One of my solo trips this year was going to Cagbalete, a remote tropical island in Mauban, Quezon Province. I've been reading a lot about this place from various blogs for quite some time and after being convinced that it can be done solo, I finally decided to visit the island in March. Cagbalete Island is famous for the occurrence of low tide where water can recede up to one kilometer from the shore, exposing its compact white sand, corals and rocks.
What's different with this trip was that it's the first time I went on a trip without my DSLR camera. Armed with only an underwater camera, it felt like I was going to a battle with a low-caliber weapon. :) Seriously, it didn't concern me as my top priority was to really see Cagbalete. I thought I can always come back after this trip.
Getting to Cagbalete Island
With no sleep at all, I got ready to catch the early trip of JAC Liner bus in Buendia that's bound for Lucena City. From my house, I arrived at the bus terminal 10 minutes before the next trip which was at 4:20AM. I paid P209.50 for the fare.
I took the popular option in going to Cagbalete by commuting to Lucena City first (3-4 hours), then taking another bus to Mauban (1-2 hours) where I can take a boat ride to the island (45 minutes).
The trip to Lucena City took almost 4 hours because it was Thursday and we encountered heavy traffic in some towns that we passed. The bus arrived at Grand Lucena Bus Terminal 10 minutes before 8AM which was the next available trip of bus bound for Mauban, Quezon. I didn't have enough time to take my breakfast or buy food. In fact, I was already queuing in line at the counter inside Jollibee but felt worried thinking that the bus might leave anytime soon.
The bus leaves every hour and if I missed the 8AM trip, I will surely miss the first trip (10AM) of public boat in Mauban going to Cagbalete Island. The second and last trip of boat would be at 4PM so that would really suck if I didn't make it. Feeling anxious, I just left the store (only 2 persons were in front of me in line) and got on the bus. Thankfully, I made the right decision because the bus left right away.
The reason why I went to the fast-food store was not only to buy food for breakfast, but for lunch and dinner as well for that day. In Cagbalete, it's either you cook your own food or have the resort prepare your meals for you. Since they only cater for groups, I was left with no choice but to bring my own food. What I had in mind was to buy packed food to avoid the hassles of cooking when I get there. But good thing I had a plan B. Actually, I did bring with me uncooked rice, cooked dish (pork adobo so it won't spoil right away), two cans of delatas and a few bread, just in case. The very old looking ordinary bus left the terminal at exactly 8AM and the fare I paid was P54.
After an hour and 40 minutes, we arrived in Mauban. I instructed the driver to drop me near the "pantalan" where the boats leave for Cagbalete Island. I alighted the bus and looked for a tricycle. I was shocked when the driver offered P50 to take me to the pantalan (based on what I've researched standard fare around town was only P14). I mentioned that I was heading to Cagbalete and that's when he understood where to take me.
There are two docking points in Mauban port: the "pantalan" located at the farthest end (the one the driver was referring to) and the one closer from the town center (I'm not sure what they call it but some blogs refer to it as "pantalan" too, hence, the confusion) where the public boats for Cagbalete are located. He took me to the right port which was just actually walking distance from where the bus dropped me off. I paid him P14 for the short ride.
The public boat was already half-filled with passengers and was being loaded more with cargos, most of which were stocks and supplies for sari-sari store. The locals of Cagbalete Island would get their goods from Mauban and carry them via these boats. I also bought a few bottles of water because I read that you have to secure your own supply of drinking water when going to the island.
The boat left at 10:20AM and arrived at Sabang Port in Cagbalete 45 minutes later. I paid P40 for the boat ride. We didn't dock on the shore but a few meters from it. It was low tide so everyone had to transfer to a smaller boat.
Unfamiliar on where to go, I asked a local on how to get to Villa Cleofas. By the way, I didn't make any room reservations but I was considering Villa Cleofas and MVT Sto. Nino. I asked for the direction to any of these resorts but the lady told me I needed a guide to take me there. He asked the two kids playing around (who happens to be cousins) if they can guide me. Upon arrival at Sabang Port, it's normal for tourists to be approached by these kids who would offer to guide you or carry your bags. It's up to you on how much to give them.
