I’ve been depressed lately. Like, seriously super depressed for reasons I can’t even fathom or explain. My recent trip to the breathtaking island of Cagbalete, off the coast of Mauban, Quezon, helped me say goodbye to the dreadful “D” word.
Thanks to a sudden invitation by my travel buddy, Celine, I was able to experience an affordable and less crowded island getaway for a weekend.
Before this trip, I had no idea where Cagbalete Island was located. I didn’t even know that this island exists! I realized that I should explore more places and islands in my country and I should be ashamed of myself. ^^
ANYWAY… This “1 Night 2 Days” trip to Cagbalete Island in Mauban, Quezon started in Manila. Now, if you have been reading my blogs before, you would know that I live in Baguio. So, basically, I traveled 7 hours by bus from Baguio City to Manila. I arrived in Manila and headed to Celine’s house in Sucat first since that was where they would pick us up.
THEY – Celine’s “team” at work, plus her boss and two of her coworkers’ girlfriends.
Yes. I “gate crashed” some sort of team company outing. In my defense, I was properly invited and I firmly believe that “the more, the merrier”. LOL.
Celine’s boss rented a van and picked us up at around 3 AM on Saturday, May 14. The rest of the team were already in the van. So I didn’t have enough time to say my “hellos” and introduce myself. The trip to Quezon was surprisingly quick. Maybe because there was no heavy traffic early in the morning. We dropped by Celine’s boss’s friend for some quick breakfast before heading to Mauban Port.
I can’t exactly remember the time, but the sun was glaring down on us by then, so I think it was around 9 or 10 AM when we arrived in Mauban Port. We were greeted by a considerably large amount of people waiting under the heat of the sun for their turn to get on the boats. Luckily, Celine’s boss had a “contact” there so we didn’t have to queue along with all those tourists.
I admit I was a bit disheartened at this point. I just thought there would only be a few people going to the island, since I was under the impression that it was an undiscovered, virgin island. Apparently, it has been a popular tourist destination for quite some time now. I was just not aware of it. I was not informed. 😄
According to my research, you must go to the Tourism Office of Mauban first and pay 50 pesos for the boat ticket and another 50 pesos for the environmental fee. The boat ride was supposed to last for about 45 minutes only. However, it was windy and the waves were too big at that time, so it took a little over an hour for us to get to Cagbalete Island, from Mauban Port. I think the boat ride would cost around 400 pesos (one way) IF you are going to Sabang Port. From there, you could walk to your resort. The boat could seat 5 to 6 people. However, we stayed in Aguho Playa Beach Resort and I THINK (I’m NOT 100% sure, ok) the boat ride + tour was already set by the resort owner/caretaker. I guess the other resorts are also offering the same boat transfer + boat ride package.
The extremely long boat ride seemed to have taken ages. When we arrived at Aguho Playa Beach Resort, it was almost lunch time. The great thing about this island is that, despite the number of resorts around it and the flock of tourists visiting it, it’s still not overly developed. So, if you really want to experience “nature at its best”, you could opt for a tent by the beach front, instead of the usual nipa hut with electric fan or A/C. From what I’ve heard, the rent fee of a tent for two people is 600 pesos. If you have your own tent, you will only pay 300 pesos (I guess for the “space”). The nipa hut that we rented, which was for 6 to 8 people, I think, cost 2,500 pesos per night.
Food is not a problem on this island. The locals (a.k.a. the owners/caretakers of the resort) would gladly cook anything for you. You just need to bring your own ingredients (rice, meat, veggies, etc.) and tell them what kind of dish you want. They would let you borrow their kitchen and cooking utensils and let you do the cooking too, if that’s what you prefer. Kuya Udoy and his wife were very warm, welcoming and helpful. If there was anything we need, like cigarettes or ice, they willingly bought it for us.
Before having lunch, Celine and I decided to take pictures by the ocean. The white sand and the clear blue waters were pretty spectacular. We took a little dip in the water as well because we were feeling so sticky already. It was low tide so the shoreline was extended. I kinda liked it coz I can’t swim and it felt good to be able to go far away from the shore without drowning.
