Although these are separate Barangays, they are often considered twin islands and sometimes spoken of as a single entity (i.e. “I’m going to San Pedro / San Pablo today”).
These islands are very prominent features of Hinunangan Bay and are readily visible from the beach at Hinunangan. Transportation there is via banca or motorized catamaran (which uses something like a large lawnmower engine that requires the whole crew to startup). The trip itself only takes about 30 minutes but since there is no pier on either Hinunangan or the islands you will embark and alight on the beach itself.
San Pedro, also known as Pong Dako (dako means big), is the larger of the two, and features palm trees and coral beaches. San Pablo is referred to as Pong Gamay (gamay means small), as it’s the smaller island. Both are relatively small islands and look like the prototype of a secluded island oasis in the south pacific.
When we first visited Pong Dako/Pong Gamay in 1997, the beach was empty except for a few tables and a makeshift comfort room. In 2009, the island still looks pretty uninhabited, but there appears to be more tables and there is some shade cover overhead. The water is incredibly clear, as can be seen in the picture above. That picture is from our 1997 trip, and the water in 2009 is still just as clear.
The water is so clear I decided to borrow my nephew’s snorkling gear to see what kinds of fish are swimming in these waters. Since I don’t know how to swim, I had to use the “Finding Nemo” floaters that my cousins had to keep me from drowning. But I didn’t think I would be in any danger of drowning because I was only exploring the areas that are really shallow (I could pretty much drag my knees along the bottom).
So I’m “swimming” if you could call it that, always staying parallel to the shore. After I few laps going back and forth, I must have lost my sense of direction because I started floating away. I didn’t realize this because I could still see the sea floor, and as long as I could see the floor or touch the floor, I think I’m fine. But then after a few yards the sea floor suddenly drops and not only am I unable to touch the floor, I can’t even see the floor bottom. Naturally, I start freaking out: I start flapping my arms wildly, my snorkeling gear flies off, I’m gasping for air, and I’m kicking like like I’m Chun-Li. Fortunately, my cousin is right next to me and he tells me to not panic and the magic of the “Finding Nemo” floaters takes over and carries me safely back to shore so I can get something to eat.
But you can’t buy anything here, not even at a little sari-sari store. There aren’t any stores or shops or people, really. You have to bring everything you need to entertain yourself on this beautiful, isolated island. Of course, we had snorkeling gear, but my cousins also brought dried coconuts to use as fire, a make shift grill, an incredibly large and delicious fish (see picture below), ice, water, banana leaves to cover the table, rice, pork belly to grill, a cutting block, a knife, napkins, and the most important thing – 2 cases of Red Horse beer.
For those that don’t know Red Horse is a popular drink in the Philippines. When most people think of Filipino beer, they think of San Miguel. Red Horse is also made by San Miguel, but it’s known to be very, very strong, but these pinoys in Hinunangan can drink a lot of this stuff. I’m not sure if I was drinking Red Horse Malt Liquor or Red Horse Beer or even if there is any difference. My cousins told me there is gin mixed in with the beer, making it extra strong. All I know is I drank 5 of the 500ML bottles and was Hoo-boog or drunk. The guys on the catamaran made fun of me because they say I should be able to drink a whole case and not just 5 bottles before becoming Hoo-boog.
And if that wasn’t fun enough: snorkeling and almost drowning, eating freshly grilled pork belly and fish, and drinking Red Horse, we decided to end our trip by shooting at coconuts. Yes, you heard me, we shot at coconuts. That’s how isolated this island is. We walked to the other side of the island, past this resting Caribou, and set up a target on the empty beach and started firing off rounds. You can see in the picture below that we did not have any earmuffs, so we used empty shells to plug our ears when we shot. Probably not the smartest thing to do while drinking Red Horse, but this was way before I was Hoo-boog. Overall a great experience and I’m glad I was able to experience Pong Dako/Pong Gamay in its natural state.