Looking for accommodation
It was really helpful to get a guide because I would probably have lost along the way. The trek from Sabang Port took about 30 minutes. I finally decided to get a room at Villa Cleofas. Click here to find out why I chose Villa Cleofas.
I settled in, had my lunch and rested for a bit. I planned to explore the place that afternoon to maximize my stay since I'm leaving at noon time the next day. Since I haven't slept the night before, I easily fell asleep and realized it's already dark when I woke up. Geez. I missed the sunset and wasn't able to explore the Bonsai Island which you can only go to during low tide. Nevertheless, I was satisfied to be able to rest and recharge.
I had dinner and slept again early. The cool breeze and comforting sound of the waves were just perfect for a relaxing night of sleep. Actually, there's nothing much to do at the resort at night -- especially when you are solo and the only guest. :)
Beautiful sunrise at Cagbalete Island
I woke up very early at around 4AM and waited until the sun peeked out over the horizon. Another great thing about staying at Villa Cleofas is that you get the best view of the sunrise. I may have missed the sunset the other day but I was greeted by the beautiful sunrise this morning.
After taking my breakfast which consisted of coffee and bread (still from my baon), I took the opportunity to swim on the beach in front while the water level was still high. Aside from swimming, I spent the whole morning exploring the beach and relaxing on the hammock. I didn't go beyond further from the resort.
Low tide at Cagbalete Island
Finally at about 9AM, I can see the water starting to move back until it exposed the sand ripples which I think really looked amazing. In no time, the front of resort just transformed into a vast seabed of sand. So if you want to swim, you can do that very early in the morning and late in the afternoon come high tide.
I was hoping for the water to completely recede so I can go to an islet called Bonsai Island but it looked like it would take a few more hours for that to happen. I had to catch the boat in Sabang Port going back to Mauban at 1PM so I needed to leave before noon time.
Leaving the island
Unfortunately, by the time the water completely recedes, I will have already left. I took my early lunch before preparing to leave the resort. The two kids who served as my tour guide came to accompany me back to Sabang Port. Since it's Friday, they didn't have classes that afternoon. I've learned from a public school teacher I met on the boat that most of the teachers in Cagbalete come from other towns and municipalities in Quezon. They stay at Cagbalete Island to teach during weekdays and would only get to go home every weekend. They don't hold classes anymore every Friday afternoon because they would take the last trip of boat to Mauban which is at 1PM. Kudos to these public school teachers for their hard work and dedication.
I paid the same fare (P40) for the boat trip from Cagbalete back to Mauban. When I arrived in Mauban, I took a tricycle to take me to the van terminal just in front of Mauban Church. I took the advice of the owner of Villa Cleofas to take a van if I wanted to get to Lucena City much faster. Indeed, it was faster by 30 minutes as compared with the bus. I paid P70 for the one-way fare.
1. To go to Lucena City, you can take any Lucena-bound buses from Buendia or Cubao. JAC Liner and JAM Liner have daily trips. JAC Liner has a direct trip to Mauban originating from Cubao. From Lucena City, public bus bound for Mauban leaves every hour.
2. Take an early trip, if not the first trip, to Lucena City if you want to have enough time to take your breakfast and buy some supplies. Both bus lines have a trip as early as 2AM.
3. At Grand Lucena Bus Terminal, there are commercial fast food chains like Jollibee and Goldilocks. I'm not sure what time they open though, or if they are open 24/7.
4. When you want to save on food, bring your own. If you're just staying for a night, bring cooked food that can last for your entire stay. I did bring pork adobo which lasted for 2 days. The only thing I cooked at the resort was rice.
5. I suggest to buy your food, water and cooking supplies at Mauban Public Market or Sabang Port in Cagbalete. Aside from the prices are cheaper, you contribute to the small businesses of the local community.
6. Schedule of boat trips as of March 2012: 10AM and 4PM (Mauban to Cagbalete) / 8AM and 1PM (Cagbalete to Mauban)
7. Bring your own tent and just pay for the entrance fee at Villa Cleofas if you want to save on accommodation. Villa Cleofas also has tents for rent.
8. From Mauban back to Lucena City, you can choose to take the van for faster trip. Take a tricycle and tell the driver to take you to the van terminal. Van leaves every 20 minutes as per the staff. Fare is P70.
Click here to view more photos of Cagbalete Island.