At first glance Malapascua Island is the quintessential paradise island – a never ending white sandy beach, thousands of coconut trees drooping over the foreshore where the lapping azure ocean counts out the passing of time. And for visitors to Malapascua Island this is the reality.
However Malapascua Island is also a very real, very vibrant part of The Philippines. Home to an estimated 5000 people, Malapascua Island is a living, breathing community where life has remained more or less unchanged for generations.
With the growth of tourism on Malapascua Island, there has been an increase in opportunity for many locals. However many residents of Malapascua Island still fish for sustenance. The beach is dotted with small outriggers and often fish lie preserving in the sun.
Accommodation for many on Malapascua Island remains rudimentary and traditional – Nipa Huts built from local materials. Very few of these have running water or electricity, although 24 hour power arrived on Malapascua Island in December 2009 and bit by bit is being made available to all residents of Malapascua Island.
Water is still sourced from ground wells, with locals using buckets or improvised vessels to ferry water to their homes. In the morning many wells on Malapascua Island are busy with soap lathered locals deftly washing whilst maintaining modesty.
Watch out for cocks and balls!
If you take time to walk around Malapascua Island you’ll be struck by the sheer number of Roosters on the island. Malapascua Island, like the rest of The Philippines is a fervent cock fighting centre and any self respecting male can be seen, bird in hand, traversing Malapascua Island on a Sunday afternoon.
The next major pastime on Malapacua Island is basketball, with improvised hoops made from chicken wire and plywood on coconut trees every one hundred metres.
Malapascua Island is organised as one Barangay – or local political community. The community often comes together with regular weekend discos where the very young, the very old and everyone in between congregate for a drink and a dance (lots of cha cha!) on one of the main basketball courts. For visitors this is a chance to meet the residents of Malapscua Island, the dive guides, boat crew, bar staff – in an environment away from the tourist infrastructure where everyone can socialise together.
Currently Malapascua Island has no banks, no health centre, no doctors, no cars, no pharmacy and definitely no Starbucks!