The Long and Winding Route to Cagbalete Island
It was a little past 4am when my colleagues and I met at Wendy's in Buendia Avenue, our meeting place before proceeding to the GreenStar bus terminal just a few steps away. We boarded a bus bound to Sta. Cruz, Laguna and paid Php 106 each. The 2-hour drive to Sta. Cruz was faster than I anticipated as we reached our destination before dawn.
In Sta. Cruz, we boarded a huge jeepney bound to Lucban where we plan to take a breakfast stopover before heading to our weekend destination - Cagbalete Island. The jeepney, as I described it is indeed huge! It can fit around 30 people, or even more, because they fill it to the extreme. Isn't there supposed to be an anti-overloading law here? Sigh. Fare is Php 45 each.
We paved the long and "curvaceous" road (as my colleague and I called it) to Lucban, passing through the towns of Pagsanjan, Cavinti, Lusiana, and finally, Lucban. The trip took around an hour. We alighted at the corner of Buddy's and walked down the street, looking for the Old Center Panciteria - the home of original pancit hab-hab. Unfortunately, it was still closed so we ended up eating at a stall nearby called Ayell's Fastfood atbp. Starving, we ordered the famous Lucban longganisa, fried egg and rice, plus a large bowl of pancit hab-hab to share. We each paid Php 67. The price we had to pay for a scrumptious breakfast was surprisingly affordable!
|Longsilog (Longganisang Lucban, sinangag or fried rice and egg)|
After our breakfast feast, we roamed around Lucban to buy longganisa (local sausages) for our breakfast the next day. We passed by Lucban church, along with rows of stalls that sell handicrafts and local delicacies. After we bought the things that we need for our island escapade, we took a tricycle to bring us to the jeepney terminal, looking for a jeepney bound to Mauban. To our surprise, there is no jeepney that goes straight to Mauban. So, we had to take the ride to Sampaloc instead. Fare is Php 28 each. The driver said they can bring us to Mauban if we'll rent the jeepney at Php 1,100. No way. That's too expensive. Lo and behold, we decided to pay just the regular fare and transferred to another jeepney in Sampaloc bound to Mauban. Fare is Php 20. The scenic drive may be exhausting, but the views are priceless. Along the way we saw clear streams of water, giant rocks and breathtaking greenery. And alas! We reached the quaint town of Mauban, Quezon a little past 10am. We hired a tricycle to bring us to the port where the public boat to Cagbalete Island docks.
When we arrived at the port, the public boat wasn't there anymore. It turned out we were late already, as it left around 10am. Only 2 trips per day are available - 10am and 4pm. Good thing, my colleague saw someone she knows at the port (her family is from Mauban) and we found a boat that chartered us to Cagbalete Island. Usually, private boat transfers from Mauban to Cagbalete are priced at Php 2,000 one way. We got ours at Php 500. Steal! The usual fare (public boat) is Php 40 each.
|Private Boat to Cagbalete Island|
The sea was so calm that morning, and in less than an hour, we finally arrived at our destination. Cagbalete Island, here we go! A few kilometres away from the island, we saw a stretch of white sand and green trees. Excited!
The boat docked a few meters away from the shore, so we had to walk through the shallow water while some children assisted us in carrying our stuff. We then walked to what seemed to be an endless path of tall grasses under the heat of the sun. So when we arrived at Benny's Beach Hut - a private beach house owned by lovely couple Benny and Ophie Clemente - which served as our home for this escapade, we were already so exhausted. Good thing, the owners of the beach house instructed their caretakers to assist us in preparing our food and other necessities while in the island. This was indeed a big help.
