Smog. Nasty alleys.
Jostling crowds everywhere.
You can’t even enjoy the bay because you’d get jostled by locals as soon as you get comfy on an outdoor bench somewhere.
The Philippines is more than just Manila. There’s land beyond Luzon too.
The most beautiful islands are found in the southern part of the Philippines.
Beaches so pristine you’d thank your Creator for bringing you to its shores.
Sand so find you feel like you’ve stepped on sugar sprinkles.
Waves so blue you’d feel like…got my drift?
Drifting on the ocean.
Don’t believe me? Read on.
Who’s Dr. Gene Salialam?
For this article, I’ve partnered with Mindanao’s most persistent lakwatsero, Dr. Abdugafur Salialam, also known as Doc Gene.
I adore this man. He’s so fab he oozes glitter. We were classmates in therapy school decades ago and I’m just so proud of the things he’s achieved.
This adorable neighborhood ER physician had visited 75 out of 81 Philippine provinces.
My jaws drop seeing the immense beauty of the pictures he post regularly.
Doc Gene works 2 days a week at the Basilan General Hospital so he’s got lots of time to go on trips. And he makes the most of every trip to…
Where else? The beach….
We both decided it’s the right time for the world to be acquainted with the beauty of Mindanao.
Gene & I are partial to the beaches near our hometown since that’s where we grew up.
Welcome to paradise.
Distance from Manila: 1 hour by plane, then a boat ride
Isabela is the capital of Basilan Island, which sits right across Zamboanga City.
Lampinigan beach has beautiful white sands and rock formations. You seldom see crowds here so you can enjoy the crescent-shaped beach, palm tress, and crystal clear calm blue water.
It’s the perfect place to just check out from reality for a while.
Close your eyes and listen to the waves crashing on the shores of Linguisan beach.
This hidden gem is located in Barangay Tungawan, Zamboanga Sibugay.
Tungawan is about 2.5 hours’ ride from Zamboanga City.
- Disembark at Barangay Lali Alam’s passenger drop off.
- Ride a habal-habal to Linguisan proper. It will take around 20 mins.
- Enjoy your stay!
So what’s a habal-habal?
It’s a customized motorcycle turned into public transportation. A dangerous public taxi really.
There are no seat belts and there’s nowhere to hold onto except the wooden plank extension you’re sitting on.
Imagine a Kawasaki with wooden wings.
Here’s a cool habal-habal.
We live dangerously in paradise.
If you’re a tourist with some change or a prissy local then by all means, take your 4-wheel vehicle.
But it’s not as cool as riding with the wind in your hair and bodily injury in your shadows.
Basilan island is dotted with gorgeous beaches. Malamawi is one of them.
The madding crowd is far and the sandy beach is white.
Not just any kind of sand. Powdery granules unspoiled by ocean debris.
There’s a resort on the white beach but very basic, no frills.
This slice of paradise is only 4 miles or so from the island’s capital city of Isabela.
Dahican Beach, Mati
Further down Mindanao’s shores is Davao Oriental. The republic’s sitting president Rodrigo Duterte hails from this area.
Beautiful Dahican Beach is in the city of Mati, Davao Oriental. Davao City is around 42 miles by car from here.
Waves are good for surfing. Multiple resorts dot the area around Dahican Beach with affordable rates for big groups , think $45-$50 per night for a cottage that can accommodate 5 people.
These babies are really close to home.
Literally meaning “11 islands,” this paradise is only an hour away by car from the urban center of Zamboanga City.
Once Islas belong to the municipalities of Panubigan and Dita. Only a few of the 11 islands are inhabited. The inhabitants are subsistence fishermen and tour operators request that every visitor must be dressed decently to respect the local customs.
That means no bikinis! You can still do a lot of fun activities like swimming, kayaking, trekking, or just laying back and enjoy the sun on your face.
Santa Cruz Island
I told you we were partial to beaches close to home. Santa Cruz is the crowning point of Zamboanga City tourism.
And it’s not even in Zambo City! It’s an island about 4 miles away.
You can literally see the pink sand island standing on Zambo’s shores. It takes around 20 minutes by motorboat.
How can I describe this beauty without using the words I just did for the other beaches?
Santa Cruz has pinkish white sand from layers of shattered red coral that deposited on the beach through time. Don’t worry, the coral won’t cut your feet.
Time and the waves have shaped it into fine sand. Tour packages include exploring the lagoon, the floating sandbar, and the white beach.
Did you know Santa Cruz was voted one of the world’s 21 best beaches 2 years ago? By no less than NatGeo.
Uh! Just looking at this pic makes me wanna jump in the water.
Why did I ever leave Zamboanga?
Not for everybody, unless you don’t mind roughing it.
Surigao is 4 hour’s plane ride away from Manila via Cebu, and Siargao sits at its northern tip.
Since Siargao is undeveloped and there’s not much to do, you’ll love it more if you’re a surfer.
Cloud 9 is the go-to surf spot.
Most tour packages include a tour of the three islands – Naked Island, Daku, and Guyam islands.
The island’s natural beauty include tidal flats and lagoons rich with jellyfish. There’s lots of secluded beaches and turquoise waters.
Our flying Kawasakis make an appearance again as habal-habal is the prime mode of transport to get to most places on the island.
Blue waters as far as the eye could see. Fine sands.
Sionogan is located in Indanan municipality, which sits on the mouth of Sulu island, one of the southernmost islands of the archipelago. This is Doc Gene’s ‘hood.
It’ll only cost you 10 cents to go inside the resort here, and a nickel for kids. Rugrats (or sand fleas) are free!
It costs about $6 to rent a thatched-roof cottage.
There are coconut trees around the beach so you’ll step on a lot of leaves or husks as you walk on the sands.
Btw, the name Sionogan means ‘to get burned’ so bring sunblock. The sun is fierce here.
The white sandbar in Alicia beach, Zamboanga Sibugay Province.
Alicia is a coastal municipality with a population of 36+K people, about an hour from the nearest urban center of Ipil by car.
Much of the coastal area is used for lobster culture, milkfish, mud crabs, but thankfully they left parts of the beach untouched.
Lush emerald waters, no man-made noises, calm vitas.
That’s TENUSE ISLAND, located in Municipality of Sumisip, in the western part of the island province of Basilan.
How to get to Tenuse Island:
1. From Zamboanga, travel to Isabela, Basilan via Weesam Fastcraft Boat. The boat leaves at 6:45 am and arrives in Isabela at 7:30 am.
* travel time 45 minutes
* Fare: P170 (US$3+)
2. From Isabela to Sumisip
* Proceed first to Isabela City West Terminal located in Barangay Aguada.
* Distance of 37 miles
* Ride a jeepney orprivate van.
* Travel time: 1 hr & 30 minutes
* Fare: P180 (US$3.50)
* Proceed to Fishport
3. From fishport to Tenuse Island
* ride a motorized banca
* Travel time: 10 minutes
Now you know where paradise hides.