The Emerald Glory of the Hundred Islands

Amid the vast clear blue-green waters are the “mushroom like” islands that extend over and beyond the horizons. These islands and islets, which are home to bio-diverse marine life, wildlife, and huge expanses of coral reefs are believed to have existed for two million years already. They are called the Hundred Islands, one of the Philippines’ National Parks and one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Northern Luzon nowadays.

The famous Hundred Islands of Pangasinan is a National Park located in the city of Alaminos. There are a total of 123 islands, which are scattered in the Lingayen Gulf. Among these, there are four developed islands that tourists usually flock to – Governor’s, Children’s, Quezon, and Marcos Islands. However, some of the islets can be visited because of its caves and unique sights. Based on historic accounts, the Hundred Islands was declared a National Park under Presidential Proclamation no. 667 in January 18, 1940 when Manuel Quezon was, then, the president of the country.

GETTING TO THE HUNDRED ISLANDS

The jump-off or entry point to Hundred Islands is at Brgy. Lucap, Alaminos. Here, like all other national parks in the Philippines, a tourist information center is present. This center already has complete amenities and services to cater to the needs of the tourists, such as restrooms, shower rooms, lodgings and restaurant. The boat rentals are located here as well.

The travel to Alaminos, Pangasinan from Baguio City is around 3-4 hours. The same can be said if one comes from Manila. Buses are the mostly used transport for those who come from Manila. Those who come from Baguio, on the other hand, can either take a bus or a van to get there.

Upon reaching the city center of Alaminos, the tourists can take a tricycle to get to Lucap Wharf. It takes about 15 minutes to get there.

WHAT CAN YOU DO THERE?

Now that the number of tourists from all over the Philippines and abroad have increased, activities other than water sports were established. At present, extreme sports such as zipline, rock climbing, and rappelling at two of the major islands are offered. Apart from this, hotels and resorts are not the only choices for accommodations nowadays as transient houses, which can accommodate up to 30 people, have also proliferated quite well.

To some tourists who enjoy the outdoors, they prefer to set camp at the islands and be one with nature instead of checking in at hotels, resorts, and transient houses around Lucap or at the center of Alaminos. Those who take a rest at the city’s hotels and transient houses usually avail the day tours for island hopping and other activities.

WHAT TO DO?

Governor’s Island
Activities: Camping, helmet-diving, snorkeling, and zipline
*At this island is a guesthouse, which was used for the Philippine TV show Pinoy Big Brother aired on 2006. At present, this guesthouse can be rented for PHP 5,000 a night.

Children’s Island
Activities: Camping and snorkeling
*Open cottages are also available at this island. It can be rented for PHP 600 a night.

Quezon Island
Activities: Camping, snorkeling, canoeing, wall climbing, rappelling, zipline
*This island probably has the most activities and services to offer. It has a pavilion, gazebo and floating cottages, which can be rented for a day or overnight.

Marcos Island
Activities: Snorkeling and diving at Imelda Cave
*A pool of seawater is found inside Imelda cave. Some tourists climb over to the top at about 20 meters and dive.

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Camping at Governor’s Island

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Tourists take turns to dive at the pool of seawater at the Imelda cave in Marcos Island.

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One of the newest activities at Quezon Island is the zipline. Rock climbing and rappelling are offered as well.

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Tourists usually snorkel to see the giant clams and the colorful marine life located near Quezon Island.

In general, all the major islands have the same fees for picnic table rentals, tent pitching, and cottages. The boat rental fee, on the other hand, varies depending on the number of members and service.

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Boats on standby, waiting for their clients

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Boatmen of Hundred Islands not only navigate the transport of tourists. They also share different trivia and stories about Hundred Islands, at the same time, give reminders and safety tips to make their island hopping safe and enjoyable.

Boat rental fee for day tour – ranges from 1,000 – 2,000 for up to 15 members

Two kinds of day tours:
*Regular day tour – You can only visit the major islands and for every island, you can only stay there for 20 minutes. However, the boatman can leave you at the island of your choice for a few hours and come back for you later.
*Service day tour – You can visit all the islands without a time limit.

Rental for overnight service boat – ranges from 3,000 – 4,500 for up to 15 members
*Overnight service boat – You can visit all the islands without a time limit. When you have already chosen the island you wish to set camp on, the boatmen can wait for you until the next morning to take you back to Lucap Wharf.

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A view of the sunrise at Governor’s Island view deck

As the years passed, Hundred Islands was threatened by cyanide and dynamite fishing as well as the various effects of climate change, which eventually led to the devastation of the reefs. Because of this, marine biologists in the country have strived to help these reefs regenerate and have also planted more giant clams. These giant clams, locally known as taklobos, are considered to be one of the endangered species of clams underneath the waters of Hundred Islands. Compared to other diving spots in the Philippines, the Hundred Islands hold huge numbers of these clams, which are clustered together and are found in shallow waters. According to the Provincial Information Office of Pangasinan, an inventory was made in 2013 by divers who moved these clams apart to give them more breathing space. Based on this project, they found out that there are 7,000 giant clams scattered all over the scope of the Hundred Islands.

Since it is believed that the islands are two million years old, joint effort from the community and the tourists is a must to preserve Hundred Islands as the emerald glory of Alaminos, Pangasinan.

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