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Story & photos by Marky Ramone Go
I could not come up with a better way of celebrating last year’s Independence Day than journeying to this isolated island 27 nautical miles west of Panay. Highlighted by a curving stretch of sandbar encircling an area dotted with pockets of small trees and scattered shrubbery, it was named Seco Island because of its close similarity to the shape of a human elbow; siko in Tagalog.
Worth the long boat ride
Getting here is anything but laidback. We started our sea journey under darkness aboard a cramped up passenger boat with enough space for us to huddle at the roof of the captain’s hull. Seating over protruding edges of wood, I labored for the duration of our three-hour sail over calm waters. Under the mercy of the monotonous sound of the boat engine, I tried to doze off amid my numbing butt and cramping legs, only to be awaken by the gleaming redness of the skies on the horizon a couple of hours later.
While I was stretching my hands and yawning myself to full awareness, it was then that I caught the first sight of the island from afar. As it revealed its comely image covered by the gleam of the early rising sun, the inconvenience of the long arduous sea journey was instantly replaced by an elated feeling.
Slowly, as we docked at the shallow waters, the live corals became visible and as one of the boatman dove to plant the anchor, I quickly recognized the exceptional scene precluding to a wonderful trip in the making.
Smaller boats which accompanied our party consisted of fishermen, residents and LGU members of the town of Tibiao. Months before, they have circled the date of June 12 as a perfect day to visit the island of Seco and raise the Philippine flag on the island—not only to celebrate our more than hundred years of freedom, but also to commemorate the inclusion of Seco Island in the province of Antique’s tourism and nature preservation program.
Indie day on Seco Island
As the twin drone camera flew over and small fishing boats ran loops around the island, a short program was held where the participating stakeholders’ promised to promote the island while implementing a set of measures to safeguard its natural beauty. A flag-raising capped off the morning festivity which was followed by a human chain forming the letters of S-E-C-O as the drone camera captured it from above.
Along with Kara, Aleah, Marcos and Dave—fellow travel bloggers who have been to the best islands in the country, we all agreed at the singularity of Seco Island’s appearance. A naked island in its truest sense, we all agreed that any plans to put up infrastructures in the island should be outright rejected—so as to avoid the mistakes committed in other places in the Philippines where too much development robbed the destination its character.
Bounteous nature surround
A local fisherman told us that the waters surrounding Seco Island abounds with marine resources making it a favorite spot of fishermen sailing from different parts of Antique. Coral reefs can be seen as close as 4 to 5 feet deep and the wind that spheres the island are known to generate a favorable condition for windsurfing and kiting. “Every year, for 3 to 5 days—windsurfers come to this island to just ride all day” our host Flord Nicson Calawag of Katahum Tours told us.
Marine protected area
Being the site of bounteous marine resources, Seco Island is considered as a marine protected area (MPA) as accorded by a local government ordinance. All activities related to the use of its waters such as fishing and even camping and visiting the island are regulated. Visitors are required to coordinate first at the local tourism office in Tibiao, Antique before traveling to Seco Island.
Half a day on the island wasn’t enough for myself. Unmindful of the scorching sun, I spent the whole time walking around barefoot and feeling the fine sands under my feet. Afterward I rested by laying down on my back under the shade of a small tree and just marveled at the visual banquet laid out in front of me.
We bade the island farewell after lunchtime and as our boat sailed away, I saw the beautiful sandbar of Seco Island slowly sink down from the horizon, as the blue waters gradually concealed it from my sight. I looked back at the morning’s happenings and savored the good experience in my mind. It was indeed, a wonderful time reveling at the idea of Kruhay (long living) under the sun.
Image credits: Marky Ramone Go