I’ve never really thought of Quezon as a place with beaches. In fact, whenever I thought of Philippine tourism, it was always Palawan, Bohol or Boracay that came into mind. Quezon Province was just the province that was always under flood or easily flooded (Real, Quezon). Then one day, I found this website, www.wowtrippers.com, I forgot how I eventually came to it, but it was probably through email or through one of my never-ending search for other solo-travelers to group tour with. I didn’t know what they were at first, or who they were but it was their pictures that captured me. The website’s front page featured a set of some of the most beautiful pictures of beaches I’d ever seen (which isn’t really hard to find since I find every beach just as mesmerizing).
Anyway, so once I was captivated by the pictures, I explored their site a little more and saw that they offered group tours for those who liked to travel but couldn’t find friends or family to go with them. Their packages were quite cheap, P1500 inclusive of almost everything to one place called Cagbalete in Quezon. As I read more about Cagbalete, I couldn’t help being curious about the place. How could there be such low tide? Although I was curious, I wasn’t that interested with it being low tide, I’d gone to a place in PNG when I could walk half of the whole beach and the water would still be up to my knees (yet the waves were actually really big). Besides, how low could the water go right?
So I promised myself I’d go there one time. That was around March I think. I kept going back to their website for many months, wondering when I’d finally get the chance to go. Soon enough, in August, we were assigned a school travelogue project with an ecotourism theme. I suggested we go to Cagbalete with the Trippers. My group-mates agreed.
So there goes my pre-Cagbalete story.
September 4, we were scheduled to meet in 7/11 Victory Liner in Cubao. I’d gotten down at the wrong 7/11 the first time so I had to walk to the right place. When I arrived at the Victory Liner 7/11, the one next to SuperLines, I knew I was in the right place. The place was brimming with backpackers, people with huge backpacks and so many things that I felt left out with my tiny backpack. Well, of course there were many people there with luggage, we were, after all, next to a bus station. Still, it was a very obvious meet up place for backpackers and travelers. I met with my group-mates there and we were introduced to Ms. Janine Beraquit Manaig (after much texting with Markey-Markey, another tour coordinator) who gave me my first Trippers’ ID!
At 4am, we left 7/11 and caught up with Lucena Lines, a bus just out of the station. I didn’t have any expectations really, so we climbed up and took our own seats. As newbies and practically rookies in traveling, we were reluctant to get to know the other Trippers, in fact, I’m really quite shy so all I did was smile and talk when I’m being talked to.
The ride to Lucena was long, about 3-4 hours long and we weren’t alone in the bus, nor did we know how to be with the Trippers so we, as groupmates, took care of ourselves in the bus. I took pictures along the way because there was a very relaxing sunrise as we went through SLEX.
We arrived in Lucena around 7am I think and we ate breakfast at Lucena terminal’s Jolibee. By 8am we had gotten in the private vans to head off to Mauban which was another hour ride from Lucena. During the ride, we passed by vast forests, green, green pastures and scenic views of an untouched land of opportunities.
At 9.30am, we reached the Mauban port where everyone scrambled for last minute stuff like drinks and food. As I read in the Cagbalete website, the boat heading to Cagbalete was scheduled to leave at 10am and we were just in time for it. Once we were settled in, the boat headed off.
Excited! There’s always the feeling of being in some place new that I totally appreciate, especially when you’re in a place that’s far from the noise and bustle of Manila. It was refreshing. I had previously thought that Cagbalete would be barred by large waves, because it was after all, September, but Ate J9 (Janine, or J9 as she is commonly known), had told me that there was no waves (which I admit, I highly doubted at first). Cagbalete Island is located in the middle right side of Quezon Province in the Philippine Map. It faces the Philippine Sea and is located in the corner of Lamon Bay and Polillio Strait. I wasn’t convinced there would be no waves at first. Our ride to Cagbalete wasn’t as rough as I had imagined, but it wasn’t all that smooth either.
Less than 30 minutes later, it wasn’t the sea that had me captivated, because there, within view was a long stretch of white, and I mean white, sand.
I remember beaming with excitement. I was in Cagbalete!
