Pag-asa Island, West Philippine Sea— the name seems to ring an alarm whenever we hear it. I know you are familiar about it (with all the news you’ve heard and watched regarding contested waters) and perhaps think about it as a very risky place to reside or even just visit because of the ongoing territorial disputes. But have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in a remote island in the middle of the West Philippine Sea? What if for the very first time, there is a chance to explore the Island? Well, the Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan, through its tourism office, led by the Kalayaan Islands Tourism Agents Cooperative (KITA), made the tour possible in line with their vision of making Kalayaan the center of adventure tourism by the year 2040.

Pag-asa Island, Kalayaan, Palawan, Philippines. Photo from Spratlys Island, Kalayaan Tourism Facebook page. Drone shot by Kevin Aquino


When I came to know about the tour package for Pag-asa Island, I knew it was definitely one for the books! There was a strong desire in me to join for I knew it would be an adventure of a lifetime.  And I was not mistaken.

Out of the ordinary, one of a kind – this is how I describe my recent adventure to Pag-asa Island, Kalayaan, Palawan. To be in a secluded island for more than a week is something that would continue to exist in your mind and heart for a very long time. Pag-asa Island is the second largest of the naturally occurring Spratly Islands and the largest of the Philippine-administered islands. According to the official website of the Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan, it is 277 miles from Puerto Princesa City and 579 miles from Manila, and is accessible by sea and air transportation.

I flew to Puerto Princesa City from Manila two days before our scheduled departure to the Island. It was my second time in Palawan and I was more than excited. All of us who joined the tour were required to undergo an antigen test. Fortunately, all of us tested negative. We started the tour by a van transfer from Puerto Princesa to Buliluyan Port early morning of April 29. Travel time was five hours. After arriving at the Port, we went inside Bataraza Toursim Sub-office and wrote our name on the tourists logbook.

We started sailing to Pag-asa Island at around 9 o’clock in the morning. And that’s when our sea adventure began! It was a test of patience, courage, and commitment. It was not our usual boat ride. Getting there took us almost 30 hours. Meals that were included in the tour package were served while sailing. After arrival on the Island, uniformed personnel helped us bring our things to the area where we would be staying and setting up the tents. Some of us stayed in the tents while others in staff house, evacuation center, and the so-called homestay.

I was so excited to wander around the Island. First thing on my mind was to take a look at the beach and dip my toes in the water. I am always in awe of the beach because it is very therapeutic for me. Alone or with company, I wouldn’t mind being at the beach all day long. True enough, its crystal clear waters and fine white sands took my worries away and soothed my soul.


Being in Pag-asa Island felt like I was in another world. Knowing that we were very far away from the city and we couldn’t go back there very easily added more thrill during our stay there. Aside from the heavenly beach that it offers, it also has marvelous sunset and moonlight that I’ve ever seen.

We fully immersed ourselves in the community and it was something that played a big part in our daily life on the Island. Pag-asa residents were very helpful and accommodating, as well as the uniformed personnel assigned in the area.  Life there is very simple and laidback. Aside from fishing, the residents raise pigs, goats, and chickens, and plant crops in an allotted space to supplement their supplies of goods.  There are eight sari sari stores in the area— expect the prices of the goods to be a lot higher since it is very far and takes a lot of time to transport the goods from the city to the island. Aside from the houses of the residents, you could also see government buildings and military facilities including health center, school, police station, coast guard station, naval station, water-filtration plant, evacuation center, communication tower, military barracks, and even bunkers.

Here are the activities that happened during the first ever West Philippine Sea Festival with the theme: “Pangingisda at Ekoturismo: Pag-asang Handog ng Kalayaan para sa Inang Bayan”:

The Festival officially opened on May 4. Torch parade was held at 5 o’clock in the morning where the local government units, residents of Brgy. Pag-asa, Western Command of the Philippines personnel, and tourists joined. The parade was followed by performances of the different departments of the local government where I became one of the judges, then honoring rites at Coloma Shrine, and finally, opening ceremony. Honorable Mayor Roberto Del Mundo, Honorable Vice Mayor Beltzasar Alindogan, WESCOM Island Commander Lt. Rey Tibay, Chief of Police Alfredo Baclagon, and other police officers were present during the event.

