Jetsetters in the 1970s to the 90s can vividly well remember the imagery of this exotic island which was once among the easily-recognizable poster images of Philippine tourism.
Long before Boracay became the go-to place, the telltale island of Sicogon was an aspirational destination and status symbol for certified beach bums.
Due to a string of overlapping issues and the rise of other beaches, it lost its luster over the years and slipped into oblivion. The good thing is, property conglomerate Ayala Land Inc. stepped in and became its proverbial white knight to relive the glory days of this natural playground.
Having surmounted the rough seas it had to sail, literally and figuratively, Sicogon Island Resort (SIR) is inching its way to the limelight for wanderlusts seeking a relaxing retreat away from the beach mob.
Go-getters can bask in a seamless travel through its Fly & Stay package which includes a four-day, three-night stay at a Huni Resort family suite, round-trip airfare via AirSWIFT, airport transfers, and daily breakfast. SIR is also dangling the tempting offer of a free extra overnight for guests who will stay on weekdays.
The more adventurous spirits can fly in or out via Roxas City or Iloilo, and take public transportation to the Estancia Feeder Port where commuter boats leave at 11 am for a 45-minute trip to Sicogon. Alternatively, you can charter the resort’s speedboat so you can arrive in style in a jiffy.
Beyond the usual beach colony, SIR is a sprawling 810 hectares of master-planned island development, with more than a third of the land area composed of forest lands. It is also embedded within inhabited barangays with which the resort management is closely working with for community-oriented initiatives.
As part of the resort’s environmental philosophy, guests will be briefed by its sustainability officer on how to enjoy their vacation and at the same time minimize the carbon footprint of their stay. The same tried-and-tested consciousness program is observed across the Ayala property chain to ensure everyone’s share in preserving Mother Earth.
To offer a wide latitude of choices, it has three clusters of facilities, each with a unique character with would suit every visitor’s budget and preference. Its main lodging is Huni Resort, a 52-room modern tropical boutique accommodation with the towering Mt. Opao in the background. Patterned after its namesake at the Lio Tourism Estate in El Nido, each room has a panoramic veranda, many of which are oriented towards the infinity pool, all-day dining restaurant, and the beach.
Just like its name suggests, you can wake up to the “huni” or the chirping of an assortment of bird species which has the island as their habitat.
The 26-room Balay Kogon, which is undergoing a makeover, is the resort’s first lodging to open which is a native-themed cluster of villas with cogon roofs to give guests an island living vibe.
Lastly, there’s the 52-room Hatch Beach Hostel designed for the younger set or groups who prefer more affordable lodging in the luxe island, less-flashy amenities, but equally-vibrant escapade. For evening social events, performances or bonfire, the resort got a unique pyramid-like mini-amphitheater.
Regardless of your choice, SIR is offering a consummate Sea to Summit Experience which will take you to the highland, terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems. The chill but action-packed itinerary begins with an afternoon nature walk to the biodiversity-rich lagoon tucked inside the woods of the posh resort of the olden days.
The placid lake is the target of the SIR’s next low-impact structures such as benches and viewdeck to make the forays into the woods safer and more comfortable for trekkers.
Day 2 is dedicated to an island-hopping tour with lunch around the Islas de Gigantes, an internet sensation because of its blend of a salt water lagoon, powdery beach, crystalline water, jagged cliffs, and an Instagrammable hilltop viewdeck overlooking the island chain of Carles town.
On the third day, you can do a sunrise hike at Mt. Opao, Sicogon’s highest point which is of moderate difficulty. The summit of the 214-meter mountain offers a literally breath-taking panorama of the whole island’s coastlines, adjacent islets and mainland Iloilo.
Back on the ground, you can swing by Balay Kogon and kayak across the dome-shaped Tumaquin islet, which seems to be spitting distance away. At low tide under the bright sun, the sandbar will reveal itself snaking beneath the shallow gin-clear water. Situated beside a coastal community, you can get the freshest catch of the day direct from the fishermen as they return from a hard day’s work at sea.
With slow but sure steps in the post-pandemic era, Sicogon’s journey to reliving its glory days is on the right track.
Image credits: Bernard L. Supetran