|Early morning in front of Joven's Blue Sea Beach Resort.|
I spent a good chunk of my childhood in Tayabas, Quezon without ever hearing of this beautiful gem of an island off the coast of Mauban, Quezon, which is a neighboring town. Circa 2010 - I was captivated by the prospect of visiting Cagbalete when I stumbled across a few blog articles raving about it on same day a friend was asking me for a recommendation for her destination birthday party. No brainer - Cagbalete! Nearing the day, here comes Murphy (in the form of a client) crashing my weekend freeloading motives. Onset of summer 2014, while thinking of a quick weekend getaway, Tess reminded me about Cagbalete.
|The cracked surface of Bonsai Island in front of Villa Cleofas.|
So off we went to JAC liner to catch their 5:00 AM bus direct for Mauban. We were hoping they'd use one of their newer China-made buses, but they used an older one instead that had a very rigid suspension. The leg from Tayabas to Mauban was still as scenic as I remembered it from my childhood. I think my townsfolk called the area Little Baguio because of the hilly verdant terrain. We arrived in Mauban around 9:45 AM, a good 45-minute breather for the 10:30 AM commuter banca to Cagbalete. When we got to Barangay Daungan, where the port is, we found that the banca had left already, since it got full early. That's island-time in reverse. No worries, we hooked up with a group of three, who were booked at the same place we were, and shared the cost of a private-hire banca that took us straight to our resort's beachfront in 1 hour and 15 minutes. About a kilometer from Cagbalete, we kept looking into the water because we could clearly see the white, sandy and shallow bottom. To our right rose the low peaks of Alabat Island.
|Rock pools on Bonsai Island.|
We checked in at Villa Noe, with its prominent Hollywood-esque signage. The accommodations weren't plush but they were clean. We didn't mind the communal toilet & baths since we knew about that beforehand. We spent the rest of the day lounging around, getting a little wet, lying on the fine sand, reading into the clouds and walking a bit. There were a few other guests but the whole island seemed to be ours and we liked that very much. The tide was receding which revealed a sandbar bridging the shore to a rocky outcrop christened as Bonsai Island. Bonsai I guess because of the dwarfish trees as they look from afar, but up close they look to me like a small patch of mangroves. Okay, so the Bonsai isn't remarkable. What's remarkable is the rocky outcrop itself. It's like a giant stone plateau which got hammered producing a spider web of cracks on the surface. In the stone pools where the outcrop meets the clear water we could see a variety of small fishes waving at us.
|Sunrise in front of Villa Noe.|
We came upon Joven's Blue Sea Beach Resort and immediately staked our claim on their nice beach recliners. They were the only resort we've seen so far that had them. After ordering fresh buko (coconut) juice each, Rexie, the owner, and Raul, the manager came up to us at different times for a chat. Joven's we were told is one of the newer resorts and all the resort owners on Cagbalete are relatives. Their forebears, the Tainos/Pansacolas, owned a very large piece of the island which got handed down, and divided, through the generations.
Though the beach was so pristine, we couldn't help but notice the broken corals and shells being washed to shore. There aren't mounds of it, but it's there, and Rexie let on that these were the deep-seated consequences of unmitigated dynamite fishing years ago in the waters of Lamon Bay that surrounds Cagbalete. Eradication of the practice is uncertain in other areas, but in theirs it has because of the concerted efforts of the resort owners, local government units and non-government groups to educate dynamite fishers who all have a stake in promoting tourism and reviving the environment. We walked around the resort and took a liking to one of their rustic bahay-kubos (bamboo cottage). The communal showers looked new and well-maintained too. So right there we decided to spend the next night at Joven's.
