We’ve been here before when these two destinations and Pagbilao’s Puting Buhangin Beach were largely outside the tour radars of most local travelers. Five years ago. We had not considered coming back until recently when we visited Nina’s aunt and uncle in Tiaong, Quezon. Since Padre Burgos town – the jump-off point for a trip to Borawan Island and Dampalitan Beach – was just two hours away we decided it was time for a return visit. Back in October 2011, we had both destinations practically all to ourselves. Five years later we were curious how Borawan and Dampalitan have fared after both received their share of exposure in the blogosphere.
Approaching the shores of Borawan via a motorized outrigger from Barangay Basiao in Padre Burgos it was immediately apparent that the place has not lost its beauty. The emerald green waters and creamy white sand beach framed by towering limestone rocks are just as magnificent as when we last saw them almost 5 years ago.
There’s a slight confusion for us about the name of this place. The island before was actually called Lipata Island (after the name of the barangay in Padre Burgos which has jurisdiction over Borawan). But locals kept referring to it as Borawan for reasons mentioned below; the resort here also carries the name Borawan Island Resort. However a quick look at Google Maps shows the name of the island as Pagbilao Chica Island (actually an extension of Pagbilao Grande).
Borawan supposedly got its name from a combination of Boracay and Palawan – because it is said to possess Boracay’s white sand and Palawan’s karst topography. Truth to be told, the sand here is not as fine nor as white as Boracay’s. And having also been to both Coron and El Nido in northern Palawan, we do not find the limestone rock formations here comparing favorably to the latter. But that doesn’t mean Borawan is not beautiful. It is also just 4 to 4.5 hours away from Metro Manila – making it an ideal destination for people looking for a quick respite from the stresses of city life.
Once we touched down at Borawan’s beach we immediately saw the impact of its increasing popularity. It was a weekday during the beginning of the rainy season but there was a considerable number of people on the beach. There were cottages for rent, a sari-sari store, a canteen that serves meals, comfort rooms, kayaks for rent and colorful tents pitched at various locations on the beach.
We do not remember the appearance of the water here in 2011 but now it was looking a little murky, probably churned up by swimmers at the beach. However – and to our relief – the beach and water was largely free of garbage. Climbing the tall rock formations at Borawan is no longer allowed. Swimming is only permitted in areas enclosed by a protective netting to guard against jellyfish intrusions.
We did not plan to swim at Borawan so we spent our time here exploring the beach area. We sauntered off with our relatives and a friend to the quiet northern part of the island away from the crowded central section. Here the views were more magnificent, the atmosphere serene and the crowd practically non-existent.
Lunch is available at a canteen on the beach, although they sometimes ran out of supplies. In our case they could only serve chicken but some enterprising folks were around to sell crabs and fish (and cheap ones at that) that the canteen cooked for a fee. We had planned for a light lunch but ended up enjoying a feast of crabs, bangus (milkfish) and fried chicken.
The first place we visited back in 2011 among the 3 destinations here, Dampalitan ended up as our final destination this time around after our visit to Pagbilao’s Puting Buhangin Beach. The white sand beach here is longer than Borawan’s and characterized by several evergreen (agoho) trees reminiscent of Anawangin and Nagsasa Coves in Zambales. The sand here is also finer than Borawan’s.
Unfortunately much of the coral cover has been destroyed or damaged by illegal fishing practices. The areas for swimming with protective nettings are still there. Leo got a bad sting from what we thought was a box jellyfish here back in 2011, when he absent-mindedly stepped outside the protective zone.
Back in 2011 there were a few cottages already in place here along with dining tables for guests – all for rent. The number of cottages do not appear to have increased significantly and the place looks the same as it had 5 years ago. Since it was almost 4PM when we arrived at Dampalitan we chose to just hang around long enough to take pictures without having to pay the entrance fee.
How to Get There
The small fish port at Barangay Basiao in Padre Burgos is perhaps the best way to access Borawan and Dampalitan Beach. Motorized outriggers capable of sitting 10-15 people may be rented to take you to both destinations and Puting Buhangin Beach/Kwebang Lampas on Pagbilao Grande Island for P1,700-1,800.
To get to Barangay Basiao in Padre Burgos from Metro Manila, take the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) all the way to Sto. Tomas, Batangas. Follow the Pan Philippine Highway through San Pablo, Tiaong, Candelaria, Sariaya until Lucena (take the diversion or bypass roads at Tiaong and Candelaria to avoid traffic at the town centers). From Lucena continue on the Pan Philippoine Highway to Pagbilao. Past Pagbilao’s town center the road will divide into two: the Pan Philippine Highway will continue on to Atimonan and the Bicol region while the other road will lead to Padre Burgos and the Bondoc Peninsula. Take the road to Padre Burgos (there is a sign at this point) and continue on to the town until a point where the road goes down to Bgy. Basiao. There is a poster on the left side of the road promoting Borawan and Dampalitan and pointing in the direction of the port at Bgy. Basiao. You can rent your boat at this port. There are safe parking spaces nearby.
If commuting, take a bus to Lucena and alight at the LucenaGrand Terminal (travel time is about 4-5 hours). From Lucena Grand Terminal, take another bus heading to Unisan. Alternatively you may take a van that goes to Padre Burgos. Look for the port at Brgy. Basiao at Padre Burgos and rent a boat from there to take you to Borawan, Dampalitan and Puting Buhangin in Pagbilao. (Another option for the boats is at Barangay Marao.)