|The immaculate beaches of Irawan and Nagtulay in Brgy. Santo Niño, San Vicente, Palawan|
From the beach paradise of Port Barton, I was able to hitch on a bangka to San Vicente town with government social workers. The northern coast of San Vicente is lined with six long stretches of undeveloped white beaches dotted with sleepy fishing villages. What’s being marketed by tourism pundits as Long Beach – allegedly “the longest beach in the Philippines” at 14 kilometers in length – is, in reality, not a continuous stretch of sand, but the southern beaches of Pinagmangalokan (Brgy. New Agutaya), Inarayan (Brgy. San Isidro) and Alimanguan (Brgy. Alimanguan), which are separated by rocky islets and grassy promontories.
|Inarayan Beach, together with Pinagmangalokan and Alimanguan, form the so-called “Long Beach” of San Vicente|
From Alimanguan, one can admire the views of Mt. Capoas in Taytay, an imposing mountain that old locals believe has buried treasure guarded by giant crabs! Moving on father north are the no less gorgeous strips of Irawan Beach, Nagtulay Beach (both in Brgy. Santo Niño) and, northernmost, Ombo Beach (Brgy. New Canipo).
|The southern end of Alimanguan Beach in Brgy. Alimanguan, with Mt. Capoas in the distance|
I hired a motorcycle in San Vicente poblacion to go beach-hopping from Pinagmangalokan to Irawan. (Due to lack of time, I missed out on the northernmost beach of Ombo). The best part of the tour was zipping down on the shoreline through the deserted strip from San Isidro to New Agutaya! We came across fishermen giving away fish to villagers, who helped them haul their nets ashore. I bought two kilos of fish at Pinagmangalokan Beach for only PHP 50, which my driver’s wife grilled and prepared into kilawin (ceviche) for dinner at the public market back in San Vicente.
I suggest one visit these immaculate beaches before the proposed San Vicente Airport materializes. And snazzy resorts start mushrooming along this deserted coastline, as tycoons and celebrities have been snapping up beachside properties here in the last few years.
|A brightly colored blue-throated bee-eater along the road to Irawan Beach|
HOW TO GET THERE: From San Jose terminal in Puerto Princesa, once can ride buses and/or vans bound for San Vicente (PHP 300) or Alimanguan. For a detailed transportation guide to San Vicente, check out Lakas ng Trip. From Port Barton, there are public bangkas that make the occasional trip to San Vicente (PHP 200).
At San Vicente, hiring a motorcycle for the day is the most convenient way to check out the beaches. My six-hour tour from New Agutaya to Santo Niño was PHP 350.
WHERE TO STAY: The cheapest sleep in San Vicente town – actually, the cheapest room I’ve ever stayed in – are the fan-cooled dorm beds (PHP 55, with common toilets) of the Municipal Economic Enterprise Development Office (MEEDO), located at the public market, next to the transport terminal. Wifi internet available for PHP 20.