Sablayan Prison Farm & Rainforest

Park in Sablayan

A wonderfully quirky experience, this penal colony 40 minutes out of town offers much more than a chance to meet and greet prisoners in their element. Various prisoner-guided excursions in the lush forests around the farm are offered, and you can even sleep within earshot of snoring prisoners in the prison guesthouse. You must secure an environmental permit (P55) from the Ecotourism Office in Sablayan to enter the prison grounds, and then pay the separate admission price at the prison proper.

A half-day of activities might combine an hour or so guided hike in Siburan rainforest with a visit to Libuao Lake, some time talking to prisoners at the central subprison and a visit to Pasugi subprison, where you can buy prisoner-made handicrafts.

Siburan forest and Libuao Lake are prime birdwatching spots; one of the prisoner-guides knows birds and can point out endemic black-hooded coucals, critically endangered Mindoro bleeding-heart pigeons and white-billed and serpent eagles if you’re lucky. The lake is famed for its lotuses, and is a popular spot for fishing and boating (P150). Take a picnic and relax. Secure a guide (P150) at the Siburan subprison barracks, 5km northeast of the central subprison.

Prisoners throughout the compound greet visitors cheerfully, wearing uniform T-shirts that say ‘minimum’ or ‘medium inmate’. Maximum-security inmates are kept away from visitors, but the orange ‘maximum’ shirts sold discreetly by some inmates make great souvenirs.

Sleeping at the guesthouse requires written permission in advance; arrange this through the Ecotourism Office.

The prison farm makes a perfect half-day excursion from Sablayan by single (about P800) or self-drive motorbike. The easiest way to get there is to follow the National Hwy north out of Sablayan for 19km, then turn right in barangay Yapang at the KM 341 mark. Proceed about 2km to the Siburan subprison.