Cagbalete Island: Beauty and Budget

Summer may be winding down for a lot of people, but not for me. My mandatory 2-week leave at work officially started last Friday, so after weeks of writhing with envy over the flood of beach pictures in my social media news feed, I gathered my closest work buddies and headed to my first beach of this summer – Cagbalete Island in Mauban, Quezon.

A friend sent me a blog link about this place (check it out here:“6 Hours and 470 Pesos To Paradise”) and I found it beautiful, refreshing and most of all, affordable so I planned to go there alone at first, but decided later on to include my friends. It’s a great alternative to your usual beach haunts, and if you can get over the long bus ride, additional boat ride, walks and camping feel, you should add this to your list of must-visit place in the Philippines.

I’ll try to break down the details of our trip to help you if you are planning to visit this little pocket of paradise int he Quezon province.I am very grateful to the blog post I read, so I’m doing the same. I’m no travel blogger so don’t expect too much, alright? I’ll be sure to include other helpful links below.

Getting There

For commuters, there are a couple of ways to get there. Since our group were coming from work in Alabang, we stayed overnight in Cubao then got to the Jac Liner bus terminal at 2 AM. It has two trips to Mauban, 5 AM and 12 NN, and many trips to Lucena. The bus starts loading at around 3AM though and once it’s filled up, it leaves even before 5 AM. We boarded at around 3:30 and left at 4 AM. Note: be vigilant for line jumpers (singits!) though, or else you’ll lose your own seat. We almost got into a fight over line jumpers and the guard who wasn’t watching the line properly. The trip to Mauban is for 4-5 hours. We go there in four. Cost: PHP 277.





The line at the terminal.

Once there, you will take a tricycle to the Mauban port. Cost is PHP 50-100 for 4 persons, but if you will rent it and take a detour to buy supplies at the market, it costs around PHP 250. The drivers are friendly and knowledgeable and acted as tour guides as well, so the fare is worth it.


Don’t take your sweet time at the market or you’ll get left by the boat.

Once at the port, pay the environmental/terminal fee of PHP 50. The public boat costs PHP 50 each. It has two trips, one at 10 AM and another at 4PM, but same drill: it fills up early, it leaves. There were two boats when we got there: MV Anthony and MV Neneng (I think). It will be filled to the brim and for a few second you will wonder about the safety. Sit close to the life vest. Trip lasts for 30-45 minutes.


This ain’t Titanic. Bring a fan coz your armpits will be crying for Argentina.



The initial sight of the island is already worth the puyat, pawis and uhaw.

If you got left by the Mauban bus, you can take any bus to going to Lucena, then take a van or jeep going to Mauban. There are also private boats going to the different resorts in Cagbalete Island. Price starts at PHP 1500 for 1-2/pax, then going up as the capacity increases. Some private boatmen can offer packages and discounts so use your haggling powers (without risking your safety of course). You can negotiate with them as they offer their services to you at the port. I’m sure if you’re coming from the South (Los Banos or San Pablo), the trip would be much shorter. You may also bring your own car (road trip, yey!) and leave it at the port (at your own risk I guess).

Touchdown Cagbalate!

You will get off at the Sabang port (also called Cagbalete port) which is also lined by the homes of the locals there. Kids and adults alike will offer their services as guides and you can tip them as you see fit. The resorts are on the other side of the Island. Trek time depends on the distance of the resort you chose, 10 minutes for the nearby ones, up to 30-45 minutes for the farthest (which is what we did!). If you will take the public boat, I suggest staying at the nearby resorts like Pensacola (arguably one of the most popular there), Villa Cleofas, Villa Noe. We stayed at MV Sto. Nino which is at the farthest end of the strip. It’s more secluded though so it’s fine.


Walk, walk, walk. Bring a sarong or umbrella for cover. And water!


The trek to our resort is not for the faint-hearted and those prone to heat stroke.


I could stare at this all day, everyday, every damn day.

Most of them offer the same types of accommodations for roughly the same price range. You can bring food or buy there for slightly steeper prices, or you can get meal packages, cost around PHP 800 and up for three meals and snacks. You can also pay them to cook for you (cost PHP 100-250) or rent utensils. Ice is not regular, some resorts charge corkage for alcoholic drinks (PHP 50-200) and I suggest bringing lots of uling (charcoal), water and snacks if you plan to cook your own food. We bought food at the market and cooked.

