizers that exposed the islands’ charm and beauty to a larger audience. Now you can choose from a lot of weekly organized trips to these islands. I didn’t budge to try out one of these organized trips to Burias. After choosing Grande Marias Travel and Tours through their guide Christian Racaza, I packed my bags, took the long road trip, and crossed the sea to discover what the islands of Burias has to offer.
Welcome to Burias Group of Islands
Our boat steadily sliced through the glass-like waters of Ragay Gulf. From our vantage point, I can see the silhouette of Mayon Volcano on one side of the gulf l. It is bordered by the Bicol and Quezon provinces. This was a perfect summer feel - the summer sun, the cool sea breeze, and the still waters of the gulf.
Burias Group of Islands is a favorite weekend destination because of its proximity from Manila, the ease of travel, and the awesome islands that you can explore. It is one of the three main islands of the province of Masbate and can probably be considered the most visited part of the province. It can be reached after an 8-hour land trip through Quezon to either San Andres or, in our case, San Francisco. From these jump-off points, it takes another 2 hours of sea travel through the calm summer waters of Ragay Gulf. Alternatively, one can also opt to go via Naga-Pasacao route.
Animasola Island: The Photogenic Drama Beauty
Animasola Island is THE most photogenic and social media worthy in the group. It is not surprising that it is the icon of Burias’ tourism because of its iconic rock formations in the midst of its white sand shores. Don’t be surprised with the crowd on the island. It is the most popular in Burias.
What makes Animasola Island stand-out are its rock formations. These formations were formed by centuries of sedimentation that it looks like stacked papers. Its ruggedness and artistic “stacking” make a very dramatic backdrop for pictures.
If the Ilocos has the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, I guess Masbate has its own version minus the white color. Burias’ version is more dramatic because it juts out of the sea during high tide. One needs to wade through sea water to get that social media worthy shot.
Another famous feature of the island, which we were not able to witness, was its saltwater pool that reveals its real beauty during low tide. As the water recedes, a small wading pool springs up and its underwater rock formations are revealed. The circular pool, if your timing is right, is a good spot to get amazing photos. Unfortunately, the tides did not cooperate with us during our visit.
Again, the downsize of Animasola’s beauty is the crowd that it brings in. The number of tourists visiting does not seem to wane so expect the challenge of getting a clear shot. Nevertheless, the unique beauty of the island will challeng your creativity for hours, if time permits.
Tinalisayan Island and Its Bar: The Chill One
Tinalisayan Island is the complete opposite of Animasola Island. This island is all about that beach vibe on its white sand shores. It has the complete mix of a perfect family summer beach picnic - clear waters to swim on, white sand shores to get a tan, little adventures to check out, and picnic huts or tree shaded areas where you can watch lie down and enjoy its vibe. I guess that is reason why tour operators make it their lunch stop so guests can get that vibe.
Tinalisayan Island is also popular for its sandbar located a few meters off-shore. Again, timing is essential if you want to enjoy the sandbar. The small strip of sand emerges as water recedes giving its guests another good vantage point to view Tinalisayan Island. You can also opt to enjoy the cool waters around it but take extra caution because its depth drops with just a few steps. The sandbar is the Tinalisayan’s main tourist draw.
But if you happen to miss out on the sandbar, don’t fret. There are other activities that you can enjoy in Tinalisayan. You can go for a quick dip or try cliff jumping. There are also small stores where you can enjoy a good serving of halo-halo. You can walk around the island and explore its nooks and crannies or you can try rock balancing while waiting for the sandbar to show up. Or you can choose to have your own shaded corner where you can read a book or listen to your fave songlist. I told you... the island is a chill spot.
Ernest Point: The Young and Wild
This small rocky island is good for the faint-hearted. Rocky and rugged, the island is just a side trip from the usual fare. It is void of any sandy shores but the clear waters around it is inviting.
There is nothing to do in the island except to cliff jump. This is where you get to practice and get that strength for a wilder adventure. Those who want to try it out gets off loaded on one the other side of the island where a series of pathways and stairs would lead them to the platform. The outrigger boats would then fetch guests after they make the jump. The “practice session” comes with a Php40 fee.
Busing Island: The Calm One
A swim away from Ernest Point is Busing Island. It is one of the larger islands in the province. The island is the community center of the area. This is where you will find established community facilities that provide basic services to its locals. This was going to be our home for the night.