We woke up early to enjoy the sunrise and were pleasantly surprised when the staff informed us that Villa Noe would be comping us breakfast, which they then laid out for us right on the beach. A fisherman and his son pulled up to shore in their small banca and offered the day's catch to the resort staff and its guests at less-than-market prices. Villa Noe has outdoor grills which are available to the guests for free.
|Tagak birds. Are they herons?|
A local kid came up to us barefoot and shyly asked if he could be our guide if ever we wanted to roam around Cagbalete. We did and he could. We wanted to visit the village at Sabang so we started on the inland trail behind Villa Noe which fed into a network of trails. I thought to myself that it would be nice to have a bicycle here to explore the trails. Pictures on some blogs would show a swamped trail, probably because the photos were taken during the rainy season. Fifteen minutes later we were at the village. Marco said they call the village Barangay Uno or Centro. First thing we did was head for a sari-sari (general) store and bought Marco a pair of flip-flops, then proceeded to aimlessly walk around. There is no electricity fed to Cagbalete even if Mauban hosts the 460MW Quezon Power Plant. The local households pool together resources to buy and run diesel electric generators that they usually have on from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM. The resorts do the same too. The village people were very amiable, we kept exchanging "magandang umaga po's (good morning's) with them. Narrow streets, clean sidewalks, women doing the laundry, children running around, teens hanging out, men drinking engaged in DIY repair work or drinking. We came upon a small eatery that happened to be run by Marco's aunt, who asked us to call her Ate Susan. Her eatery's specialty was arroz caldo (porridge/congee) and fried chicken. We sat down in front of her stove and trays and ordered a set, but we ended having 6 chickens apiece while chatting with Ate Susan, her neighbors/customers and the teens playing billiards on the other side of her stove. Customers were coming and going for dine-in and take-out. We came exactly during the mid-afternoon snack hour and her arroz caldo/fried chicken combo was quite a popular snack fare. Marco brought us to the southwestern side of Cagbalete where there were a few lesser-known resorts. All of them didn't seem to have any guests. Further on seemed to be the start of a dense mangrove forest.
|The river mouth near MVT Sto. Niño resort.|
Marco took us a different way back to Villa Noe. We traced the shoreline from Sabang and checked out two other resorts - Pansacola and Doña Choleng. Pansacola's beachfront seemed to have the most gently sloping beachfront and the most pronounced sand ripples at low tide. Pansacola, one of the older resorts on the island, sits at the southern tip of Cagbalete. I imagined guests there have the satisfaction of enjoying the sunrise and the sunset. The shoreline was dotted with what looked like agoho trees (usually mistaken for pine trees).
Marco pointed out a flock of what he called "tagaks" on a sandbar in front of Doña Choleng. I think they're called herons in English. A flock of other low-flying birds swooped across. We mused out loud... maybe Cagbalete is a sanctuary for migratory birds? Marco seemed to have understood and he raised his hand and pointed to an islet to the left of Alabat Island, saying that that's where there are many different kinds of birds, and that the islet's called Baliscar which is an hour's banca ride from Cagbalete. We took note of that, just in case we had time tomorrow to squeeze in a side trip to Baliscar.
|Local kids swimming and playing in the waters of Sabang.|
We hung out at Doña Choleng's and had drinks before continuing our shoreline walk back to Villa Noe, where we packed our gear, thanked the staff, checked out and then checked in at Joven's Blue Sea Beach Resort. Beach recliner time again while enjoying coffee and trading jokes with two guys on the staff who were raking the sand and picking debris. The guys said we had the whole resort to ourselves that night. After a dinner of grilled fish, eggplant ensiled and rice, Marco bid us goodnight with a fair day's pay in his pocket for a fair day's work.
|The elders of Cagbalete gathered for their morning powwow.|
Monday morning - I was up early to enjoy and photograph the sunrise; I discovered that we weren't the only guests as we were told. Alessandra De Rossi. And Sid Lucero too. Marco returned as he said, and we all had breakfast by the beach. He said he'd take us to the ilog-bukana (river mouth) this morning, so off we went, walking again by the shoreline, northward. As we walked, even with the natural debris, the beach looked more and more virginal and unsullied.
