Panglao Island – Isola Di Francesco
Panglao Island is an island attached with a bridge to its capital city Tagbilaran. Famous for its world-class diving locations, Panglao island is just one of 75 islets of Bohol. Accordingly, islands of Bohol scattered but mostly clustered in the northeastern part of Bohol particularly in the towns of Tubigon, Inabanga, Getafe, Talibon, Bien Unido and Pres. Carlos P. Garcia.
This time we’ll be going to talk about Panglao’s hidden gem “Isola di Francesco” found in Pontod Island, Panglao, Bohol or known as Virgin Island. It’s another first-time visit to this must visit place recommended mainly by the City’s Tourism and Tours & Services associations.
It was our second day tour from the trusted Service & Tour provided for us by Bohol Chasing Bliss Tours and Transport Services. Our destination will be mostly in Panglao Island and as well as the Isola di Francesco place.
Way to Isola di Francesco
The second day of our Tour in Bohol, it was early in the morning to start. We had our breakfast at the hotel and our tour guide arrive early. The first destination was the San Agustin Church of Panglao, then the Hinagdanan Cave, right after that was Isola di Francesco.
As for the last post I’ve mentioned Bohol Bee Farm, Isola was the first to visit before the farm. The purpose of that is to have our lunch at the farm and tour if we like.
Right after the visit to Hinagdanan Cave, we went straight to the port to get our boat service. I’ve noticed that the sea is in low tide mode and you can see small boats (Bangka) in the shallow sea water.
While admiring the surrounding, we went to a stall where a lady sits with her record book. Our guide asks for our boat service and the lady gave us a square formed paper written there the time and “Isola di Francesco” boat service.
To be honest, I don’t have any idea what this virgin island would offer. Since it’s my second time in Panglao, I’ve asked for a close friend of mine to help me find a service and tour guide. I opted for a different tour and this one is ideal for what I’m looking for.
Last time, my husband and I visited the famous Balicasag Island and snorkeling there, then we also had Dolphin watching which was super great! this time would be fun because I’m with the newlywed. I aim to give them sufficient time together, well, it wasn’t easy since they are with us.
The Virgin Island
Finally, after about 10 minutes on the boat service, we have arrived in this unfamiliar place. Firs thing got my attention was the long sandbar and the statues of Saints. I also saw this huge statue of the rosary floating in the middle of the sea.
Perhaps you might be asking about the price of the boat shuttle service. It’s actually based on your donation only, you can give as much as you want. There’s no limit nor minimum, but of course, try to compensate their service and don’t take advantage of the situation.
The colossal statue of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina that stands tall will welcome you. It was named as Puntod Island but is popularly called as Virgin Island. Based on my research this place is owned by The Philippine Centre of St. Pio Pietrelcina (already mentioned on my Bohol Itinerary post). The raising of the Philippine Flag to the island was done on June 12, 2013.
A Place to Meditate
Though some of the travelers, mostly foreign tourists say that Isola di Francesco is a “very strange place”. Perhaps it is for the most nonreligious persons or we can say those who are not Catholic nor Christians will surely find this place a bit bizarre.
I have read some of the comments about this place. Local tourists appreciate this isolated place so much since we are close to God in the sense we are very active on religious domain.
The place is surrounded by a large number of “kalapati” or doves. In Europe, people will call these guys “Pigeons” which has generally a bad reputation in European countries. People look that them like simple birds that are scattered everywhere.
Unlike in the Philippines, “kalapati” are precious and we even use them on wedding occasions. Doves are also a symbol of peace and we use them often on caricatures and drawings as a way to convey peace and blessings.
I have never seen doves in Panglao island’s city, I think they are currently lodging this virgin island. Nevertheless, it’s a great way to meditate in this place with the cold breeze of the air, calmness of the sea and the isolated place makes it more easy to ruminate oneself.
A Place to Reflect
Aside from the different types of doves, you will also encounter many statues of Jesus Christ, Mama Mary, Saints, and Angels. These represent the Christianism which Saint Pio’s profession is related to. These are art installations of scenes from Jesus’ life and ministry.
I could compare Isola di Francesco’s place as like in Montserrat in Spain. It is a holy place where people (devotees) are praying and at the same time tourists are there observing and wandering in the area.
As a holy place, Silence is essential here. People cannot shout nor play or just laugh out loud anytime they want. You have to keep your voices low, observe cleanliness, and refrain from touching nor shooing the doves in the surrounding.
