Postcards. That’s how we took our first glimpses of the beauty of the Philippines. Seeing these postcards of beaches, hills, mountains, and islands that adorn our country were our first steps in embracing a lifestyle of travel and adventure. And once again, we had the opportunity to visit another postcard-worthy, summer-perfect destination. This time, we buried our feet in the stunning sandbars of Concepcion, Iloilo.
If you recall, we won Cebu’s Best Blog of 2016, a prestigious award given by the real-estate giant Megaworld Corporation. Our prize was a free 3-day/2-night stay in their new township, the Iloilo Business Park. To make things a bit more interesting, we decided to insert a few out-of-town adventures in our itinerary.
To maximize our time in Concepcion (and to avoid chasing tight schedules), we took a dawn flight to Iloilo. We love dawn flights as we could see lovely sunrises from above a sea of clouds. We were giggling with joy because this was our first-ever flight on Philippine Airlines, our country’s flag carrier.
We arrived in Iloilo on time and met Greg, our friendly contact in Megaworld, and her sister. After enjoying a hot and filling breakfast of authentic Iloilo batchoy to energize us, we checked in our hotel and prepared for the first adventure in our 3-day sojourn. The siblings then brought us to Tagbak Bus Terminal in Jaro where we rode a non-air-conditioned bus to Sara.
The bus ride was longer than we expected; it was half past noon when we reached the Concepcion town center. It was a good thing that their friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable tourism officers took care of us and coordinated with an assigned boat operator.
We brought some leftover puto (rice cake), and our tummies were still heavy from our huge breakfast, so we decided to skip lunch. After buying some bottled juice and meeting our boatman, we hiked for a few minutes to the port where we boarded his boat.
“Oh, it’s deja vu,” we said to each other when we saw the vessel. It was quite large and can accommodate around 30 people. But for this trip, sans the boatman and two of his friends, the only passengers were Sweetie and me! This was the same situation we had when we cruised around Britania Islands in San Agustin, Surigao del Sur.
With a healthy roar, our vessel came to life. We started our journey across Tagbo Pass where we can see Igbon Island in the distance. Although a thin layer of clouds covered the sky, the day still had a “summery” feel.
Small isolated, uninhabited beaches and coves like these can be seen everywhere. Fishermen usually dock here to rest or to take shelter in case of rough seas.
After about 20 to 30 minutes, we arrived at Bulubadiangan Island, southeast of Conception. We had a friendly race with another boat heading to the beach, which serves as a docking area. We won!
Just look at how beautiful that is! For a fee, you can set camp and stay overnight here as long as you pitch on high ground; the lower part of the sandbar gets submerged in high tide.
So wear your airy black women’s harem pants from One Tribe Apparel (they have very cool designs), pack your favorite Speedo bikini or trunks, slip on your Deuter backpack, and head off to this sandy Eden.
The primary feature of this small island is a large, long sandbar that forms its peninsula. It’s a perfect place for sunbathing and frolicking around. The island is mostly uninhabited except for a tiny community of people who take care of the place.
Cottages at the foot of the hills at the other end of the sandbar can be rented at reasonable prices.
Unless a strong storm hits Concepcion, the sandbar will probably retain its shape for years to come because it is protected by the larger Tagubanhan Island in the south and Igbon Island up north.
With the aquamarine and deep blue water surrounding the beach and with the backdrop of the green hills of Igbon Island, it is not difficult to understand why locals and tourists fall in love with this place.
The east side of the sandbar actually extends farther out into the sea. This is an ideal area for non-swimmers because the water is relatively shallow. In addition, this sandy reef connects to the neighboring Danao-danao Island as seen in the photo below.
Bulubadiangan Island is one of the best postcard-perfect examples of sandy paradises the Philippines could offer.
We cooled off for a while before heading off to the next sandbar in our itinerary. On the way, we spotted large fishing boats like these preparing for their night’s voyage.
The waters around Conception Bay, Tago Pass, Apiton Pass, and the vast Visayan Sea must be extremely rich fishing grounds. These seas are vital marine resources, and we should ensure to take care of them.
The small barangays that surround Igbon Island are mostly composed of families of fishermen. According to our guide, these communities subsist on bare minimums of modern living. Fresh water is difficult to find, so without a submarine pipe, they have to regularly haul gallons of water from the mainland. Electricity, generated by a small power plant somewhere in the island, is scarce; thus, the communities have scheduled power interruptions.
We would definitely love to have a cultural immersion adventure here if given the chance.
See that very steep faraway mountain? That is Mt. Manaphag in Pan de Azucar Island. It is a steep volcanic cone that rises almost 600 meters above sea level. We didn’t include this in our island hopping itinerary because we plan to have a special trip to Pan de Azucar in the near future. And yes, we will climb that beautiful mountain.
