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Brokenhearted? Nine Remote Islands in the Philippines to Find and Grow Some Love for Yourself Again

Mahaba Island

To live in an archipelagic nation like the Philippines translates to leaving the island you call home and find yourself on a different island whose people speak the same (or an entirely different) language yet with a certain sing-song melody that is different from yours. That is how I live here. Here is Cebu—a bacon-shaped island in the center of the Visayas.

When I feel the urge to leave, this is what I do: google the map of the neighboring islands and check the names of the little islands surrounding them, pick one, and find my way there no matter what. Yeah, I know it is crazy, but that is how I find my weekend sanctuaries. I collated them here as a reference for others who might be looking for a place where they can master the art of doing nothing.

Here are eight remote islands in the Philippines (Visayas region) to find yourself and grow some love for your own self.

Pamilacan Island, Bohol

Panglao has the crowd—the place to go to if you want all the conveniences. Yet not far off, a forty-five minute boat ride from Baclayon, Pamilacan Island offers the island definition of the bucolic: the hum of the passing motorboats and the murmurs of a radio somewhere are two of the constant sounds I heard here. With electricity running from four in the afternoon until midnight, there is nothing much left but lounge on the empty beach, stare at the sea, or read a book. Or snorkel at the island’s marine sanctuary replete with healthy corals and lively fish.

Eight Remote Islands in the Philippines

How to get there:

From Manila, fly to Tagbilaran. From Cebu, ferry to Tagbilaran. From the city, ride a jeep bound for Baclayon. Get off at the jetty area. Pay the environmental fee at the tourism office located by the port. You can hire a boat all for yourself or join the locals in a passenger boat.

Sicogon Island, Iloilo

A photo on Cabugao Gamay, an islet of the bigger Isla de Higantes, is now in everyone’s bucketlist. For a quieter and remoter option, Sicogon Island is another gem in Iloilo. Here, local families have the pristine shore as their yard. Hunting seashells, lounging under a massive tree, taking endless photos, and conversing with the locals were my favorite pastime. Unlike Pamilacan, there are no resorts in the area yet. But there are two options: either to live with a local family for P300 a night or pitch a tent on the shore. We did both.

Sicogon Island, Iloilo

How to get there:

From Manila or Cebu, flying to Roxas City is more practical. Estancia, the jump-off to Sicogon and Isla de Higantes, is an hour away from Roxas City, while Iloilo City is around three hours away.

Olotayan Island, Roxas City

Olotayan must be one of the most adventurous islands I have been to. A friend and I arrived in an island that had nothing for non-locals. We came unprepared, so we had sardines and instant noodles for dinner and spent the night in an open cottage. Without any mankind-induced light pollution, the stars-filled sky stole our attention from our everyday worries. This is my type of luxury that could not be found in the metropolis.

Olotuyan Island, Roxas City

How to get there:

From Manila or Cebu, fly to Roxas City. Ride a tricyle to Banica Wharf. Boat rentals start at P600, one way.

Deagan Island, Masbate

With the kindness of a young lady named Rina, I was able to find a place for a night on this little island in northern Masbate. With limited electricity like the rest of the islands in this list, it encouraged me to focus on the now. Now was swimming in the clean waters for hours. Now was talking with fishermen about their days and playing with the kids. Now was reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.

How to get there:

From Bogo City Cebu, ferry to Masbate. Ride a jeepney to Dimasalang. Boat rentals start at Php300. A trip to Masbate can be included in your trip to northern Cebu’s Malapascua or Bantayan Island

Sambawan Island, Biliran

Sambawan Island’s selling point is similar to Isla de Higantes’ Cabugao Gamay: it has a vantage point where you can see the whole island. This island in Maripipi, Biliran is beautiful in a lot of ways. I traveled solo yet again, and my Sambawan memories were composed of swimming in its marine sanctuary, drinking tuba (coconut wine) with the stewards, and staying in a local’s home for a night in Maripipi. [READ: Reaching Sambawan through Kind Hearts]

How to get there:

From Manila, fly to Tacloban. Bus to Naval, Biliran where you can ride a passenger boat to Maripipi Island. From Maripipi, ride a habal-habal (a passenger motorcycle) to Brgy. Ol-og, the jump-off point to Sambawan Island.

Capul Island, Northern Samar

An island that has its own language is a fitting description for Capul Island in Catarman, Northern Samar. It might not have a wide shore, but its people and rugged terrain could hold you captive. I spent most of my hours in the grassland by the lighthouse, looking at the cows grazing nearby, eavesdropping to a group of young Capul-anons’ conversation (although I could not understand a single word), listening to the waves’ hissing by the cliff, and basking in the beauty of the afternoon light. [READ: Gimata: the Word that Stays: an essay on Capul Island]

How to get there:

From Cebu, fly to Tacloban or ferry to Ormoc and then take a van/bus to Tacloban. Bus to or ride a van to Catarman, where the boat to Capul Island is docked.

Calicoan Island, Eastern Samar

Calicoan Island is part of Guiuan, the place where the SuperTyphoon Yolanda made her first landfall. Three years after, this place is still under rehabilitation. But it should not stop any travelers from coming here. Tidal pools, long stretch of white-sand beaches, oceanic swells, and intimate coves all for yourself are some of the thrills waiting for any traveler daring to visit this place.

How to get there:

From Manila, fly to Tacloban and ride a van or a bus to Guiuan. From there, take a jeep to Sulangan. Budget accommodations are only available in the town center. Resorts by the beach are still underconstruction.

Digyo and Mahaba Islands, Southern Leyte

Digyo, pronounced as digjo, is part of Cuatro Islas (Four Islands) off the coast of Inopacan, Southern Leyte. I have heard there are now cottages you can rent for the whole night. But three years ago, we brought our own tents, hammocks, ukulele, cooking utensils, and two-days worth of water supply.

How to get there:

From Manila, fly to Tacloban and bus to Southern Leyte. From Cebu, hop on a ferry to Babay, Leyte and bus to Inopacan.

CABUGAO GAMAY, ISLA DE HIGANTES is one of the places I want to visit again. Check my list here.

CABUGAO GAMAY, ISLA DE HIGANTES is one of the places I want to visit again. Check my list here.

There is solace by traveling solo [READ: Alone, Not Lonely]. There is a lot of laughter and fun by traveling with friends. Either way, may you find or make your own version of these remote islands in the Visayas. When you hesitate, always remember there is kindness everywhere.

REMEMBER: These are all small islands. Please let us be extra mindful with our waste management. I shared this list with all the hopes that they would not be trashed.

Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona, originally from Cebu, Philippines, had live in Hanoi, Vietnam, and now currently based in Munich, Germany. This blog used to house thoughts on life and books, but eventually it morphed into a travel blog. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at For essays, creative nonfiction, and others, find me elsewhere.

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  1. Roselle says:

    Hi Ms.Jona! I always love reading your blogs. Among the travel blogs that I read, yours is one of my favorites. Your vivid description of the places you’ve been to makes me want to go there, too. Looking forward to more of your blogs.

  2. […] Photo from:… […]

  3. […] been to some remote islands in the Philippines. Some have become popular now, some remain quiet and elusive to mass […]

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