There is no electricity in the island, just power generators which is only turned on from 6PM – 6AM the next day, so bring your power banks and also charge during the night. We brought katol (mosquito coils) but there weren’t a lot of mosquitoes so it was quite pleasant, though hot during the night.

For resort choices, here are some. Or simply type Cagbalate resorts in Google and you’ll get a lot more.


Villa Celofas

Villa Noe

MV Sto. Nino

Our Digs

We stayed at MV Sto. Nino, which is at the far end of the island, so unless you’re game for some walking (we walked for 35 minutes at noon time, san ka pa?), I suggest you rent a private boat so they can drop you off at the resort’s front step, so to speak. It’s quieter though, and more spacious, though once high tide, the shoreline is a bit smaller. There’s a swampy area though that’s fun to explore.


Main hall at MV Sto. Nino. If you like the dorm-like feel, stay here.

The beach itself is beautiful, just a few seaweeds, hardly any litter. The sand is fine, some parts are rockier than most but not painful. There were a lot of whole shells, probably because only few people  trample the sands. The water was pleasantly warm, not too salty and not painful that you can swim with your eyes open underwater and not get those red, ouchy eyes. The even sand goes on for like forever so there’s plenty of space to wade and swim and just lounge around.


Yehey there’s water na!


Low tide is around 10 AM until early afternoon, during which the place looks like an endless expanse of a damp desert. Water will come in though at around 5PM until the next morning. You can swim at night or even during early morning because the water doesn’t become cold.


Dude, where’s my beach?!?


Sunrises and sunsets are always more beautiful in the ocean, yeah?

We stayed in two small cottages with a room, PHP 1000 each. There’s a main house with air-conditioned rooms too. The rest rooms are clean and newish. You can buy food, beer, water and soft drinks at their little canteen. The katiwala, Ate Aileen is friendly and accommodating. There’s a volleyball court in the middle and you can rent the ball.


Our humble abode.

You can also pitch tents (rent for PHP 400-500, bring your own for PHP 200-300) or hang a hammock or roll out a sleeping bag. Be sure to keep your valuables close at all times.


Keep calm (and within budget) and cook your own grub. Yuuuum!

Going Back

Getting home is also as easy as getting there. Just reverse the process. You ride a boat from Sabang to Mauban port (it leaves at 6AM and 1 PM) or rent your own (we got ours at PHP 2200 for 10 pax). Then ride a tryc to the van terminal (PHP 50/tryc), ride van to Lucena grand terminal (PHP 65/pax, about 1-hour trip) and then once at the terminal, choose the mode of transportation depending on your destination. My friends going back to Alabang rode a Jac Liner bus; I chose a van going to Sta. Rosa, which will pass by Calamba. Tough if you live where I do (Los Banos), better to take a van to San Pablo, and from there take a jeep going to Calamba, to avoid taking the long route of Alaminos-SLEX and the traffic of Pansol.

There are several fast food chains in the terminal (Chowking and Jollibee) and some stalls where you can buy pasalubong. Broas (lady fingers), tikoy (a kind of caramel sweet), espasol (some kind of rice-macapuno sweet rolled in roasted rice powder) and cassava cake or budin, are local delicacies. Or if you can brave the dirty stares at an air-con bus, go buy some longganisa (sausages in pigs’ intestines) as well.

With my group of eight people, each of us spent roughly PHP 1700 each, which our own individual meals in fast foods going to and from Mauban, and our ambagan (shell out for the group expenses) of PHP 865 each. Not bad, eh?

Moral of the story: better to travel in packs or groups. Not only is it more fun, but more affordable as well!


What’s a beach trip without the obligatory jump shot?



I’m the one in the blue bikini. 🙂

There are still two weeks of summer left. Go book your rooms, pack your bikinis, board shorts and sunblock, and head out to Cagbalate Island. Let’s support local Filipino tourism, o diba? 

TimBu Goes To The Beach, Beach And Gets Away

Last weekend, my team went on a much-anticipated and well-prepared out of town trip to a beach resort in Morong, Bataan, about three hours’ drive from Alabang. I was also very excited (the prospect of sand and surf always excites me anyway) plus I was really proud because my team took care of everything, and I do mean everything: food, accommodations, transportation. All I had to do was show up.

