The Cuyo Islands are a group of islands in Palawan Province, Philippines. The archipelago is in the Sulu Sea, to the northeast of the main island of Palawan, south of Mindoro and west of Panay. There are 45 islands, many of which are uninhabited. Their total land area is 130 km² (50 square miles); population in 2010 was about 46,000.
Cuyo Island, in the south of the archipelago, is the largest island and has most of the population.
Cuyo is divided into two island groups: the Quiniluban group in the north and the Cuyo group in the south. The largest island in the Cuyo group is Cuyo Island which has an area of 22 square miles and a population of approximately 20,000 people; it is one of the least exploited inhabited islands in the country. It is divided into three municipalities: Cuyo, Agutaya, and Magsaysay.
Cuyo Town is the oldest in Palawan Province, with a historic fort which shelters a church and a convent within its high stone walls. Constructed during the Spanish colonial era to protect the population from Moro pirates, it is one of the oldest forts in the Philippines. All the streets in town have been cemented but the town has preserved the hispanic plaza and church 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.
Flora and fauna
Cuyo is covered with mango, cashew and coconut trees that gracefully sway in the wind. Thick clumps of bamboo abound.
The Cuyonon are very resourceful and have found ways to make the best of what they have like making tuba, a fermented toddy from coconut, and cashew brittle, both local specialties. Life is slow and the epitome of “rural living” in its simplicity, the kind that grows on people who visit the island. Its several beaches, gracious townsfolk, and simple life are its gems.
Chinese traders where the first to discover Cuyo island and introduced the trade and barter system in the locality. Later Chief Matunod of Malay origin arrived in big bangkas called “sakayan” and formed settlements on the island. A Malay Muslim by the name Datu Magbanua later also settled in Cuyo. His leadership was so great and powerful that even chieftains from other 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 folk dances even up to the present.
During the leadership of Datu Magbanua, three Chinese Mandarins arrived on the island and settled on Cuyo. The Chinese discovered gold deposits on Mt. Aguado and introduced gold mining, smith working, pottery, and other handicrafts. The natives of Cuyo became suspicious of their presence and were able to drive them out. They sailed to Ilongilong (today known as Iloilo) and formed another settlement called “Parian”.
In 1622, Count San Augustin and 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.
In 1636 a powerful Muslim fleet under Datu Tagul raided Cuyo and other places in Palawan. In Cuyo they 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 defenseless 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 not so lucky.
There are two distinct seasons in the Philippines generally distinguished by the rains and prevailing direction of the winds. The amihan season gradually begins in November with winds from the North and lasts until March and is typically drier. The habagat seasonal winds blow in from the southeast from June to October. This also coincides with the monsoon/typhoon season. Cuyo lies to the south of the direct typhoon belt that batters much of the archipelago. Most rain during this period comes in the form of short, heavy downpours bringing a pleasant coolness and lush green vegetation. During the dry amihan there are periods of hot, dusty and windless days. Apart from the April and May doldrums when it's a few degrees hotter, temperatures are nearly always the same regardless of the season being within the equatorial zone.
- 1 Cuyo Airport (CYU IATA) (located in Magsaysay some 20 minutes away from Cuyo town). Cuyo Island is not connected by any airline.
Ferry services connecting several times a week with Puerto Princesa and Iloilo. Weekly from Manila via Coron
Puerto Princesa to Cuyo
- Montenegro Shipping: Dep Monday 18:00 - Arr Tuesday 10:00
- Milagrosa Shipping: Dep Thursday and Sunday 15:00 - Arr Monday 8:00
Cuyo to Puerto Princesa
- Montenegro Shipping: Dep Saturday 22:00 - Arr Sunday 10:00
- Milagrosa Shipping: Dep Monday and Friday 15:00 - Arr Tuesday and Saturday 8:00
Iloilo to Cuyo
- Montenegro Shipping Lines: Dep Saturday 8:00 - Arr Saturday 20:00
- Milagrosa Shipping Lines: Dep Monday and Thursday 19:00 - Arr Tuesday and Friday 8:00
Cuyo to Iloilo
- Montenegro Shipping Lines: Dep Tuesday 14:00 - Arr Wednesday 4:00
- Milagrosa Shipping Lines: Dep Friday 17:00 and Monday 17:00 - Arr Tuesday and Saturday 6:00
Manila – Coron – Cuyo
- Serrano Shipping Co. - M/V D’Asean Journey (Manila South Port Area Gate 1 near Delfan Port)
- Manila – Coron Dep Sunday 16:00 - Arr Monday 11:00
- Coron – Cuyo Dep Monday 17:00 - Arr Tuesday 03:00
Cuyo – Coron – Manila Serrano Shipping Co. - M/V D’Asean Journey
- Cuyo – Coron Dep Thursday 22:00 - Arr Friday 8:00
- Coron – Manila Dep Thursday 17:00 - Arr Friday 11:00
These schedules are meant as a guide only and often not precise due to weather, tides, cargo delays and mechanical problems. Make inquiries near your planned departure date with these companies.
There are lots of tricycles around Cuyo Town. Best to agree on a price before setting out as most units are territorial.
Small motorcycles are available for rent in the public market and at a couple of locations just back one street from the pier.
Bicycles can also be rented. Inquire locally. Local bangka boats are available for island hopping and snorkeling. Visitors are reminded to dispose of their trash properly. If you bring it in, pack it out.
