The crystal clear waters of Cagbalete Island, not to mention the seclusion even though we’re roughly 5 hours away from Manila, seems like a dream. It’s been two weeks since that birthday weekend, and I can’t wait to go back. Let’s dig deep into the recesses of my overthinking mind and try to spin a tale of what went down.
Prepare yourself for a long blog post.
IT TOOK US 12 HOURS TO GET TO THE ISLAND
First off, a tropical depression put a damper on everything. I’ve been monitoring the weather since August, and no matter how many times I checked, the weather for Oct 2-4 remained cloudy and rainy. I really thought we weren’t going to push through with the trip, especially when tropical depression Kabayan made landfall. I constantly checked Mahar Lagmay’s Twitter account as well as NOAH’s official website. I even regularly texted with Isabel, our contact person from Nilandingan Cove, just to get an idea of what the weather was like over there. She gave me the green light, and Justin was also itching to go. So I was like, okay, let’s go then.
We boarded a JAC Liner bus headed to Grand Lucena Terminal in Buendia and departed before 12 midnight. It was earlier than planned, but it didn’t really bother us. In the grand scheme of things, arriving early in a destination you’re not very familiar with can grant you ample time to get your bearings. However, we were so surprised when we arrived in Lucena at just 2:40 in the morning. We expected a 4-hour bus ride from Manila to GLT. Oh well.
We had no choice. We alighted and asked around for the bus to Mauban, the fishing town in northern Quezon province that serves as the jump-off point to Cagbalete. We were informed that NCR-Rienton, the only bus line that travels to Mauban, will leave at 5. This is “Long Wait Numero Uno.” We got on the dark bus and tried to sleep despite the stiff seats.
Finally, after an hour’s bus ride, we arrived in Mauban. Walking around looking 100 percent like tourists led us to the public market, where we bought ice (which melted LOL), fish, and chicken. After that, we decided to have a little breakfast (we ate a full meal for only 60 PESOS GUYS AND THAT WAS FOR THE TWO OF US) and then proceeded to the port (which locals refer to as “pantalan.”)
We were in a good mood. We were in time. It was only 7 in the morning. We have fresh fish stashed in our Coleman. Then Tita Lynn, the owner of Nilandigan Cove, called us to inform that the port is closed — there wouldn’t be any boat trips going to the island. That really threw us off. I remember standing on the boardwalk and just looking at the calm sea thinking, “are there even homestays here where we can spend the night?” Justin, on the other hand, was ready to head somewhere else as long as there’s a beach.
Then, five minutes after, Tita Lynn called us again. She said a passenger boat called Neneng will pick up passengers and supplies, and she already gave the boatman our names. THANK GOD. Cannot even. We resumed our walk to the port with smiles on our faces.
From 7 to 9, we waited for M/B Neneng to arrive (Long Wait Numero Dos). During that window, Justin registered for the both of us and paid our environmental fees (P50 each). Finally, the boat came and we boarded. We thought we were going to leave in 30 minutes or something, but turns out we still have to wait until 11 AM for the boat to depart.
We waited a long time, but we were patient. I’m actually quite surprised. We spent the time talking about everything and just trying not to look like two tourists with a bunch of locals. After 2 hours of waiting, the boat finally made its way to Cagbalete (a 40-minute boat ride). From Sabang Port, a smaller boat from Nilandingan Cove fetched us (another 40-minute boat ride). After 12 hours, we finally reached our destination.
PARADISE, ALL TO OURSELVES
It was a delight to discover that we had the whole place all to ourselves. Ate Myra, the caretaker, informed us that most of the people who booked backed out because of the weather. Justin and I were glad we persevered. #ADVENTURETIME bitches. The staff prepared a huge tent for us that can easily accommodate six people.
Since we had enough foresight to pack lunches, we wolfed that down in a hurry and took a well-deserved nap. By the time I woke up, Justin was already busy preparing dinner and the sun has set.
Anyway, yeah I’ll spare you all the nitty-gritty of what we did. It was really great to have the resort all to ourselves. As we only availed tent accommodations, we had to use the public restrooms. But again, I repeat, we had the whole place to ourselves. No need to worry about unwanted chatter, or long lines to the restroom or to the cooking area. Peace. Serenity. The Pacific Ocean. Really strong winds.
We explored the shoreline on our second day and made the most out of the low tide. We sunbathed, played with alien-like starfish, and explored the mangrove area. We also got a bunch of seashells. Did I mention the water was so clear? I thank the heavens that the sun shone all throughout our second day, because grey skies wouldn’t let you fully appreciate the water.
Sleeping in complete darkness was also not as scary as I thought it would be. By 8 in the evening, lights were out and all we had was the moonlight. It was pretty surreal. I’ve been to the top of a mountain in complete darkness, but lying down inside a tent and seeing the big moon peek back at you through palm leaves is such an “island-y” experience lol. Also, our mattress and pillows were so comfortable.
I have to give props to Justin for taking care of most everything while we were on the island. He was the one who was constantly going back and forth to the main house to get everything we need. He’s the one who cooked the rice (he’s now a pro). He washed the dishes. He obliged whenever I told him to take a picture of me hahaha. I’m so lucky to have a boyfriend who knows how to take care of his lady hihi. (Cue picture of Justin trying to light a fire)
Also, I’d like to thank Ate Myra and her family for taking care of our needs during our stay. I wasn’t able to take a picture of it, but we availed their “paluto services” and our inihaw na isda and chicken were too delicious (especially the chicken! Move over, Andoks). Props to her husband as well for waking up early to fetch us from Sabang, and waking up early again to take us back so we wouldn’t miss the passenger boat back to the mainland. Tita Lynn, the owner, and Isabel were also really nice to give us updates about the weather.
Would I come back? Hell yeah I would. Three days on that island, which constituted one full day of just enjoying the beach, are not enough. Maybe we’ll bring a couple of our friends along with us, or maybe it’ll be just the two of us again.
For the full details of our trip, including expenses, send me a message at email@example.com.