We passed by an estuary edged by mangroves to our left, and as we neared the river mouth, we saw the MVT Sto. Niño resort sitting on the other side. We waded into the river whose waters were very clear although the currents were pretty strong.
Back at Joven's we relaxed for a bit before packing up and checking out to catch the 1:00 PM commuter banca from Sabang back to Mauban. Following the trail behind Joven's to Sabang was a leisurely 15-minute walk. The tide was low, so all the passengers had to take a flat boat transfer from the shore to the commuter banca.
Getting to Cagbalete Island
From Metro Manila to Mauban
1. From Metro Manila to Mauban Direct (via Lucena City)
Jac Liner has two trips daily from its Quezon City terminal (Kamias Road cor EDSA) direct to Mauban town. The bus departs at 5:00 AM and 1:00 PM. There are no reservations, therefore seats are on a first-come, first-serve basis. It's best to arrive at the terminal by 4:00 AM or earlier to stake out your seats. Once the bus is full it may leave earlier than 5:00 AM. Travel time varies between 4-5 hours and the fare is around Php 280.00. Our bus left Manila at 4:33 AM and arrived in Mauban at 9:38 AM. The bus offloads passengers at the outskirts of the town, so after you get off, take a 10-minute tricycle ride to the port or "pantalan" at Brgy Daungan for Php 50.00.
|High noon on Cagbalete.|
2. From Metro Manila to Lucena City to Mauban
Jac Liner, JAM Liner and Lucena Lines have hourly trips to Lucena City from their terminals in Quezon City (Kamias Road cor EDSA) and in Pasay City (Buendia Ave. cor Taft Ave.). Travel time varies between 3-4 hours. All buses will unload Lucena-bound passengers at the Lucena City Grand Terminal. From here, there are non-airconditioned mini-buses run by NCR Bus Lines that leaves for Mauban on an hourly interval, with the first trip at 5:00 AM and the last trip at 6:00 PM. Travel time is roughly 1.5 hours and the fare is Php 60.00.
If you would like to take the Lucena-Mauban leg of the trip in cooler comfort, then you may take a 15-seater air-conditioned van. From the Grand Terminal, take a jeepney to the SM Lucena Mall or Pacific Mall. There you'll find the GT Express vans bound for Mauban. Fare is Php 70.00. Since the van has a smaller capacity, there are fewer stops, therefore you can cut travel time by about 30 minutes.
If you're bringing your own vehicle, then your travel time to Mauban is cut down to 2.5 hours as there's no need to dogleg through Lucena City. See Google Maps (https://goo.gl/maps/9nNki). Park your vehicle at the church compound and take a tricycle to the port at Brgy. Daungan. There's also the Antipolo route, which I imagine would be quite scenic. If you've tried that, let us know!
|The receding tide in front of Joven's Blue Sea Beach Resort.|
From Mauban to Cagbalete Island
At the Brgy. Daungan port, proceed to the Tourism Information and Ticketing Booth. Pay the Php 40.00 terminal fee and the Php 30.00 environmental fee.
There are two scheduled public commuter banca trips from Mauban port to Cagbalete Sabang port daily, one at 10:30 AM and another at 4:00 PM. From Cagbalete Sabang port, the scheduled trips back to Mauban are at 7:30 AM and 1:00 PM. You'll be taking either the M/B Neneng or M/B Anthony. M/B I think stands for Motorized Banca. These bancas have a passenger capacity of 40 persons each. We enjoyed the ride with chickens, concrete hollow blocks and cartons of peanut butter. The Php 50.00 ferry ride takes about 45 minutes.
