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 Group of 45 Islands
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.
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 lighthouse by the pier. Many of the streets leading to the town have already been cemented but the town has preserved the hispanic plaza-iglesia structures. Dominating the town centre is Cuyo's 1860 church, convent, and fort built by the Spanish and finished in 1680. Nearby stands a schoolhouse, and a monument of national hero Jose Rizal.
Despite its long history Cuyo has held back the hands of time and preserved its rich cultural heritage preserved since more than 350 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 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. Malay Settlers on Cuyo Island. Later Chief Matuod of Malay origin was arriving in big bancas called “sakayan” and formed settlements in the island of Cuyo. A Malay Mohamedan of the name Datu Magbanua later also settled in Cuyo. Datu Magbanua’s leadership was so great and powerful, that even chieftain from another island recognized its 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 Mandarines arrived on the island and settled also on Cuyo. 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 Cuyonos.
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, purposely to protect the Cuyonon from sporadic Moro attacks, Fort Cuyo was constructed and 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]
Daily flights from Manila (Terminal 2 & 3) to Puerto Princesa in Palawan or Iloilo on Panay Island. Cuyo can be reached from Puerto Princesa and from Iloilo by Air Juan or ferries operated by the Montenegro and Milagrosa shipping lines. All boats provide separate air-conditioned sections. Air Juan flights between Puerto Princesa and Cuyo Island every Wednesday & Saturday [One way about 100 – 140 US$]
Air Juan Bookings for Cuyo flights: firstname.lastname@example.org
Puerto Princesa to Cuyo Island
Kindly check day, times of departure and arrival
Montenegro Shipping Lines
Dep. Monday 18.00 arriving Tuesday morning
Milagrosa Shipping Lines
Dep. Thursday 15.00 arriving Friday morning
Dep. Sunday 15.00 arriving Monday morning
Cuyo Island to Puerto Princesa
Montenegro Shipping Lines
Dep. Saturday 21.00 arriving Sunday 10.00
Milagrosa Shipping Lines
Dep. Thuesday 15.00 arriving Wednesday morning
Dep. Friday 15.00 arriving Saturday morning
Iloilo to Cuyo Island
Montenegro Shipping Lines
Dep. Saturday 08.00 arriving Saturday evening
Milagrosa Shipping Lines
Dep. Monday 19.00 arriving Tuesday morning
Dep. Thursday 19.00 arriving Friday morning
Cuyo Island to Iloilo
Montenegro Shipping Lines
Dep. Tuesday 12.00 arriving Tuesday 22.00
Milagrosa Shipping Lines
Dep. Friday 17.00 arriving Saturday morning
Dep. Monday 17.00 arriving Tuesday morning
Manila – Coron – Cuyo
Manila – Coron (Palawan) – Cuyo M/V D’Asean Journey (Port Area Gate 1 near Delfan Port)
Manila – Coron Monday 4:00PM arriving Tuesday 11:00AM
Coron – Cuyo Tuesday 5:00PM arriving Wednesday 4:00AM
Cuyo – Coron – Manila
Cuyo – Coron (Palawan) – Manila M/V D’Asean Journey (Port Area Gate 1 near Delfan Port)
Cuyo – Coron Thursday 10:00PM arriving Friday 8:00AM
Coron – Manila Friday 5:00PM arriving Saturday 11:00AM
There are lots of tricycles around Cuyo town. It is also possible to rent motor cycles or bycicles.
White sand beaches and coral reefs around the islands.
Cuyo is certainly one of the best spot in the Philippines for kiteboarding / kitesurfing. But also for other activities, Cuyo is a traveler’s dream. Learn kiteboarding with highly qualified IKO level 2 Instructor at Anino Retreat. Ideal conditions exist to learn and practice in chest-deep crystal-clear water. Our teachers hold certification from the International Kiteboarding Association (IKO). We have programs for beginners, intermediate, and independent kiteboarders. Depending the wind and tidal situation our lessons take place at the Anino Retreat located at the Victoria beach in Magsaysay or at Capusan beach in Cuyo town. Kiteboarders from all over the world visit Cuyo Island – but it is never crowded. We guarantee safety and satisfaction.
There is a protected fish sanctuary located at the Victoria beach in Magsaysay in front of the Anino Retreat. Excellent snorkelling conditions.
Island hopping, snorkeling, diving, windsurfing, kiting, walking, bicycling, motor biking.
