The Cuyo Islands are a group of islands in Palawan Province, Philippines. The archipelago is in the Sulu Sea, to the northeast of the main island of Palawan, south of Mindoro and west of Panay. There are 45 islands, many of which are uninhabited. Their total land area is 130 square km (50 square miles); population as of the 2010 census was about 46,000.
Cuyo Island, in the south of the archipelago, is the largest island and has most of the population.
The biggest island in this group is Cuyo which has an area of 22 square miles and is about 9 miles long. Cuyo is divided in three municipalities, namely Cuyo, Agutaya, and Magsaysay. Cuyo is the oldest town in Palawan. Cuyo has a culture of its own which was preserved since more than 350 years. Cuyo is divided into two island groups. Up north is the Quiniluban group to which Pamalican island is part and where the 89-hectare, ultra-exclusive Amanpulo Resort belongs. To the south are the Cuyo islands, where the three municipalities, namely Cuyo, Agutaya, and Magsaysay are located.
With a population of 18,257 people (2000 census), Cuyo is one of the less exploited islands in the country. Home to a fort, which shelters a church and a convent in its high stone walls, constructed during the Spanish period to protect its population from Moro pirates, Cuyo has one of the most ancient forts in the Philippines. Incidentally, Cuyo became the second capital of Palawan from 1873 to 1903.
Cuyo is known to be the oldest town in Palawan. From the sea, Cuyo Island's first visible landmark is a large, new concrete sign on Capusan Beach. Many of the streets leading to the town have already been cemented but the town has preserved the hispanic plaza-iglesia structures. Dominating the town centre is Cuyo's church, convent, and fort built by the Spanish and finished in 1680. Nearby stands a schoolhouse, and a monument of national hero Jose Rizal.
Despite its long history Cuyo has held back the hands of time and preserved its rich cultural heritage preserved since more than 350 years. The ati-ati, comedia, sinulao, sayaw, inocentes, erekay, biso, banda y tipano, cheats, tambura, birguere, pondo-pondo, curatsa, and others are things Cuyono.
Flora and fauna
Cuyo is a place blessed with nature’s beauty. Secluded and quiet, it is covered with mango, cashew and coconut trees that gracefully sway in the wind. Thick clumps of bamboo abound. And of course, the vast blue seas – home to a myriad of corals and sea creatures – that seem extend to eternity. The island would appeal to hardy, outdoor types of people who enjoy taking walks, swimming and discovering a unique local culture, rather than indulging in material pleasures.
The Cuyonon live on the basics and hardly complain. They are very resourceful and have found ways to make the best of what they have like making tuba from coconut and cashew brittle their specialties. Life is slow and the epitome of “rural living” in its simplicity, the kind that grows on people who visit the island. Its several beaches, gracious townsfolk, and simple life are its gems.
First Settlers on Cuyo Island
Chinese traders where the first to discover Cuyo island and introduced the trade and barter system in the locality. Malay Settlers on Cuyo Island. Later Chief Matuod of Malay origin was arriving in big bancas called “sakayan” and formed settlements in the island of Cuyo. A Malay Mohamedan of the name Datu Magbanua later also settled in Cuyo. Datu Magbanua’s leadership was so great and powerful, that even chieftain from another island recognized its rule. The Malays brought with them their dances and when blended with native dance, the “Soriano”, it became known as the “pondo-pondo” one of the most popular folkdances even up to the present.
Chinese Settlers on Cuyo Island
During the leadership of Datu Magbanua, three Chinese Mandarines arrived on the island and settled also on Cuyo. The Chinese discovered gold deposits in Mt. Aguado and introduced gold mining, smith working, pottery, and other handicrafts. The natives of Cuyo became suspicious of the their presence and were able to drive them out. They sailed to Ilongilong (today known as Iloilo) and formed another settlement called “Parian”.
Spanish Colonization of Cuyo Island
In 1622, Count San Augustin together with five Spanish missionaries colonized the island named by them as Cuyo and introduced Christianity. The friendly character of the people proved to be a blessing to the Spaniards who did not find difficulties in converting the population of Cuyo Island to Christianity. They were immediately able to baptize 500 Cuyonos.