- Cuyo Fort and St. Augustine Parish Church (from Cuyo Port, walk up Sandoval St and turn left at Rizal St, walk past the Municipal Hall and Palawan State University). During the early Spanish period Fort Cuyo was constructed to protect the Cuyonon from sporadic Moro attacks 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 cannons, which face the sea, are now fired only during town celebrations. It is one of the oldest forts in the Philippines. It is unique because the church, the convent and the Perpetual Adoration chapel are all within the fort. In 1762 one of the British ships that invaded Manila fired at the Cuyo fort but it was not damaged. In 1873, the capital of Paragua (present day Palawan) was transferred to Cuyo from Taytay. Cuyo Fort and Church is only a few minutes walk from Cuyo Port. A tour of the place can be made without a guide since there are ample signs explaining the different areas of the fort. ₱200.
- Kiteboarding and windsurfing. The Philippines is considered by some people to be one of the best places for windsurfing and kiteboarding in Asia and Cuyo Island has become a good choice for many. It has two spots for these sports. One is located in Cuyo Town at Capusan Beach. The other is located at Quejano/Victoria Beach some 20 minutes away. Kiteboarding instruction at Capusan is provided exclusively by the Cuyo Watersports Association and the Buradol Kite Central, a part of the local Nikki's syndicate. The Anino Kite Resort also provides kiteboarding instruction, storage, and rental of kite equipment. The Philippines has two principal seasons known by its seasonal wind direction called amihan and habagat. For the kiters it's the amihan season which brings them back in small clusters every year. This season lasts from December to March and is characterized by moderate humidity, seldom any significant rainfall and an almost daily, consistent wind from the northeast.
- Capusan Beach and Quejano/Victoria Beach. Capusan Beach in Cuyo Town is the most popular spot for kiteboarding due to its long sand bar, ample space, combination of shallow and deep water and free public access. Quejano/Victoria Beach on the east side of the island also offers very good conditions. Those who consider themselves mediocre kiters find ideal conditions to practice the water start in chest deep crystal clear water in a pristine landscape of green hills with several distant islands in view. Both locations have excellent conditions for beginners and experienced riders.
- Aguado pilgrimage. 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.
- Snorkeling. There are numerous places within the entire Cuyo Archipelago where one can find an amazing variety of underwater sights. For the casual visitor it is generally advisable to snorkel in those areas free from hazards such as fishermen and other surface water sports activities. Black sea urchins are to be avoided!
Most native handicrafts are made elsewhere and brought to Cuyo. Traditional crafts such as pottery and weaving have died out completely. Cuyo is not known for any noteworthy shopping opportunities.
Since there are no ATM/cash machines on Cuyo visitors are advised to budget accordingly. There are however a few options available if funds run short:
- Western Union now has agencies located near each other. One is a sub-branch located within the Charlie Marketing store in Barangay Cabigsing and the other is just down the street at G-Cash. Both offer currency exchange for US dollars and euros only. Best to compare rates as they are not affiliated.
Local specialties include"
- Cashew nuts (salted, roasted, bande, brittle, chewy bars)
- Lato (an edible seaweed)
- Combo (saba bananas fried in coconut oil wrapped in a mixture of flour and egg, not like maruya)
- Bondok (cookies)
- Tirek (sea urchin)
- Anino Kite Resort located at the most beautiful beach of Cuyo Island in Magsaysay some 20 minutes from Cuyo town at the east shore of Cuyo island with three cottages and four double rooms, all overlooking the beach. Two of the cottages have two extra beds for children. Kitesurfing, kiteboarding, canoeing, swimming, snorkeling, island excursions, etc. Reservations and inquiries: Victoria Peralta +63 929 603 3275. Rates between April and September ₱2000-4700. Rates between October and March ₱3200-6750. Same price for single or double occupancy. Occupancy per cottage is maximum two adults & one child below 4 years. Breakfast included in room rates. Kite instruction, free kite storage & kiting assistance. Free rescue service by boat. Free drinking water, coffee & tea. Free wifi. Mobile phone provider Smart (not Globe).
- Apohlic Pension Cabigsing. With 3 fan rooms and communal kitchen (contact: Bert Baloco +63 918 501 2315).
- Baywatch Resort of the Palawan State University, Cuyo Branch at Capusan Beach with 1 air-con room and 4 fan rooms (contact: +63 0918 477 0102).
- Cuyo Beach House A unique private house on a lovely, secluded beach. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Discovery Bay Resort Hotel. Tabunan (contact: +63 0905 271 1089; +63 0947 800 9121).
- Feroland Hotel. Tenga-Tenga, with 8 rooms located nearby (contact: +63 0921 790 4848).
- Jade Felimar Value Inn at Juan Luna Street in Cuyo town. Fan double rooms and A/C double rooms (contact: +63 280 65958, +63 922 8540335, +63 930 3478084).
- Nikki's Pension with 14 rooms, fast-food restaurant and videoke bar at Capusan Public Beach next to the pier and public market. Often fully booked Dec-Mar (contact: +63 0920 876 0008).
- Villa Gange Pensione. Catadman, with 6 air-con rooms, 4 fan rooms and communal kitchen. Often fully booked Dec-Mar (contact: +63 0916 502 9397).
- There are several internet cafes in Cuyo Town all using the SMART Network. Connection speeds are typically slow and occasionally not connecting.
- Cycom Internet Cafe & Airline Ticketing Office: Main Road 50 metres before principal gasoline station: Ronald Palay + 63 9399 064750