The weather in Cagbalete Island (and in Mauban, Quezon) was very unpredictable. And when I say UNPREDICTABLE, I mean it could be hot and sunny one minute and windy and rainy the next minute. So I would suggest that you bring an umbrella or at least a hooded jacket if you don’t want to get wet.
After our sumptuous lunch, we took a rest and then off we went to experience the famous Cagbalete Island “sandbar”. The not-so-fun part of this trip was the long, dizzying boat ride. It’s a good thing I didn’t get seasick. To our dismay, the part of the island with the sandbar was still a bit “high tide”. So we couldn’t get the FULL sandbar experience. We made tambay there, walked around the shallow water and took pictures, as we waited for the Cagbalete Island sandbar to appear. After a while, we decided to just go snorkeling first. Well, THEY went snorkeling. At this point, I was already sunburned, dehydrated, sweaty, drowsy and worn out to enjoy snorkeling. Besides, I heard that there was nothing much to see down there. Just a bunch of corals and some very small fish.
When they finished snorkeling, we went back to the Cagbalete Island sandbar and finally the crowd has thinned out and the sandbar was more visible. We were able to take lots of pictures and we even fooled around and shot a short “running man” video, which, btw, I was clueless about. LOL. Yes, I’ve been living under a rock in a mountain, quite literally. Celine just taught me how to do it and I just copied what they were doing. But it was really fun!
The trip back to Aguho Playa Beach Resort was quiet and uneventful.
The real struggle started when the men operating the boat told us that we had two choices: walk across the extremely low tide ocean all the way back to our cottage or walk for about 15 minutes, on a path that cuts through a residential area and a creepy forest. I might not be a fan of jogging, but I do like walking. HOWEVER, I do not like doing it after an already dead-tiring day in the ocean. PLUS, the boat guys totally lied to us. It wasn’t a 15-minute walk, it felt like 30 minutes! Or maybe they have a very different definition of “15-minute walk”.
The next struggle was the COMFORT ROOM challenge. One of Celine’s coworkers already warned us that the queue in the C.R. would drive us crazy. He was right. Celine and I badly wanted to wash up quickly and take a rest so we just used the shower right outside our nipa hut. We didn’t care anymore that we were exposed to the outside world. I just wanted to get rid of the salty sea water and icky sand all over my body. LOL.
Dinner time! Kuya Udoy brought us freshly caught shrimps that morning and we had it for dinner. Although it was only boiled in water and salt, it was the BEST shrimp I’ve ever had in my life. The adobo, which was made by Celine’s boss (I think), was VERY tasty too! I’ve never had that kind of adobo before. There was something special about it.
After dinner, Celine and I were both too tired to do anything else so we just went to bed. I think the boys had a little drinking session until the wee hours of the night. As much as I wanted to join them (coz I also needed a drink or two), I was just too mentally and physically beat.
Apparently, since the island of Cagbalete doesn’t have its own power lines, the electricity comes from the generators. I woke up the next day feeling a bit uncomfortable. I’m not sure what time did they turn off the power, but the electric fan was suddenly not working and that’s what woke me up. It was around 7 AM. I guess it was a routine power outage or something.
We learned our lesson from the previous day, so Celine and I decided to take advantage of the comfort rooms early in the morning. We took a shower even before having breakfast.
We didn’t have any more activities so we just packed our things and then went to the beach for some more photo op. It was low tide again so a “mini” sandbar appeared near our resort. That’s where we took lots of jumpshot pics.
We saw this foreign dude (taking advantage of the low tide) kite surfing. I was a bit mesmerized by what he was doing and I took a lot of pictures. ^^ I badly wanted to try it myself. Haha!
My stay at Cagbalete Island did not just help me unplug (coz there was really no phone signal or Internet connection) from the world, it also made me temporarily forget about my stress and depression. I count myself extremely fortunate to be able to experience (albeit only for a short time) such an enchantingly marvelous place. I hope that Cagbalete Island would stay this way and won’t turn into an overexposed, overcrowded and overdeveloped island, like Boracay.
We go to an island like this to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and find some serene and relaxing time. We don’t go there to destroy its natural beauty. Just sayin’.
For more details on how to get there (if you are not going to rent a van/car like us), check out this blog.