Charming and Historic Capul Island

July 09, 2022 Travel

In San Bernardino Strait, between the Bicol Peninsula of Luzon and the island of Samar in the Visayas, there is a cluster of islands that is not included on the typical tourist map.  

One of these islands is Capul Island.

the Northern tip of Capul Island

I just learned about this very charming and historic island when I visited for a work assignment. It has everything I love about an island – uncrowded beaches, lush green surroundings, and welcoming people. 


Plus, it is very historical.


Capul got its name from Acapulco. During its heyday, the island was a center of commerce. Many boats would drop anchor at this island to get provisions and to wait for the current to flow outward to the Pacific Ocean before starting their long voyage to Acapulco, Mexico.


Its history though starts way before the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade of the 1600s. 


The island used to be called Abak, in honor of King Abak of Java, Indonesia. The island was named after him by King Abak’s datu who lived on the island. According to Capul Mayor Isidro Bandal, they want to change the name of the island back to Abak.


Another interesting fact about the island is that they speak their own language. It is not Waray of Samar nor Bicolano of the Bicol Peninsula. It is called Abaknon or Inabaknon, and it is an endemic language that is considered one of the rarest in the country. 


We stayed on the island for three days. We got there by taking a flight from Manila to Legaspi, then we traveled by land to Matnog, where we chartered a boat to the island. 


Our first close-up view of the island was marred by trash on the beach and some of our plans fell by the wayside. We were turned-away by the beach resort where we had made reservations as they were already tired from hosting an event the previous night. 


But never mind these. The beauty of the rest of the island more than made up for these issues. 


We found a homestay where the people took really good care of us, not to mention how well they fed us.


The first site we visited was the Faro De Isla De Capul, where we let time drift away as we watched the sky change colors. Island vacations are all about unhurried, quiet moments, right?

Faro De Isla De Capul

Surrounding the lighthouse is a naturally lush green rolling hill, which is a great spot to watch the sunrise or sunset. It also provides a sweeping view of the mainland, including Mt. Bulusan, which even erupted while we were there in Capul.  


The lighthouse is situated at the northern tip of the island, on Titoog Point. Constructed in 1893 and first illuminated in 1896, it is one of the few standing Spanish Era lighthouses in the country. 

Another historic site on the island is its fortress church.

The San Ignacio de Loyola Parish Church, also known as Fuerza de Capul, has been declared a Natural Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines.


The church, built in 1781, is surrounded by stone walls, which served as protection during the time of the Moro raids. The stonewall fortress is in the shape of the cross. 


There is an 11-meter stone belfry on the left side of the church. A watchtower was also built, which is around 150 meters away that overlooks the sea. An iron cannon is still mounted on the fortress. 


The rest of our stay on the island was spent getting to know more about the island and its people.


We interviewed several local government officials for the video we were doing.  From them we learned about the simple life in Capul.


The people of Capul make a living through coconut products and fishing. And for others, their source of income comes from money sent by family members who work in Manila. Most of the professionals who stay on these islands are policemen and teachers. 


Capul has only 13,000 residents.


They told us about the difficulties of living on the island. Like on many remote Philippine islands, during monsoon, boats cannot cross, so it is difficult for them to get supplies from the mainland. The island gets its goods from either Matnog in Sorsogon or Allen in Northern Samar.

We explored the island on its unique habal-habals or motorcycles, modified to seat up to six adults, making them perhaps the longest motorcycles in the Philippines. We rode along the scenic circumferential road that offered breathtaking views of the coastlines and barangays.

Capul Island spans 35 square kilometers with 12 barangays.


We also spent one afternoon watching the kids play on the parked passenger ferries, which reminded me of the simple joys of life and the most memorable. 

Of course, we didn’t leave Capul without spending time at the beach. We visited two of its beaches – Abak Beach and Pinangandao Beach. My travel companions swam but I chose to just relish the moment.

Abak Beach

Pinangandao Beach

Hopefully our work on the island can help bring it back onto the map, so that like Mayor Bandal’s wish, many would benefit from it and choose to stay on the island.


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