Camotes Islands

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Camotes Islands
Camotes islands is located in Visayas
Camotes islands
Camotes islands
Map showing location of Camotes islands within the Philippines
Camotes islands is located in Philippines
Camotes islands
Camotes islands
Camotes islands (Philippines)
LocationCamotes Sea
Coordinates10°40′N 124°24′E / 10.67°N 124.4°E / 10.67; 124.4Coordinates: 10°40′N 124°24′E / 10.67°N 124.4°E / 10.67; 124.4
ArchipelagoCamotes Islands
Total islands4 (habitable)
Major islands
Area236.36 km2 (91.26 sq mi)
Highest elevation388 m (1273 ft)
RegionCentral Visayas (Region VII)
Population102,996 (2015 census) [1]
Pop. density440/km2 (1140/sq mi)

Camotes Islands is a group of islands in the Camotes Sea, Philippines. Combined area is 236.36 kilometres (146.87 mi). The island group is located east of Cebu Island, southwest of Leyte Island, and north of Bohol Island. It is 34 nautical miles (63 km; 39 mi) from Cebu City and is part of Cebu. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 102,996. [1] Population has grown 34.3% since 1990, equivalent to an annual growth rate of 1.19%.

Nearest landfall, from north end of Ponson island to southern Leyte, is about 7.2 kilometres (4.5 mi; 3.9 nmi). From Consuelo port to Danao is 32 kilometres (20 mi; 17 nmi) as the crow flies. From south of Pacijan to Bohol is about 47 kilometres (29 mi; 25 nmi).

Sometimes known as the "Lost Horizon of the south",[a] within recent years Camotes has seen increased visitors and tourism and a growing expatriate community. Apart from natural attractions on land, there is also a score of dive sites around the islands.


The islands, municipalities and barangays of the Camotes

Camotes Islands comprises three major islands and one minor islet, divided between four municipalities. On Poro Island are the municipalities of Poro and Tudela. Pacijan Island's sole municipality is San Francisco. Ponson Island's sole municipality is Pilar. Tulang Island is an islet and part of San Francisco. The main islands of Pacijan and Poro are connected by a 1.5-kilometre-long (0.93-mile) causeway. Ponson lies about four kilometres (2.5 mi) northeast of Poro, across the Kawit Strait. Tulang is located a short distance north of Pacijan.

The Camotes are low-lying with several hills, some used for telecommunications relay stations. The highest point is Altavista, 388 metres (1,273 ft) above sea level, on Poro. Pacijan has a large lake, Lake Danao, which at 650 hectares (1,600 acres) is the largest freshwater lake in the province.


Population of Camotes Islands
YearPop.±% p.a.
1903 21,123—    
1918 27,635+1.81%
1939 43,345+2.17%
1948 47,309+0.98%
1960 50,826+0.60%
1970 55,479+0.88%
1975 63,945+2.89%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1980 67,260+1.02%
1990 76,707+1.32%
1995 81,181+1.07%
2000 84,351+0.82%
2007 89,324+0.79%
2010 92,278+1.19%
2015 102,996+2.11%
Source: Philippine Statistics Authority[1][2][3]


Cebuano is the primary language, then English and Filipino. School children are taught all three languages.

Porohanon or Camotes Visayan is spoken in the town of Poro only, and is one of the most endangered languages in the Visayas. The language is classified as distinct from Sebwano (Bisaya) by the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino and is vital to the culture and arts of the Porohanon people.

