Counting Secluded Strides in San Vicente, Palawan's Long Beach

My step count must have numbered in the hundreds when I paused to survey my surroundings. I saw the fisherman who greeted me earlier as he was fixing his fishing net, appearing like a small dot from far away. I turned my head and saw no one else within yelling distance—except for a couple of dogs who were following me. For a few minutes I sat on a protruding branch of a fallen tree, and just wrapped my mind at the solitary vibe of the spot. I started to wonder how such stunning place remains uncrowded in an afternoon showered with the riveting golden rays of the sun.

The view of San Vicente from atop a hill
I could sit here for hours and just stare at this view

It was like having the whole stretch of oceanfront all to myself. The waves, suddenly became an orchestra humming a chorus of splashing sounds, as it crashes on cue like well-executed drum beats, into the fine white sands. I crossed a small stream connecting the sea to a small river, and into the second cove of the combined more than 14-kilometer white sand beach of San Vicente. I have a long way to go If ever I have any reason or desire to tick off “walking the whole stretch of San Vicente beach” from my life’s to-do-list.

Marky Ramone Go and his signature jump
Finding time for a jump shot because no one is around to see me be silly. 

I have no such yearning to complete such a task, though, my mission became clear to me that moment; to relish and feel the reigning solitude—something I usually find elusive in the big city. I smelled the air and sensed the burgeoning strong winds as the sky started to darken and threatened to rain. Back in my mind, I imagined how San Vicente would look like—five, seven, 10 years from now. The idea concerned me so I resorted back to being the solitary figure, walking barefoot over such fantastic nature setting.

San Vicente Tourism Master Plan

Looking several years into the future might shock anyone who has experienced the almost self-contained environment of San Vicente’s long beach. Especially, if one gets wind of the Integrated Tourism Master Plan drawn out by architectural planning giant—Palafox Associates, which was awarded by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), to design the development plan for San Vicente, Palawan.

Isolated beach
Nothing but the long beach and coconut trees

Like many, who heard about it initially, I became worried about the proposed tourism development plan, as reminders of Boracay and Puerto Galera came to mind. The good news, however, is that the minds behind the master plan have drafted a set of measures to safeguard the natural environment of San Vicente’s long beach.

From New Agutaya to Alimangoan and beyond, one sees small resorts far and in between with the exception of the plush Agutaya Resort.

The guidelines include having shorter man-made structure heights, a further setback zone from the high-tide water mark, and the protection of natural vegetation among others—all of these and other strategies are aimed to steer the San Vicente tourism master plan into a pro-environment and sustainable program.

Reveling at the present San Vicente Long Beach

While the tourism master plan is still years away from being fully implemented, I felt fortunate to have the opportunity of relishing the present-day state of San Vicente’s long beach.

Even from atop a hill, you can only see half of San Vicente’s long white sand beach.

It took me another kilometer or so of slow strides, to chance upon another small resort comprising of a few small nipa huts. I told myself “This is how Boracay looked like in the early 1980’s”—a time when massive development was just knocking on its doorsteps.

Exhibiting bipolar tendencies, the sky, which was in full golden glow earlier, became covered with dark clouds, and the rain started to drop, forcing me to sprint into a line of towering coconut trees.

My first day ended as I waited for the sky to clear up and felt a bit short-changed by the intrusive weather—so I made up for it by spending the next three full days exploring various sections of San Vicente’s long beach.

San Vicente’s 14-kilometer stretch of white sand beach—which is said to be the longest strip of its kind in the Philippines, doesn’t form one unobstructed path. It is actually divided into six coves with edges of limestone cliffs dominating the hills, surrounding the long beach.

Displaying my circus balancing skills

I consumed the duration of my four-day solo-backpacking trip by interchanging my exploration methods; I explored the beach on foot, toured the countryside aboard a habal-habal, and swam on the shallow parts of the beach. During the entirety, I only encountered a few people. Aside from interacting with a group of fishermen one morning, and being invited to an intimate feast by the beach by a family celebrating a reunion, on my last day I came across a handful of young students hanging out by the shore, calling me out for a shot of Tanduay rum—I politely declined.

I sensed a world of remoteness —without exhibiting a feeling of loneliness, but rather, it injected moments of blissful thinking, like how poetry will the mind beautifully into developing bursts of inspirations. The charm of the place has that over-all effect on me. There is really splendor in detachment from the congested world.

As I stand atop a hill on the furthest cove where—as my habal-habal driver points to me “this is the rock of ning-ning,” referring to a local television series that was shot on that very same spot, I looked down on the vast stretch of San Vicente’s long beach. I saw a jaw-dropping scenery dotted with pockets of small fishing villages and trails of fine white sand leading from one cove to the next.

Sunset from my room

I imagined how their world might turn topsy-turvy with the impending tourism development—both for good and hopefully, never for ill. I can only put my trust to the powers that may be—that the master plan will be implemented rightfully, so as to lessen its impact to the beautifully-untouched appearance of San Vicente’s long beach. Because in the end, as much as we want to elevate this place to lure more visitors and usher a booming local economy, we don’t want this place to become the next Boracay, do we?


This trip is part of my Traveloka solo-backpacking series all over the Philippines. Traveloka is a mobile app and web site that makes travel simpler by letting you experience the easiest and fastest way of booking cheap flights and hotels in less than a minute. 

This article first appeared on the pages of BusinessMirror on November 12, 2017