Muslim attack Cuyo Island
In 1636 a powerful Muslim fleet under Datu Tagul raided Cuyo and other places in Palawan. In Cuyo the Muslim attacked the convent and the church and set the town on fire and took with them prisoners including a priest, Fr. Francisco de Jesus Maria. They then proceeded to Agutaya and Culion and wrought havoc and destruction on the helpless and defenceless civilians. Again their prized captive was another priest from Culion, Fr. Alonzo de San Augustin who was captured while saying mass. A Spanish naval flotilla of 6 vessels and 250 men under Capt. Nicolas Gonzales met the returning pirates with their loot and booty on December 21, 1636. Datu Tagul was killed, 300 of his men captured and 120 prisoners were liberated. The two captured priests were unlucky.
During the early Spanish period, purposely to protect the Cuyonon from sporadic Moro attacks, Fort Cuyo was constructed and finished in 1680. The original complex of stone and mortar was a square with four bastions. The present complex, which occupies 1 ha, is a solid rectangular edifice with walls 10 m high and 2 m thick. It has a tall belfry and watchtowers; its canons, which face the sea, are now fired only during town celebrations. It is considered as one of the most ancient and unique forts in the Philippines. Unique in the sense that you can find the church, the convent and the Perpetual Adoration chapel all within the fort. In 1762 one of the British ships that invaded Manila fired at the Cuyo fort but it was not damaged at all. Another fort was started at Lucbuan seven kilometres away on the east side of Cuyo island, but it was never finished. In 1873, the capital of Paragua (present day Palawan) was transferred to Cuyo from Taytay.
[Much of the information about Cuyo was received from the Municipal Planning and Development Office in Cuyo town in November 2009]
There are only two distinct seasons in the Philippines generally distinguished by the rains and prevailing direction of the winds. The amihan season begins in November from the North and lasts until March and is typically drier. The habagat seasonal winds blow in from the southeast from June to October. This also coincides with the monsoon/typhoon season although this is not a daily nor even weekly occurance. Most rain comes in the form of short, heavy downpours. They bring a pleasant coolness and lush green vegetation not apparent during the dry amihan when there are occasional stretches of hot, dusty and windless days. Since Cuyo lies to the south of the direct typhoon belt, storms can be exhilarating though usually short in duration and very irregular. Apart from the windless April and May doldrums throughout the archipelago when it feels a few degrees hotter, temperatures are nearly always the same regardless of the season being within the equatorial zone.
The airport on Cuyo Island is located in Magsaysay some 20 minutes away from Cuyo town.
Air Juan flies from Puerto Princesa to Cuyo Island (about 1 hour) every Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday. (Return tickets about ₱10,000-12,000 depending how early you book. Enough space for kite equipment. Additional weight ₱98/kg.
Arrive by Air Juan: Puerto Princesa to Cuyo 10:00-11:00 days 1, 5, 6
Depart by Air Juan: Cuyo to Puerto Princesa 11:30-12:30 days 1, 5, 6
Air Juan bookings for Cuyo: email@example.com +63 939 902 2348 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Boat service several times a week from Puerto Princesa and Iloilo to Cuyo Island. Weekly to/from Coron and Manila. [Inquiries about timetable/schedule should be made in advance].
Puerto Princesa to Cuyo Island Montenegro Shipping Lines:Www.montenegrolines.com.ph Dep. Monday 19.00 arriving Tuesday 09.00 Milagrosa Shipping Lines: Dep. Thursday 15.00 arriving Friday morning / Dep. Sunday 15.00 arriving Monday morning
Cuyo Island to Puerto Princesa Montenegro Shipping Lines: Dep. Saturday 21.00 arriving Sunday 10.00 Milagrosa Shipping Lines: Dep. Tuesday 15.00 arriving Wednesday morning / Dep. Friday 15.00 arriving Saturday morning
Iloilo to Cuyo Island Montenegro Shipping Lines: Dep. Saturday 08.00 arriving Saturday evening Milagrosa Shipping Lines: Dep. Monday 19.00 arriving Tuesday morning / Dep. Thursday 19.00 arriving Friday morning
Cuyo Island to Iloilo Montenegro Shipping Lines: Dep. Tuesday 12.00 arriving Tuesday 22.00 Milagrosa Shipping Lines: Dep. Friday 17.00 arriving Saturday morning / Dep. Monday 17.00 arriving Tuesday morning
Manila – Coron – Cuyo Manila – Coron (Palawan) – Cuyo M/V D’Asean Journey (Port Area Gate 1 near Delfan Port) Manila – Coron Sunday 16.00 arriving Monday AM / Coron – Cuyo Monday 17.00 arriving Tuesday AM
Cuyo – Coron – Manila Cuyo – Coron (Palawan) – Manila M/V D’Asean Journey (Port Area Gate 1 near Delfan Port) Cuyo – Coron Wednesday 23.00 pm arriving Thursday AM / Coron – Manila Thursday PM arriving Friday PM
*These schedules are meant as a guide only and often not precise do to weather, tides, cargo delays and mechanical problems. Best to inquire with someone familiar with these services.