More over, as we approached the island, I was impressed. Their shores were clean, the waters were bluish green, my favorite color of beach water and you can see the bottom of the waters as well! Impressive for a place not known as Boracay.
We couldn’t park too close to the island so a smaller boat waded toward ours to transport us to the shore. Reaching the island, I was determined to enjoy myself despite my inner battle to fight with my group-mates (we had many disagreements from 7/11, all the way to the island). Before getting to our cottage, we had to cross the island in another 30 minute trek across grass fields that weren’t all that friendly and included an area drowned in mud that we had to cross over. I was enjoying myself. It was a new experience for me and I was walking so far away from my group-mates (I was determined not to hear their complaints about me) that I reached the resort the 3rd or 4th out of all the participants. The sweat and heat of crossing the island at 10.30am hadn’t slowed me down as soon as I saw the beach. It was a beautiful reward for a 30 minute heated trek.
Villa Cleofas is the name of the resort we were going to stay in. I had done some research previously so I knew there were two other resorts in Cagbalete, but obviously, after seeing the arch that stated Villa Cleofas, we weren’t in the other two. Villa Cleofas’ side of the island was really long. White, soft sands (mind you, by comparison, feel softer than the sands in Honda Bay), swarmed with sea clutter surrounded the island. Also guarding the island and resort both left and right was a forest of trees – the right side facing the resort coconut trees, shrubs and mangroves while on the left was a long line of beautiful pine trees.
We rested awhile before bombarding Trippers with questions about the island. The group suggested we walk around first so we can film for our travelogue. My group mates and I did, trudging off to the right heading off to the brackish water located at the far right of the island. The shores broken by a streaming river of brackish water whose current collided with that of Cagbalete’s waters, resulting in colliding waves (which I found quite interesting).
I was tempted to swim across the opening to the other side of the island but no one would vouch for me so I had to decide against it (remind me to vouch for myself next time!). I really wanted to go further out but no one else wanted to and I haven’t graduated yet, so I thought I would save dangerous stuff for after. Besides, there were mangroves and mangroves have snakes and I hate snakes.
Anyway, we found some small crabs along the river and took pictures of it and I got to spend some quality time with nature (taking pictures) while the others headed back to change into swim clothes. Now that I think of it, I should’ve worn swimwear before heading off to explore.
When we got back to the resort, we changed into swim clothes so we could take a dip. The other Trippers had already plunged into the waters and were heading off to the Bonsai Island in the middle of the sea (or the middle of Cagbalete and the island on the other side, about 1km away from Villa Cleofas). According to Ate J9 and the others, during low tide, Bonsai Island could be walked all the way from the resort – literally! No water!
At that moment, about 5pm in the afternoon, the water was already quite low, the men who were walking had already reached Bonsai Island and the waters never rose above their chests. We did try to walk across, but after hearing that there were sleeping snakes on Bonsai Island, I was already halfway backing out. (Don’t worry though, they actually stay inside the Bonsai).
Upon our disappointment of not being able to get to Bonsai Island, we watched from afar as the men enjoyed themselves over on the other side. We were assured through that we’d get to see Bonsai Island in the morning when the tide was low (or however lower Ate J9 meant).
Dinner was delicious. Our buffet dinner is included in the overall price of P1500 so we didn’t have to worry about packing much food. I don’t remember what they cooked anymore but I remember enjoying the fish and the sauce (I’m a big fan of fish and spicy sauce) Trippers cooked for us.
I had a wild night that day that I don’t remember all that well. Thank God my group-mates (who, after bickering behind each others’ backs during this trip, we ended up being really close after all) weren’t all that evil and they took care of me that night along with Trippers and Ate J9, who even after all these months still remember all my stunts and haven’t failed to remind me that I don’t, but I bear gratitude for this night. The socials were great; two birthdays were celebrated that night and I was in great need of forgetting so I guess I had very good reasons to have fun and let loose that night (or so maybe more).
Anyway, let’s not get into details about my fun night, that’s for me to know and for you to find out when you come with us on a Trippers tour.
By the way, did I mention that electricity’s also scheduled in Cagbalete? The lights only come on at around 6pm (I think) and shut down around 12-1am. In the morning, I woke up feeling a little woozy, but very excited for a new day.
