A sleepy island of fishing families in Santa Cruz town in Marinduque has awakened to become one of the tourism gems in the province.
Maniwaya, which resembles a dolphin when seen from above, is being hyped as one of the must-see summer destinations comparable with Boracay and Puerto Galera. It is one of the few islets closest to Metro Manila, which offers powdery, white sand beaches accessible by land and sea.
With its friendly people, serene surroundings and pristine waters, guests can roam around or swim without the raucous crowd and gaudy commercialized setting found in the more established beaches in the country.
The one-hectare Palad sandbar of fine sand at the northeastern end of the island can be reached only during low tide. Its shape changes, depending on the prevailing winds and flow of seawater.
Local divers say an underwater rock wall teeming with corals is found at the sea bottom near the sandbar. Divers can marvel at similar rock pillars off nearby Mongpong Island.
Although the beaches are usually deserted, resorts are sprouting in Maniwaya to accommodate the growing number of visitors.
Freddie Pelaez, former village chair of Maniwaya, said the island got its name from the Filipino word maniwala (believe). According to old-timers, a story went that a visitor with a speech disorder was asked by locals about his impression of the island, and he replied, “Maganda. Maniwaya kayo sa akin (It’s beautiful. Believe me).”
Maniwaya has a land area of 264 hectares and a population of 1,900 or 370 households. The residents’ major sources of livelihood are fishing and farming, Pelaez said.
Local blogger Eli Obligacion in his blog site Marinduque Rising said nights could be creepy on the island with the “strangest bird sounds you’ll ever hear. But when the moon is full and the water is still, you might experience some state of freedom and enlightenment.”
Taste of island
“Maniwaya is still untouched by commercial developers so the bigger number of visitors just come by to spend the whole day swimming and exploring the shore—and maybe taste the bibingka (rice cake) or agar-agar seaweed jelly that the local inhabitants make,” he wrote.
This year, the island’s first high-end resort opened, catering to clients seeking a more pampered stay. Residencia de Palo Maria has two air-conditioned family rooms and four twin-bungalow rooms, four bamboo huts and four studio-type rooms.
Rates for an overnight stay range from P1,500 to P2,500.
“The island presents a great potential to the province’s tourism industry. It is our way of helping the local government in its tourism and economic development programs,” said resort owner Clarence Pernia.
“During ordinary days, fishermen earn only P40 to P100 a day from their catch. But during summer, they earn an additional P300 to P400 as guides or boatmen for passengers and island-hopping motorized Bancroft,” he said.
“We are hoping that if Maniwaya will be well-promoted, guests will visit us year-round and not only during the peak season of summer.”
Guests can also try Aloa Tree House Resort, which offers tree houses for accommodation, Wowie’s Resort and other smaller places to stay. Room prices for an overnight stay range from P500 to P700.
Gerry Camilla, Marinduque’s tourism officer, said provincial and municipal officials had taken notice of the enormous potential of the island-province’s tourism industry and were expecting “massive development” of hotel and resort infrastructure and facilities.
“But even with these expected developments the inherent hospitality of the Marinduqueños will always be there,” Camilla added.