It’s been a year since my first and last (until this) post about a secret beach that’s perfect for a summer getaway. Remember Masasa Beach in Tingloy, Batangas and how I fell in love with its fine sand, cerulean water, and rich marine life?
Guess what, I fell in love. Again. This time, with a different beach. Good thing that when we talk about beaches, it’s okay to fall in love over and over again with a different one each time. And here in the Philippines where I come from, you can’t help but fall in love a thousand times with the many beautiful beaches we’re blessed with.
This 2014, Cagbalete Island in Mauban, Quezon Province stole my heart. It’s a 5-hour bus ride(s) and a 45-minute boat ride from Quezon City and boasts of near-white sand, clear waters, and a picturesque view of the sky and the sunrise.
It was my close friend and jogging buddy, Ela, who first told me about Cagbalete and its promising beach. When she told me we’ll only need around 800 pesos for an over night stay, I had a kilig moment.
I wasted no time and Googled about the place. After making accomodation rate inquiries, an itinerary, and a break down of the would-be expenses in an Excel file (I’m OC that way), I ended up with a total of P1,018 estimated cost. I exceeded by 200 pesos but P 1,000 is very minimal already for a 2-day trip to a beautiful destination. To think that it already covers the basics: transportation, accomodation, and food, pwede na? Pwede na.
Ladies and gentlemen, without further adue, let me present to you Cagbalete Island (cue: sound effect).
How to get there?
1. Go to JAC Liner Bus Station at Kamuning, EDSA (along the northbound lane). The bus going to Mauban leaves at 4:00 am and 12:00 noon respectively or earlier once the seats are filled up. On peak seasons, landing a seat on this bus is like joining an amazing race. If you miss this bus, worry not. Go to No. 2 for your second option.
2. At the same bus station, take the bus to Lucena. It should be a 3 to 4 hour-long ride (depends on the traffic and the pace of the driver) to the Grand Terminal and costs P 218.00.
3. Once in Lucena, hop on to an ordinary bus to Mauban. We took the NCR Reinton bus. The fare is P54 and to be paid to the kundoktor. (Anong English ng kundoktor? Anyway.) It’s another one and a half to 2 hours from Mauban. The bus is non-aircon but I’d like to call it “electric fan bus” because #3 wind from the open shutters will brush against your face. You can take this opportunity to A. Doze off or B. Mag-moment while enjoying the lush greenery. I opted for B.
4. When you alight at Mauban, you will be flocked by tricycle drivers offering you a ride to Mauban port. You can also arrange for them to bring you to the nearest market so you can buy your fresh goods for your meals in the island (if you plan to cook out like we did). The fare is P10.00 per head and a tricycle will fit up to 5 persons max. Since we took more time in the market, we decided to pay a few more bucks than the minimum.
5. At the port, you have to register and pay the environmental fee of P50.00 and wait to be signalled to board the passenger boat Neneng. But you can also rent a private boat that will take you directly to the beachfront of your resort and fetch you on the day and time that you’re heading back home. I forgot their rates but to give you an idea, a boat that carries 6-9 persons cost P2,500.00 for a 2-way trip.
On our itinerary, we were supposed to take the passenger boat but the booth attendants said that due to the volume of guests, it got full and left earlier. The next trip was at 3 pm. They suggested the private boats. It meant that instead of paying P100 for 2-way ride, we had to pay P358. It was almost lunch, we were tired and hungry so we gave in to the idea. Good thing that when we were waiting for our turn to ride a private boat, suddenly, the attendants announced that there were no more available boats. We were ushered then to the passenger boat which I suspected has been there all along. It hasn’t left yet contrary to the earlier announcement. That marketing strategy to get the people spend more on private boats kinda pissed me off. But I decided it shouldn’t ruin the rest of my vacation. I brushed it off and just thanked God we were aboard the passenger boat already.
6. As the boat nears the Sabang port (at Cagbalete), young boys will flock you to offer porter services. They will guide and help you carry some of your stuff along the 15-minute trek to your resort of choice. According to the blogs I’ve read, P100.00 is decent enough for a tip. But, of course, generosity always goes a long way.
