My things were packed safely early evening of friday. I was so thrilled that I couldn’t get myself a short nap before heading out. Instead, I texted my friends if we could meet earlier in a coffee shop before we take-off to Quezon.
2AM, Saturday, we left España to catch Jac Liner’s earliest bus ride to Lucena. The bus was almost empty when we arrived. However, it didn’t take long for it to be filled. In fact, our friend who’s coming from Parañaque was the last person to arrive so we can depart. The journey was smooth and fast, but not until we reached Sariaya, Quezon probably after two hours on the road. Locals kept on boarding every short while. They were mostly students who were bound to their school. After a few stops, the bus was fully occupied (even the center isle where passengers were standing already). The trip from that point became noisy to almost chaotic. The bus stops every 10 minutes to load or unload a passenger. The trip wasn’t as pleasant as to how it started. Thank goodness though, all of my initial stress went away when the sky started to light up. The sky’s hue was different that morning maybe because Quezon’s atmosphere is clear and not polluted. It was a sight to remember. It was even more beautiful in person, I promise!
5:30AM. After a 3-hr moody bus ride, we reached Lucena Grand Terminal where Mauban-bound buses are waiting. The terminal was surrounded with a number of “carinderias” where you could take your breakfast. We decided not to stop for a meal though because we were all stoked to get to the island.
The bus to Mauban was almost full when we boarded. Minutes later, it took-off on its way to Mauban Port. It’s an old, small, open-air bus which is shared by both locals and tourists. ‘Twas a sweet voyage passing through the village of the locals of Mauban. The province vibe, the simplicity, the nature..so much nature. It was a perfect ride! Halfway the short trip, it started to rain which made the scene more nostalgic. The ride lasted for two hours from Lucena to Mauban Port.
We went to a small store before proceeding to the port to buy goods that would sustain us for two whole days. Around 8am, we headed to the port where a 50-peso enviromental fee was charged per person. The area for tourists who are waiting for the passenger boat also accommodates small stores which you can have your meals, get some souvenirs, and buy some fruits.
Aside for the 50php/head fee which was charged earlier, we will still have to pay another 50php for the passenger boat. It’s a big boat that accomodates big number of passengers. Unfortunately, we still had to wait for its third trip to Cagbalete. We didn’t mind at first because we were all thinking that the third trip would just be an hour or two after the first trip that left at 8:30AM. Not until we heard that we will have to wait as late as 1pm. It was plain torture; a waiting game. However, we all settled to just hire a private boat. Yet again, small boats that are good for five are all unavailable at that moment. The waiting game goes on. Add to that the stress that the porters give to their tourists. These porters (they were all ladies) were shouting and arguing with each other. They were all over the place creating an unpleasant environment. They even treat tourists in a not-so-friendly manner. Do they even know that we are their source of income? Hmm, I’m not sure.
We had no choice but to wait. I was thrilled and excited and I don’t want to ruin my day. Patiently, we waited for our boat to arrive.
It was almost 12NN when our boatman, Mang Efren, approached us. We immediately boarded his boat and left all the tension behind. We are heading to an island I’ve been dreaming about, that’s all I know right at that moment.
Our idea was that “the more secluded it is, the better“, so we chose to camp in Nilandingan cove, the furthest among all the other beach resorts. It took us another hour to travel from Mauban to the cove. It didn’t feel too long though because the scenery was a site to behold.
Touching down Nilandingan Cove, the feeling was indescribable. I was left in awe to see the serenity that this place has. We were greeted with a warm welcome by the owners of the resort, Nanay Lin and Lolo Ted. Lolo Ted even showed us around the place before we finally set up our camp. We then settled down under a tree on the right most part of the cove, far from the other campers and the main area where nipa huts for guests were built.
All set, we all couldn’t wait to take a dip! The water was shallow and warm. It was also clean except for some grass floating around because there’s seagrass in some parts of the water. The grass didn’t bother me at all. Just beware of areas where it gets rocky.
The island’s on a semi-low tide state when we arrived. Water was just about to rise. It felt forever walking through the water to reach the part where it gets deep.
