The archipelago of the Cuyo Islands are located north of the Sulu sea, to the east of the main island of Palawan. They compose around 40 islands, many of which are uninhabited. Cuyo Island, in the south of the archipelago, is home to Cuyo town. The total population in the islands according to a census in 2000 is 18,257.
Cuyo Island is a group of 45 islets with a total land area of 50 square miles. It lies south of Mindoro and between Northern Palawan and Panay. The biggest island in this group is Cuyo with an area of 22 square miles and is about 9 miles long. Cuyo is divided in three municipalities, namely Cuyo, Agutaya, and Magsaysay. Cuyo is the oldest town in Palawan. Cuyo has a culture of its own which was preserved since more than 350 years. In the year 2008, the total population of the Cuyo Island is almost 25’000. Cuyo is divided into two island groups. Up north is the Quiniluban group to which Pamalican island is part and where the 89-hectare, ultra-exclusive Amanpulo Resort belongs. To the south are the Cuyo islands, where the three municipalities, namely Cuyo, Agutaya, and Magsaysay are located. Magsaysay is the location of the Anino Retreat, also exclusive but in another sense.
There are two distinct seasons in the Philippines generally distinguished by the rains and the direction of prevailing winds. The amihan winds from the north begins in November and lasts until March and is typically drier. The habagat winds blow from the south beginning in June lasting until October. This also coincides with the monsoon/typhoon season. Cuyo lies to the south of the typhoon belt that pummels much of the archipelago every year. Most rain comes in the form of short, heavy downpours that bring a pleasant coolness along with the lush, green vegetation. During the dry amihan season there are periods of hot, dusty or windless days. Aside from the windless April and May doldrums when its a few degrees hotter, temperatures are always the same regardless of season being within the equatorial zone.
Cuyo is a fourth-class municipality composed of 17 barangays. With a population of 18,257 people (2000 census), it is one of the unexploited islands in the country. Home to a fort, which shelters a church and a convent in its high stone walls, constructed during the Spanish period to protect its population from Moro pirates, Cuyo has one of the most ancient forts in the Philippines. Incidentally, Cuyo became the second capital of Palawan from 1873 to 1903.
Cuyo is known to be the oldest town in Palawan. From the sea, Cuyo Island's first visible landmark is a large concrete sign on Capusan Beach erected by the municipality to welcome visitors. All the streets in town have already been cemented but the town has preserved the hispanic plaza-iglesia structures. Dominating the town centre is Cuyo's church, convent, and fort built by the Spanish and finished in 1680. Nearby stands a schoolhouse, and a park with a monument to national hero Jose Rizal.
Despite its long history Cuyo has held back the hands of time and preserved its rich cultural heritage preserved for almost 400 years. The ati-ati, comedia, sinulao, sayaw, inocentes, erekay, biso, banda y tipano, cheats, tambura, birguere, pondo-pondo, curatsa, and others are things Cuyono.
Mt. Aguado features life-size stations of the Way of the Cross constructed from the foot to the peak of the mountain. Cuyonon devotees, visitors and tourists make the annual pilgrimage to Mt. Aguado as part of the penitential rites done in Cuyo during the Holy Week particularly on Holy Thursday.
Flora and fauna
Cuyo is a place blessed with nature’s beauty. Secluded and quiet, it is covered with mango, cashew and coconut trees that gracefully sway to the wind. Thick clumps of bamboo abound. And of course, the vast blue seas – home to a myriad of corals and sea creatures – that seem extend to eternity. The island would appeal to hardy, outdoor types of people who enjoy taking walks, swimming and discovering a unique local culture, rather than indulging in material pleasures.
Cuyonons live on the basics and hardly complain. They are very resourceful and have found ways to make the best of what they have like making tuba from coconut and cashew brittle their specialties.Life is slow, timeless, and the epitome of “rural living” in its simplicity, the kind that grows on people who visit the island. There is nothing to be lost in Cuyo except perhaps one’s heart. Its untouched beaches, gracious townsfolk, and simple life are its gems. Rare are places where the concept of excessive materialism does not exist, yet people are thankful and welcoming, where happiness is equated with putting value on love and life, and living means working with nature and not trying to change it.
First Settlers on Cuyo Island
Chinese traders where the first to discover Cuyo island and introduced the trade and barter system in the locality. Later Chief Matuod of Malay origin was arrived in big bangkas called “sakayan” and formed settlements. Another Malay Mohammedan by the name Datu Magbanua also later settled in Cuyo. Datu Magbanua’s leadership was so great and powerful, that even chieftains from another islands recognized his rule. The Malays brought with them their dances and when blended with native dance, the “Soriano”, it became known as the “pondo-pondo” one of the most popular folkdances even up to the present.
Chinese Settlers on Cuyo Island=
During the leadership of Datu Magbanua, three Chinese Mandarins arrived on the island. The Chinese discovered gold deposits in Mt. Aguado and introduced gold mining, smith working, pottery, and other handicrafts. The natives of Cuyo became suspicious of the their presence and were able to drive them out. They sailed to Ilongilong (today known as Iloilo) and formed another settlement called “Parian”.
Spanish Colonization of Cuyo Island
In 1622, Count San Augustin together with five Spanish missionaries colonized the island named by them as Cuyo and introduced Christianity. The friendly character of the people proved to be a blessing to the Spaniards who did not find difficulties in converting the population of Cuyo Island to Christianity. They were immediately able to baptize 500 Cuyonons.