The dialect is very similar to the language spoken in the rest of Camotes Islands and throughout the province of Cebu, Northern Mindanao and other parts of the Visayas. Porohanon is distinguished by the way the locals substitute the /y/ sound for /z/. Example: maayong buntag (good morning) in Cebuano would be changed to maazong buntag in Porohanon, na-a diha (in Cebuano), ara dira (in Porohanon)


Camotes Islands is located in Camotes Islands
LS Pilar ⛯
4 white, blue rounded rectangle.svg LS Pilar
⛯ LS Poro
LS Poro 5 white, blue rounded rectangle.svg
LS Tulang ⛯
6 white, blue rounded rectangle.svg LS Tulang
7 white, red rounded rectangle.svg
8 green.svg
3 green.svg
1 green.svg
Around Camotes islands: lightstations ,[4] ports , and airstrip
There are several ports around the islands:
1 green.svg Poro is the main port, where the ferry from Cebu city arrives
2 green.svg Consuelo, for the service to/from Danao
3 green.svg Pilar, for Ormoc and Leyte
In addition, at some other places, such as Kawit, the pumpboat is just pulled up onto the beach.
There are three lightstations around the islands
4 white, blue rounded rectangle.svg LS Pilar 10°48′18″N 124°34′00″E / 10.80500°N 124.56667°E / 10.80500; 124.56667
5 white, blue rounded rectangle.svg LS Poro 10°37′48″N 124°24′40″E / 10.63000°N 124.41111°E / 10.63000; 124.41111
6 white, blue rounded rectangle.svg LS Tulang 10°43′30″N 124°19′00″E / 10.72500°N 124.31667°E / 10.72500; 124.31667
7 white, red rounded rectangle.svg airstrip – Northern poblacion, San Francisco 10°39′23″N 124°22′12″E / 10.65639°N 124.37000°E / 10.65639; 124.37000
Camotes airstrip seen from light plane climbing after take-off

There is a small rolled-earth airstrip on Pacijan island. It is approximately 1,450 metres (4,760 ft) long, aligned more or less north-south. It has not been classified by the CAAP, hence has no airport code, however following a visit to the area by President Aquino in February 2014, investigations are taking place into developing the airport as a prerequisite to expanded tourism.[5]

In February 2015 it was reported that initial work was under way on the construction project to build new airports at Bantayan and Camotes.[6][7] The initial project phase is to determine a suitable location for the new airport, implying that it may be at an entirely different location on the islands. However, in these islands there are few roads, and badly kept; the only transport are bad (and expensive) motorbikes, tricycles and a few multis. Thus there are other things more pressing than an air bridge.

From mid-November 2017 CAAP stopped operation of Bantayan airstrip, due to the airport's dilapidated state.[8] Camotes was even worse – 'closed' rather than 'stopped'.



Tropical monsoon climate (Köppen climate classification category "Am"), with rainfall more or less evenly distributed throughout the year – Coronas climate type IV.


By Presidential Proclamation 2152 of 1981, the islands of Ponson, Poro and Pacihan were declared Mangrove swamp forest reserves.[9]

Exemplars of the rare, critically endangered tree species Cebu Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cebuense) have been discovered on the Camotes Islands.[10][11]

Palm trees are the dominant plant on the islands. There are also numerous native varieties of fruit including banana, mango and pineapple.



Little is known of the islands' early history. The twentieth century saw a number of archaeological studies, but nothing of major significance emerged.

An early visitor was Carl Guthe, who led an expedition from the University of Michigan which spent three years 1923–1925 investigating and exploring many sites across the archipelago.[12] He conducted an archaeological dig in a cave site on Tulang. Located on the southeastern coast of the island, the cave measures about 3.7 by 2.7 metres (12 by 9 feet). Guthe reported it to contain bone fragments and teeth of about 60 individuals. Associated grave goods included earthenware pottery, shell bracelets, bronze and iron artefacts (iron tang, bronze chisel, iron blade), glass and stone beads, hammerstone and pestle. Filed teeth were also recovered from this site.[b]

Otley Beyer (Philippine's "Father of Anthropology") never visited, although he is reported to have described Camotes as a "basket of interesting archaeological finds."

In the early 1970s, residents unearthed a variety of artefacts dating back to the 16th century. An excavation at Mactang, a purok within Esperanza, Poro, revealed spears, daggers, swords, crosses, iron pendants and a skull pierced with an arrowhead. This heavily disturbed and looted site located along the shoreline of sitio Mactang was excavated by Bailen and Cabanilla of UP Diliman in the early 1990s and explored by Bersales and USC in 2001. Porcelain and earthenware sherds are strewn on the surface of what would otherwise have been a 13th- or 14th-century CE burial site.

