Exploring the Philippines: Cagbalete Island

5/17/2013 09:28:00 PM

It has been a while since I last went to Puerto Galera and Boracay, and I don’t plan on going back there soon. When I go on vacation, I make it a point to visit beaches that offer relaxation without all that noise at night. I guess I grew tired of beach parties. After all, I can party here in Manila if I wanted to.

My teammates and I have been planning this trip for about a month and a half. Our target destination: Cagbalete Island in Mauban, Quezon province. I’ve heard from relatives who live in Calauag (also in Quezon) that the province offers a number of very beautiful and serene beaches. They were glad that I’m finally able to visit one.

We had the option of renting a private van going to our destination, and I don’t remember why we ended up commuting. The team boarded a Lucena Lines bus around 8am at the Buendia Terminal. Expected travel time: 4 hours (including stopover). Bus fare: Php210.


I hate dirty and old bus units, so my first choice was riding JAC Liner, but this one was not so bad. There’s Wifi on board, and the bus is relatively new. There is a JAC liner trip that leaves the Cubao Terminal at 5am and heads straight to Mauban, arriving in time for the public ferry trip to the island.

For a minimum of 10 pax the resort will serve food consisting of 5 meals for Php950. We decided to bring our own, so the group dropped by SM City Lucena for grocery and a quick lunch.

I’m impressed on how they kept the place tidy. I remember stopping over about a year ago when I was on my way to visit relatives in Calauag and I’m surprised that the place was still spick and span. There was no Starbucks back then, so I didn’t bother asking the concierge if they had one now.

UV Express vans charge around Php65 per head from SM Lucena to Mauban. Instead of waiting for other passengers to fill an 18-seater vehicle, we paid for its whole capacity (we were 11). Cost: Php1100. Expected travel time: less than 1 hour.

The excitement started kicking in when we arrived at the Mauban port. That feeling was taken away after seeing that a small boat will take us to the island. I was scared that we might not make it alive. Yes I can swim, but panic creeps in whenever I face a great body of water. Expected travel time: about 1 hour.

For Php5000, a private boat with a maximum capacity of 20 people will take guests back and forth from the island. I heard there is a public boat that charges 40php/one way/per head and that it only has 2 port departure schedules. This is the view from inside – it may seem small, but it only looked that way due to low roofing. 

We actually had more than enough seating space, and the legroom was big enough to fit all of our stuff. Mind you, all sea vessels here are relatively small. Do not expect to see the size of a Puerto Galera Ferry. Save yourself from the shock.
Someone said there is an environmental charge bakasyonistas had to settle before boarding a boat. I guess we didn’t have to pay that, or maybe it was already covered by what we paid for?

This is the western tip of the island were the public boat drops off guests. Our bangkero said we were wise in renting out a private boat, or else we would have walked for 30 minutes! I recall him saying that the public ferry is best taken when checking in at a resort located near the island drop off point.

We had to go around, as we were booked at a place in the Eastern side. I could tell we were near when they pointed on this small patch of sand they call “Bonsai Island.” It is situated at the middle of the sea and disappears when the tide is high. It is a few kilometres away from the beach front, but people can walk to this astonishing land formation as it re-emerges during low tide.

Finally. Our arrival. Everyone was happy to see the beach front after long hours on the road.

At this point our ferrymen had to turn off their motor and manually navigate as they were trying to get the boat as close as they can to the island (it was already low tide).

After successfully anchoring the ferry, everyone went down and walked towards the beach. You see how far out that is?

I took a picture of the parked vessels to see the distance we covered walking. Our boat is at the left most side. If you can't see it then I guess it's that far out. If you do see it, congratulations! You're vision is still 20/20.

We checked in at Villa Cleofas, paying 50Php entrance fee per head. This is my room, shared among 5 other colleagues. It’s about Php3000 and can accommodate up to 6 people. Inside waited one big bed, 2 extra mattresses, and a big comfort room.

The room in the left, which costs Php2000 is relatively smaller. That’s where the others stayed. Here are some of my colleagues enjoying the free time.

Spotted: one of my teammates taking a nap on the nearby duyan.

You can see here a bigger cottage, the dining area and the kitchen. I remember seeing a volleyball net here, maybe it’s not visible in the picture? Horseback riding cost: Php100 for 30 minutes.

Others prefer to camp outside as it’s more tipid (or maybe for kinky stuff). I heard the tents can be rented too, Php400 if I remember it right.

Public restrooms are available for guests who did not rent rooms.


Anyone can cook with this prehistoric grill made out of carved stone. Since the team brought our own coal, we opted to use the grill (it really looks prehistoric to me) and it was just a few steps outside our room. Using the resort’s kitchen stove will cost guests Php50 for every 30 minutes.

I woke up around 5am the next morning to see the sunrise. It was cloudy so we didn’t really enjoy the view.

This is me basking in the morning sun.

I took a picture of the clear water as the team walked to Bonsai Island. We didn’t reach our destination because it poured heavily half way through. Everyone felt scared as the water level might rise while we are at the middle of the sea.

I almost didn't see this starfish.

My colleague saw a bigger starfish.

This is the shoreline far from our resort.

As you can see parts of the island have not yet been developed, which I think is good.

The sand formations are breathtaking – they looked like real sand dunes.

Outwit. Outplay. Outlast. (Don't tell me you didn't think about it when you saw the picture)

Surprisingly, time didn’t fly by as fast as I thought it would – I was able to enjoy my stay in the island. However every journey has its end. It was time to go home.

We left the island around 1pm. It was windy. I saw how big the waves were from my view. Luckily, the rough ride only lasted for a few minutes. The sea was already calm when I took this picture.

Manong bangkero seemed unfazed by the big waves. Good for him.
All in all I would say the trip was worth it, despite the long hours of land travel. The team met our budget of Php2500 per head, considering that out of 11 only 9 were adults (the other 2 were kids). I actually think we totalled even lesser than that. Planning to experience Cagbalete? Here are other things you need to know:
  • Weather is very unpredictable. One minute the sun is shining, the next minute it’s raining cats and dogs
  • The place is perfect for people who barely swim - the tide was low most of the time during my stay
  • The island’s electricity is generator powered which only runs from 6pm to 6am
  • Deep well water can be used for bathing, but the water pressure may not always be strong
  • Bring more than enough drinking water
  • Kitchen ware can be rented for a certain price (we got our kaldero for Php50)
  • Boating and massage services are available 

Click here to see more pictures of this trip.

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