7. If you’re really really tired and just want to get to your resort right away, you can rent the smaller private boats to take you there. They charge P500.00. But we thought, five hundred bucks is still a material amount. If you arrive at Cagbalete between 12nn to 4pm, I suggest you just walk because at the other side of the island, where the resorts are, is low tide already. You still have to walk a few meters to get to the shore. Ganun din. Sayang ang P500.
Where to stay
According to the many blogs I’ve read, there are three most popular resorts namely Villa Cleofas, MVT Sto. Niño, and Pansacola.
Ms. Tess Reyeg of Villa Cleofas was the first to reply to my queries and I found their rates reasonable enough. Their cottage for 10 persons costs P3,000.00 per night.
As the date of the getaway neared, confirmation of attendance dropped to seven so we decided to stay in tents to save on money and for a more adventurous feel.
Tent rentals cost P400/tent/night. But if you’re gonna do this, you need to pay a minimal entrance fee of P50.00. You can also bring your own tent and pay for the pitching fee of P250/night plus the fifty pesos entrance fee.
I also found the staff and even Ms. Tess (the owner) to be very accommodating and nice. Here are her mobile numbers:
1. I took a photo of the list of activities they suggest:
2. If you came with a minimal budget like us and want to simply make the best out of the beach as it is, you can come up with games that will encourage you to know one another more and all have a good laugh. If you don’t have time to prep for any games, Pinoy Henyo is a no-brainer.
3. As I’ve mentioned, the tide recedes during lunch time until late in the afternoon. That’s a perfect chance to explore the famous sand ripples and walk to the famous Bonsai Island.
4. As the sun sets, the moon pulls the tide back up. As you wait for the water to lick the shore, you can prep for and have dinner. When your tummies are all set and happy, it’s perfect time to set up a bonfire. A night swim is fun and so is grilling marshmallows on a stick.
5. Dawn watching! During our stay, yellow orange started painting the sky as early as quarter to five. But it rained during the previous night so dark heavy clouds still hung in the sky, blocking the glorious entrance of the sun. Thankfully though, I still caught a glimpse of a breathtaking frame before it rained again.
6. After breakfast by the sea (which was superb, thanks to our cooking master boy chef), we trooped to the left side of the island where we practically had the beach to ourselves. Perfect for a photo opp, indeed.
1. If you’ll come in a large group, you can arrange for your meals to be prepared for you.
2. Cook your own food. Stone stoves powered by charcoal, a lighter or matchstick, and your muscles are scattered around the resort. (You need muscular strength to make paypay of the uling so it will make baga). If you don’t want to sweat it out, you can rent their stove tops for P50/thirty minutes/burner. They also rent out cooking wares and utensils.
1. Assign a treasurer who’ll collect the total amount of mandatory contribution. He/she’ll be in charge of all the disbursements thus, eliminating a lot of hassles. Should there be any savings, he/she shall make the necessary computations and distribute the excess accordingly.
2. Going home, just reverse your trip. If one among you has a photographic memory and will be confident enough to lead the group back to Sabang port, you can do away with the porter kids. If not, wag magmamaru (overconfident) and hire their help again.
The sole bus from Manila to Mauban leaves at 3 pm or as soon as the seats get filled. If once again, you lose in this mini amazing race, you just have to get to Lucena Grand Terminal and from there, catch any one of the buses to Cubao leaving every other 30 mins. or as soon as filled.
You can take the electric fan bus or take a shuttle/UV Express van from Mauban to Lucena. Fare is at P70 for legit vans and P60 for colorum (unregistered) ones.
3. List down your itinerary and budget allocation. Try to stick to it.
4. Words of wisdom from Lumang Tsinelas: You can perfectly plan and coordinate a vacation like this but remember, there will always be setbacks and unexpected events. My tip? Don’t act like a tourist expecting to receive a five-star accommodation. Rather, be a traveller because he/she is someone who’s ready for any surprises and considers every challenge as an opportunity to experience and learn something new.
5. And oh, I couldn’t and wouldn’t forget about this. Before walking away, remember this two-letter word:
Clean up after yourselves and don’t act like the pigs who left these infuriating trash at their campsite. Really, it’s more fun in the Philippines so, please, let’s do our part to keep it that way. Thank you.