Sibuyan Island, located off the coast of Romblon, an exhausting 14-hour boat ride from the Batangas City pier, is definitely one of the last places your everyday tourist would have on his or her itinerary. Its inaccessibility is equaled only by its anonymity. How many people do you know have ever even heard of the place?

And thereís where the magic lies: it isnít your typical tourist destination with bars that try to mimic the Manila night scenes, and its beaches arenít cluttered with noisy crowds. The dive spots donít play host to hordes of divers, and when the sun goes down, the only sound you will hear is that of the crickets, the river, and the wind.

Sibuyan has lived with its isolation from the rest of the world since its birth. Never in its geological history has it ever been connected with any part of the Philippine archipelago. Seismic forces pushed up a 2,000-meter peak from the earthís crust, forming a series of smaller peaks and slopes. The peak is Mt. Guiting-guiting, and the rest is the island as we find it today.

In the local dialect, the name of Mt. Guiting-guiting literally means "the saw-toothed mountain", in reference to its jagged ridge. And because of the steep slopes, much of its original forest remains untouched, despite extensive illegal logging in recent times.

The people of Sibuyan are well aware of the bounty that lies on their doorstep. Conservation efforts have helped both the lowland communities and the indigenous peoples of the mountains realize how very special and unique Sibuyan is in terms of natural diversity. 123 species of trees have been found in only a single hectare of forest. And of this number, 54 are found nowhere else in the world. There are 131 species of birds that share the skies with ten species of fruit bats, and the plethora of land-dwelling mammals, reptiles, and rodents have yet to be fully catalogued.

Although getting to Sibuyan may be daunting, the rewards of getting there are more than enough compensation. There is the ocean, fringed with mangroves and coral reefs and fresh fish for the picking. There is the forest, filled with well-worn footpaths that lead ever deeper into its verdant heart. There is the river, so clear you can count the pebbles that lie ten feet below the surface. There are the people, all with their own stories to tell about what it is like to live in a thriving environment. And there is the mountain, rising like a benevolent king to meet the waiting sky.

If you ever decide to meet the mountain for yourself, be prepared to deal with untamed, irrepressible, and yet oftentimes strangely soothing sights and sounds. Nature at her best and most alive. You will feel it in your veins, this rush, and you know: this is how the world once was.

Content and photos for WWF Week, every last week of the month, are provided by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Nayna Malayang is ICEC Assistant of WWF Philippines.

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  Information provided by Department of Tourism. Government of Philippines.


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