The only thing we missed on preparing well was to ensure there were enough people left at the office to take make up for our absence during Saturday overtime. But that’s another story. 😀

We hired our trusty office shuttle driver, Mang Arman to drive us. After squeezing all thirteen of us in the van, plus our stuff and all the food, we left Northgate a little before six am. Traffic was light and we only encountered a little congestion somewhere in Bulacan due to a road accident. We arrived at Sunset View Beach Resort (check out their site here) at half past nine.

The sea was calm, the sun was shining, the pool was clear, weather was great and our room and the place was clean, newish and almost deserted. There we only three rooms occupied including ours, so we pretty had the place to ourselves.




The sand was fine and gray, and though the water was clear, sadly, it was littered by plastic and everyday garbage like shampoo sachets, candy wrappers and such. It was tempting to comb through the shore and clean it. We were also warned by the resort attendant not to wander too far into the surf as the current was unpredictable. That she didn’t have to say. We were content in just splashing around the shallow shore, sinking our feet into the sand and listening to the waves’ calming effects.

We spent a good part of our stay there just chilling around, singing with the videoke, taking pictures and videos, not talking about work, eating (we packed so much food some unfortunately got spoiled!), drinking and basically just enjoying each others’ companies outside the four corners of the office. The change of scenery did us a lot of good.

I got to know my team and office mates just a wee bit better. How our “tsong” Dech is so organized and domesticated when it comes to preparing food and baon. Appreciate also Chela’s help. How the engaged Ann knows very little about cooking and frying the hotdogs was an achievement, yey! How Myk, her fiance and my fellow team leader takes really good pictures with his DSLR camera. How Zash is helpful in doing little chores as I thought she only loves to eat rice. How Karen so loves to sing, and singing, well, just kinda likes her. How LA is very efficient in handling the team funds down to the last centavo. How Mitch is still the expert at taking group selfies (selvies?). And of course, Aclo, Iela and Bev I already know to be dependable cooks and drink buddies. It was quite delightful to find out it was Karen’s first time with a bonfire, and some of them were rookies at roasting marshmallows in a camp fire, so we ate roasted marshmallows, drank beer and got drowsy in front of the fire. Kulit lang!







We got a little lost on the way back (found ourselves in Bagac which was the opposite direction of where we should be heading) so we ditched the pit stop at Subic and just headed home.

Until our next trip and hopefully we are complete by then! And yeah, I promise not to forget my TimBu short this time 🙂




Sweet Turquoise and Gold Dreams

I am so loving turquoise and gold right now. (Hint hint to friends and family for this coming Christmas season, nyaha!)

When I was younger, I was fond of those turquoise and silver Aztec-inspired jewelry (which I lost most of, now that I think about it). But now, I am soo loving this combo (even with shades of brown). I guess the bright blue and gold reminds me of the beach – the shimmering blue ocean waves, the sand and the sun. My happiest place!

Plus, I think this color pairing looks better with my dark skin, than say, fuschia and celadon (bright pink and green) which was my planned color motif should God deem it time I walk down the aisle someday, preferably before my own daughter does!

Two weeks ago, in Davao, I snagged a pretty little scarf for a mere PHP 65 at the Aldevinco shopping center. I was hoping to buy half a dozen or so more to stock up on Christmas gifts but they were out of stock, and the remaining designs there were quite manangish.


Love the gold streaks in this gauzy fabric.


Cheap but gorgeous arm candy for any morena girl.

Then, this past weekend, I was browsing around my favorite bargain haunt in Elbi, this bazaar/garage sale in front of Community Cable, near Agapita Plaza. They’re open normally every payday and sells everything from ukay stuff (clean and most barely used), export overruns, brand-new imported toys, make up, accessories, bags  and whatnot. I scored a stack of turquoise and gold bracelets for less than the price of a McSpicy Meal. Online or in department stores, it would sell for three to four times more, or even higher. Very few comes close to the thrill of a fasyon bargain find, right, ladies?

Ergo, my future party will somewhat be in the lines of these. I’m also loving the peacock feather accents. Couple years ago I was into peacock designs too (got a pair of earrings for Christmas). Very Hera-Greek-Queen-of-the-Gods ang peg!

turquoise_wedding_ideas turqngold

I’m also craving and thinking of experimenting with a little candy or dessert buffet so I’m just waiting on an event (and the time and resources for my little project) but I want a sweet buffet in the lines of these:


Well worth the toothache, I presume.

