Friday, September 12, 2008


Mangenguey Island. Now say it fast seven times. I know. It’s a mouthful. And it’s pronounced Man-gen-gey. All hard G’s.

Set in the westernmost end of the Calamianes Islands in Palawan, Mangenguey Island (formerly known as Treasure Island) is the brainchild of my friend Katya’s mother, Helena Carratala Mander, known by most as Helena Guerrero of the iconic 70’s Filipino fashion label Azabache.

Truth be told, when she first told me about creating a membership-only Artist’s Utopia three years ago, I just couldn’t visualize it. It sounded too abstract, too idealistic, and too impossible. I just didn’t seem to get it. And finally, after months of waffling, I finally accepted Helena’s invitation to check out Mangenguey.

And after a hour long journey to Coron, and an hour-long banka ride, my friend Ria and I finally arrived on the island of Helena. And what a world it was.

It was a world where I could wake up to fresh coconut juice from the tree outside my window. (above).

It was a place where I could take long banka rides to small quaint towns and read books by the seaside (below).

And for an attention deficient individual like myself, the cathedrals, plazas, restaurants – well, make that restaurant - and leprosy museum on the island of Culion nearby provided stimuli at a very relaxed pace (above).

Even the luxury of having long lunch conversations with Ria and Helena (above) and having the time to finish reading Ambeth Ocampo's Rizal's Overcoat were indulgences comparable to sipping Cava at sunset - which we also did. Really, my only issues were about figuring out what I could do constructively to kill time between dinners of grilled quail and artichokes. I only problems I had were luxury ones.

And four days later, as I sailed back through Jewelmer’s pearl farm buoys on my way towards Coron, it seemed like I was floating through a broken necklace of black pearls strewn across the South China Sea (above). It was a perfect metaphors for a gem of an island and a developing artist’s utopia.

I finally got it.

Read about her vision here: