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. Non-exclusive is the Coco Verde Beach Resort located on the less-visited southshore of Cuyo island.
There are only two distinct seasons in the Philippines generally distinguished by the rains and the direction of prevailing winds. The amihan season begins in November and lasts until about mid-March and is typically drier. This is the season favored by droves of kitesurfers who use two of the three beaches on Cuyo Island for pursuing this sport. These are Capusan Public Beach near the pier and on the eastern shore the Quejano Beach and it's adjoining Victoria Beach portion of Anino Retreat. The private and secluded Coco Verde Beach on the islands south shore is not suitable for kiting, rather for swimming, snorkeling and boat launching throughout the year. The habagat winds can be equally delightful blowing from the southeast from June to late October. Actual speeds can vary wildly this time of year however there are always stretches of consistent 20 to 30+ knot winds. While this also coincides with the monsoon/typhoon season these are not daily nor even weekly occurrences. Most rain comes in the form of short, heavy downpours. They bring a pleasant coolness and lush, green vegetation not apparent during the dry amihan season when there are occasional stretches of hot, dusty and windless days. Since Cuyo lies to the south of the typhoon belt storms can be exhilarating though usually short in duration and very irregular. Aside from the windless April and May doldrums throughout the archipelago when its a few degrees hotter, temperatures are always the same regardless of season being within the equatorial zone. This is also a good time to visit Cuyo if avoiding crowds is your concern and don't mind experiencing the Philippines as Filipinos do.
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 Mandarins 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]
From Manila there are daily flights from NAIA terminals 2, 3 and 4, to Puerto Princesa in Palawan. Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays Air Juan flys to Cuyo Island in small planes for maximum 9 passengers at about 10:00 taking one hour for the beautiful hop. It's scheduled to make the return journey half an hour after landing. Air Juan Bookings: email@example.com +63 939 902 2348 or firstname.lastname@example.org ☎ +63 918 639 9843
Kindly check day, times of departure and arrival
Montenegro Shipping Lines twice per week
Milagrosa Shipping Lines twice per week
Montenegro Shipping Lines twice per week
Milagrosa Shipping Lines twice per week
Manila – Coron (Palawan) – Cuyo M/V D’Asean Journey (Port Area Gate 1 near Delfan Port)
Manila – Coron Monday 4:00 PM arriving Tuesday 11:00 AM
Coron – Cuyo Tuesday 5:00 PM arriving Wednesday 4:00 AM
Cuyo – Coron (Palawan) – Manila M/V D’Asean Journey (Port Area Gate 1 near Delfan Port)
Cuyo – Coron Thursday 10:00 PM arriving Friday 8:00 AM
Coron – Manila Friday 5:00 PM arriving Saturday 11:00 AM
There are lots of tricycles around Cuyo town. It is also possible to rent motorcycles or bicycles.
Motorcycles are available for rent in the Public Market while the beach resort has a jitney 4x4 mini-truck for pier or airport transfers and island tour. Local bangka boats are also available for island-hopping, snorkeling and unique camping excursions. Inquire locally.
White sand beaches, coral reefs, heritage trees
Cuyo is arguably one of the best spots in the Philippines for kiteboarding / kitesurfing. Here one can learn kiteboarding from qualified IKO level 2 Instructors. Ideal conditions exist to learn and practice in chest-deep crystal-clear water. Instructors hold certification from the International Kiteboarding Association (IKO) and there are programs for beginners, intermediate, and independent kiteboarders. Depending on the wind and tidal conditions, lessons take place at the Anino Retreat located at the Quijano Beach in Magsaysay Municipality or at Capusan Beach in Cuyo Town near the pier and public market.
Another fun watersport activity gaining in popularity is snorkeling. Despite years of neglect and abuse the coral reefs within the 40+ Cuyo Islands group is still a fantastic place to explore and enjoy the crystal clear tropical sea. On the main island of Cuyo, the gateway and largest of this group snorkeling is best on the less-developed eastern and southern shores. The eastern snorkeling area is accessed with on-site permission from the resident at the private, partially developed Quejano Beach from the road entrance to the left going down to the property (try 0999 046 9279 or inquire at the Public Market first). The adjoining Anino Retreat allows non-guests the use of its Victoria Beach for a small entrance fee and is accessed to the right along the side of the hill. The southern shore has Coco Verde Beach. The reef here has been designated a Protected Marine Area and a modest P50 per person donation is requested to fund a local Reef Protection Awareness Program and for on-going maintenance and rehabilitation efforts. Small paddle-boats called barotos are available or one can simply wade and swim out to the reef about 100m offshore. Locally-built boats called bangkas regularly depart from here for fishing but are also available for island-hopping adventures always accompanied by a fully qualified crew. Beach camping expeditions also can be organized locally. Inquire ahead. Best to bring one's own snorkeling gear and other equipment however it's possible to rent some if necessary.
Protected Marine Area/Fish Sanctuary
There is a fish sanctuary or No Fishing Zone located at the Quijano Beach in front of the Anino Retreat in Magsaysay. Excellent for snorkeling.
Kite boarding / Kite surfing on Cuyo Island
The Philippines is considered by some people to be perhaps the best place for kite boarding in the whole of Asia – and Cuyo island is certainly one of the windiest spots. Most of the kiters stay in Cuyo Town with the nearby Capusan Beach. But for those few who like to combine the excitement of kiting with the tranquility of a beautiful beach the ultimate choice is the Anino Retreat located in Magsaysay Municipality 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 kiters find ideal conditions to practice their start in chest deep crystal clear water in a pristine landscape with green hills and several island in view. The adjacent beach retaining the original name of Quejano also offers kiters the use of it's beach. Inquire at the residence there or in town at the Public Market. On Cuyo beaches are public property and there is free access for all.
Kite Boarding Seasons
The weather in the Philippines has two principal seasons named after the particular winds known as amihan and habagat. For the kiters it's the amihan season which brings them back to Cuyo Island in droves year after year. The Amihan season lasts from late October to mid-April and is characterised by moderate temperature, rarely any rainfall, and almost daily a wind from the Northeast. In Cuyo town the wind blows during the winter season offshore and but still provides good spots for beginners. At the Quijano beach in Magsaysay the wind blow onshore from the left and is perfect for kiters. Not too many other kiters will be sharing this slalom blaster's heaven with you. Kiters 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.
Internet: there are several internet cafe in Cuyo town. Provider SMART
Mika Cyber Cafe on the ground floor of Feroland Hotel near the public market is recommended.