Gah, I don’t have a sweet tooth, really, but this makes the candies look even more enticing. Thank the heavens I’m not one of those who have to steer clear of the dessert table! I want to set up one for my daughter’s birthday, but given her Avril Lavigne/demi Lovato-ish style, she’ll go for black and purple and silver chains and skulls-and-crossbones. (BTW, she did buy a pair of purple Vans sneakers with black skulls-and-crossbones embroidery).


I guess where the love is coming from – colors inspired by nature.

*wedding and candy buffet pictures from the Internet. No copyright infringement intended.

My Top Two (Part 1)

During one of our weekly management meetings’ chikahan/hotseat portion (which is usually at the tail end of the meetings when all the serious stuff have been discussed, poked, answered or delegated), we had this who’s-your-top-two-in-the-process question. It elicited a lot of laughs, some surprises, kiligs and revelations. Of course I won’t go Bvlgari on this (that’s what we call those who snitch on our hotseat sessions’ discussions) but it got me thinking on what would be my top two on  a lot of things.

So these are all random stuff that juts popped into my head and answered with not much thought, haha! But I’m sober I promise, just bored. 🙂

My Top Two…

… commuter pet peeves. Of course, traffic jams! Nobody likes being stuck in traffic anywhere. And sleepy seatmates whose heads keep bobbing up and down, up and down and would finally settle on my shoulder. Urgh! I usually make sudden, jerky movements to rose them awake. Get a pillow! Get a room! Or simply just lean on the window or whatever’s on the other side, please?

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… make up items I can’t leave the house without: cheek tint (personal fave is Bench’s or In2It 8-Hour Wear) and tinted lip balm (Chapstick and Maybelline Baby Lips are okay but I’m so inlve with Human Nature’s minty summery shimmery organic lip balms).


… tear-jerker movies. Wow this is tough because heck, I cry at songs, books, even random quotes! But okay: One More Chance (who wouldn’t cry when Popoy tells his suicidal friend, tears, not and all, “Minsan kaya tayo iniiwan ng mga taong mahal natin, kasi may darating na mas okay… yung magtatama ng mga mali sa buhay natin” or something to that effect, para hindi halatang saulado ko ang lines!) and A Walk To Remember.  Cried over the book too. That Nicholas Sparks is such a wiz at making even sensible, rational people (not me) bawl like a hungry baby at a drop of a hat (that’s me). When Shane West read the ever-famous 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 verses to Mandy Moore while she was on the hospital bed… Waaaah!



… cop-out lines from guys.“I’m not ready for a relationship.” Don’t get me wrong: I truly believe if said honestly and with utmost sincerity and respect – not to mention timed perfectly at the very start of any promising friendship/relationship – this would be entirely truthful and responsible. But if the guys says this after stringing a girl along for months and then after saying this jumps into another relationship shortly after… Well.  Another one is: “I need space.” Go take a space shuttle. Or stand in the middle of a corn field. That space enough?

… videoke piyesa. “Stop” by Spice Girls because I can’t sing this and not dance, and the others (especially my ka-generation, nyaha!) can’t listen to this and not jump up and dance. And anything by Britney Spears or Backstreet Boys because 90’s pop never goes out of videoke-style.

images (3)images (2)

… no-fail OOTD. First, a long, fitted shirt (not a fan of baggy or mini-shirts), skinny jeans and flats or sneaks – comfort all the way. Perfect for long commutes, rainy days or any other lakad. Next would be a mini-dress (mostly floral or printed) with flats, heels or wedge depending on my mood. This is for when I want to feel all girly and too lazy to try to pair up a top and bottom.



… drinks. Green mango shake, always my first choice anytime, anywhere. And rootbeer, preferably ice cold and smothered with ice cubes. Yung tipong pag ininom ko maluluha ako sa fizz and coldness.

… chores I hate: magligpit ng pinagkainan (bussing and scraping leftovers and stacking them dirty wares in the sink) and ironing (I get bored plus I don’t have the patience to wait a while after ironing before washing my hands, hence, pasma. Yes, I’m a staunch believer of pasma even if I don’t know what it is in English and whether it’s scientifically proven. Just hold my pawisang kamay and you’ll know).


images (4)

… TV shows. “How I Met Your Mother” because while I love Barney’s wise cracks, I actually see some of myself in Ted’s seemingly unending quest to find The One. I also absolutely loved CSI (Las Vegas) before Warrick (the black guy) died and Grissom left. After that, I was like, meh.

images (5) images (6)

… frustrations. Singing and dancing. Watch me “perform” my top two videoke piyesa and you will see why. Cringing not encouraged but highly probable.