There are lots of tricycles around Cuyo Town. It is also possible to rent motorcycles or bicycles.
Motorcycles are available for rent in the public market while the beach resort has a jitney 4x4 mini-passenger truck for island tour and pier and airport pick-ups. Local bangka boats are available for island hopping and snorkeling and camping excursions.
White sand beaches, coral reefs, heritage trees.
- Protected Marine Area. On Cuyo's southshore, the sea adjacent to Coco Verde Beach has been designated a Protected Marine Area extending out to the shallow coral reef about 150m offshore and easily accesable by small, native baroto paddle boats or just by wading/swimming. Maximum depth along the reef is ~5 meters/15ft~.
- Heritage Hardwood Trees. Also along the shore of Coco Verde Beach are many protected hardwood trees formally known as "Clusiaceae" (Calophyllum inophyllum L.) and known locally as Dangkalan. Two giants are estimated to be 200+ years old. The wood from these trees is highly prized for boat-building and though pinkish in color is very similar to apple in it's grain structure and hardness. Judicious pruning provides for locally-made charcoal used in cooking at the resort here. Being extremely resistant to harsh coastal conditions, they make an ideal canopy for absorbing the hot midday sun and for capturing the delightfully captivating sea breezes.
Island hopping, snorkeling, windsurfing, kiting, walking, bicycling, motor biking.
Kiteboarding and Windsurfing
The Philippines is considered by many people to be the best place for windsurfing and kiteboarding in the whole of Asia – and Cuyo island a good choice for still only a few. Most of the tourists who come for this sport stay in the mostly noisy hotels or private rooms in town with the public Capusan Beach nearby. Cuyo Island has two spots for kiteboarding / kitesurfing. One is located in Cuyo town at the Capusan beach. The other is located at the Quijano beach, the location of the Anino Retreat some 20 minutes from Cuyo town. Kiteboarding instruction are provided by the Cuyo Watersports Association, and by Carlo Salazar of the Buradol Kite Central beside Nikki's Pension. Kiteboarding instructions are also available at the Anino Retreat. The Philippines has two principal seasons known locally as amihan and habagat, and for the kiters it's the amihan season which brings them back to Cuyo Island year after year. This season lasts from November to March and is characterised by moderate humidity, seldom any significant rainfall, and an almost daily, consistent, steady wind from the Northeast. Capusan Beach in the main town is the most popular spot for kiteboarding, due to its long sand bar, ample space and combination of both shallow and deep water. Quijano Beach on the East side of the island also offers very good conditions with side onshore wind and 100% safe. Those who consider themselves mediocre kiters find ideal conditions to practice the water start in chest deep crystal clear water in a pristine landscape with green hills and several islands in view. The Anino Retreat bay has excellent conditions for both beginners and experienced riders alike.
Another fun watersport activity gaining in popularity is snorkeling. Despite years of neglect and abuse the coral reefs within the 40+ Cuyo Islands group is still a fantastic place to explore and enjoy the crystal-clear tropical sea. On the main island of Cuyo, the gateway and largest of this group, snorkeling is best on the less-developed eastern and southern shores. The eastern area is accessed from the partially developed Quejano Beach. Unfortunately the removal of most of the reef here in recent years plus the prevalence of seasonal kitesurfers has rendered this area generally unsuitable for snorkeling according to confirmed sources. One can contact the friendly resident there or try 0999 946 9279 for updates or inquire in the Public Market in Cuyo Town. On the southcoast there is Coco Verde Beach with it's easily accessible shallow coral reef located about 150m offshore. A user fee of P50 per person is requested for funding a local Reef Protection Awareness Program. This fee is waived for guests of the small beach resort here. Locally built boats called bangkas are regularly launched from here for fishing but are also available for island-hopping adventures always accompanied by a fully qualified crew. Beach camping expeditions can also be organized locally. Inquire in advance. Best to bring one's own snorkeling gear however it's possible to rent if necessary.
