Zamboanga blush

Zamboanga’s blushing paradise, the Great Sta. Cruz Island, is one of the region’s & the country’s must visit attractions.

What makes you blush?

For this island in the Zamboanga Peninsula, it’s the constant tapping of the rolling waves of the Sulu Strait that mixes the red Organ-Pipe Coral (tubipora musica) particles with the white sand. It may have taken eons to achieve the gentle hue the island displays but today, all eyes are turning its gaze towards the Greater Sta. Cruz Island for this attractive and unique feature. It’s one of Region IX’s and the country’s must-visit attractions.

The tidbits of the Organ-pipe Coral is what gives the island the pink glow.

The island is within easy reach from the port of Zamboanga. After coordinating with the Philippine Tourist Authority (a requirement for all visitors of the island), hop on the rented motorized vinta (outrigger) or boat (rental fee may vary depending on the type of sea craft) and you’re on your way to the pink island. 

The pinkish tone fades against the glaring white sand.

A closer look at the symphony composed by nature.

The best part of the 15-minute ride to the island is the approach. It’s from a distance that the Great Sta. Cruz Island’s pinkish glow will be most evident. It fades a few meters to shore as the white sand takes the lead role under the glaring sun.

Seeing pink. The pink hue of the sand becomes evident as you approach the island.

And you forgot to take a photo on your way in. Worry not. The pinkish tone of the sand is still present where the gentle waves kiss the shoreline. This narrow pink strip that divides the white sand island and the azure sea is the picture perfect spot for a selfie or groupie. (Don’t forget your hashtags).

Most pink where sea kisses sand. The narrow pink strip that divides the white sand island & the azure sea.

On a good day, getting a nice tan is the next best thing to do (hashtag: getting a tan on the pink sand. How’s that for bragging rights?). Either you can lie on the sand, which will give you a closer look at the red specks of crushed corals mixed in the white sand, or explore the rich and colorful underwater seascape via snorkeling or scuba diving, both will give you that glowing skin tone any sun worshipper would want to have.

Get your tan on the pink sand.

The picnic area is tucked in the lushly covered island vegetation of grass, flowering, palm and shade trees. The cool area makes for an ideal retreat from the near equatorial sunshine. Covered huts are strategically sprinkled around the picnic area, and as food and drinks are can be brought in to the island, provisions like cooking stations and barbecue pits are incorporated in the picnic area. For everyone’s convenience, adequate bathroom facilities also made available.

Huts in the picnic area are tucked in the lushly covered island vegetation of grass, flowering, palm & shade trees.

If you’re up to a little more of island exploration, visit the little village of the Sama Bangingi and the burial ground nearby. The area by the mangrove-laden lagoon is home to the exclusive community of the tribe. Exclusive because no migration is allowed in the island, the population increase will be dependent on the natural birth of the island women.

Born in the island. The children of Sama Bangingi, the tribe that resides in the Great Sta. Cruz Island.

All tourists are welcome to visit the village. In fact, it is encouraged by the Department of Tourism. DOT-IX Regional Director Mary June Bugante shared that the Great Sta. Cruz Island has been identified and promoted as one of the country’s Community-Based-Eco-Tourism (CBET) programs for the BIMP-EAGA.

The women in the island.

The Great Santa Cruz Island and its sister island not too far away, the Little Santa Cruz Island (a smaller island hosts a military facility), were declared Protected Landscapes and Seascapes in 2000.

The next time you’re exploring Mindanao, make this island paradise in Zamboanga, the Little Spain of Asia, one of your stops. It will be worth the trip.


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Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on November 7, 2014