It was supposed to be a taxing hour and a half ride to the municipality, but my excitement and curiosity seemed to have overwhelmed and have put back the exhaustion. In fact, never in a certain moment within the trip going to the island did I get sleep or nap although I was not able to sleep well the night before. Added to that is the fun exchange of conversations with friends who went with me which was also an indication of their excitement for the island.
Panikian Island, or “Pulo” as what locals would call it, is a place where two different, and opposite creatures of the nature converge. The Paniki (English counterpart of Bats) according to the locals is where it got its name, and the Pawikan (Turtles), are the creatures that have found shelter in the island. Although you cannot really see any of the previous, such creature is what would enter initially into your mind because of the island’s name. However, if you are lucky enough just like us, you can find the latter swimming along the deep blue waters of the island.
Panikian Island is located in the southernmost tip of the province of Zamboanga del Sur and if you would look into the Asian map, it directly faces the country Indonesia. Before you would be able to reach the shores of the island, you would still have go through a 45-minute banca ride from the municipality of Pitogo, which has the jurisdiction over the island. Pitogo is just an hour and a half ride from the center of retail and industry of the province, Pagadian City.
With the different discussions and photos that I have found over the internet, I was already aware of the things especially on what to expect from the island. However, what I least expected was, what I will see in the island would surpass my preconceived expectations.
While we were still few meters away from the shore, I was already adrenalized to step into the white sand blanketing the entire island. For me, it was as bright and as fine as Boracay’s, but what differs the island from that popular tourist destination is the presence of many detritus, usually comprised of dried leaves, branches and twigs of the trees, proving that indeed, the island is still undefiled, unspoiled and untainted.
The island is not as big as Boracay, but not as small as the Pandanon, however, in less than 15 minutes, with more or less 1500 steps or more, you can already saunter around the island.
We decided to wander around the island and what amazed me is the view of the luscious and verdant flora and the unique rock formations that have not changed throughout time. An islet can be found just a few meters away from the rock formations, and is believed by locals to have some mysterious appeal.
We were nearing to the island that time, when unexpectedly, a familiar form swam its way away from the banca that we were riding. Yes, it was indeed a large pawikan. Because everything happened in a heartbeat, I was not able to grab my camera, or at least after I had my camera turned on, it was nowhere to be found.
I was so ecstatic since it was my first time to see a turtle in its normal habitat; I had a pet turtle once, however, when a heavy rain poured, it was so unfortunate that it got washed away because its container overflowed.
I felt a bit saddened after not being able to take a picture of the turtle but I think I was just lucky that day because while I was snorkeling, I saw from afar another turtle swimming. I did not dare go near to it fearing that it might get frightened. I just watched him swim away till it’s nowhere to be found. After seeing them twice, swimming to where they should be actually swimming, I can say, I am fully satisfied with the trip, and it was all worth it.
Up until now, I am still wondering why the fishes in there are not that afraid of foreign bodies, in this case, people-the tourists. While I was snorkeling, a school of fish swam past me. When we were walking around the island, a school of fish went a bit near to the shore. During the banca ride, I noticed several schools of fish swiftly swimming away from the banca. It is really nice to know that the fishes here have not yet been conditioned to fear people and the visitors, hopefully the local government of Pitogo would be able to regulate the visitors so that the fishes would not be disturbed and would not get conditioned to fear people.
Other activities you can do
We went to the island totally unprepared, good thing that one friend has an uncle living in the Poblacion (center) of the municipality and arranged everything for us. But if you are planning to go there, you can bring along with you scuba diving materials because it is really a nice place for diving, you can also go for snorkeling just like what we did, or go on water sports. Because of the fact that it has not yet been developed, no establishments in Pitogo offer these water activities so you need to bring your own, however, in Pagadian City, you can rent swimming gears, and maybe you can arrange to have them go with you in the island.
It was one of trips that I will always remember. Not only is it memorable, the trip to the Panikian Island was also a proof that my very own province has a lot to offer. It has the potential to be the country’s next big thing. On the other side, it also raised my concern about the preservation of the pawikan, after hearing from the locals itself that egg poaching is rampant, I urge the local government to fully protect the original inhabitants there.
Panikian indeed can flourish and blossom into a great tourist destination of the south, but I hope that while the local government is concerned about the tourism, they would be equally concerned with the pawikan creatures and other animals that have chosen to find refuge in the island.
Panikian Island is a 40 minute banca ride from Pitogo, Zamboanga del Sur. Pitogo is a fifth class municipality and is an hour and a half away via a van ride from Pagadian. You can reach Pagadian City via Cebu Pacific and Airphil Express that offers a direct Manila and Cebu routes.
Summary of Expenses
*Note: This is good for a group of 5
- Pagadian-Pitogo (Van Ride) Php100.00 (USD2.00)
- Pitogo-Panikian Island Ride (Roundtrip, Pump Boat good for 5) P200.00 (USD4.00)
- Food Contribution Php100.00 (USD2.00)
- Pitogo-Pagadian (Van Ride) Php100.00 (USD2.00)
Total Expenses for the trip including food share: Php500.00 (USD10.00)
Total Expenses for the trip excluding food share: Php400.00 (USD8.00)