This is the second part of my blog post with the City of Zamboanga as the main subject, my first time to write two articles out of a single visit in a single destination. Because the place is special to me, I would love to inscribe a separate post about The Great Sta. Cruz Island, one of the most popular places in the entire Zamboanga Peninsula. I realized now is the very time to share my story about the island that was also responsible of itching my restless feet.
This island nestled in between the city of Zamboanga and the province of Basilan is by far the only beach front with pinkish white sand. Amidst the growing controversy about the island being abode of the notorious bandits in Mindanao, Sta. Cruz Island still stood out as one of the most sought-after beach destinations in the Philippines.
From the mainland of Zamboanga City, we were ferried by a boat to the island with a travel time of 15 minutes passing the Basilan Strait. The Paseo del Mar is the docking point where we were also provided by a police escort prior to our departure. An escort had already been a standard procedure in going to the island to ensure safety of the guests as imposed by the Local Tourism Office. While on our way, I saw several ferry boats cruising from Zamboanga to other portions of the Autonomous Region in Muslin Mindanao (ARMM). In the northeastern part of the island we spotted the two prevailing towns of Basilan, Lamitan and Isabela.
After 15 minutes of cruising we finally docked at The Great Sta. Cruz Island. Actually there are two islands comprising it, the other one adjacent to the bigger island where we settled is the small Sta. Cruz Island. As expected, we were all set to witness the pink sand. At first glance, the pink in it could never be distinguished but if you try to zoom in the sand, the pink colors will be very clearly laid out and spewed evenly to the white color that made the combination very saturated.
Also, when you position yourself some meters away from the island, the pink shadow will be very visible especially if it is kissed by the sun rays, very beautiful scenery in a place portrayed badly by others. The bigger coral formations in pink are other attractions in the island. To a colleague and friend who is afraid to visit Zamboanga, you really missed this island Doreen Joy Durano Bauya, and all these pictures (hehehe).
The seawater is very tempting, as well. You could not see single garbage floating around at least 500 meters from the perimeter of the island. And because the island is declared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as a Protected Area, strict implementation of environmental laws is being observed by the local authorities. At this point, the management of the island is done by the city government of Zamboanga while the promotion is handled by the Department of Tourism.
The community in Sta. Cruz also takes part in the protection of the island. We were informed that the eastern tip of the island is where the community settles; perhaps, to my mind also include residents who are members of the Abu Sayyaf, MILF and other groups. There were local folks selling souvenir items in the area. Some fishers even sell their catches of fish and crabs.
I really saw some fervent reasons to make ecotourism as the only way to save the island from further destruction and to ignite peace in this place. Looking at the natural facets of Sta. Cruz Island and the friendliness of the residents, those potential visitors who voluntarily swayed away from this lovely place should take a second look. For me and my friends who reside in region XI, we are just two regions away from this island. We should not be hounded by the wrong notions that Zamboanga and the rest of region IX is not worth a single visit. After all have been said and done and in the final analysis, we are all mortals. If we do not try, nothing will really happen.
If I may quote the Eraserheads, “kung magsisi sa huli, kaysa naman walang nangyari.”