Muslim attack Cuyo Island
In 1636 a powerful Muslim fleet under Datu Tagul raided Cuyo and other places in Palawan. In Cuyo the Muslim attacked the convent and the church and set the town on fire and took with them prisoners including a priest, Fr. Francisco de Jesus Maria. They then proceeded to Agutaya and Culion and wrought havoc and destruction on the helpless and defenceless civilians. Again their prized captive was another priest from Culion, Fr. Alonzo de San Augustin who was captured while saying mass. A Spanish naval flotilla of 6 vessels and 250 men under Capt. Nicolas Gonzales met the returning pirates with their loot and booty on December 21, 1636. Datu Tagul was killed, 300 of his men captured and 120 prisoners were liberated. The two captured priests were unlucky.
During the early Spanish period Fort Cuyo was constructed to protect from sporadic Moro attacks and was finished in 1680. The original complex of stone and mortar was a square with four bastions. The present complex, which occupies 1 ha, is a solid rectangular edifice with walls 10 m high and 2 m thick. It has a tall belfry and watchtowers; its canons, which face the sea, are now fired only during town celebrations. It is considered as one of the most ancient and unique forts in the Philippines. Unique in the sense that you can find the church, the convent and the Perpetual Adoration chapel all within the fort. In 1762 one of the British ships that invaded Manila fired at the Cuyo fort but it was not damaged at all. Another fort was started at Lucbuan seven kilometres away on the east side of Cuyo island, but it was never finished. In 1873, the capital of Paragua (present day Palawan) was transferred to Cuyo from Taytay.
[Much of the information about Cuyo was received from the Municipal Planning and Development Office in Cuyo town in November 2009]
From Manila there are many daily flights with several regional airlines from NAIA (Manila) terminals 2, 3 and 4 to Puerto Princesa City the provincial capitol and gateway to Palawan. AirJuan www.airjuan.com flies from Puerto Princesa to Cuyo Island three times per week carrying 9 passengers maximum taking about an hour each way. RT fare approximately P10,000 ~ P12,000 depending on advance bookings and availabilty. Baggage allowance is 10kg with P 98/kg additional. The airport is located about 20 minutes from Cuyo Town. Best to arrange ground transportation in advance of arrival.
AirJuan agents in Cuyo: firstname.lastname@example.org +63 939 902 2348 or email@example.com ☎ +63 918 639 9843
Dep Puerto Princesa 10:00 - Arr Cuyo 11:00 Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday
Dep Cuyo 11:30 - Arr Puerto Princesa 12:30 Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday
A full ferry schedule for Cuyo can be found at http://cuyokiteboarding.com/getting-to-cuyo
Montenegro Shipping: 
Montenegro Shipping: Dep Monday 18:00 - Arr Tuesday 10:00
Milagrosa Shipping: Dep Thursday and Sunday 15:00 - Arr Friday and Monday 08:00
Montenegro Shipping: Dep Saturday 18:00 - Arr Sunday 10:00
Milagrosa Shipping: Dep Monday and Friday 15:00 - Arr Tuesday and Saturday 08:00
Montenegro Shipping: Dep Saturday 08:00 - Arr Saturday 20:00
Milagrosa Shipping: Dep Monday and Thursday 19:00 - Arr Tuesday and Friday 10:00
Montenegro Shipping: Dep Tuesday 14:00 - Arr Wednesday 04:00
Milagrosa Shipping: Dep Monday and Thursday 15:00 - Arr Tuesday and Friday 06:00
Serrano Shipping - M/V D’Asean Journey (Manila South Port Area Gate 1 near Delfan Port)
There are lots of tricycles around Cuyo town. Agree to the fare before departing as most of these are territorial. Small motorcycles are available for rent in the public market area and nearby. Bicycles can be rented on the premises of Mika Cybercafe on the ground floor of the Feroland Hotel within easy walking distance of the pier and public market. Local bangka boats are also available for island-hopping, snorkeling and unique camping excursions. Visitors are reminded to always dispose of their trash properly by taking out what you bring! The Anino Retreat has a comfortable "banka" for island hopping for rent.
There are numerous places within the entire Cuyo Archipelago where one can find an amazing variety of underwater sights. For the casual visitor it's generally advisable to snorkel in those areas free from hazards such as fishermen and other surface water sports activities. The black sea urchins are to be avoided![]
All native handicrafts are brought from other places. Traditional crafts such as weaving and pottery have died-out completely. Cuyo is not known for its shopping opportunities.
Mika Cyber Cafe on the ground floor of the Feroland Hotel is within easy walking distance of the pier and public market.
There are a number of other internet cafes in Cuyo Town including both Cycom offices all using the SMART Network
Travel Agencies and Airline Ticketing Offices
Cycom: Main Road 50 metres before principal gasoline station: Ronald Palay +63 9399 064750
Cycom: Main Road 100 metres after principal gasoline station: Florabel Palay +63 9399 022348
Nacksland: Across the street from the gasoline station: +63 9982 654406
G-cash: Near Western Union: +63 9199 742741 Also currency exchange and international transfers
A full air and sea schedule from Cuyo is available at http://cuyokiteboarding.com/getting-to-cuyo