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Polillo Group of Islands | Beauty and Madness , The Best and Worst of Polillo

There are 7107 islands in the Philippines that are worth discovering and even the native Filipinos are getting overwhelmed counting and visiting some portion of these mysterious islands. As of now, we are still in the journey of visiting some of these isolated places and I hope it won't take a lifetime before we finish them all. Together with a newfound friend, Red of Adobo Journey, we jumped into a 2 am trip bound for Real, Quezon to explore a new adventure at the easternmost side of Quezon Province: the Polillo Group of Islands.

Through Facebook, I was able to reconnect with a long-time friend  Robert  Baltazar, a native of Burdeos, Polillo, that served as our guardian angel for this jaunt. With the precise guide from Robert and his mom Brenda, we reached the port of Ungos just in the nick of time for boarding, crossing the off-coast island. The smooth sailing lasted for more than 4 hours before we reached the port where we boarded the only jeepney scheduled for a trip to Burdeos, the municipality opposite the main island of Polillo.

The Worst Road in the Philippines

As a travel writer, it is my obligation to give a full and honest observation. Not everything about our travel experiences ended well. This trip to Polillo gave me my very first unflattering experience of all time. But as what a wise man would say, don't let the first bad impression affect your journey and consider these exceptional events as challenges to make you better. But there is no other way to say it but to rant about it. So, here it goes...

Polillo-Burdeos Road, the worst road ever!

The Polillo-Burdeos Road was so far the worst road I have traversed among the secluded places I’d been in the Philippines. My visit to Polillo was a revelation of both wonders and monsters creeping literally on the roads of Polillo.

Behind the beauty of Polillo lies the beast that has stunted the tourism potential of the isolated land. Our first jeepney ride in Polillo literally scared the shit out of me, bumping left and right, up and down leaving me confused and drowsy that I couldn't find anymore where my brain was. If not only with the witty talents and sacrifices of Pinoy drivers, people arriving in Polillo port will have no choice but to walk in kilometers just to reach the next municipality situated on the other side of the main island.

As far as I can recall, the unpaved motor-cross typed road of Tandag-San Miguel and the mining road of Noventa in Surigao Peninsula were the worst roads we have ever passed through. But it seems like these devil roads in Mindanao were beaten 200 times by the Polillo-Burdeos National Road with its clayey unpaved rice paddy  road comparable to a freshly plowed agricultural land.

The almost 3-hour bumpy hell trip must have dislocated my heart to my throat, choking me every time the jeepney nearly stumbles on a deep sinkhole. We were so thankful reaching the sleepy town of Burdeos in one piece with just a little crack on my head and torn muscles on my back.

The Best of Polillo

But instead of simply ranting on this inconvenience, I would like to focus on the beauty that lies within. After we had a minute of rest in the humble home of our host family, we decided to have a short visit to Burdeos’ famous islet, Anilon. The secluded islet was just an hour boat ride, sailing on with the most fair-weather condition of the season.

Anilon Island in Polillo
In Anilon, everything has shone golden when the bright yellow rays of the setting sun touched the fine golden coral sand of the island. We never had the chance to take a dip in the blue water. Witnessing the Anilon's enchanting beauty was enough to quench our thirst for another discovery. The island is famous among the locals of Burdeos serving as the common picnic ground during family affairs and celebrations.

Getting stuck up but saved by another boat
Burdeos has a natural charm with incomparable hospitality that anyone who visits the island would make a promise to return.

The island's best-kept secret was their local drink known as “Lambanog”. I’d been a social drinker for years but  never did I try  a full wild drink experience with the goddess of wine that got me knocked down with a few shots while sitting in front of the crowd and oops with wide mouth open.

Wow, what an embarrassing experience to share. But honestly speaking, that was the moment I wish I could erase from my head and the memory I don't want to remember at all. Hahaha.

And Life Goes On

The beautiful madness never ended the next day when I decided to rent a bigger boat where I was joined by some members of the Alpay Family. Hey wait, I think I brought the whole clan! Hahaha.

We were sailing for hours towards the island bird sanctuary of Minasawa when the boat’s engine broke and almost beyond repair. I closed my eyes, breathing deep and thinking that was just a dream but arrrgggg.. it was hell disaster that we were stuck in the middle of the sea for an hour waiting for a boat to pass by.

We were just 500 meters away from  Minasawa and we're almost there but God just loves to give a little extra challenge in this jaunt by getting us stuck and floating in the middle of the sea. So we waited and waited...

It was like new year's day after we spotted a fishing boat coming towards our direction. We raised a white shirt sending a rescue signal to the captain and our joy was overwhelming when our distress signal was picked and answered. Oh, thank you, Lord!

We were pulled to the nearest shore of Palaypayan Island where a group of fishermen and traders headed by Raymond was temporarily taking shelter and on standby preparing for their next harvest in the sea. My eyes popped out to see some of their catch like the full tank of Jack Fish or Talakitok, Bagulan or Kulambulan  (giant cattle fish), and Alatan. What a blessing?

Rich  marine life and resources in Polillo Island
We were surprised to know that they also culture some certain species of seaweeds that are being sold as the main ingredient for food processing. But what struck me most was the information that this seaweed was very much in demand in the market being used to manufacture some high-end slippers. No wonder these flipflops float together with their tag prices that cost as deep of the ocean.

