a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Long Road to Cagbalete

Last weekend was a bittersweet reunion with my backpacking group – ECOFBackpackers Pinas. We set off to explore this beautiful island to bid farewell party to one of our members - Gay. She will be exploring an employment opportunity overseas and would be gone for two years. Waaa…Gay was the one who introduced me to the world of backpacking and I had just gotten to know her at a slightly deeper level, a year ago when we climbed Mt. Manalmon last year. She will surely be missed and she announced that there’s no way, she’s leaving town without a farewell backpacking trip.

Our chosen destination was Cagbalete Island in Mauban Quezon which is now becoming popular as an excellent beach hideaway, an antithesis of the famous Boracay. As usual, I got everything polished before our journey and based from what I dug from several blogs - getting there would be a breeze.

There were 6 of us in the group – most of them, I haven’t seen in months – and there’s Tristan – who I met for the very first time after years of hearing stuff about him from Jules. With the exception of Erwin – all of us were former members of our old college mountaineering club and we somehow stuck together over the years.

We convened at 10AM at Wendy’s Buendia. Well, that was original plan but Oli – who is fashionably late as always showed up an hour later. (note to self : Always set meeting time an hour earlier for Oli..ahehehe).


Four hours later after leaving Manila, we were still on the road - with grumbling stomachs and a vague clue where the heck Mauban is, the jump-off to Cagbalete. We were racing against time just to catch the last trip of the boat from pantalan and we could not afford to waste any time. After several minutes though, we were all rallying for a stopover to grab a quick late lunch. Our choice was Resty’s in Lucban. It’s a nice eatery beside the Parish of St. Louis Bishop. Me and Jules shared a pancit habhab – a famed local pasta. It only costs around 55 pesos and it was more than enough for two! I also ordered LONGSILOG (it tasted good but kinda icky because I think they used internal organs for the meat). For dessert, I grabbed some turon from a vendor outside the eatery. Opps, did I just say grabbed? I meant, I bought turon..Hehehe! Anyway, after that hearty meal, we proceeded with the long muscle aching drive. None of us were familiar with Mauban but after an hour and a half of driving, we finally reached the Taino ancestral house – owned by the same family who manages Villa Cleofas where we will be leaving Tristan’s beloved van.

We arrived at past 5:00 PM and it took about 45 minutes or so calling out to the caretaker to let us in (he’s super nice btw), grabbing our stuff, and buying some supplies before the boat ride.
Taino Ancestral House
We took a tricycle from the ancestral house to the pantalan – ride lasted 7 minutes or maybe even less. We learned that the last trip of the passenger boat had already left and our best option was to hire a private boat.

We then negotiated with some muscular heavily tanned guys at the pier for a boat ride to Cagbalete. It took about an hour of waiting for the boatman to arrive. It cost 1,500 one way (I think that boat can carry 8 people all in all or maybe more). It was already past 6pm when we boarded and it was really dark. It was a good thing that me and Tristan brought our headlamps. I was quite excited because it was my first boat ride at night! Yihaaa!

Pantalan as the sun was beginning to set

The Best Part of the Journey – In Search of Villa Cleofas
After 30 minutes of cruising the shore, rain started to pour and we had to hide beneath this huge tarpaulin. The scene made us all look like prisoners trying to escape the juicy navy guys. Rain stopped about 10 minutes from Barangay Sabang in Cagbalete Island- Our jump-off to Villa Cleofas where we will be spending the night. We planned on having the boatman take us directly to the resort but he had no idea where it was. I don’t know if that was true or he just felt lazy to bring us there.

It was already past 7:00 pm and we ended up doing a night trek from where we docked. I stayed behind everyone because I had the headlamp. Tristan who had the other headlamp was leading the trail. We got a lot of curious and surprised stares from the people in the community as we walked down the alleys. I was just thankful that they don’t sleep as early as the people from other provinces because at least we can ask for directions. Finding the trail wasn’t that hard because everyone pointed us to the right direction. It started off with a cemented path from the barangay then as we made our way nearer to the beach, the cemented street disappeared and we found ourselves entering a foresty area. There were several signs pinned on the trees leading to the resort.

As if the dark terrain wasn’t enough, we had to dip our feet in about 5-10 inches of muddy water. The rain flooded some parts of the trail and we had no choice but to walk on it. Since I was luckily wearing flipflops with gold straps – I had to remove them and go barefoot because it was sticking deep into the mud and I was fearful it would break. I was quite nervous because I might step on something and injure my foot. With a silent prayer, I took baby steps – hoping that the muddy trail would end soon. It took us about 15 minutes navigating through the muddy water and into another small community where we had to wake some people up because we thought we found the resort. It turns out we took a wrong turn and we were in a residential area. We woke up and surprised this family of three but they were nice enough to point us where the resort was. Another 5 minutes and we emerged at the coast and we were welcomed by a surreal scene of extremely calm water.

We were all awed by what greeted us. There was the moon lighting our path, the sand was soft and almost white and the best part of all was that there were no one else. Villa Cleofas still wasn’t in sight and we decided to rest and take some pictures. The wind was comfortably blowing at us – caressing our tired bodies.