… Bible verses. A lot! But two very close to my heart is first, James 4:8, which just really spoke to me when I first started my walk with God. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” The other one is from 1 Corinthians 13:6. I got this from a wise and godly man. How would you know you truly love a person? Ask yourself if you make each other better people. “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth.”

… vacation destinations. Hands-down winner; the BEACH! Any beach but preferably peaceful, clean and very naturey resorts. Not really into crowded beaches with too much music or clubs or activities. Runner up is: my bed, in front of the TV and DVD player, a stack of movies or TV series DVDs and bags of groceries. I could stay there for days.


Well, that’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll come up with more soon but it’s a school/work night so have some stuff I need to prepare. Like right now my daughter is going around in circles trying to find her sewing kit. Later!

P.S. Some pics grabbed from the Web. No copyright infringement intended, okay? Thanks! 🙂

Buh-bye February, You Were Great!

Whew, whatta week!

Let’s back track a bit to the weekend. my office barkada and I went back to Sitio Sampaloc, Zambales for some much-needed break and jump start the summer. What was planned as a big-group annual lakad dwindled to just seven of us plus a couple of new pals – Riz, her friends, me, Aclo, Honey, Leni, Boop and Cy, the last three being first-timers to the pristine, private island and the unspoiled fresh-water falls we visited last year.We had a lot of fun hanging out at the beach, eating fresh sea food, frolicking in the natural pool and stone slides and the hotdog-and-marshmallow fest around the camp fire. The only twist to the otherwise serene vacay was the trip back. 

The sun was super bright but the wind was strong, so our plan to leave the island at 10 AM was shelved. Eventually, the bangkero decided to split our group into two and our group left first at 3 PM. Call me OA but it was my first time to travel on an itty-bitty boat while huge waves rocked and drenched us. Thank the Lord we survived it (as well as the second group who sailed at night!) and we vowed never to travel on that tiny excuse of a boat without life vests. Wooh. Looking back, it was a careless thing to do, especially for a mother like me. Another blessing was when we got back in Olongapo, my sister Joy and her family were spending the night in Subic so they adopted little sunburned, starving me and fed me. It was such a luxury sleeping that night on a soft, hotel bed after a night camping on a sarong spread on the shore. I was on leave the next day so I traveled for most of the day, then watched Once Upon A Time Season 2 and rested for the rest of the day.

The next day, February 26, was a very special day for me, although I didn’t really plan anything grand, since I was still bushed from the weekend’s events. I was on half-day leave, though. Praised and thanked the Lord for finding and saving me a year ago. Has it been a year already? Just spent some quiet time with the only man in my life now (Hi, Jesus!), and treated myself to some cappuccino, blueberry cheesecake and a new book about a forty-something writer’s personal chronicles about men and their psyche. My plan for a little city sojourn for some authentic Chinese food and buy the Bible I was looking for a while now would have to be resked muna. 

Another half-day for me the next day, since we have the management strategy planning at Parque Espana. It was a great day of realizations, looking back at the year of planning (2012) and looking forward to the year of execution (2013), games, food trip, cheese talks (watched “Who Took My Cheese?”) and learned a lot from our guest speaker, Alvin from our business partner. My favorite nugget from his talk goes something like, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side; you just have to water your own greens on your side. Spent the night at the posh hotel suite with Jown, Dman and Myk and had a great – if bitin and abbreviated – talk due to sleepiness and tiredness. Next time we will go swimming and try the jacuzzi, please?

I also got to spend a little time sitting beside an old friend the next day at work. Haven’t really talked nor interacted with him for a quite a while. It was kinda like a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same. We still found the same things funny and by mid-day had lapsed into the same hiritans we used to do before things got, well, tricky (I was gonna say complicated but that term has gotten a bad rep when Facebook started using it as a relationship status label). In hindsight – and this I honestly say without any tinge of regret or bitterness – it occurred to me just how much pain, time and effort I could have saved myself if I had just taken his friendship at face value right from the start. Things would’ve been simpler if after that fateful Sunday exactly a year and two days ago, we had gone back to our own lives, each one entirely separate and different from each other and just stayed friends, in the truest sense of the word. 

Later that day was our town hall, and then I helped film my old team, Team Dorobo, do a crazy Harlem Shake dance at the office parking lot.  Watching them, I got a pang I sometimes feel when watching Ging do her own stuff now, and think back to when she was younger and can’t do anything for herself and would need Mommy’s help on everything. 

Capped this week with a team dinner at Bon Chon. Here’s to hoping the good vibes will be a great start for the month of March. Time to put all those find-my-cheese lessons to action, eh?

Zambales… is More.

Written September 8, 2012.

“Zambales tayo!” Riz, my seatmate back in the old test team, said to me sometime in late 2011. We were enjoying our usual afternoon chitchat about food, and we had somehow ventured into sea foods again -ihaw-ihaw, ensaladang mangga and all that shiz. The last time we indulged in this idle talk, the whole team ended up splitting a 6K-plus tab at Seaside near Daang Hari (no regrets, by the way).

I was already warming up to the idea – I’m putty in anyone hands at the mere prospect of traipsing around sand and surf. But when she added, “It’s a virgin, isolated island so we’ll have it all to ourselves,” I was already packing my swimsuits and sunblock in my mind.The team spent a few weeks saving up for it, clogging our emails with teasers and cartoons of us in summer get-ups and finally counting down the days til we can get off for the much-awaited weekend.

It was January 27, 2012. There were twelve of us all in all: AJ, our line manager; Aclo, the team’s clown and AJ’s personal stress-reliever; Riz, the aforementioned teammate who also happened to be schoolmates to our connection at the island; Hernie, the all-important photographer with the DSLR camera; Abie, who was eager for some me-time away from mommy duties; Ranil, our machong dalaga; Honey, the import from another process and unofficial mother hen; Red, one of our two managers for ops; Iela, our adventurous little pare; Trixie and her husband, Robert. I believe Brian and Chelai, our other teammates, regret not joining up to this day (since this was also the last time the team went on an out of town). Kasi eh!

We all prepared PHP 1500-2000 budget, and with the help of some team funds, bought some necessities at the grocery and off we went to Pasay after shift to the Victory Liner terminal. Fare to Iba, Zambales cost about  PHP 360 and we left at around 10PM. We were about to leave when we got texts that the salary is in so we all made mad dashes to the ATM and fortunately were not left by the very efficient driver and conductor.

Picture taking at the terminal.

The ride was comfortable and we arrived in Zamba around 1AM. We met our contact there and we stayed at their home until around 3AM, after which we rode a jeep to the port. We were expecting to leave at 5Am so we can maximize the time at the island; unfortunately, our bangkero didn’t arrive until before 7AM. We whiled the time away playing Pinoy Henyo using Honey’s phone, caught snatches of sleep at the carinderia seats, ate and also bought fresh seafood and vegetables at the bulungan (which is what they call the palengke/bagsakan of newly-caught fishes and sea foods). I can’t remember the prices since I left Honey and the rest to haggle but I believe we were able to score them dirt cheap.

We waded into the murky shore water that smelled strongly of spoiled fish entrails, to meet our bangkero. The boat was just a few planks sturdier than a raft and we managed to load all our bags and food, then squeezed in whatever space was available. The ride cost around PHP 2000 and this would be the same boat to bring us back, so aside from the bangkero, he had a couple other guys, his wife and two kids, I presume. The whole contraption looked precarious, but everybody else seemed at ease and not thinking of any Titanic-esque scenarios even with the absence of life vests or any safety paraphernalia so I just uttered a silent prayer for our safety.

The trip lasted about an hour and forty-five minutes, and since the sea was calm, we were able to enjoy the early morning view of the ocean. I was still a little nervous all throughout the trip – deep, dark waters have always been one of my fears – and since I was 28 days into my self-imposed month-long alcohol embargo, I must’ve smoked almost half of my pack of ciggies while I tried to distract myself through music. (I’ve completely quit smoking now, by the way.) However, all jitters vanished when we caught the first view of the island. It was so serene and calm, just a little pocket of white sand, clear water, lush pine trees and greenery and jagged mountain rocks tucked in some corner of Zambales. I think it’s called Sitio Sampaloc.

Here’s where we got off.

