Map of the Romblon showing the location of the municiplaity of San Fernando on the island.
|Location||South East Asia
|Major islands||Bohol, Cebu, Leyte, Masbate, Negros, Panay, Samar|
|Highest point||Guiting-Guiting (2,057 m)|
|Municipalities||Cajidiocan, Magdiwang, San Fernando|
|Largest city||San Fernando (21,214)
|Population||52,615 (as of 2000)|
|Indigenous people||Sibuyanon (Romblomanon)|
Sibuyan is a crescent-shaped island of Romblon Province, Philippines. It has an area of 445 km². The island has two prominent peaks, Mount Guiting-Guiting with a height of 2,057 m and Mount Nailog with a height of 789 m. It has been dubbed by some local and international natural scientists as the Galapagos of Asia
Sibuyan has lived with its isolation from the rest of the world since its birth. Never in its geological history has it ever been connected with any part of the Philippine archipelago. Seismic forces pushed up a 2,000-meter peak from the earth’s crust, forming a series of smaller peaks and slopes. The peak is Mt. Guiting-guiting (literally means "the saw-toothed mountain", in reference to its jagged ridge. And because of the steep slopes, much of its original forest remains untouched), and the rest is the island as we find it today.
Primary forests cover 140 square kilometres, which is 33% of the land area of Sibuyan. However, most of the lower altitude forest has been logged or is secondary. Mt Guiting-guiting Natural Park (equivalent to the IUCN category of National Park) was established to protect these forests, which are mainly in the centre and north of the island, and covers an area of 157 km² out of Sibuyan’s total area of 445 km². The Park is remarkable for its outstandingly scenic landscape with twin towering peaks set amidst closed canopy forests. Its forests remain largely intact, and include the entire elevational gradient from lowland dipterocarp forest (at 200 to 900 m) and mangroves, through montane forest (above 700 m) to mossy forest, heathland and montane grassland around the peaks.
Exact figures on numbers of total plant species are hard to give, as biologists stumble upon species yet unidentified by the scientific community. In one study, the National Museum identified 1,551 trees in a single hectare, with 123 species of trees, and of this number, 54 are found nowhere else in the world. Hence, proclaimed as the world’s densest forest. There are estimated to be 700 vascular plant species on the island. Nepenthes sibuyanensis, a pitcher plant species is also endemic as its scientific name suggests.
There are 131 species of birds that share the skies with ten species of fruit bats, and the plethora of land-dwelling mammals, reptiles, and rodents have yet to be fully catalogued. It is likely that several of these birds will prove to have important populations in the extensive forests of Mt Guiting-guiting National Park. Three subspecies are endemic to Sibuyan, Colasisi Loriculus philippensis bournsi, Philippine Pygmy-woodpecker Dendrocopos maculatus menagei and Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum trigonostigma sibuyanicum, all of which were recorded there in the early 1990s, and two more to Sibuyan and other nearby islands. Five species of mammals (all threatened) (one fruit bat and four rodents) are endemic to Sibuyan, and the critically endangered fruit bat Nyctimene rabori occurs there.
Getting to Sibuyan may be daunting, the rewards of getting there are more than enough compensation. There is the ocean, fringed with mangroves and coral reefs and fresh fish for the picking. There is the forest, filled with well-worn footpaths that lead ever deeper into its verdant heart. There is the Cantingas River (the Philippine’s cleanest inland body of water in 2005), so clear you can count the pebbles that lie ten feet (3 m) below the surface. There are the people, all with their own stories to tell about what it is like to live in a thriving environment. And there is the mountain, rising like a benevolent king to meet the waiting sky.
Current Environmental Issue
The Sibuyanons Against Mining advocacy group has been fighting for the conservation and protection of the island against mining activities considering its vast impact on ecological balance, culture and society.