The sunrise is gorgeous in Cagbalete, seriously. I mean gorgeous. I’ve never seen a sunrise as beautiful, as symmetrical as it appeared in Cagbalete that morning. Besides the fact that Ate J9 was right, the path all the way to Bonsai Island was completely cleared of water, the sun rose from the horizon, so clear, so big, so beautiful over the waters of Cagbalete to match a very symmetrical view from Cagbalete’s beach. Even if the skies were a little cloudy, it was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful views I’d ever seen in 2010 – and probably ever. The sun was right there, reflecting in the waters and for DSLR owners, it would’ve been a perfect picture moment.
Beginning with a beautiful sunrise, after breakfast, we headed off to Bonsai Island, on foot. It amazed me how the water just simply pushed back all the way, 1km off the shores of Villa Cleofas and further along Bonsai Island. How was that possible? Nature’s miracles.
It was a long walk and it was getting hot, although I appreciated the walk and experience.
I reached Bonsai Island and wandered around the Bonsai for awhile (but didn’t stay long after seeing the snake) and then walked further out to where the real waters had gone to. The Trippers had walked off along Bonsai Island, about a few meters off, where finally they could swim with waters that actually had real waves and were 5ft deep and somewhere along, they could find fish to swim to and admire. I went off to join them. Lucky for me, I had a waterproof camera so I didn’t have to leave it elsewhere. I was even lucky enough to shoot some underwater pictures and find fish to torment with pictures (don’t worry, just a figure of speech!).
It was a fun experience. Although I didn’t get to snorkel (I really need to buy snorkels!), I was able to borrow Kuya Mark and Jala’s goggles for a bit of underwater experience. Despite our desperate tries to take underwater pictures, by then, the tide was getting a bit strong so we kept swimming off the edge of the camera.
When the sun started to heat up, we headed back up to the resort. It was hot, but the experience was worth it. I wanted to go with the rest of the Trippers to explore the river on the other side, but my shyness got the better of me. I headed off with my group-mates to the other side of the island to explore. We didn’t get that far though, it was hot and the pine trees just seemed getting endless. However, it was really nice to see the whole view of Cagbalete and that the non-watery part also spread halfway to the other end.
By then, it was about lunch time and we were scheduled to leave in a few hours so we had to get start getting dressed and packing up. It took awhile to get everyone dressed and finished but once we were all ready, we headed back again, trekking. Good thing this time, the muddy places had dried up and Jala (I think was leading us) had chosen a clear path without water to walk through. We got to the port without getting wet.
Unfortunately, reaching the port, we had missed the boat by minutes. We waited instead for a special trip that would take us back to Mauban.
We arrived in Manila by night (8-9pm, I think).
Overall, the experience of Cagbalete and Trippers had been quite rewarding. New friends, new possibilities and new experiences. Not only that, I learned a lot from their group and some of the other Trippers I had the pleasure of exchanging experiences with.
One of the best things I realized in Cagbalete was that the people who lived there actually take care of the island. Unlike other beaches, their shores are not outlined with rubbish and the waters are not darkened by the garbage underneath.
Unfortunately, Cagbalete also suffers from dynamite fishing. In our morning on the island, dynamite fishers could be heard from Villa Cleofas and it’s a real loss for the island. Hopefully, the government might be able to do something about that. Or in the future, I might.
Expenses to be incurred in Cagbalete (approximate)
Bus from Cubao to Lucena (one way) – P300
Lucena to Mauban Port (Van)(one way) – P80
Mauban Boat (one way) – P40
Accommodation Rates varies (check http://www.cagbalete.com/accommodations.htm)
You can also hire a small boat to bring the group around the island for P300, I think or by a kuliglig for P250. There are also horses available if you’d rather not walk.
There’s Jolibee and other food stalls in Lucena terminal, SM City Lucena is also nearby. Mauban port has a market and Cagbalete also has stores (that sell water, but not food I think). Make sure to bring a lot of water into the island because water has to be trekked from the Sabang port all the way to Villa Cleofas which is kind of far and the resident kids will have to deliver the water.