Protected Marine Area / Fish Sanctuary
There is a No Fishing Zone located at the Victoria Beach in front of the Anino Retreat in Magsaysay.
Mt. Aguado features life-size stations of the Way of the Cross constructed from the foot to the peak of the mountain. Cuyonon devotees, visitors and tourists make the annual pilgrimage to Mt. Aguado as part of the penitential rites done in Cuyo during the Holy Week particularly on Holy Thursday.
- . Cashew nuts (brittle, salted, roasted, or in chewy bars)
- . Cashew nuts (salted, roasted, bande, brittle, chewy bars)
- . Lato
- . Combo (saba bananas fried in coconut oil wrapped in a mixture of flour and egg, not like maruya)
- . Bondok (cookies)
- . Tirek (sea urchin)
- Anino Retreat located at the most beautiful beach of Cuyo Island in Magsaysay some 20 minutes from Cuyo town at the east shore of Cuyo island with three cottages and four double rooms and one single room, all overlooking the beach. Palawan Cottage Rooms P2 & P3 have two extra beds for children which make it perfect for families . Kitesurfing, kiteboarding, canoeing, swimming, snorkeling, island excursions, etc. Reservation / Inquiries: Victoria Peralta +63 929 603 3275. Rates between April and September 2000 pesos – 4700 Pesos. Rates between October and March 3200 Pesos – 6750 Pesos. Same price for single or double occupancy. Occupancy per cottage is maximum two adults & one child below 4 years. Free breakfast Included in room rates. Free kite storage & kiting assistance. Free rescue service by boat. Free drinking water, coffee & tea. Free wifi. Mobile phone provider Smart (not Globe). Banquet facilities for up to 40 guests. No credit cards facilities on Cuyo Island and no ATM or money exchange. Western Union transfers are possible.
- Nikki's Pension with 14 rooms, fast-food restaurant and videoke bar at Capusan Public Beach next to the pier and public market (contact: +63 0920 876 0008).
- Feroland Hotel. Tenga-Tenga, with 8 rooms located nearby (contact: +63 0921 790 4848).
- Villa Gange Pensione. Catadman, with 6 air-con rooms, 4 fan rooms and communal kitchen (contact: +63 0916 502 9397).
- Baywatch Resort of the Palawan State University, Cuyo Branch at Capusan Beach with 1 air-con room and 4 fan rooms (contact: +63 0918 477 0102).
- Jade Felimar Value Inn at Juan Luna Street in Cuyo town. Fan double rooms and A/C double rooms (contact: +63 280 65958, +63 922 8540335, +63 930 3478084).
- Apohlic Pension Cabibsing. With 3 fan rooms and communal kitchen (contact: Bert Baloco +63 918 501 2315).
- Discovery Bay Resort Hotel. Tabunan (contact: +63 0905 271 1089; +63 0947 800 9121).
- Coco Verde Beach Resort (South shore of the island), ☎ +63 930 097 6307 (Rashel), +63 948 711 2042 (Alan). Delightful setting on a private, remote stretch of white sandy beach on which numerous protected hardwood trees grow among the many gracefully swaying coconut palms. Island-hopping, swimming and snorkeling are the primary local activities. The covered, open-air restaurant offers a full breakfast menu plus serves hearty pot-luck lunches and dinners at moderate prices. 24-hour advance reservation for non-guests applies. A well-equipped bar with full-time power from mains backed-up by a generator. Transportation options include motorcycle rental and jitney 4x4 mini-truck for island tour and pier or airport pick-up. Bangka boats depart from the beach for excursions to nearby uninhabited islands accompanied by fully qualified crew. Inquire ahead. Snorkeling gear is available for a modest fee; however, bringing your own is recommended. Year-round nipa and bamboo garden cottages with w/shared facilities. Standard (5): ₱600; Family (1): ₱900.. No ATM/Cash Machines in Cuyo.
Internet: there are several internet cafe in Cuyo town. Provider SMART
Mika Cybercafe on the ground floor of Feroland Hotel is recommended.