Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Experience Cagbalete

I am now officially HEAD OVER HEELS in love with Quezon Province.

I have been to Quezon a few times before and I have seen some churches, some heritage houses, some waterfalls, Mount Banahaw (haven't been to Cristobal, though! T_T ) Mi Casa en Tayabas and Kamay ni Jesus --and I yes I admit I was impressed by the beauty of this province. However, I have never been to their beaches. Fuck me, right?

I have heard of the beauty of the beaches in Quezon but I have never actually really thought about it --never did it cross my mind to google the pictures or anything. Not until days before this trip to Cagbalete Island.

I think the best (girl) group picture of our trip. The guys were always off somewhere --I dont know why they were rarely in the pictures.
(shot by @Madcappuchino using Camera 360 HDR effect)

Initially, the plan was to go to Balai Isabel in Batangas, however, the place was fully booked (halleluiah!) so we had to find an alternative. Some of our friends have already been to Cagbalete so they suggested the place. They told us it had white sand and clear waters... Okay, I'm listening... and then they said it was almost like an isolated island --you had my curiosity and now you have my attention dear sirs!


photo of the sand ripples in Cagbelete grabbed from

So they were telling me there was a place just a few hours from Manila that looks like this.Why am I so ignorant, why??? Why was this not our first choice anyway?!

So 5 days before the date, it was decided, our final destination was to be Cagbalete Island in Mauban Quezon!! I was super excited! I scoured all blogs about Cagbalete Island and I fell in love with the island even before I saw it with my own eyes!

We were all from Marikina and our meeting place was in SSS Marikina so our best route to Mauban was through the CALABARZON back door as they called it. Instead of taking SLEX, the usual road taken when going to more "mainstream" places in Quezon Province like Lucena, we were to take Manila East Road.

Top: Marikina to Mauban Quezon Route
Bottom: Marikina to Lucena City Quezon Route

Red circle = Mauban, Blue Circle = Marikina (sorry, I know it says Quezon City on the map)
We were to pass what they called the Bitukang Manok (chicken intestines) of Manila East Road, not to be confused with Bitukang Manok in Quezon National Forest Park. The road is so nicknamed because it is a steep zig zag road --shaped just like chicken intestines (a delicacy in the Philippines).
Bitukang Manok in Manila East Road

en route to Mauban, I was fast asleep for the whole 4 hours --my friends asked me how I managed to sleep through Bitukang Manok, as it was like a roller coaster ride. 

What can I say, I was dead tired! 

Before I knew it we were already in Mauban Proper.

Touchdown Quezon

This trip was organized by my good friend Joven (3rd from left) so these are mostly his very close friends from highschool and his neighbors from SSS Village. Joven likes to organize get togethers and I always seem to fit right in! I've met / hung out with some of these people, some as far back as 2008, while some are people that I'm meeting for the first time. Though I have hung out with some a few times in the past we weren't sleepover buds or anything, except maybe for Adi with whom I have a love-hate relationship with. 

After this trip, we were already a tight crew, you know what I mean? LOL. So yeah, just as a background, Joven was our common denominator. If not for him we would not have all met each other!

L-R: Paulo, Louise, Joven, Myself, Cess, AdiChinoAngellene, Jeleca (back), Vanessa, VJ and Marla
We have 4 other companions not in this picture.

We left Marikina at around 3am and arrived in Mauban a bit past 7. The first boat to Cagbalete Island leaves at 930am -- we could leave early but we'de have to rent out a boat to ourselves which would cost us 5000. We decided to wait till 930, thanks. We were in luck since a food cart selling Habhab and Kuchinta, pedaled by a frowning middle aged lady AKA Nanay Simangot, was nearby.

Kuchinta php5 only and pansit habhab php10 per serving. Both are specialties of Quezon Province. The lady wearing white shirt --yeah that's her, "Nanay Simangot"

Best kuchinta I've ever tasted. So soft and moist ..... T_T
so named because you eat it right off the leaf just like a hungry animal --no literally this is what Habhab means "to eat like an animal" Best enjoyed with suka! (vinegar)

The php10 serving was too much  for me so I asked the frowning lady if I could buy php10 and she just split it in two servings so I could just share with Adi. She agreed, but then the other girls heard, so they started ordering php5 worth of pansit habhab which I think frazzled the vendor and pissed her off ├žoz she started grumbling about us wasting her time hahaha but we did buy out all her pansit (the boys ate so much!) so i don't know why she was still grumbling.

Around 9am we headed to the Pantalan (pier) and saw that the boat was almost full. We were second to the last group to board and although the boat was already full by 930 we still had to wait 15 minutes for god knows what before the boat finally left.