In one barangay, Bailen and Cabanilla found a complex of caves which they believed had been inhabited by primitive people. Cabanilla asked municipal officials to preserve the site and wait while their project proposal would be approved. They planned to conduct a digging and leave whatever artefacts would be found in the caves. Meaning, they would transform the place into an onsite museum that should attract students, archaeologists. etc.

A few months later, Cabanilla returned to Camotes, having secured project funding from a foreign institution. To his surprise and dismay, despite earlier assurances of its safekeeping, he found the caves already mined of stone which had been sold to a sinter plant in Leyte by the mayor. Only one cave remained, but Cabanilla lost the drive and returned to Manila, his project scuttled.

Because of that, even the plan to set up a town museum for the artifacts dug during the survey was abandoned.

Spanish conquistadores[edit]

Pigafetta's Journal of Magellan's Voyage (in French)[c]:77
Pigafetta's Journal of Magellan's Voyage – map showing (top) Bohol, (centre) Mactan, (bottom) Cebu. The three unnamed islands to right must be Camotes.[c]:114

The islands were first mentioned by Antonio Pigafetta, one of the survivors on Ferdinand Magellan's fateful voyage, as they waited off the islands for several days before going on to Cebu in the first week of April 1521:

De mazaua agatighan sonno vinti leghe partendone de gatighan al ponente il re de mazaua no ne puote seguir por che lo espectassemo circa tres ysolle cioe polo ticobon et pozon.[14] There is a distance of twenty leguas from Mazaua to Gatighan.[d] We set out westward from Gatighan, but the king could not follow us [closely] and consequently we awaited him near three islands, namely Polo, Ticobon and Pozon.[15]

Writing in 1582, Miguel de Loarca stated:[16]

ysla de camotes. Por la pte del leste de la ysla de çubu esten dos ysletas pequeñas qe ternan de box cada vna çinco leguas que llaman ysletas de camotes ternan entrambas como treçientos yndios son proprios de la çiudad de çubu es gte pobre aunqe tienen alguna çera, y muçho Pescado son las poblaçones pequeñas de siete y a ocho casas estan apartadas de la ysla de çubu como tres leguas y siete de la çiudad— Island of Camotes. East of the island of Çubu are two small islets, each about five leagues in circumference.[d] They are called the islets of Camotes. The two are inhabited by about three hundred Indians, and are under the jurisdiction of the city of Çubu. The people are poor, although they possess some wax and a great quantity of fish. The villages are small, consisting of only seven or eight houses each. These islets are about three leagues from the island of Çubu, and seven from the city of that name.

He also wrote:[17]

"todos son de vna manera tienen tambien gallinas y puercos y algunas cabras frisoles y vnas Rayçes como batatas de sancto domingo qe llaman camotes
All are provided with fowls, swine, a few goats, beans, and a kind of root resembling the potatoes of Sancto Domingo, called by the natives camotes." This remark is itself remarkable in that "camote" is the Hispanicized form of the Nahuatl (indigenous Mexican) word for "sweet potato", indicating a prior visit by a Spanish ship from Mexico.

Camotes Islands were previously a part of the Leyte province before being transferred to Cebu province during the American period.

Modern times[edit]

In 1942 Japanese forces occupied Camotes Islands. In 1945 Japanese soldiers massacred almost all of the inhabitants in Pilar which led to a war crimes trial after the war[citation needed]. The liberation of the islands happened soon after the massacre when Philippine and American soldiers landed and fought the remaining Japanese soldiers in the Battle of Camotes Islands.


The predominant industries on the Camotes Islands are farming (including corn, rice, pigs, chicken and cattle), fishing and tourism.

There are about 22 tourist resorts catering to both domestic and international visitors with many public and private beaches.