Busing Island is a fishing community. Its rustic ambiance offers a laidback vibe of the community. Local kids give you those innocent stares as you chat with the manang at the store. Evenings are nice and quiet except when you have guests gulping down liquor until the wee hours of the morning. Afternoons are laid back that you can walk and enjoy the calmness of the place as you walk along its cream-colored shores.
It is a refuge where you can calm your mind as you watch the sunset burst into different colors and the sunrise as it calmly checks in to start the day. Perfect, right?
Templo Island: The Big And The Bold
If you got a thing for jumping off an 80-foot cliff into the sea then do not miss out on Templo Island.
Templo Island, just like Ernest Point, is a rocky island void of sandy shores except that it is bigger and for the bolder. The island is characterized by rocky cliffs surrounded by the clear waters of Ragay Gulf. A 5-minute hike through its rugged terrain will give you endless views of the sea, the surrounding areas, and its jagged cliffs that come in all heights and sizes. The highest point of the island is the best vantage point to get that 360 panoramic view. A white cross was installed by missionaries at the top... uhmm... probably for spiritual strength before taking the “plunge”.
Templo Island is for the bold because it offers an 80-foot plunge into the sea. At the other side of the island is a rock wall where one can take a jump and get the free-fall feel. Those who have tried it would attest that your mind will make you ask yourself when you are hitting the water. You stay airborne that long! And the best part of it is that once you have made the decision, there is no other way out but to jump.
Sombrero Island: The Business Minded
Sombrero Island is the most commercialized island in the cluster. The island got its name from a rock formation on one side that is shaped like a “sombrero”, a Filipino term for hat. Adjacent to that island is a long stretch of white sand shoreline and a sandbar that completes the package.
The island have undergone a full blown development complete with picnic huts, overnight cottages, and even performance areas or halls. Its beauty is drowned out by the business happening around. You get the island-resort feel in Sombrero. It is the perfect spot for family or company outings where you get to enjoy the sun, sand, and sea with amenities within reach.
Dapa Island: The Dangerously Silent One
While the other islands shout out their personalities, Dapa Island is a quiet respite. It stands out for its cool mix of sharp-edged rock formations and a short strip of sandy-coral shores where one can enjoy a quick dip. The rock formations are a good backdrop for more pictures. Take extra precaution when navigating through its sharp rocks.
Dapa Island is dangerously silent because it is the home of sea snakes. Although our guides say that sea snakes are fine as long as you don’t disturb or threaten them, the idea of snakes is something that sent chills down my spine. These sea snakes are usually found at the bottom of Dapa’s rock formations. Luckily (or unluckily) for us, we didn’t get to see any sea snakes and we were told that they are probably out at sea and hunting for food.
Dapa Island was an easy island hopping “cool down” for us as it was the last island on our list. Here you can enjoy one last dramatic summer shot or one last seawater dip before heading back to the city or before summer is officially over.
Post Travel Notes
Different islands. Different personalities. And yet all of them were clustered into one corner to give its visitors a different experience. What was once an off-beat destination is now a favorite weekend spot by many. If you ask me my personal favorite among these islands, its Tinalisayan Island! I like the “chillness” of the place. I like the fact that I found a chill spot in the island where I simply enjoyed the sound of the rustling leaves and the waves breaking on the beach.
The Burias Group of Islands saw a steady increase in its tourists visit over the past years because of the increased awareness of its natural beauty on social media. The ease of going there, provided by FB travel groups, complemented the awareness opening another viable industry that locals can hopefully develop and live on. This is one area that shows the power of social media. Its breadth and connection can help create or improve new industries in the tourism front. Local government and communities should be able to formulate their strategies as early as now before their own tourism “boom” in order to make these new industry a sustainable one.
As our motorized banca sliced through the calm waters of Ragay Gulf, you get a glimpse of a flying fish out of the water leaving a trail along the water every now and then. My Burias trip was just like that. It was a short weekend trip that left a trail. The only difference is that I am leaving the trail open for everyone to read and, hopefully, experience.
Getting there: Heading up to Burias Group of Island? You can take a bus to San Andres in Quezon where you can hire an outrigger boat to explore Burias Island. Alternatively, you can take a bus for Naga. You can then take a jeepney to Pasacao from Naga. You can rent outrigger boats at Pasacao. It would be best though that you DIY with your peers as outrigger boat rentals can be expensive if traveling alone.
Alternatively, you can also join FB travel organizers who troop to Burias during weekends. You can check out Grande Marias Travel and Tour for their organized trips and schedules. You can also get in touch with our very dependable guide, Christian Racaza, at +63936 9192272 or through his FB account here.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.