We finally arrived at our home for the night after another 10 minutes of trekking the beach and we were warmly welcomed by the caretakers. We learned that we had the whole resort to ourselves and instead of setting up tents, we opted to rent an open cottage. They charged us 1000 pesos – good for 6 people and they provided us with comfortable mattresses, pillows and mosquito nets. We also had the option to turn on the generator but we had to pay extra so we chose to spend the night with nature, our headlamps and battery operated speakers to play Oli’s wonderful music collection. Being an old soul – I turned in early after cleaning myself up while the rest of my homies drank, smoked and talked. I heard bits of their conversation during the few occasions I managed to wake up but I really couldn’t bear myself to join the gathering. I felt so sleepy! The few times I woke up was when the wind stopped blowing and the mosquitoes started feasting on my face, my legs, my arms, every exposed part of me, when I heard my homies laughing at me because I slept early and when Tristan’s alarm went off at 4:00 AM and played rock music..wahh!

The Morning After
Since I got a good night’s rest, I woke up at 5:30am and caught a glimpse of a beautiful sunrise. It was really amazing. There were tons of clouds over the sun as it started rising and it looked like a scene where you normally see angels descending from the heavens.
We all slept outside the bedroom; Couldn't resist the breezy air
As if my evening sleep wasn't enough, I slept on this hammock too for my morning nap. Villa Cleofas has set up hammocks under the trees where you can lie down and relax for eternity
Swimming Blues
I really wanted to swim but I couldn’t because it was super low tide – low tide to the extreme! I’ve never seen anything like it. The water level is so low, it didn’t even reach my thighs even if we already walked 30minutes from the shore. I tried doing freestyle but my hands keep brushing off some sand so I decided to walk.

Island Hopping – On Foot
The only great thing about a low tide is that you can actually go island hopping on foot. From the shore, we walked towards another island – about 30 minutes away from the resort. It’s not a sandbar, it’s really another island with rock formations, it’s own sand and this certain specie of plant. Since me and Jules were the only ones who made it, we separated and occupied the opposite sides of the island and took a few moments of silence. During those few moments, I peed to my heart’s content, played in the small puddles of water around my part of the island and did some role playing. I even sang A Moment Like this by Kelly Clarkson. I don’t know what got into my head. I don’t even like that song but at that time, I felt it suited my emotions. Hehehe! Actually, I was imagining He was there and I was telling him how I felt. On the second scene I imagined that he and this other guy were with me and they were telling me how glad they were I brought them to this place and that they think I’m so cool..hahahahaha! I was pretty sure I could have lasted a few more other hours just imagining stuff but Jules called on me and we decided to head back. Should you decide to go to Cagbalete, this island is a must visit. I love it here. I wish I can buy it. It disappears during the high tide though so it’s best to come here in the morning – before 8:00 AM. It’s directly across Villa Cleofas.

Going Home
Port of Barangay Sabang in Cagbalete Island
The route going home was not as eventful as our journey to Cagbalete but I can’t say it was boring. To get to Barangay Sabang, we had to go back the same way we came which meant walking through the series of muddy trails again after having taken a bath. The trek back took about 30 minutes, a few minutes faster than we did the previous night. We saw a water pump after we emerged from the woods and we eagerly washed. I get to pump water for Erwin and Tristan. bwahaha.

We boarded the public boat on our way back which was a new experience for me as well. I haven’t ridden that kind of boat. It’s slightly bigger than the normal outrigger. It was docked a few meters from the shore and we had to ride a smaller boat so we can alight the public boat. It also has a small restroom in case of emergencies. Hehehe! I thought I wouldn’t get wet but after a few minutes of cruising, I felt water splashed over me. Word of warning – Avoid sitting near the back of the boat!

Cagbalete Island has its own charm – its turquoise waters, cellphone signal and friendly folks but Anawangin Cove in Zambales still has my heart. I guess I should go back to Cagbalete and give it another shot. The best part of the trip was that I get to spend time with my friends and overcome inconveniences and challenges with them. Instructions on

How To Get to Cagbalete Island :
Via Public Transportation:
Just a tip - if you plan on taking the public boat - make sure you get there an hour before the scheduled trip. The boat from pantalan (in Mauban) to Cagbalete Island only has two trips for the entire day:
Mauban to Cagbalete - 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM (not sure if this is daily)
Cagbalete Island to Pantalan - 1:00 PM (Last trip, I'm not sure what time is the first trip back)
*Fare is 40 pesos/head as of October 12, 2008.
Boat ride lasts for about 45minutes.
*Ideal Budget for this trip : 1,500 pesos plus bring your own food.
Expenses Per Head : Via Public Transportation
Lucena Lines Buendia to Grand Terminal Lucena
200
Lucena to Mauban Town Proper
70
Trike from Villa Cleofas Ancestral house to Pantalan
7
Mauban Port to Brgy. Sabang
40
Entrance Fee - Villa Cleofas
30
Camping Fee - Estimate/head
150
Total Expenses - Going There
497
Going back :
Sabang to Mauban Port
40
Trike from Pantalan to Villa Cleofas Ancestral House
7
Mauban Port to Lucena
70
Lucena to Manila
200
Expenses/head
814

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