Monday, July 25, 2011

The Island That Vanishes + Batman’s Secret Lair

Question: How many islands does the Philippines have?

I am pretty sure everyone of you here still remembers Charlene Gonzales’ infamous answer to that query. She may not win the 1994 Miss Universe crown but she left a good impression to the audience. Such a witty and beautiful woman.

Our basic knowledge in geography tells us that there are 7,107 islands in the Philippines. But, there’s this one particular island that literally disappears during high tide, making our archipelagic country deficient of one island for at least 12 hours a day.

Yes, this island really vanishes when the tide is high. I have seen it vanished not just once, not twice, not even thrice but many times already.

The name alone arouses curiosity to travelers who seek adventure.

It was year 2008, a year when field works from different subjects, be in the field of Zoology, Botany or Ecology, started to pile up. Our trip to Vanishing Island was the second trip of my college life. The first one was a major flop but I would still consider writing about it though since I’ve learned a lot from that trip.

I can still remember how excited I was prior the trip. I haven’t had visited Samal Island for six years already. My father is not really a big fan of island trips since he had a traumatic experience from it. He told me that a family who lived just a few houses away from them perished on their way home as they battled the big waves of Davao Gulf. Their ship sunk and their bodies were not recovered. Swallowed by the sea, literally.

After I finished packing my things, he instructed me to message him every hour about my activities and whereabouts. He even asked me to bring a kickboard. My bag wasn’t that big, but he kept on insisting of bringing it. We even had a heated argument about it! Gee, call him Daddy Praning, but he actually had a point and I can’t blame him. I had no choice but to obey his orders.

I arrived at Sta. Ana Wharf at around 6:30 AM. After an hour of waiting for the others to come, we boarded the pump boat and sailed to our destination. At that time, I was listening to Coldplay’s Viva La Vida for a hundred times. A perfect song for a perfect trip.

We were all excited! The weather was nice too!

Aboard the boat were my classmates, three professors and a representative from DENR. My classmates and I were all in awe as we approached Vanishing Island. It was high tide during that time, thus we can only see the upper portion of the mangrove trees and also the rest house owned by the Sorianos.


Vanishing Island is one of Davao’s famous diving site. It is located between the pristine white sand beaches of Samal Island and the bustling north district of Davao. Over the years, the island has been continually developed by the local government of Samal, particularly the officials of Brgy. Tambo. Several Mangrove tree planting projects have been commenced for the past years and still continues up to this date. Their goal is to restore its marine biodiversity and to preserve its natural beauty.

For our laboratory exercise in Botany, we collected some samples of Padina, soft corals and some sea grasses.


After collecting some samples, we took a dip. The tide started to recede after lunch. The island started to reveal its sandy landscape.


My professor saw us while swimming near the boat. She even said, “Ang cu-cute niyong tingnan lahat! Para kayong mga isda sa fish pen! Picturan ko nga kayo!”

Har-har. That was funny.


See also: Matambaka, bariles, sapsap, isdaaaaa!!! We were wearing our life vest because the water’s actually 20-30 feet deep!

Eventually we got tired of swimming. Since we still have plenty of time, we decided to visit the next destination of our trip, and it was not part of our itinerary. *wink*

“Robin, to the bat cave!”

We paid a minimal amount for the entrance fee before heading to the lair of Batmen (LOL).


The Monfort Bat Sanctuary is located at Brgy. Tambo, Babak District, Samal Island. Last 2008, it was recognized by Guinness as the world's largest colony of Geoffrey's Rousette Fruit Bats or Rousetteus amplexicaudatus with a total population of at least 1.8 million (Davao City's population is only 1.7 million, wow!).


Fruit bats are just one of the few misunderstood mammalian species. Only a few know that this particular bat species plays an important role in pollination. Bats are also known to be a good source of organic fertilizer known as guano.

These are Angelina Jolie’s bats. Just take a look at their pouty lips!

I was in awe when I saw the bat caves. Despite their deafening scream and the intolerable stench of guano, it was an awesome experience. It felt amazing knowing that we have this in our country. Efforts of preserving the bat sanctuary are actually evident. There has been a crusade of giving education for people to understand the importance of these bats to our ecosystem.

The owner, Norma Monfort together with the support of the local government of Samal has been continuing to preserve and to protect this sanctuary. According to the local government, there are at least 70 empty caves in the island and were traced to have been inhabited by this particular bat species.


This particular trip had made me realize a few things. One, there are still few people who have exerted great efforts of maintaining and restoring the beauty of Mother Nature. People like them should be commended by their altruistic acts to preserve our one and only home. And two, bats shouldn’t be feared by people. They should be praised because of their role to maintain the delicate balance of the ecosystem. I am glad that there are a few scientists in the world who are starting to conduct research studies about bats, particularly Geoffrey's Rousette Fruit Bats or Rousetteus amplexicaudatus. I am glad that four of my classmates had pursued an undergraduate thesis about this, of course with four different topics about bats.

These were the photos taken on our way home to Davao:

The boat was moving quite fast when this photo was taken, yet we weren’t afraid and even risked our lives by sitting at the side of the boat. It was worth the risk though. ;-)

Mga kapamilya, ang pambansang awit ng Pilipinas! HAHAHA

Silhouette shots of yours truly.

Now, I really wonder if Vanishing Island will still exist in the next hundreds of years. If the sea level continues to rise (and if this phenomena is really true), then the island will one day and never resurface. I hope that scenario won’t happen in the near future.

DISCLAIMER: The author would like to thank the talented and beautiful (ehem) Lyle Malubay for allowing me to use some of her photos on this particular blog entry. Check out her Flickr and deviantART page! She’s actually one of the few people who inspired me to do crazy and awesome things in photoshop as well as in photography. One of the most awesome people I’ve met.
Oh, by the way, she used her Canon Powershot A640 as her only weapon for shooting some photos.


  1. wow, another field trip!

    saya tignan and also the photo with the boardwalk looks awesome!

    this is great cause you're showing other places of my hometown, renz. keep it up! naway mabisita ko rin ang mga yan. :D

  2. Hi Ed! Super dami ko pang trips na kelangan ipublish!!! Hahaha, wait for it ha! :)

    And also, you have to visit Vanishing Island before it's tooooooo late! :)

  3. That's sooo interesting! Just how many people get to step on a Vanishing Island! I really should set a trip to Mindanao when we get back Pinas...

  4. By the way, The Hippie Mum's also me. Lol.

  5. Hi Gay! :) Grabe lang talaga pag high tide kasi aabot ng at least 10-20 feet ang lalim ng tubig! Pero kung low tide, makikita mo talaga na may kalakihan ang island. :D

  6. Wow! the bats! Wow the Bats! the bats got me visiting there. Wow!

  7. The bats there are overwhelming! What an amazing experience.

  8. Super like ko talaga mga field trips nyo, hope it's not too late yet to see the Vanishing Island when I get the chance to go back to Mindanao.

  9. Hi Claire! Buti nalang talaga high tide at maganda ang weather when we went there. There are so many beautiful places here in Mindanao. Hope to see you here in Davao! :D

  10. I miss Samal. :) Gaganda ng mga photos. Summer na summer pa rin ang feel. Hehe.

  11. Oo nga eh, the photos were taken last August 2008. Feeling April pa rin. Hehe. Thanks! :)


Comments are highly appreciated. Spread love, not hate! :)