There were limited ways to reach Balut Island of Sarangani, Davao Occidental and fortunately one of them was through General Santos City. Balut Island, being part of the Sarangani Islands, was the main hub of trading on the islands. Its neighboring islands Sarangani Island and Olanivan Island were blessed with natural beauties as it was. The municipality of Sarangani should not be confused with Sarangani Province, though. Checking the map might make you scratch your head as I did but I settled on the notion that whoever thought of naming these places should better have had better reasons for doing so.
We, relative to whoever felt like they were on the big W, joined the outreach program of distributing simple things, mostly school supplies, to the children of Brgy. Patuko of Sarangani Island. The organizer had an open invitation to anybody interested in the event and we signed on.
Balut Island was 7-8 hours boat ride from General Santos City. The trips were scheduled for a non-flexible day but the hours varied depending on how hectic were the activities in the port. The about-a-hundred-capacity boats were the only means of public transport to the island. Depending on how we defined ‘remote’, we might consider using the word to describe Sarangani Islands because we had very limited means of access. BTW, Sarangani Islands consisted of Balut Island, Sarangani Island, and Olanivan Island. If there were islets added to the group then I was out of the loop.
Olanivan Island was an hour smaller-motorboat ride from Balut Island. Crossing the seas of Sarangani Islands, we marveled into its pristine waters. Yes, ‘pristine’ was the only way to describe it. The unspoilt seas were laden with corals we could see from the boat despite the relative depth of the water.
Olanivan Island itself was, I perceived, one of the gems of the Islands. We allotted very limited time to marvel at its beauty and we did not waste any. As soon as the boat hit shore we were off walking around the islet. We had 30 minutes to walk around and we did very quickly.
The shore of the island was very beautifully filled with the finest sand I had never seen anywhere – not that I had been to so many islands. As we walked around though, the sand became less fine than where the motorboat docked but equally beautiful and sparsely sprinkled with pink sand believed to be from crushed corals. Driftwoods were everywhere on the shore and they became relevant accessories to balance the reflection of the white sand. The water was without question irresistible. But that remained a notion based solely on the fact that I alone, from our group, took a dip. However, everybody agreed, I believed, that that particular islet was so humid it was scalding despite the cloudy skies. Or I was just being overdramatic again. Who knows? Ha! Ha!
Brgy. Patuco, Sarangani Island
By lunchtime, we went to Brgy. Patuco, Sarangani Island for the outreach program. The group distributed school supplies, toiletries, and used clothes; and, conducted parlor games for the children. Since there are also doctors from the group, they offered their services for medical checkups and gave medicines to the people who availed.
It was overwhelming as there were a lot of people who participated. Even we did not see the numbers coming. We spent the whole afternoon on the outreach program and it was fulfilling, to say the least. The fact that some of the children went to the barangay by canoes was heart-warming. We also learnt that those children, in fact, were rowing their ways to school during school days to attend their classes. That kind of unparalleled dedication to education was what kept learning aflame in Sarangani Islands.
We dedicated the second day of our stay to island hopping – or the proper term would have been beach bumming. We stayed at Bobo Beach Resort resort the night before. The resort was small and the accommodation and facilities were limited. Nevertheless, we were advised beforehand to bring tents and hammocks to sleep in.
Isla Pabrosis Beach Resort
After breakfast, the group jumped off to Isla Pabrosis Beach Resort. Isla Pabrosis was accessible via neighboring beach because of the tide. We walked for a few meters on the pathway chiseled on the side of a rocky hillside towards the default view deck. From the view deck, we saw the entirety of the beach of the Isla Pabrosis on the left and there loomed the omnipresent silhouette of Balut Island on the right. It was quite a sight to behold despite the burning heat above us. Apparently, the heat in Sarangani Islands, in general, was not something I could get used to. We did not stay long in the resort. After bumming in the area and a waist-deep plunge to the sea, I went scurrying towards the shade and hydrated myself.
Tuke Nun Sol
We stayed at Tuke Nun Sol for a long time. Cave-like holes adorned its limestone rocks. Aside from the obvious, we did not see anything special on the place. Except for a sea snake which, for the first time throughout the trip, sparked the utterance of the possibility of death when bitten by it.
The guide advised us to not trespass to the privately owned house above the docking platform. I jokingly thought of dealing with trespassers by shooting – and reshoot the survivors!
Shortly before noon, we hungrily sailed towards our lunch schedule. Sadly, it was not the time for lunch yet. We segued to Brgy. Camalig and bought seafood for our lunch. Then for the first time, a dilemma came. Should we go back to Bobo Beach Resort and prepare lunch or should we go ‘lato’ picking? After realizing that we could only eat ‘lato’ for lunch and not for snacks, there was a consensus to do the picking before the lunch.
It was a fast ride. The motorboat flew via the same way from our resort accommodation. Then it passed the resort. Shortly, it made a right turn. The ‘lato’ picking area was literally on the back of the resort we were staying.
I did not linger long by that realization as the deep teal water of the sea caught the spotlight. The cove was the déjà vu of Tiktikan Lagoon of Bucas Grande Island. My jaw dropped on the enticing milieu that hunger became a secondary priority. I considered that place a wonderland! I was wordless; and seemingly, it still affected me.
Tuke Maklang Beach Resort
Lunch was late but we already knew that. And then, a motorboat situation jeopardized the afternoon schedule. Gladly, humor took over the group, and; we laughed our way to Tuke Maklang Beach Resort.
Tuke Maklang Beach Resort was a complete surprise. It did not have the inviting beach like from where we stayed. But, as soon as we beached, with the sight of hundreds of fruit bats hanging by the tree on the backside of the resort welcomed us. Batman seemed to have called for a convention and every single one of the fruit bats in the islands showed up. It was the sight I did not see every day. I knew bats were nocturnal but I also knew that I was dumb enough to know a lot about bats so it puzzled me why they were accessorizing those trees all day long. I thought to myself it was time to hit Google again! After reading about fruit bats, I never felt so dumb in my life.
Back to the resort, it offered zip line that we did not avail. We took the steps to the zip line area, where from that elevation we saw the view of the entire resort – bats to the left and, again Balut Island to the right.
The resort also prided itself of the view of the sunset. Unlucky for us, we were not being friendly with the sun that day that what we had was just the heat. However, we settle with the compromise of beautiful swirling cloud formation we took it without blinking twice. By 06:00 PM we sailed towards where the sunset could have been. It could have been poetic had there been a sunset but then it was 06:00 PM, so who knew. Instead, we sailed in the dark.