Sunday, June 8, 2014

253: The Curious Traveler : In the Shy Islands of Cagbalete

When the summer had finally kicked in there were too many people interested to have a get away. Most people headed to the famous beaches such as Boracay, Palawan, Baler, and Puerto Galera. Who wouldn't be tempted to plan a little escape since during the summer since the temperature went so high that going to the beach or a pool resort is necessity suddenly?

I am not immune to such fad. I myself ended up planning, and booking. However, despite how enthusiastic I got there are just certain circumstances that's preventing you from enjoying your escape that led me to do a last minute cancellation. But despite all that, I found myself forcing to at least have one get-away. How can I not? I had a total of 8 international vacation last year, I should at least have one escape plan to the reality.

So what we are really looking for our type of get-away is something that could be traveled within a day, low cost, and not too crowded. We are lucky enough that we live in the Philippines that beaches, islands are not too far. Arent we an archipelago after all?

We had a lot of various choices until we are beckoned by the lovely and shy island of Cagbalete. Cagbelete is an island near Quezon Province. We traveled going to Buendia Station to Lucena and finally to Maubay Quezon, where we took our ride to the island.

Going to Cagbelete

There are fews ways to get to Cagbalete island. But first we had to get to Lucena city. We had our choice between going to JAC liner in Kamias, Quezon City or in Buendia Station, Metro Manila. Since we live in the South, we opted to go to Buendia. By the way, the JAC liner has a busy schedule during Saturdays and Sundays so you can expect that there are trips almost every minute.

We left San Pedro, Laguna at 3:30AM and arrived in Buendia almost quarter to 5. By 5:00AM the bus was already on its way to Lucena. The bus fare costs 254.00 (as of May 31, 2014).

I have to admit that going to Quezon is a long travel. According to the conductor it usually takes 4 hours to reach the Lucena Grand Terminal, and 5 to 6 hours if there's a heavy traffic. But we reached the Grand Station 4 hours after.

In the Lucena Grand Terminal we had our breakfast. There are choices of fast food restaurants where to eat at, but the famous ones is Jollibee, and Chowking. They also have food stalls there like the Master Siomai.

We were expecting that there are vans to take us to Mauban, but according to the locals if we wanted to get to Mauban via van we should have went to the SM Lucena or the Pacific Mall. But since we are in the Grand Station, the only choice we had is the Provincial Bus - NCR bus lines - to take us there.

The provincial bus is the bus that I expected in the movies: crowded, narrow, and hot. Going to Maubay fishing port will take an hour or so. I have to admit that during the trip, it almost blew off my patience because of the crowd and the temperature inside.

When we got to Maubay there's an initial stop that the bus did. For starters, or newbies this is where everyone gets off. But actually this is not the last trip. For someone who is a tourist in the place, I would have gotten off and rode the tricycle honking to get our attention to take us to the Maubay Fishing Port, but according to the local who sat with us, this is not the final destination. So we stayed.

The last trip is near the Maubay Fishing port, although I have to admit that we have to take a few meters 30 meters to get to the port itself. But compare to taking a tricycle who would probably be taking advantage of our ignorance in the local fare price, we took that choice. The walking distance was not too long though, you can survive the walking.

Maubay Fishing Port

In the Maubay Fishing Port you have two ways to get to the Cagbalete Island 1.) Private Boat 2.) Passenger Boat. How different they are? -- not so much. The Private boat is just the same fishing boat as the Passenger's but will take you to the island right away and on the resort . The passenger boat has time interval and would not be able to take you to the resorts thus you have to take a good 15 minute walk to get to there. Since we arrived 2PM the only available boat there was the private one. For a two way (going to the island and back to the port) it took us 2,000 Pesos. This 2,000 by the way was divided by 5 people. Plus, 50 pesos environmental fee.

If you want a cheaper way to get there I highly recommend the Passenger boat. It's just tricky when you get to the *station* where the ladies in the counter would sell you the private ones. But I think if we demanded to take the passenger type we could have saved a few peso since it only costs 50 to 100 pesos per head.

The Island

When we got to the island we had few choices of resort to check in: the Villa Noe Beach resort, the Villa Cleofas Resort, the MVT sto. Nino Island, and Donya Choleng resort. These resorts, by the way, almost shares the same price. Donya Choleng being the famous of all. We took the Villa Noe Beach because it was the nearest where we arrived and was not too crowded for us to place our tent.

The stay in the Villa Noe Beach was definitely a-okay. Although, you cannot expect convenient type of accommodation because the electricity only runs at 6:00PM until 12:00MN, and for the people who stayed on the tent like us, we had to use a common bathroom. BUT, I have to admit that even though the comfort rooms are shared by everybody, it was definitely clean. The stay in the resort for someone like us who had tents costs 250.00 per night, and an entrance fee of 50.00.