Hungry after a quick dip on the beach, we needed to have our lunch already. The staff of Nilandingan can cook your meals for you (for a fee of course) but as always, we opted to cook on our own..camping style! Haha. You can also borrow cooking utensils from their main house if you forgot to bring your own. Our simple meal’s composed of canned goods and newly cooked rice, but it wasn’t the food that made it unforgettable. It was the sand on our feet and the waves we hear while taking our late lunch together.
Calm and quiet, the island is beautifully created for a peaceful getaway. The atmosphere was perfect for escaping the busy reality. That afternoon was all about me, my friends, and the island.
As the sun left the island, water came in. The water became deeper and the waves became bigger at around 5PM. It was then the perfect time for a swim before the sun totally set.
And when I thought I’ve seen Cagbelete’s best during day time, there came sunset. It was definitely a stunning view to watch, it was the perfect vibe while we were grilling hotdogs for our dinner. Its beauty was remarkable. Truly, this island is full of surprises!
We gathered around our bonfire to share a simple dinner as we shared stories. A few moments after our dinner, we all decided to walk along the empty sea. The beach was gone for a while, the shore moved back hundreds of feet away.
They all slept outside the tent, except for me. But it was around 2am when I woke up to notice drizzles on our tent, I went out to tell them it’s about to rain. True enough, a heavy rain started to fall over my peacefully sleeping friends. Hahaha! Well, a small tent will suffice to accommodate five sleepy heads.
8AM. Since my friends aren’t as energetic and spontaneous as I am that morning (lol), they were still snoozing when I decided to start my trek. My guide was a young girl accompanied with her younger brother who was walking behind me. The walk wasn’t too hard though, except for some areas where I had to duck to avoid thorny branches and twigs of trees. It took us half an hour to reach the nearest beach resort from Nilandingan. I told my guide that I could go on by myself from that point.
Not so far from where the girl left me, (probably another 5 minutes of walk) I was astonished to see a flowing river (not sure if it’s a river haha) that meets the ocean. I had to cross over it to proceed on my walk. It wasn’t deep though and its cool water’s just what I needed after a long trek under the scorching sun.
Sweaty and thirsty, I wander for another 10 minutes to get to this amazing scenery. From the shore, I walked through ankle deep water to get to this huge bed rock which stores a small volume of sea water when the tide drops.
A hundred more steps from that huge surface of rock, I saw a paradise with soft and white sand on it. Those small waves of sand are so tempting, so I found myself lying down and sunbathing for too long on that part of the beach. Sunburned! Haha!
As much as I wanted to keep on walking, I felt hungry and needed to get back to our camp. It took me another 35 mins of walk back to Nilandingan.
10:30AM. To my surprise, more friends of us came to the island that morning. I rested for a while and we rented a small boat that was supposed to take us to a sand bar just 30 minutes away. Sadly, they told us that it wasn’t a safe time to go there because of the waves. Instead, they took us to a part of the sea where it’s clear of sea urchins and allowed us to swim. The water’s so clear and almost 15-20ft deep on my estimate. Haha! It was my first time diving that deep into the ocean. A mixture of excitement and fear, I tried to reach the bottom most part. However, I just couldn’t. Haha! Still, that was the best part of this whole experience for me.
2PM. All exhausted because of swimming back and forth, we went back to the shore to prepare our late lunch. Our rice was halfway cooked when a heavy rain fell over the island without notice. The wind started to get cold and the sky turned into gray. It looked like a haunted island. Our saving grace was the warm water of the beach. The rain lasted only for an hour.
Things may seem wrong at first, a journey will never be perfect from start to finish. The small bumps sometimes make up for a great great adventure! We survived! We stood against a heavy rainfall twice! Haha!
An island of serenity and calmness. A place where time seems to slow down so you could cherish every moment. Cagbalete Island is a paradise that every wanderlusting soul should experience.
- Taxi, UST- Buendia – 30php per head
- Bus, Buendia-Lucena – 168php (student’s fare)
- Donuts for breakfast – 48php
- Bus, Lucena-Mauban – 54 php
- Food contribution – 210
- Enviromental fee – 50php
- Private boat – 400/head Roundtrip
- Boat for beach hopping- 100/head
- Trekking guide optional tip – 60
- Nilandingan overnight fee- 200/head
- Van, mauban-Lucena – 80
- Bus, Lucena-Buendia – 168 (student’s fare)
- Van, Buendia-UST – 30php
- Pastillas con yema – 180php