The Island Sanctuary of Minasawa

Minasawa Island, a bird sanctuary
I thought visiting Minasawa will remain as a dream but an angel from heaven suddenly pulled this hope high when a passing boatman suddenly agreed to lend his small motored-boat and voluntarily took us to Minasawa. All troubles and patience were rewarded upon reaching the secluded bird sanctuary of Minasawa.

Bird sanctuary of Minasawa Island, Polillo Group of Islands

The islet is home to hundreds of birds, both migratory and endemic to Polillo. Our guide mentioned that it was prohibited to stay longer on the island as the community wishes not to disturb the visiting birds. The birds of different species flock into the beach every morning and late in the afternoon, taking refuge in the untainted island forest.

The beach of Minasawa Island, Polillo

Minasawa is a paradise with powdery white coral sand and crystal clear water. There are no concrete structures around and not even a  small nipa hut was built on the island. Minasawa was the highlight of my visit to Polillo, neutralizing my bad road experience the day before.

Mahimahi or Dorado caught in the sea of Polillo
As I decided to end my trip the next day, the goddess of jinx simply got stuck with me when the jeepney we commissioned to pick us have forgotten to pass by, forcing me to hire and rode on a motorbike (Php 500.00)  to reach Polillo Port. The glorious triumph that I had just vanished into the thin air the moment we started to traverse the hell road once more. How I really wished that the Polillo-Burdeos Road will be finished upon my return to the paradise island.

Not So Bad At All!

Amazing things never ended as we sail back to Real, Quezon. The crew of the boat put a fish bait at the tail end of the boat and got surprised to catch a huge jaded Mahimahi fish also known as Dorado. The poor fish ended up in the hands of the hungry crew and got cooked for dinner. What a blast! 

To conclude this experience, the Island of Polillo was a superb tourist destination, only that the LGU and its people have not yet realized their potential to rival the overrated tourist spots in the Philippines. 

The way I see it, Polillo is not yet ready in terms of infrastructure development to support its tourism. The accessibility of a place is an imperative component of a community to run the economy efficiently and to connect people and cultures coming from different places. I hope that this venture is seen deep in the hearts of the people serving the government of Polillo and be motivated to develop their rich resources.

Our sincerest thanks to the Alpay Family of Burdeos, Polillo especially to Robert Perry A. Baltazar, her mom Brenda, to Lola and Lolo, Kuya Rod and wife Daday, his cousin Dandan, for all the efforts in accommodating us and giving us all the convenience they could provide, from the shelter, sumptuous seafood, unlimited supply of lambanog, friendships and happy memories made in the island. I simply love Polillo. 

Check our updated travel about Polillo in 2016 by clicking --->  here.

Local Contact in Polillio Island:

Tour Guide: Bernard "Dandan" Alpay

CP (+63) 09120624435  (updated 2020)

Personal Itinerary to Polillo Island

Day 1 Friday

2:00a -5:00 a
Legarda Manila to Ungos Port via Van
Php 220.00
Ungos Port to Polillo Port
Php 210.00 (10, terminal fee)
Polillo Port to Burdeos via jeepney
Php 300.00
Lunch and rest
Courtesy of Alpay Family
Boat ride to Anilon Island (good for 3 passengers only)
Php 200 for the boatman
Php 150 for the gasoline
Sandbar spotting, beach bumming in Anilon
Sailed back to Burdeos  main island

Dinner and Lambanog session with the Alpay family
Courtesy of the Alpay Family
Day 2, Saturday

8:00a- 6:00p
Minasawa Island by 12 pax
Php 800.00 (boat rental)
Php 600.00 (gasoline)
Day 3, Sunday

10:00a- 1:00p
Burdeos to Polillo Port via motobike
Php 500.00
Php 150.00 (for two)
Polillo to Ungos,Real Quezon, Ferry boat
Php 220.00
Real Quezon to Manila via van
Php 220.00


  1. Sarap i-paksiw ng dorado! :)

  2. Hi Lizzie... yes it's beautiful in Polillo... you just have to exert an extra effort to find this paradise :D

  3. My mom's hometown is Infanta and I've always wanted to visit that island. Maybe soon. Nice photos!

  4. Wanted to see more of this island I'd heard so much about this place. One thing for sure why I love to visit this place is the FOOD. Fresh fish like dorado..yummmminies!

  5. Reasonable rates, I hope me and my family get to visit Polillo Island this summer.

  6. I think some of the wonderful spots are hidden in the worst road ways. Polillo has a really nice beach.

  7. I am interested to visit the islet of Minasawa to witness the migratory and endemic birds of different flocks. By the way, why those birds stay and flock at the said islet? Is it really for refuge? Or is there something else? I am just curious about it? By the way, small islet is redundant.

  8. This is like a hidden treasure. Who knows that beyond those bumpy roads, there's a beautiful beach that lies

  9. Love your frankness bro, Sharing honest info. Thamks for the virtual tour of the island. sna makapunta rin ako dyan in the near future.

  10. I guess Polillo must be visited during summer when the roads are dry.But I bet it will be "powdery" trip hahaha. Infrastructure is very important in tourism .

  11. I;m from Quezon province but I haven't been to Polillo pa. And oh, I hope Quezon Province government help construct the road. - KarenT

  12. Love the place. Love the view. You sir are so lucky to travel around this areas!

  13. Tricycle service going to ivory frm calatagan town,09771891651