We approached small Agho Island from the south. That stretch of beach looked really inviting! The green wooded area is home to the Tabon scrubfowl as well as sea hawks.
As we approached the island’s sandbar, we couldn’t help noticing the abrupt change of coloration of the water. The sharp contrast of light green, dark green, and blue meant that the sandbar drops steeply in deep water on this side of the peninsula. Thus, you need to be careful if you plan to swim on this side.
Agho Island is virtually uninhabited. However, it is owned by a prominent Iloilo clan who opted to put up a resort and a sari-sari store for the convenience of visitors. Just like in Bulubadiangan Island, the cottages can be rented for a reasonable fee for both day use and overnight sojourns.
According to locals, Agho Island was a place for rest and recreation for Japanese soldiers during World War 2. Seeing the beauty of the island, they decided not to put up a permanent garrison here.
Our country is indeed beautiful, isn’t it? With crystal-clear seas, blue mountains, and warm weather, we have magnificent seascapes that somehow casts a spell of awe on us.
Just a short jump away is Malangabang Island, a densely populated barangay. Just look at that white strip of sandy beach. Dwellers in this island are very lucky to wake up every morning to a stunning vista of Mother Nature’s glory.
We took our time making vaguely shaped sandcastles, swimming in the warm water, and simply admiring the view right before us. It is not every day that we get to bury our feet in fine sand.
In places like these, we often ask ourselves what comes into man’s mind that he decides to destroy beautiful places like these so easily without much thought and remorse. Sometimes, we reflect on what the Matrix villain Agent Smith said to Morpheus when the former captured the latter and likened humans to a virus. Considering what we do to our environment, Smith may be right all along.
After having our fill of fun, we cruised back to the port of Concepcion where we had a quick shower before catching the last bus back to Iloilo.
Needless to say, Bulubudiangan and Agoho islands are perfect summer destinations. The pretty sandbars of Conception are really exquisite gems in this part of Iloilo—gems that need to be protected. They beat by a mile the beauties that you see in tourist postcards.
- P 112 per person – non-aircon Ceres Bus fare from Tagbak Terminal, Iloilo City to Sara (same rate applies on the return trip) **
- P 15 per person – jeepney fare from Sara to Concepcion (same rate applies on the return trip)**
- P 125 per person – non-aircon Ceres Bus from Concepcion to Tagbak Terminal, Iloilo City (same rate applies on the return trip) **
- P 2,500 per boat – island hopping boat rental
- P 30 per person – environmental fee
- P 25 per person – Bulubadiangan Island entrance fee
- P 25 per person – Agho Island entrance fee
* Rates are subject to change without prior notice. We did not include our expenses for meals, snacks, souvenirs, accommodations, tips, and other fees in this rate sheet as you may have different needs, preferences, itineraries, and sharing scheme from us.
** To save time, we opted to ride a bus to Sara because the bus for Concepcion already left when we arrived at the Tagbak Terminal. However, you can definitely ride a Ceres bus that goes directly to Concepcion. Note that the last bus trip for Iloilo from Concepcion leaves at 5 PM.
1. For boat reservations and guideship services, head to the Concepcion Tourism Office just in front of the basketball court. Visiting the tourism office should be your first order of business. They are open from 8 AM to 5 PM every day, including weekends and holidays. Check below for contact details:
- Cell Phone Number: 0917-590-0499
- Facebook Page: Concepcion Tourism Office
2. We recommend starting your island hopping adventure early in the morning where there aren’t many tourists. The charm, serenity, and the feeling of oneness with nature disappears when there are too many visitors around.
3. Whether you are going for a day tour or staying overnight in any of the sand bars, buy your food, drinks, and supplies in the Concepcion town proper.
4. Pack light but bring the following:
- water (at least two liters)
- umbrella, hat, or sarong
- snacks and softdrinks
- packed lunch
- swimming attire
- goggles/snorkeling set
- extra clothes
- extra money for emergencies
5. Do not litter and dispose your garbage properly. Do not throw anything, even organic wastes, to the sea.
6. Keep your sandals, flip-flops, or aqua shoes on to protect your feet from sharp rocks as well as broken glass and other debris that may be hidden under the sand.
I guess you’re helping me to decide to go back here in Ilo-Ilo because of this beautiful sand bar. This will surely be penned on my bucket list. Thank you so much for sharing!
Oh yes. In fact, we’re going back to Concepcion in the near future since there are many more islands and islets to explore.
