IF tuning out the world appeals to you, believe it or not, there are still places in the Philippines that remain relatively undiscovered, ones where you can revel in their remoteness. One of these off-grid beauties is Sicogon Island, a 1,100-hectare hidden gem in Carles, Northern Iloilo.
Although it feels fantastically far-flung, it is actually just 45 minutes from the charming town of Estancia. The outrigger boat ride takes you past islets with thick, jungle-like foliage. Upon arrival, you are greeted by a crescent of champagne-hued sand washed by the calm, clear waters of San Fernando Beach. Studded with luxuriant coconut groves, this is where Huni Sicogon is nestled. In the background is a 282-hectare protected forest and majestic Mt. Opao, hard to miss because of its bare rock summit--hence the name--at 350 meters high.
Huni Sicogon is a two-storey, 52-key boutique resort which forms part of the Sicogon Island Tourism Estate, developed by Ayala Land and Sicogon Development Corp. Sleek with neutral tones and a minimalist vibe, it allows the striking natural setting to steal the show. Taking advantage of its beachfront location, it boasts of a number of sun-drenched, indoor-outdoor spaces. Nostalgia colors the guest experience as the resort is a throwback to a more glitzy, circa-1980’s Sicogon, once playground to the rich and famous.
Rooms are outfitted with balconies that overlook the sea, Mt. Opao, or the courtyard. Contemporary decor is organically inspired with hints of the island’s natural elements.
Sicogon is the ideal jump-off point to other beach destinations like the Gigantes Group of Islands. Among the group’s must-visit sites are Cabugao Gamay where the most common Gigantes photos are taken; Tangke Saltwater Lagoon, a natural saltwater pool tucked behind steep cliffs; and the shell-strewn Bantigue sandbar, where one can gorge on one-peso scallops.
Besides island hopping, one can go kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, or join a guided hike to Mt. Opao. Daredevils may also want to take on cliff-jumping on Tumaquin islet.
Back at the resort, the main pool has a kind of blue that invites one to take a dip. Resort manager Bayon Abescola explains fresh springwater is used for the infinity pool.
Its restaurant whips up dishes based on the day’s catch, on top of other Filipino and international offerings on the menu. A seafood spread of steamed crabs, baked scallops, garlic prawns, and grilled stuffed squid had us feasting with our bare hands, unforgettable!
Later on our trip, we found out that Huni is just one of the boutique hotels that make up the resort town that will soon take shape on the island. Different dining, retail, and lifestyle options will be made available in the next few years, and accommodations will include other types like hostels, making the area a more inclusive resort community. For now, the Sicogon Island Tourism Estate is busy with the finishing touches of its airstrip as AirSWIFT will start flying in guests from Manila to the island in October.
During one of our karaoke sessions, one of the song choices was Charlene de Lange’s I’ve Never Been to Me. When it came to the part where the words were spoken and not sung, these lines struck me, “Hey, you know what paradise is? It’s a lie. A fantasy we create about people and places as we’d like them to be.” Though true to some extent, sitting where I was, drink in hand, sun going down, waves lapping against the shore, I couldn’t help but beg to differ.