If the tide is low at the time of your approach to Cagbalete Sabang port, you'll be transferred from the banca to shore by a flat-hulled boat. This is moment you'll be thankful you waterproofed your bags with large trashbags. From there, it's about a 10-20 minute trek to your resort of choice. Sabang is in a small fishing village, so expect a lot of kids and a handful of adults to come up to you offering porterage ang guide services. Turn the kids down down if it's school hours and get an adult instead. We got a kid named Marco, since we went during the summer vacation and we were his for the duration.
|The wide expanse of creamy sand in front of Pansacola Beach Resort.|
Alternatively, if you want to avoid the 1.5 kilometer trek or so, there are small bancas for rent at Sabang that can bring you to your resort. Rates depend on the resort's location, on the average it's like Php 50.00 per person.
Just in case you miss the public commuter banca trips, no worries - there are private motorized bancas for hire and the good thing is the community standardized the rates:
1-5 passenger capacity banca - Php 1000 one-way / Php 1500 two-way
6-8 passenger capacity banca - Php 1500 one-way / Php 2000 two-way
9-12 passenger capacity banca - Php 2000 one-way / Php 2500 two-way
13-16 passenger capacity banca - Php 2500 one-way / Php 3000 two-way
17-20 passenger capacity banca - Php 3000 one-way / Php 4000 two-way
At maxed out capacity, the price per head is at least twice the commuter rate, but hey - you're on vacation! Two things make a private hire convenient: 1. The banca will drop you off in front of your resort (not at Sabang) and 2. It's up to you to decide when you want to be picked up to leave the island.
|Cagbalete children with their new friend, Tess. Note the fishes the kids are holding. They're ready for mounting. We're not sure if they're controlled species though.|
Where to Stay - Hotels/Resorts in Cagbalete
There are 5 major resorts to choose from and all of them are on the eastern side of the island. I listed them in the order they appear on the map below. We stayed a night each at Villa Noe and Joven's. We found out the same clan owns the string of properties on the eastern side. There is no electricity on the island. Resort power is provided by private generator sets running from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM. Remarkably, we never heard the generators running at all while we were at Villa Noe's and Joven's.
Food choices at the resorts are sparse and a bit pricey as you can deduce from the food packages below. If you want to cut down on costs, bring a cookset and burner and cook your own food, or go to the barangay/Centro and eat at any of the carinderias there.
Most accommodations do not have en suite showers and toilets. You'll be sharing them with other guests. Make sure you confirm that with the resort when you make your booking.
Bring a large drybag and several trashbags. Bring purified drinking water by the gallon. Bring mosquito repellant and a powerbank.
Pansacola Beach ResortWebsite: https://www.facebook.com/pansacolabeachresort
Phone: +63 42 7840158
Phone: +63 928 5058633
Phone: +63 917 5465901
Main House w/T&B(20pax) Php 5,000.00 per night
Buho House w/T&B w/Kitchen(20pax) Php 4,500.00 per night
Agoho House w/T&B (14pax) Php 4,000.00 per night
Sasag House 1 w/T&B (10pax) Php 3,000.00 per night
Sasag House 2 w/T&B (12pax) Php 3,500.00 per night
Sasag House 3 w/T&B (12pax) Php 3,500.00 per night
Nipa Hut 1 (10pax) Php 2,200.00 per night
Nipa Hut 2 (10pax) Php 2,200.00 per night
Nipa Hut 3 (10pax) Php 2,200.00 per night
Sawali House w/Kitchen (10pax) Php 2,500.00 per night
Tree House (6pax) Php 2,500.00 per night
Open Beach Hut/Kubo 1 (4pax) Php 1,200.00 per night
Open Beach Hut/Kubo 2 (4pax) Php 1,200.00 per night
Food packages – includes 3 meals and 2 meryendas.