Also in the Camotes Islands you can find tourist spots such as Buho Rock, Greenlake Park, Mt. Calvary (Kalbaryo), Lake Danao and the vast mangrove swamp along the sides of the road from Pacijan (San Francisco) to Poro. There are many caves such as Bukilat Cave, Timubo Cave and Guadalupe Cave which has a fresh-water underground lake. There are also two waterfalls, one in Poro and one in Tudela. There is diving and snorkeling opportunities at some of the resorts.

The major employers are CELCO (Camotes Electric Cooperative), Camotes Hillside Academy and Kinoshita Pearl Farm. There is a small hospital. Fiesta Mall, the first mall on the island opened in 2015.[e] A new integrated casino resort with condos is scheduled to open in December, 2016. Tourism in the key economic development for the future of the island with a focus on the white sand beaches, safe and clean environment.

There are two colleges on the island: Cebu Technology University (Camotes) and Mount Moriah College.


  1. ^ Presumably a bad-geography allusion to Lost Horizon, 1933 novel by James Hilton, whose principal location was a land where people never aged – Shangri-La
  2. ^ Carl Guthe explored 485 sites comprising 120 caves, 134 burial grounds and 231 graves all over the Philippines that are contained in an inventory report now deposited at the University of Michigan.
  3. ^ a b This manuscript volume, dating from around 1525, details Ferdinand Magellan's voyage around the world in 1519-22. The work is attributed to Antonio Pigafetta, a Venetian scholar who was born in Vincenza, Italy, around 1490 and who accompanied Magellan on the voyage. Pigafetta kept a detailed journal, the original of which is lost. However, an account of the voyage, written by Pigafetta between 1522 and 1525, survives in four manuscript versions: one in Italian and three in French. This version, in French, is from the library of Yale University, and is the most complete and handsomely produced of the four surviving manuscripts. It includes 23 beautifully drawn and illuminated maps. Pigafetta's work is important not only as a source of information about the voyage itself, but also includes an early Western description of the people and languages of the Philippines. Of the approximately 240 men who set out with Magellan, Pigafetta was one of only 18 who returned to Spain. Magellan himself was killed, on 27 April 1521, in a battle on Mactan Island, the Philippines, which Pigafetta witnessed and recounts in this work.[13]
  4. ^ a b The league (legua) was not well defined, but was about 4 nautical miles (4.6 miles; 7.4 kilometres) ± 5%
  5. ^ unconfirmed report that mall opened October 2014.[18]


  1. ^ a b c Census of Population (2015). Highlights of the Philippine Population 2015 Census of Population. PSA. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  2. ^ Census of Population and Housing (2010). Population and Annual Growth Rates for The Philippines and Its Regions, Provinces, and Highly Urbanized Cities (PDF). NSO. Retrieved 29 June 2016.
  3. ^ Censuses of Population (1903–2007). Table 1. Population Enumerated in Various Censuses by Region: 1903 to 2007. NSO.
  4. ^ a b Department of Transport and Communications 2016
  5. ^ Balita 2014
  6. ^ The Freeman 2014
  7. ^ Cebu Daily News 2015
  8. ^ The Freeman 2017b
  9. ^ Presidential Proclamation No. 2152 s. 1981 (29 December 1981), Declaring the entire province of Palawan and certain parcels of the public domain and/or parts of the country as Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserves, retrieved 11 November 2014
  10. ^ Basingan et al. 2012.
  11. ^ Global Trees Campaign 2014.
  12. ^ Guthe 1927
  13. ^ World Digital Library 1525.
  14. ^ Pigafetta 1874, p. 108.
  15. ^ Blair & Robertson 1906a, pp. 132–134, 137.
  16. ^ Blair & Robertson 1906a, p. 48.
  17. ^ Blair & Robertson 1903e, p. 38.
  18. ^ "SOON TO OPEN: GAISANO CAPITAL SAN FRANCISCO". Gaisano Capital Group. 18 August 2014. Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2014.


External links[edit]