Photos from Municipal Government of Kalayaan Province of Palawan Facebook page


A day before the opening ceremony, kick-off activities were held such as the 2nd Kalayaan Mayor’s Cup Fishing Tournament. The categories of the competition were jigging with the prize of P80,000 for the Champion and P50,000 for the first runner up; shore casting, with the prize of P50,000 for the champion and P30,000 for the first runner up; and lastly, cook the catch with P10,000 prize.

Photos from Municipal Government of Kalayaan Province of Palawan Facebook page

Trainings on t-shirt printing, massage, souvenir making, and immersion hosting for the residents of Brgy. Pag-asa were also conducted.

Photos from Municipal Government of Kalayaan Province of Palawan Facebook page

Barakalan was also set up in front of their gym. Fruits, palamig, souvenir shirts, and fishing tools were available for sale. Bangkarera was also held where the residents/participants raced in the water while riding their boats.

A beach mass wedding was officiated by Honorable Mayor Del Mundo and I was part of the event as one of the sponsors to our new friends who celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and had a renewal of vows. We had a boodle fight breakfast after the wedding.

Photos from Municipal Government of Kalayaan Province of Palawan Facebook page


Beach party was one of the highlights of the festival too! Everyone, including the uniformed personnel participated in the activities and had so much fun. Everybody danced to the tune of the lively music. Songwriting competition was also held. The champion received P10,000 while the first runner up and second runner up brought home P7,000 and P3,000 respectively.

Photos from Municipal Government of Kalayaan Province of Palawan Facebook page


One of my favorite activities was the coastal cleanup and tree planting. Araw ng Mamamayan, basketball games for men and women, and Kalayaan Pop Idol were also carried out. The Kalayaan Pop Idol had kids (14 years old and below) and adult (15 years old and above) categories. For the kids category, the prizes were P2,500, P1,500, and P1,000 for the champion down to second runner up. On the other hand, the winners of adult category received P4,000, P2,000, and P1,500. The festival ended blissfully with the LGU Night.

Photos from Municipal Government of Kalayaan Province of Palawan Facebook page


It was so touching witnessing the whole island being alive. Pag-asa, being the main island and the seat of government of the Municipality of Kalayaan, has the most number of facilities and structures. It is the only island that has electricity, potable water supply, and recreational facilities. But there is still so much work to do in the Island— facilities and structures to make the local economy grow, improve the living standards, create jobs for the residents, ensure peace and security, and of course, boost tourism while protecting its natural resources and diverse flora and fauna species. According to Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), proposed projects there include a transportation hub in the island consisting of port and maritime facilities, and airport strip with terminal building for domestic use; local hospital with 50-bed capacity; LGU building; PNP building; school facilities; central business district with market area, commercial building and activity center, local housing; road network development; sewage treatment plant; and tourism and cultural projects. There is so much hope for Pag-asa. I am excited to come back and witness the developments in the area.

We were supposed to stay on the Island for five days only. But we were stranded due to the bad weather. I clearly remember the exact moment when I went to the beach alone and witnessed how the blue skies turned into gray, how the shallow water became deep, and how the wind replaced the scorching heat. A typhoon was coming, sea travel was not allowed, and the military ships had already sought shelters. But despite those, I still dipped into the water and enjoyed my time alone. I had mixed emotions during that hour— we were about to leave the Island soon and that made me feel so sad, but we were already stranded there for two days and some of our important schedules were already affected. I was torn. Finally, I accepted the fact that we had to leave the Island, but made a promise to come back. Up until now, I am still living in my Island daydreams. The memories of our trip keep on lingering in my head. It was truly an unforgettable experience. The trip was different from all of my other trips in the past — the place, the people I’ve met, and the community as a whole created a profound impact on me. Our Pag-asa trip was so out of the ordinary that I was really overwhelmed by the whole experience and I just wanted to savor every moment, fully indulge in each of them, and laugh my heart out with my newfound friends. I was lucky enough to be included in the first group of tourists who visited the Island. I learned so much about the island’s history, culture, people, and nature. I felt a sense of  awe and gratitude for being able to witness such a unique and precious place. I would like to commend the hard work of all the people who made the event possible.

I can say that Pag-asa Island is more than just an island. It is a symbol of hope for peace, harmony, and prosperity in the West Philippine Sea. It is also a testament to the resilience, courage, and hospitality of its people. It is definitely worth visiting and experiencing for yourself. I hope this article inspires you to visit Pag-asa Island someday. It was my first of many visits to this amazing place. And I can’t wait to come back.