2-3pax Php 1,000.00/pax
4-6pax Php 950.00/pax
7-9pax Php 900.00/pax
10pax+ Php 850.00/pax
Doña Choleng Camping ResortWebsite: http://www.cagbaletedonacholeng.com/
Phone: +63 910 8823346
Phone: +63 910 5244370
Phone: +63 916 4270487
Phone: +63 926 6549958
Phone: +63 927 9680690
Phone: +63 928 2569919
Phone: +63 932 8525489
Phone: +63 998 3520544
Tent (2-3 pax) Php 400.00 - Php500.00 per night
Open Bali Hut Php 1000.00 per night
Bali Hut (with Electric Fan, 4-6 pax) Php 2000.00 per night
Room with aircon (6-8 pax) Php 4500.00 per night
Room with aircon (18-20 pax) Php 8000.00 per night
Villa Noe ResortWebsite: http://www.villanoe.com/
Phone: +63 929 217 6971
Phone: +63 905 519 3847
Phone: +63 909 524 1773
Phone: +63 910 416 2536
Cottage 10-12 pax Php 4,000.00 per night
Cottage 8-10 pax Php 3,500.00 per night
Cottage 6-8 pax Php 3,000.00 per night
Cottage 4-6 pax Php 2,500.00 per night
Cottage 2-4 pax Php 1,500.00 - PHP 2,000.00 per night
Cottage 2 pax Php 1,000.00 per night
Picnic Huts Php 500.00 - PHP 800.00 per day (for daytrippers)
Tent Php 300.00 - Php 600.00 per night depending on tent capacity
Pitching Fee Php 200.00 per night (if you're bringing your own tent)
Cooking/grilling area is available for free if you wish to cook your own food.
Food package (3 meals and 1 meryenda) - Php 750/pax/day
Cooking Fee (Paluto) - Php 150.00 (If you want the resort's kitchen to cook food that you brought along)
Joven's Blue Sea Beach ResortWebsite: http://www.cagbaletejovenresort.co.nr/
Phone: +63 939 2899752
Phone: +63 917 9848505
Phone: +63 907 1739016
Kubo 2 pax Php 1500.00 per night
Yellow/Lilac Cabana 2 pax Php 1500.00 per night
Yellow/Lilac Cabana 3-5 pax Php 2000.00 per night
Red Cabana 2 pax Php 2000.00 per night
Red Cabana 3-5 pax Php 3000.00 per night
Orange Cabana 6 pax & up Php 3500.00 per night
Villa Cleofas ResortWebsite: www.cagbalete.net
Phone: +63 917 8395852
Phone: +63 917 8143475
Big cottage (25 pax) Php 5,500.00 per night
Medium cottage (12 pax) Php 3,000.00 per night
Small cottage (8 pax) Php 2,500.00 per night
Studio-type rooms w/T&B (3 pax) Php 2,000.00 per night
Bamboo Hut (6 pax) Php 1,500.00 per night
Tents (3 pax) Php 400.00 per night
Tents (own) Php 250.00 per night
MVT Sto. Niño ResortWebsite: www.mvtstoninoresort.net
Phone: +63 921 7275398
Phone: +63 927 7774828
Tent Php 250.00 per night
Cottage Small Php 500.00 per night
Cottage Big Php 1000.00 per night
Bahay Kubo (2-4 pax) Php 1000.00 per night
Fan Room (4 pax) Php 1500.00 per night
Room with A/C (2 pax) Php 2000.00 per night
Room with A/C (4 pax) Php 2500.00 per night
Sights To See & Things To Do In Cagbalete
- Walk the sandbar to Bonsai Island right in front of Villa Cleofas
- Frolic at Ilog Bukana near MVT Sto. Niño resort.
- Rent a banca and visit Baliscar Island and go snorkeling.
- Get a massage right on the beach.
- Rent a kayak and paddle out.
- Go birdwatching.
- Explore the inland trails riding a pony.
- Bring your bicycle and explore the inland trails.
- Rent a banca and chug around Cagbalete Island.
- Play beach volleyball.
- Videoke - PHP 5 per song or PHP 500 per 4 hours
- Visit Barangay I/Centro, mingle with the locals and try out the local eateries.
We're planning Cagbalete 2.0, so let us know of any other activities we can do! :)