Windsurfing and Kiting on Cuyo Island
The Philippines is considered by many people to be perhaps the best place for windsurfing in the whole of Asia – and Cuyo island the ultimate choice for those dedicated windsurfers who come to the Philippines since many years. Most of the windsurfers stay in small hotels or private homes in Cuyo town with the Capusan bay for windsurfing – although somehow with off shore wind keeping kiters alert. But for those few who like to combine the excitement of kiting and windsurfing with the tranquillity of a beautiful beach with endless untouched nature – the ultimate choice is the Anino Retreat (former Quijano Windsurfing Retreat) located in Magsaysay at Victoria beach. The wind blows on shore slightly from the left, permitting long rides inside the bay or going over the reef into the waves. Those who consider themselves mediocre windsurfers find ideal conditions to practice the water start in chest deep crystal clear water in a pristine landscape with green hills and several island in view.
The Anino Retreat with beautiful cottages built at the foot of a small hill covered with trees is located on 4 hectares of beautifully tended flower gardens and unspoiled nature with a 200 metres long sand beach lined with palm trees. The concept of the Anino Retreat is to provide beautiful cottages just for a few visitors who enjoy privacy and unspoiled nature. It is a place which invites you for beautiful hikes through a pristine landscape. However, you must bring your own boards and sails as there is no board rental facilities in Cuyo island. Nevertheless the Anino Retreat provide storage facilities to surfers who visit Victoria beach just for the day and return in the evening to Cuyo, which is a beautiful twenty minutes ride with a motor bike through a lush green landscape with lots of smiling people.
Kiteboarding & Windsurf Seasons
The weather in the Philippines has two principal seasons named after the particular winds known as Amihan and Habagat. For the windsurfers it is the Amihan season which brings them year after year back to Cuyo island. The Amihan season lasts from late October to March and is characterised by moderate temperature, rarely any rainfall, and almost daily a wind from the Northeast. This is in contrast to the hot Habagat season with frequent rainfall that lasts about from April to September. During this time the wind blows very moderate from the west with few chances to go kiting or windsurfing. In Cuyo town the wind blows during the winter season offshore and but still provides good spots for beginners. Only a handful of other kiters and windsurfers will be sharing this slalom blaster's heaven with you. Windsurfers on the island come from a great diversity of countries – you could be sailing with a Filipino, Korean, Swiss, Australian and Brit, all in the same day. If you look for the best among few come to Cuyo.
There is only one exclusive beach resort on Cuyo Island – the Anino Retreat In Magsaysay with three luxury cottages overlooking the beach, for the exclusive pleasures of our guests who appreciate privacy, delicious food, and unspoiled nature. Kitesurfing, kiteboarding, SUP, canoeing, snorkelling, island excursions, etc. Reservation / Inquiries: Victoria Peralta +63 929 603 3275 / +63 939 917 9402
Rates for one cottage between April and September 1750 pesos – 3750 Pesos.
Rates for one cottage between October and March 2450 Pesos – 4950 Pesos.
Same price for single or double occupancy. Our excellent food is charged separately. Occupancy per cottage is maximum two adults and one child below eight. Mobile phone provider Smart / Internet access with provided WiFi. Banquet facilities for up to 40 guests. The Anino Restaurant serves the best food on Cuyo Island. Cash payments accepted at Anino Retreat in Pesos, US$ and Euro [no credit cards]. Cuyo has no money exchange. Western Union transfers are possible. ATM does not exist on Cuyo Island.
Nikki's Pension with 14 rooms and a restaurant at Capusan beach (Contact Number: +63 920 8760 008). Feroland Hotel with 8 rooms located nearby (Contact: +63 921 7904 848). Villa Gange Pensione with 6 air-con rooms and 4 fan rooms (contact: +63 916 5029397).PSU-PCAT Baywatch Resort of the Palawan State University Cuyo Branch at Capusan Beach Cuyo town with 1 air-con room and 4 fan rooms (Contact Number: +63 918 4770 102). Apolic Pension with 3 fan rooms & kitchen (contact: Menchit Baloco: +63 918 501 2315). Tabunan Discovery Resort. Tenga-Tenga. (Contact: +63 905 2711089; +63 947 8009121). Coco Verde Beach Resort. Barangay Pawa with 6 nipa huts (contact by SMS: +63 948 7112042; +63 949 4495597).
Internet: there are several internet cafe in Cuyo town. Provider SMART