With Adi. The two of us were unabashedly watching "Bully" on the iPad haha

About 45 minutes later, we were in the island of Cagbalete. Now, don't expect to get wowed right away because you will be docking at this common looking beach. Yeah sure the sand is kinda white and all but the shoreline is littered with nipa houses and looks far from paradise-y. But don't worry, patience my friend. From the pump boat (gas powered outrigger canoe) we had to transfer to a dinghy because the water was too shallow for the pump boat.

From the pier to Pansacola Beach Resort, where we had our reservations, was a 20-30 minute walk --depending on how fast you're walking. It took us about 30 minutes. It was noon and the sun was on its highest point and I think it was about 35 degrees out that day.

This was on the way to Pansacola. This is a nicer view even, because we really had to walk through what Tagalogs would call "looban" which are small houses so close together --like slum looking areas technically

After about 20 minutes of walking we finally get to an open area where coconut trees and other flora abound. 

There I could already feel the cool sea breeze and from the distance what do I see but colorful flags waving and the telltale glare of white sand! I ran as fast as I can and I am telling you with all honesty that my breath caught in my throat. 

Here was a place where sand met water and water met sky. You look to the horizon and everything looked infinite... It was like the sky opened up to the heavens and you are given this privilege to see what was inside. 

This place is flawless. Oh this is PARADISE.

As soon as we set down our stuff, which wasn't much, Ping and I set up his tent, Luisa and her boyfie set up theirs plus their ultra cool hammock and then we all started preparing lunch and dinner. 

Our accommodation --I didnt sleep inside though. I much preferred to sleep outside under a canopy of leaves where the breeze was cooler

See that bamboo bed? that's where I slept for the night. Don't be deceived by its hard demeanor, i had a very comfy sleep.

hungry monkeys preparing lunch plus dinner so we'd be chore free come nighttime 
Our boodle lunch of adobo, salted egg, indian mangoes ensalada and barbecued pork belly
After lunch we started getting ready to go for a dip in the ocean. Joven and I, being beach addicts, went first while the others rested for a bit. The water was really, really, very shallow... I think we walked closed to a few hundred meters and the water was still up to our calves. Also, the water was hot! I dont know why this is so --maybe because other than the fact that it was extremely shallow, there was barely any flowing tide so the water was technically stagnant, am I right? hahah i don't know if I'm making sense here. 

So we walked on, Joven and I, trying to find a cool spot of sea water when we got to a part where there was an urchin barren (a lot of sea urchins and no other signs of life). Scary! I don't like sea urchins especially when they are all sneaky hiding beneath rocks with their spikes barely noticeable. Such cheeky bastards. I hate them. 

We turned back and there were our friends having a party by the sand bar. I don't know why they dont have pictures of Salcon Magno and Ping Garcia playing skimboard. They are amazeballs, I'm telling you! Just how awesome are they? Well they have a Quicksilver sponsored competition in Zambales this coming weekend. Enough said.

L-R: Luisa, Cess, Myself, JV, Joven, Jeleca, Angellene, Trisha (standing), Marla, Ping, VJ, Salcon

Don't worry we didn't leave any trash. All cigarette butts were brought back to be properly disposed in the trash bins at the campsite. We love nature that way.

sorry for the HDR effect. I can't find the original. This was grabbed off Madcappuchino's instagram.

Joven was a natural! This was his first time on a skimboard.  I didn't like it much. I like looking at people playing but I don't like the falling down part because it hurts.. I'd much rather surf (I assume) because when i fall I hit the water. (I can't wait to try surfing... just a few more sleeps!)

Beating the heat with equally warm Bacardi. agh!

now i remember. I think it was Joven's idea to have only girls and gays in the picture.
Candid shot

Now conscious shot.. Bacardi change to Pepsi for a more GP picture.
With the girls and half girls
We stayed there by the sandbar till we finished the bottle. By that time, the heat was really getting to us and we decided to admit defeat and find some respite from the sun. We headed back to our cottage and some of the guys decided to play Pusoy while drinking --I don't know how to play this card game so I crawled inside Ping's tent and played Candy Crush (level 229 after 2 weeks, holla!) while they brought me my shots (as in drink not vaccine harhar)

the sugarols playing pusoy

lo and behold I fell asleep again. I don't know who took this picture but this was in one of the cameras. I woke up around sunset.
It was almost nighttime when I woke up. After helping out with dinner, we went for a night swim. It was high tide by then so it was much more fun swimming in more than just knee deep water.

playing 1 2 3 pass like there's no tomorrow. Loser drinks a shot of cognac. 

