I felt some trepidation about revealing Masaric but I think that the people who’ll read this share my respect of the environment. I owe this visit to Ms. Grace Regalado who operates Villa Esperanza in the municipality of Quezon. She told me that locals call this wonderful island Masaric or Mansaric.
Masaric is uninhabitable. The island consists of several rock formations that jut above the sea. The combined outline of those formations happens to trap sand well. All that sand makes Masaric an ideal breeding ground for sea turtles.
Masaric sits about seven kilometers off Palawan’s west coast. It’s located some 15 kilometers north of Quezon, in Barangay Isugod.
Turtles breed there from November to January. But they visit all year round. Indeed, we saw several turtle tracks when I visited it two weeks ago.
HOW TO ENLARGE THESE IMAGES
Two enlargements of each image are available. Clicking on an image enlarges it. To enlarge it a second time, click on the image’s final resolution (encircled in red).
Mr. Rodney Loquiso is a native of these parts. Here he is standing on one of Masaric’s boulders.
Masaric Island, Rock Formation, With Rodney Loquiso
The area behind me is ringed by boulders. There are no coral reefs. Lapu-lapu (groupers) thrive in this habitat! So do crustaceans. I saw numerous large crabs.
Here's the ringed area again.
Two palm trees are the only remaining permanent inhabitants of Masaric. There used to be five palm trees. They were planted by locals.
It was tricky walking on these boulders. They were worn smooth by wave action (thus, a slippery grip) and those that were submerged at high tide were covered with vegetation (thus, a slick and slippery surface).
The background shows a formation covered with vegetation, an indication that it's submerged during high tide.
Close-up of the vegetation-covered slab
In the background, on the left, is an island that locals call "Batong Buri" because a Buri Tree used to grow at the island's peak.
A better view of Batong Buri (a kilometer west of Masaric Island). Nothing but rock. And groupers. Lobsters. And crabs.
A formation that's begging to be climbed
Masaric Island: This wicked-looking formation was clearly eroded.
I'm facing the setting sun, i.e., I'm facing west. I'm also holding an albatross feather.
Masaric Island: This photo was taken in the rock formation shown below.
Masaric Island: This gives an idea of the size of the rock formations.
In my hand is a feather that apparently came from an albatross.
Catching my breath.
The highest point of Masaric. It appears to be limestone. At the base of this rock, we found rum and soda bottles and plastic bags and utensils. It just pissed us off. The turtles can choke on this garbage. (We took the trash with us.)
EVIDENCE OF VISITORS
Turtle Tracks. According to Rodney, Masaric is a magnet for hatching turtles. A turtle may come back to lay eggs two or three times within the span of a week. It was heartening to see these tracks (there were three others) since it indicated that turtles still came around even after the breeding season.
Water Level Marks: I was puzzled by the seemingly-random appearance and length of turtle tracks. They started in the middle of the sand and extended less than 10 meters. Rodney explained it with these water level marks. When turtles clambered ashore, the water would be at different levels. (Obviously, only lower-level marks and tracks will remain.) There's another image under PERSPECTIVES that shows these marks clearly.
Here's the Feather.
More turtle evidence: the remains of a Jellyfish whose tentacles were devoured by a Sea Turtle.
Humans count as visitors too. Here's a fisherman off Masaric Island. Hopefully this man wasn't using sodium cyanide. (Probably not but it was a scourge in this area for many years.)
I was not able to visit Masaric’s enticing neighbors: Tamlangon and Mansuluyan. Next time!
Tamlangon Island, close-up
Tamlangon Island, close-up
Mansuluyan Island (about two kilometers southwest of Masaric Island)
Mansuluyan Island: Note the hut in the foreground.
Double Island (left background) & Tamlangon Island (right foreground). We came from Double Island.
A HECTARE OR LESS
Masaric is an unusual and tiny island as islands go. It’s definitely a hectare or less.
Our only way out. This is facing south. I took this photo and the next from the top of the same boulder. I just turned 180 degrees, i.e., I switched from facing south to facing north.
Masaric Island: The two remaining palm trees and the peak. This is facing north.
I’m not exaggerating. Here’s how Masaric appeared on our way there.
Headed towards the mound in the center! On the left is Mansuluyan Island and on the right is Tamlangon Island. In the middle is Masaric!
I was pleased to learn that the municipality of Quezon has taken steps in the past to police its waters. More could always be done of course. Without becoming unreasonable (because the municipal government, like any other organization, has limited resources), I think that the single most effective change that it can do is to help make the Filipino aware of the importance of taking his litter with him. The land and the sea are not dumping grounds for his litter. The Filipino harvests most of his food from the sea. Why pollute it?
I dedicate this post to my brother whose birthday I missed because I was on this darn exploration. Happy birthday Dan!