And we’re going to climb Mt. Manaphag in the island of Pan de Azucar. 🙂
What more can we say? Beautiful as always. Our country already has everything an itchy feet needs.
Thank you for sharing. 🙂
Best regards, Ace and Demi.
Hi Ace and Demi,
Indeed! These sandbars are perfect destinations for summer. Although they’re far from Iloilo City, they are easily accessible. Visit na! 🙂
If only time permits. 🙂 We’ll surely include this in our itinerary if ever we find our feet in Ilo-Ilo one of these days.
Congrats on your award!! That is so exciting!! I also loved how you described these islands and beaches as postcards because it’s so true. I would love to visit the Phillipines one day, and when I do, I can use your handy cost and tip guide!! Thanks!!
Thank you so much for the kind words. Yes, the tropical islands of the Philippines are stunning. We actually had this fantasy of being millionaires and owning an estate in one of these beautiful islands. And we have a yacht, jetskis, speedboats, windsurf boards, and more. Alas, it’s just a dream. LOL! 😀
Please do visit these islands if you have a chance to set foot in the Philippines.
I have fallen hard in love with Bulubadiangan island! It’s ridiculously picturesque and I just can’t get enough of it! The blue sea and the golden sand is the only things that makes me want to leave everything behind!
Indeed, it is! It’s totally paradise here. 🙂
Your post reminds me of our trip to Ilocos where waters are clean and reflects the color of the sky. I have never been there although I also love waters. Maybe someday in the future I will. I wish I have the skill to swim under water to enjoy it more.
Hi Ana Rose,
These sandbars are truly picturesque. In fact, we wanted to pitch a tent and stay for a night there so we could witness the sunrise. 🙂
Wow. We do a big family vacation every year where everyone joins together and we all travel to a place none of us has been to. It is a big trip with lots of logistics and this would be great for us to see and experience. Such paradise!
Hi A Busy Bees Life,
Oh yes, these sandbars are ideal places for family fun. They’re actually easy to access once you arrive in Iloilo City. 🙂
Yay! Finally, somewhere that isn’t too crowded. Hihi.
And congratulations for winning in Cebu’s Best Blog of 2016 ^^
Hehe! When we visited the two sandbars, there were only a few souls there. Perfect place for peace and quiet although we believe there will be lots of tourists (not crowded though) as the summer wears on. 🙂
And thank you for the congrats. 🙂
This is definitely a paradise on Earth, Gian and Sheila! Thanks for the amazing post!
Thank you! The scenery, the aquamarine waters, the white sand—-they’re paradises indeed!
Thanks for this post. I’ve heard of so many places in and around the Iloilo region. Finding time to explore is the biggest issues these days. It’s always nice to see a minimal impact to these types of areas and it gives us hopes in terms of going out and exploring the off-the-beaten-paths the Philippines has. Thanks for the information on this, it may one day be a guide for a future trip!
Thank you very much for your kind words. Iloilo is quite a big place, and we’re sure that there are many more hidden wonders to check out. 🙂
The tourism office of Concepcion has implemented regulations that ensure minimal impact. They did something right.
Yes, please do visit the Philippines if you have the chance. 🙂
You tell such a good story. Amazing that you got a little private boat trip (love it when things like that happen!). It looks super chilled and relaxed here, definitely a good way to explore off the beaten track and understand the real Phillipines.
Oh yes! It was really a pleasant surprise because normally, places like these are filled up especially during weekends (we visited there on a Saturday). We guess we were lucky.
Please do visit the Philippines if you have the chance.
I had never heard of Bulubadiangan Island before reading your article. I have to agree, this whole area is a slice of paradise. I would love to explore it in a little private boat like you did
Thank you. These sandbars are actually little secrets; not many Filipinos, save those in Iloilo, know about them.
Do visit them if you have the chance to check out our country. 🙂
My husband is a first generation Filipino American. He went to the Philippines when he was about 3 years old but hasn’t been back. We would love to plan an extended trip here!
Oh, that’s great! Yup, we think it’s time for you guys to visit here. 🙂
Thanks for sharing this Gian and Sheila. We didn’t have time to go here after our visit to the Gigantes Islands last year but Concepcion should top our list of places to see the next time we’re in Iloilo.
Hi Shoestring Diary,
You’re welcome. And yes, you should visit the sandbars of Conception on your next visit. 🙂
Hello! Thanks for your blog!
My family and I are planning to go to Concepcion by the end of the month. Do you recommend an overnight stay at Bulubadiangan Island? Or is it better at Agho?
Either of those islands are great for an overnight stay. They offer gorgeous views and warm waters.
One piece of advice though: just buy your supplies (e.g. food, drinks, batteries, etc.) in the mainland/town. 🙂