After dinner we had a bonfire by the beach. This is provided by the resort for php50 for a stack of firewood. We roasted some hotdogs and marshmallows by the campfire.
There were a lot of sand crablets at the beach (they come out to feed at night) so Salcon, myself and Trisha caught some. Actually, Trish and I ran after them with our flashlights and we shouted for Salcy when we have one frozen under the glare of the light --he had a way of catching them, he pressed their body flat and they'd somehow go immobile. Cool. We (by we I mean Salcon) caught quite a few and placed them inside a container with water --to be cooked the next day.

When we've had enough crablets we went back to the fireplace where everybody was drinking. I'm not much of a drinker so after a while, i got restless just sitting by the fire and asked who wanted to play Marco Polo with me.

Louise, Paulo, Chino, Adi, Princess and Marla agreed to play and I was "it" for the longest time. 
The two girls, Cess and Marla, got tired after a short while and decided to stop playing. The boys, two of whom were super fit pilots, Chino who was about 5'10 and had legs that went on forever were too fast for me. My only match was Adi but since I was blindfolded it was really hard to catch anyone. After Marco Polo we played Pepsi-Pepsi-7up and Habulan Tulungan. We finished playing long after everybody else stopped drinking. They nicknamed us Atletang Pilipino the next day since we also played Pacman (habulan sa linya). Excuse us for being hyperactive.

Day 2

Despite being up till the wee hours of the morning I was up bright and early the next day for a morning run. I just ran a little over a kilometer (according to Nike App, but I dont know how accurate that is) because we had to go boating by 7am.

Here are some pictures I took.. this was on the isolated area of the island, about 500 meters from the resort. 

these flowers were everywhere

running barefoot in the sand felt awesome --liberating!

I dont know where this trail led. Since I was barefoot, I decided it was best not to try and find out.

on the way back to the resort, I saw these group of girls carrying this giant starfish. I do hope they returned the little bugger in the ocean.

This was on a different day. I'm just wearing the same stuff 'coz I didn't want weird looking tan lines. And yes, I did wash this bikini #defensive

wearing life vests for fear we'd accidentally touch the sea urchins at the bottom. The water was still pretty shallow --only less than 3 meters deep, i dont think waters here go any deeper.

The corals were pretty dead here in Cagbalete owing to the urchin barren I think. So there wasn't much to see so we played tag instead. Adi was forever "it" since, as it turns out, he was not a very good swimmer. Burot!!

The boat ride was too much fun! I remember Joven and Adi playing on the bow of the boat for the ride back --they were acting out different sports like jet skiing, fly fishing etc. and then when we were about to dock, the 3 boys, Louise, Adi and Joven started pretend skating and doing switchfoot stances whatever on the bow and the boatman said:

"hindi tatagal yung bangka ko kung ang pasahero ko araw araw ay kasing likot nyo!" (my boat won't last long if my passengers every day were as rowdy as you guys)

and I asked him:
magulo po ba kami kuya? (are we unruly?)

And he said:
(yes very! --but he said it with an accent that we found really funny)

Some of the guys didn't go boating with us since they wanted to skimboard. When we got back, Ping and Salcon had fashioned head gears out of seaweed.

Salcon and his organic wig

JV, Salcon and Ping

We only had a few hours left to enjoy the island since we had to leave by 12 in order for us to catch the 1pm boat to Mauban.

The tide hasn't fully ebbed down to low tide so I had a chance to witness it go from high to low.

the water draining away

during low tide, you'll see these stuff everywhere -- i think these are lumps left by sand crabs (Alimasag)

sand bar at low tide

sand ripples exposed at low tide

This beach is perfect for skim boarding

Team Bisaya for Kwiksilber

With Palibhasa Lalake stars Ritsard Guma and Juey Markis

We started walking to the pier by 12 noon and arrived just before 1pm.

We were all fast asleep about 10 minutes into the boat ride and we were in Mauban before we even knew it. The ride back was just as much fun, we played Category and Unggoy-ungguyan (a Filipino card game) and the loser had to eat one (overripe) banana.

We arrived back in Manila past 7pm... snapback to reality, oh there goes gravity.

Though we were sad to leave such a beautiful place, we were all very happy that we were able to experience such beauty. We can't wait to go back to Quezon Province and visit its other local treasures. The group's next plan is to go to Padre Burgos in September or July. I hope we can all agree on September since I'll be in CDO in July.

Cagbalete really made me fall hard for Quezon Province and I've been researching about awesome Quezon spots ever since I got back. I've already made a list! If you're looking for an escape from Metro Manila, Quezon Province has a lot to offer!

I'll be in Zambales in 2 days time --my first time! See you next blog post!


Gabz | Pinoy Travel Freak said...

Looks like you had fun! I miss Cagbalete...planning to return in a few weeks! :)

Gabz | Pinoy Travel Freak said...

Looks like you had fun! I miss Cagbalete...planning to return in a few weeks! :)