I Turned Golden in Panampangan Island

Sunday, December 03, 2017

panampangan island
Screenshot from Drone Video provided by Ash Malong of the DOT-ARMM

After taking part in Tawi-tawi's much celebrated Agal-Agal Festival held in the town of Languyan, my companions and I forged through torrential rains towards the province's capital: the island of Bongao.

We spent the night here before heading to one of the country's natural treasure the next day. Early in the morning, aboard a speedboat, our big party headed for the shores of Panampangan Island – the Philippines' longest sandbar.

In about an hour or so, the length of Panampangan came into view. A line of white in a sea of turquoise. When we docked, I tossed my sandals off and curled my toes in its sands. Sparkling white and powdery, it ran as if endless behind and before me.
I opted to chart its length, saving a dip in the surrounding waters for later. Lugging my bag and camera, I walked barefooted across the chalky sands, eyes creased from the blinding sunlight. It was almost noon and I was hot and sweaty but I did not mind. Panampangan's beauty helped me endure.
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The sandbar measured, I looked to its surroundings. It was rimmed by glasslike waters, still and clear. The day we visited, the sky was a roof of royal blue and it made the sea even bluer.

Pictures taken and skin slightly stinging, I changed into my swimsuit and ran towards the sea to join my companions. The water was cool and just the right amount of deep. Absolutely perfect.

We were all laughing and swimming and having a great time. All were reluctant to get out of the refreshing water. Until we were called for lunch, that is.

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As I tore through my grilled fish with my bare hands, I could already feel the sunburn. When we rode back to Bongao, my skin was on fire.

The next day, I thought I'd have blisters. But I'd remembered to lather on some sunscreen so I was blister-free. I was noticeably less fair, though, and my skin was still feverish. I felt fine aside from that.

The succeeding days, I eventually took on a golden hue. At first, I was a little shocked and annoyed at how I looked in the mirror. The person staring back did not look like me. Later on, I grew to love my tan. In fact, I now think it suits me. I'm going to savor it while it lasts.

I'm regularly exposed to the elements, but it was only Panampangan that turned me gold. Perhaps the combination of noon sun, reflective waters, and glittering sands made it possible. Now aside from being perhaps one of the bests – if not the best – beaches I've ever seen, I will always remember Panampangan as that special place that took away my fair skin only to replace it with an experience of landscape so beautiful and vivid. I could still picture that sandbar as clear as day.

The nearest jump-off to the sandbar is located in Batu-batu in the municipality of Panglima Sugala. There are outrigger boats here that could take you to the island in about two hours. There are also speed boats in the municipality of Bongao which would only take more or less an hour to get you there.

It's highly recommended to get in touch with Tawi-tawi's Provincial Tourism Office if you plan to visit the island. If you're coming from Zamboanga City, iTravel Tourist Lane can help you facilitate a tour here.

iTravel Tourist Lane
Mayor Jaldon St., Canelar, Zamboanga City
+63 62 991 1174

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