Many are surprised by just how serene and vibrant Isabela de Basilan is. True enough, the island is home to many peaceful sights and experiences, and nothing exemplifies this more than its pristine white beach in Malamawi.

A bird’s-eye view of the resort’s beachfront. Photo by Playground Films PH courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Malamawi is a quaint island off the coast of Basilan. Its long white beaches can rival those of Boracay, and its quiet setting provides a much-needed solitude.

New beginnings

Under its new management in 2019, the 11-hectare Malamawi White Beach Resort, has grown from a simple tourist attraction to a sustainable community-driven initiative. 

“When [we] took over, we closed [the resort] because we wanted to clean up and get rid of the amount of trash from the property,” shares acting-general manager Mona Cali. 

She elaborates that they make an active effort to have locals involved in the resort. “We try to give back to the community, we made an HR policy to hire just locals,” Cali says. 

Mona Cali and her team have been managing the resort since 2019. Photo by Playground Films PH courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

More than just regular staff, their team empowers them with useful skills. “We trained some of them as lifeguards, they’re really good swimmers. The abilities are already there, we just wanted to add some technical knowledge,” she adds.

Better tourist mindset

Continuing on the resort’s initiatives, Cali adds that their strategy is environmental sustainability. “We will stick to that because we need to have this mindset,” she says. 

Her group wants to change the idea of what a tourist destination can be, “We had to change our mindset from accepting as many guests as we can,” Cali explains, “we tried to resist volume-driven service.”

 

The resort’s villas provide al fresco dining spaces and air-conditioned rooms. Photo by Playground Films PH courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

All visits are by-reservation to limit the daily flow of guests. They try to manage the number of guests by not going beyond a hundred. This way they can give a better service 

An entrance fee of Php600 per person is inclusive of food service by the resort and free use of the day-trip cottages. An overnight stay at one of its villas will cost Php6,999, good for four guests and with breakfast included. 

All food is prepared by its in-house team and most of the resort’s dishes consist of fresh seafood such as shrimp, crabs, and fish. Cali also shares that the resort’s dishes are halal, highlighting that not many resorts in the country offer a full halal menu.

A spread of some of Malamawi White Beach Resort’s seafood fare. Photo by Playground Films PH courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Committing to sustainability

To uphold its environmental sustainability ethos, Malamawi White Beach Resort implemented three core policies.

“[The] first one is that we carefully segregate our food waste,” Cali says. “We turn the food waste into fertilizer through the Bokashi method.”

This was the first policy implemented early due to the challenging trash logistics for the resort. “This is an island, so it’s difficult to coordinate with the city proper to collect our trash,” the general manager adds. “We really had to find a way to manage our own trash here.”

The second policy is the ban of single-use plastics in the resort. Cali shares that this doesn’t just apply to guests. 

“We also implemented it with the staff,” she says. “They can’t bring in bottled water, they have to bring their own tumblers.” 

Aside from its white sands, the resort also has plenty of arable land for growing produce. Photo by Playground Films PH courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Cali emphasizes that they can’t enforce these policies on guests if they don’t practice it themselves. As she puts it, it has to start within.

“The third [policy] is paperless payments,” Cali shares. “We encourage [guests] to pay through whatever is convenient online.” 

This removes the need for paper receipts at the resort. She also adds that they make sure that [guests] are notified about our policies, and they agree to it before we accept their booking.

What’s ahead?

On the resort’s current initiatives, Cali admits that it’s not yet perfect, but they are starting a movement.

She continues that even if their efforts are small, it’s the right step in the larger picture of environmental awareness. 

The resort plans on further developing its sustainability practices to preserve the island’s natural beauty. Photo by Playground Films PH courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

“We’re starting to make them realize that it’s not just here, this is a global struggle,” Cali says. “We just want to be ahead of our game.”

As for future plans, Cali teases that they have plans to hammer down further on their sustainable processes. 

“One of our proposals is to not just make this a tourism site, but also as an agri-site. Going back to our sustainability strategy, we also want to grow our own vegetables,” she shares enthusiastically.

Getting there & things to do

Malamawi island is accessible from Isabela City Port. A 10 to 15-minute public boat ride to Carbon Port would cost Php10, while renting the entire boat would cost around Php100. 

Once on the island, a Php150 habal-habal ride will take you to the resort in around 25 minutes. If you have a lot of luggage, you can get a multicab to take you to the resort from Carbon Port, good for 10 people.

The resort provides in-house assistance when renting their jet skis and boats. Photo by Playground Films PH courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

More than just lounging at its beach, the resort also offers many water and land activities for guests. The resort has a hike trail which leads to a high point on the island with a view of the beach.

Guests can also rent a jet ski to cruise around the shore, with a driver to assist. A 30-minute jet ski rental would be Php 2,000. Guests can also go snorkeling in the beach’s waters, which provide a clear view of the vibrant corals and diverse marine life underneath. 

To reach the snorkeling site, guests can rent a jetski for Php 4,000 per hour. Larger groups may rent a speedboat for snorkeling at Php 10,000 per hour.

Book your reservation through Malamawi White Beach Resort’s Facebook page or contact the Isabela tourism office at 09614578092.

Outsource the Planning

For a seamless trip, you may leave the planning to DOT’s accredited tour operators in Region 9:

(062) 991-1174 / 0917-722-6410; [email protected]

09062087106; [email protected]

(062) 990-2100; [email protected]

09177103094; [email protected]

0930-061-1690 / 0997-745-2957; [email protected] or [email protected]

Travel safely!

All tourist destinations in Isabela de Basilan have health and safety protocols in place to protect locals and visitors alike. Everyone is expected to comply by wearing face masks, regularly washing their hands, and practicing physical distancing.

To check out up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.