The spacious beach house is made of indigenous materials with large open sliding windows surrounding the entire house and mattresses lined the wooden floors. It can fit around 20 people. An alfresco dining area, a veranda and a kitchen is also available. The beach house has a male and female restroom and shower rooms. Since there is no electricity in the island, we asked the caretakers to buy fuel for the generator so that we could use it at night. The water in the beach house is also powered by the generator, so during daytime, the caretakers provided us with water from the deep-well.
|The spacious beach house|
|Alfresco dinning area|
While the caretakers cooked our food, we went to the shoreline to check out the sand and the sea. The sand is not as fine and as white as other famous beaches. It is more like the ones in Subic or Bataan. Since the beach house where we stayed is not open to the public, the shore is not as manicured and well-maintained as the other resorts in the island like Pansacola and Villa Cleofas. The water is so hot! If you have been to Maquinit Hot Springs in Coron, the water temperature here is the same! Oozing hot! So we decided we'll swim at around 4pm when the sun isn't at its hottest anymore.
|The huts by the beachfront provide an unobstructed view of the calm sea|
|Open cabanas are perfect for a laid-back afternoon|
At lunch time, our colleague prepared Adobo the night before out trip, and brought some tomatoes, salted eggs and onions. A fisherman also brought some fresh catch at the beach house, so we bought a kilo of medium-sized squid (Php 200/kg) and fish. So without further ado... (drumroll...) here's our lunch:
After lunch, we went back to the cabanas at the beachfront to rest. We savoured the fresh sea breeze and fell asleep for awhile. This is island life. You don't need state-of-the-art facilities. Just the breeze, sand and water will suffice.
After about an hour of invigorating nap, we took a dip at the beach (now not as hot as earlier), and walked to the nearby resorts. We had fun taking underwater photos and snorkeling, though we only saw one big fish. =)
|The only fish we saw while snorkeling|
Dinner time came and we indulged in grilled pork belly, squid and my colleagues special tuna pasta! To cap the night, we unscrewed 2 bottles of red wine paired with chocolates.
|Grilled Pork Belly|
The place was so serene and quiet that at 9pm, we all felt sleepy and called it a night. We wanted to catch the sunrise the next day so we refreshed ourselves with a cool bath and went to sleep.
Our sleep was so sound that we ended up not catching the sunrise. We had coffee and instructed the caretakers what to do with the longganisa and other breakfast stuff we brought in. After that, we went to the beach again to savour our last moment at the island.
Our breakfast was comprised of Lucban longganisa, Spanish sardines and crispy fried sap-sap (a local fish which we bought from a vendor we met at the jeepney for only Php 20)
If there's one thing that Cagbalete Island is known for, it's the island's extreme high and low tides. At around 10am, it was already low tide. See that boat in the photo? That's our ride to the port! We had to walk that far to get into the boat. So if by any chance you are going to visit Cagbalete Island, bring aqua shoes so that you won't get wounded like us! The sand we walked on is full of seaweeds, shells and even sea urchins and starfishes.
One last hurray before leaving the island!
|Photo by Mario Jose|
|Photo by Mario Jose|
The boat ride to the port (where a larger boat was on standby for public passengers) is around 30 minutes. We paid Php 300 for the entire boat which can fit 5 people excluding the boatman.
The public boat to Mauban can accommodate more than 50 people (I think) as it is very huge, and just like the jeepneys in Quezon, it was filled until such time that you won't even see a gap between the passengers' feet on the floor (might be an exaggeration but close to the truth).
We took the long and winding route again to Lucban where we ate late lunch and grabbed some stuff for pasalubong. This time, we were able to eat at Old Center Panciteria, the home of original pancit hab-hab. We ordered 2 big plates of pancit sariwa and a large bottle of Coke. We also bought some egg noodles to take home.
I bought the fresh egg noodles wrapped in paper as my colleague said it is yummier! It can last for three days when in the fridge.
|Fresh Egg Noodles|
The pancit we ordered is so yummy! No wonder it became famous in Lucban. After eating, we went around town to grab some longganisa and broas to take home and boarded a jeepney to Sta. Cruz, where buses to Manila are stationed.
Overall, our experience was fun and inexpensive! 'Til our next trip buddies!