What I loved about our accommodation on a tent is being able to sleep near the shore, plus the view of the mountains, the ocean, and the sky was good as reachable. It made me feel closer to the nature. It was definitely something I preferred.

The only thing that you should be concerned about if you decided to sleep in the tent is that you have to have a power bank for your gadgets, and at night it can be a bit hot depending on the season. Plus, the resort where we are in does not have a canteen, thus we had to bring our own food. But there are few locals whom you can pay to buy stuffs for you in the near community without leaving the resort. We asked if they can buy us a pack of hotdogs (costs 240.00 pesos) and a cooked rice (15.00 each).

The Shy Island of Cagbalete

You might wonder why I call it *shy*, the reason why I call it that is because at peak hours of afternoon (12PM) the low tide there is so incredible that the ocean literally had to shy away from the shore for a good of few meters (about 40 to 50 meters away). When we arrived there by 3:00PM we literally had to just sit around near our tent, relaxing, and having a good laugh because there was no ocean to swim to. We had to walk far to get to the water.

So during our stay, there are few locals who would offered us for an island hopping. We had 2 choice for island hopping: 1.) to the Caves 2.) to the White Sands

We took the ride to the cave because according to the local the white sand during that time is also on a low tide thus we'll experience the same thing. So we opted to go to the cave.

Going to the cave took us an hour. It was literally a long boat ride. But we are happy with our ride because the boat was big enough to accommodate at least 8 to 10 people. Since my friends and I were only 3 in count we were able to enjoy the boat to ourselves.

By the way it costs us 1,200 for the island hopping because of the size of the boat that took us there.

The Cave and the Dive

We got to the cave, it wasn't big enough but it was amazing enough to see. I have never been inside a cave before so it's new to me. But it was a good thing to witness and experience. There was also a lighthouse where the cave was. The rocky mountain had sharp stones so we had to be really careful climbing. I had a few scrapes because of it.

The view on the top of the rocky mountain was priceless. In my traveling life I was able to fall in love with what I see, but being on this rocky mountain it reminded me to be amazed of how beautiful the nature is. It was so vast, and beautiful that it literally left me breathless and in awe. I am left without words in how I can explain to you what I have seen but I'm just telling you to go and see it for yourself.

On our way home, we were able to bargain with the boat driver if they can stop us in the middle of the ocean where we can snorkel and enjoy swimming in the deep ocean. They agreed as part of the 1,200 package. Besides, all they have to do is to stop the boat in the middle of the ocean. How bad the bargain could be? - lol.

Taking a jump in the deep ocean, and enjoy a good stroke is something that I have been wanting to do ever since I learned how to swim. Whenever I enjoy a good laps in the pool, I always wondered if I can really swim in this type of water. I have to say that it isn't definitely the same as swimming in a deep pool. Floating is effortless, but the vastness of the ocean, the waves can be a bit daunting that it somehow frightened me. But I wanted to do it. So I did.

The Vast Night Sky

Whenever I get closer to the nature -- that is by hiking, camping, beaching, I am always amazed during at night. This trip showed me again how beautiful the sky is during that time. It was so wonderful, so beautiful: The stars exploded like diamonds in the vast sky, scattered out to all the space available. Then there's the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, serenading along with the crickets. I wish I could take a photo, show you, and share with you the wonderful feeling of again re-witnessing the beauty that our God had solely created for us. *sigh*

The Ending

When morning came, it was like a cold shower of reality blasted to my face. I was dreading it. The hassle of going back to the reality is sinking in and almost erasing the feeling of euphoria that I felt in the beginning.

Since we paid a two way trip, the private boat who brought us to the island is the same one who brought us back to the fishing port. There, we were able to get to a tricycle (10 to 15 pesos each) which brought us to the van station.

The van ride taking us to the Lucena Grand Terminal costs 65.00 each, but it was more comfortable compare to the bus ride. A good 45 minutes is all that it takes to get to the terminal.

In the terminal, there are few rides going to take you to the city: Buendia, Alabang, Quezon City. We took our ride to the Buendia, the cost is also the same: 254.00 each.

All in all, the overnight stay we had was worth every minute, every sweat, price, and exhaustion to again rekindle that feeling of being in awe of witnessing God's gift to us, and the wonderful time to relax and have fun.

So if you want to enjoy a local beach trip, I'd definitely recommend for you to consider Cagbalete while it stays commercially free.

Check my Facebook Album to see more of the Island
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