Statues in the middle of the Sea
As you can see there are statues floating in the middle of the sea in Isola di Francesco. This one describes about the story of the life of Jesus where he walks on the sea while his disciples are on the boat. You can find it at Matthew 14:22 – 33
Afterwards, Simon Peter walked on the sea to go to Jesus but when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink.
On the other hand, you will see a giant rosary. It would really great if I had a drone to get this view. Unfortunately, with my maximum zoom mode, this is all I can go. It’s amazing to see these statues floating.
I have noticed the thin rope attached to the boat statue but for the rosary I see nothing. I wonder how it stays stable and unmoved even with the wind and waves.
Isola di Francesco’s Church
Wandering around the place, the next to visit is the local church of the island. There was an employee guarding the entrance of the church, he was carrying a piece of dark cloth. I think it’s his way of showing to visitors that they cannot enter the church when wearing inappropriate outfit.
As we showed an interest in entering the church the employee told us that those who are wearing shorts cannot enter the place. He held the piece of cloth to me and to my brother then we covered ourselves and silently enter.
We had our time to pray solemnly and after a while, we went out and continue to visit the island. The rule of entering a Church or a Basilica or Cathedral with a proper outfit pulled me back on my travel to European holy places. Especially in Rome, Milan, and even in Barcelona.
Personally, I’m okay with this rule. I hope foreign tourists will also respect the rules of other countries that they are visiting (speaking in general).
The Rosary Tree
Stepping out of the church, on your left side you will surely see this special tree. It’s a tree filled with rosaries hanging on it! It is the most beautiful thing I saw in Panglao Island especially here in Isola.
Unfortunately, neither I nor my husband brought a rosary with us. My brother and my sister-in-law did, so they hang their rosaries on the tree.
The Great Pandan Plant
One interesting fact that I have discovered through searching online. When we were in this place I never thought that this plant is the “Pandan” that I have imagined. I never saw the plant before so it’s my first time.
I was curious about this fruit since I watched “Ko Lanta” (French version of Survivor). Some of the participants were eating this fruit and when I saw it here on the island I was very excited to search for its information.
Now, it all makes sense! the flavored pandan ice cream from Bohol Bee Farm in Panglao Island. They have the pandan plant here! In the Philippines, Pandan leaves are commonly paired with coconut meat (a combination referred to as buko pandan) in various desserts and drinks.
Pandan’s prop roots are extremely huge! they are even taller than me (lol I’m super pétite)
Panglao Island Nature’s Art Museum
The next visit was the most interesting part of this island. We went to this Nature’s Museum in Isola di Francesco and we have discovered a bunch of things. Firstly, we’ll show you about what’s inside in this museum.
Nature’s Museum is filled with different things about nature that will surely show you that nothing is impossible in this world. There are some unbelievable and impressive living and non-living things that exist.
All the items exposed are interpreted through art using nature’s creations. From Shells, Sea Urchins, Sea stones, Starfish, Sea Creatures and many more.
The care taker (personnel) was there to welcome us in the museum. He gently ask us to take out our slippers/shoes/sandals. We must visit the museum bare footed. Yes! barefooted.
The photo that you see above is known to be the first gallon of fresh water that flowed into Isola di Francesco from Panglao Island.
My favorite items are these colorful sea urchins they look beautifully crafted by nature. I saw all the sheer colors of sea urchins that surprised me. Even in red, yellow, green, violet, pink and many others.
Knowing that all these pieces exposed here are found in Panglao Island it means there are so many things that we haven’t seen or discovered yet. The ocean is a huge kaleidoscope and there are zillions of species to discover still.
Other Pieces Exposed
It’s true that there are some things in this world that are unexplainable. Some are maybe made by God to let human realize that everything that is happening has its own purpose. And to let us encourage that there’s everything is possible in time!
How to go to Isola di Francesco – Virgin Island
Take Jeepney or Tricycle from your location to the Panglao Island Public Market. You can either take a jeepney bound to Alona/Tawala, Dauis or any jeepney as long as it stops at Panglao Public Market.
From Panglao Public Market take a habal-habal ride or motorbike to Panglao Port. You can also walk from the market to the Port. Your guide is the Church Agustin, the Port is on its right side at the back of the Watchtower.
At Panglao Island Port, register for your visit to avail the boat shuttle service to Isola di Francesco.
The most convenient way is to ask your Hotel for a taxi or service to bring you directly to the Port. Or avail a Tour Package with Island Hopping including the tour at Isola.
Isola di Francesco Boat Shuttle Schedules:
Mondays – Sundays
Back and forth: 9:00 pm to 2:00 pm
And a max of 3:00 pm going back to Panglao Port
Panglao Island – Isola Di Francesco