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    In maps, this is known as Refugio Island.

    Boats to Sipaway are docked at the San Carlos City port. They charge Php 10.00 per person for less than 15 minutes boat ride. Sipaway is only 3.5 kilometers away from San Carlos City.

    With white sand beaches and away from the throng of avid tourists, this island off the coast of San Carlos City in Negros Occidental offers a distinction that is slowly getting harder and harder to find.

    Mention a place like Sipaway Island, off the beaten track and a virtual unknown, and you will probably elicit a blank stare from even the most seasoned beachgoers. And that’s precisely what protected it, and what is now its greatest appeal. The island is only reachable via a ten-minute boat ride from San Carlos City, which itself is two hours away from Bacolod. Depending on your resort, electricity is only available up to a certain hour every night, and water supply can be scarce especially during summer.

    This crudeness actually contributes to the laidback feel of the Sipaway experience. Arriving at the island, you will see kids, their skin the brown of chocolate, playing by the wharf, while some fish using a makeshift rod. Under a shed, the tricycle drivers are hunched on a game of chess, their sources of livelihood parked nearby, awaiting the next arrival of the boat. To go around the island, you can rent a habal-habal for as little as P200 for half a day, which is more than enough to explore every nook and cranny of this place.

    The habal-habal is an ideal way to see the island. There are two residential barangays here, San Juan and Ermita, crisscrossed by narrow concrete roads and some interesting places. In San Juan, for instance, there is a century-old balete tree. As big as a house and as tall as a cathedral, it has no doubt inspired fears among the kids in the nearby elementary school. Also, since the locals are used to seeing tourists, chatting with them if the chance arises will never hurt.

    Its white sand beaches, however, remain to be the island’s bread and butter. While they certainly don’t not compare to Boracay’s famed powder-fine sand (very few do, anyway), Sipaway’s beaches are not bad at all. There is rarely a crowd anywhere, and if a moment’s silence with your thoughts is impossible in, here in Sipaway, it is the order of the day.

    Most resorts in the island are hardly developed, but there are also a few that boasts of topnotch amenities. Whispering Palms, one of the most well-known, is mostly the destination of diving aficionados and foreigners. They have their own generator so power is on 24 hours a day, while an in-house restaurant makes sure that every craving for fresh seafood is satiated. If you wish to be pampered, this is the place to go.

    If you’re on a budget and after the so-called true Sipaway experience, pick the smaller resorts. For a P10 entrance fee and P400 for a double room, it is almost obscene how affordable things can get in this island. More so since getting a stretch of beach here all to yourself is almost a guarantee, especially during off-peak season. When power turns off at 11 pm or thereabouts, lie down on the sand and look at the stars. Start a bonfire, gather around it, and tell stories, while the sound of water lapping on the shore permeate each tale.

    The days are slow in Sipaway. There are no jet skis whizzing by the horizon or loud party music blaring from bars. This island, which at seven kilometers from tip to tip is nearly as long as Boracay, will most probably be not turn into another Boracay. Maybe that’s a good thing. Because as you lie facedown on the sand while the sun sends a nice tingling sensation on your back, what else, really, would you need?

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