While we squealed in delight and marveled at the beauty of the place, we unloaded our stuff and proceeded to the nipa huts at the far end of the beach. It was very simple, not really set up like a resort. But there was running freshwater, relatively clean but dark toilets and bathrooms (there is no electricity in the island, after all) and plenty of bamboo seats and tables.  We started preparing lunch since most are already hungry and eager to start the whole beach adventure.  Hernz took on the “manly” role of chopping firewood, Aclo and AJ cleaned the sea food and Honey just about took over cooking everything else. The rest of us chopped veggies and took pictures, nyaha!  The result was an impressive spread that far exceeded Riz and my afternoon sea food cravings:  kinilaw na tuna, inihaw na pusit, sinigang na hipon, ensaladang mangga and salted egg with bagoong, ensaladang inihaw na talong,  inihaw na bangus, hinalabos na hipon and lots of ice cold Coke and fresh mangoes and watermelons afterwards.

We rested a bit then started the hike to the water falls. It was about a 30-minute gentle sloping hike, and the view was again, so worth the sweating. The water was cold and very clean, we drank it! There were several naturally-made pools and even rock formations that looked like water slides. There were other visitors, by the way, probably from the other side of the island or just docking for the day, but we pretty much did whatever we pleased.

On the lower left photo, that’s dry cow dung Aclo is holding out. Why? That’s just like him.

After the hike, each of us just plopped down everywhere and dozed off til about 6PM, when we groggily realized it would be completely dark soon and we had to start taking baths and cooking. Dinner was leftovers and some of the hotdogs saved for the bonfire later.

We lit the branches and wood pieces we had gathered earlier in the day and started roasting hotdogs and marshmallows. We laid mats just a few feet away from the water. It wasn’t terribly cold, and the starry night was just perfect for hanging out on the shore. What followed was one of the most fun, revealing and thought-provoking talks I’ve had in a long time – and I was 100% sober! Can’t say the same for the others who hit up the vodka that night but thankfully, nobody did the usual “panawan.” After a “liberating” play time sesh with the millions of planktons lighting up the shallow waters, we decided we were either too sleepy or too tipsy to walk back to the cottage so we just decided to sleep right there on the shore.

The next morning was spent frolicking on the beach, taking pictures and tanning ourselves with beer. Three of us had our period then but that didn’t stop us from enjoying! For more pictures, you can check out Hernie’s album of our trip:

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and we started rinsing and packing up around 11AM. We bid the island goodbye under a  sun so sweltering, you’d think it was summer. Red, who spent so much time and beer tanning himself, opted to sit at the front of the boat while we all scrambled under the trapal shade and caught some sleep. We arrived at the bulungan again around 3Pm, and it smelled twice as bad as the day before.

We rode a jeep to The Coffee Shop, one of the famous eateries in the area, famed for their giant tacos and American diner-style food. I had been here before with my sister’s family, who lived in nearby Balanga, Bataan. The place was simply furnished, if a bit rough on the edges, but their delicious fare and relatively cheap price (I mean, compare it to Manila standards) belied the sparse surroundings. Their giant taco shells are actually made from what looked like fried spring roll (lumpia) wrapper, same goes for their taco salad bowl. I personally recommend these two, as the whole thing cost only about PHP 110 and are chock-full of beef and vegetables and cheese. Their banana split, fruit and milk shakes, calamares, club house sandwich and onion rings are also must-tries. Their washroom is clean and there’s free Wi-fi too.

Exhausted, sleepy and full, most of us slept soundly on the way back. We caught a little snafu at the Zamba terminal, because the cashier gave us tickets to a bus that’s already full so we had to get off it while it was already pulling away from the lot. Fortunately we were able to snag seats on the next trip and were home hours later.

This little piggy’s so tiiiiiiired.

As simple and fast as the trip was, or how koboy or skwating we seemed during our time there, this was to date, one of my most memorable, fun and relaxing beach sojourns ever. There weren’t any posh hotel rooms, no alcohol-induced high, no fancy buffet or drinks or amenities. No crowded bars or loud blaring music. Just good food and conversation enjoyed with great friends, and Mother Nature just doing her thang. Solb!

When’s the next one?

P.S. Here’s proof that while we all enjoyed the trip, someone just enjoyed it waaaay too much. Ayiiiiii!

Aclo carrying Riz from the boat to the shore.