Carabao Island Hambil

We Found No Carabao in Carabao Island - Only Awesome Beaches (and a Carabao Dung)

Thursday, May 03, 2012Ryan Mach

Said Beach
As the motorcycle we were riding on snaked its way down a one-laner path to Nausa, a small village in the northern part of Carabao Island, I asked our friendly and accommodating guide, Kuya Darwin why Hambil took its moniker after the country's national animal (even though I already knew the answer.)

"This place was once home to several carabaos," he told us. "Funny, I don't see any carabao here," I intoned, chuckling. Kuya Darwin gave me a non-committal grunt. I was ready to torment him with questions regarding the whereabouts of the carabaos on the island - why they were gone, or where can we see them - but all inquiries I had formed in mind vanished in thin air when the motorcycle revved up toward a craggy and narrow road, prompting me to hold on to the motorcycle pretty tight. The vehicle swayed and jolted as it trod on bumps and rocks. With such distraction, I have completely forgotten to take snapshots of the grassy fields along the way. I could have probably spotted a carabao if I looked very hard.

Nausa Beach

Carabao Island is known as Hambil among the locals. Its official name is San Jose, a small town at the southern-most part of Romblon, quite close to Boracay. In fact, one can get to Carabao Island from Boracay in no more than 45 minute. Tagged as the jewel of Romblon, Carabao Island boasts of white sand beaches scattered around its shores. It's no wonder why proposed developments and tourism plans are underway. I had to see its natural beauty before it becomes a tourist destination.
So I scheduled a trip to the island and tagged along a friend, who like me, was dying to see Hambil. Where will you stay there, asked our friends and relatives who were more worried than we were about our Carabao Island adventure. There are no accommodations on the island, there's not much to see there, what will you do there anyway? Even our common friend, D, who practically grew up in Hambil discouraged us from going. We sensed that his concern was due to the fact that as a local, he somehow had the responsibility to take care of us.  His intervention was more than welcome nonetheless. He hooked us up with a decent and free accommodation.
D asked his older brother, Kuya Darwin, to be our guide. With no itinerary prepared, we relied on Kuya Darwin's suggestions: which spots were nice to spend the afternoon with, great beach to laze, etc. My travel buddy, V and I were only staying on the island for a day because we had to go back to Looc in Tablas Island to attend a friend's wedding the next day. With limited time, we had to make sure we visit as many a place as we could.


Our first stop was Said Beach located in downtown San Jose. It's about a two-kilometer stretch of white sand beach, split in two by a wharf that's not even used. The longer stretch on the left side has a cleaner shore and is ideal for beach combing. We hadn't tried swimming on the other part of the beach because we didn't think that competing against boats for space was a good idea. It's high tide when we got to Said Beach, and the water almost ate up the shore close to the main road, if it had the same ground level, that is. That's the problem I see with Said Beach - there's not much shore to frolic around unless it's low tide. The beach's proximity to the main road makes it accessible but is also a distraction.
Apart from young local kids flying kites on the beach, we were the only ones dipping in the water that afternoon. There was no tourist in sight, so we felt like we owned the place. I could have stayed there all afternoon but we had to check out other beaches around the island.


After what seemed like an hour, we hopped on the motorcycle and headed north, to Nausa. From fine sandy road, the path gradually changed to rocky terrains. Nausa, Kuya Darwin told us, is one of least improved villages as far as roads are concerned. That explains the uncemented lane leading to another white sand beach.

The beach in Nausa is different from Said. In Said Beach, you can swim as far as 5 meters from the shore and will still touch the sandy bottom when you stand. It's not the case with Nausa's - a few tread and you'll no longer feel the sand underneath. That's one of the reasons we hardly frolicked in the water. Instead, we busied ourselves taking photos, of ourselves and of the young local kids playing under the hot April sun.
There are barely houses in front of the beach, giving you a feeling that you're in a secluded place. But a few locals wander along the shore and the narrow road beside the beach serves as a major thorough fare for motorcycles. We bought some donuts from a local vendor who sells merienda through a bike. For our afternoon refreshment, Kuya Darwin asked his peers to get us a couple of young buko.
Before night fell, we were taken to another beach in Lanas, which is located on the other side of the island. To get there, we had to pass through hills of grassland and semi-thick forests beside the road. The scenery reminded me of Camiguin. It also had the friendly charm and enchantment that Camiguin exudes. The road leading to Lanas is narrow but safe and cemented.
"That's Boracay," Kuya Darwin told us, pointing at the island visible from afar, as soon as we arrived at beach front carpeted with gravelly sand. It's too close I was sure a good swimmer can actually get there by simply swimming. We could even make out a few hotels on top of the island. Shangri-la Hotel, Kuya Darwin confirmed. It's the closest route to Boracay and there are two trips scheduled to and from the island on a daily basis.

I was ready to call Carabao Island as the best island I've been to when I spotted a Carabao dung splayed on the shore about 50 meters from the beach. Instead of feeling grossed out, I actually savored the sight (well not literally) and looked around with a fervent hope to find the owner of the crap. But alas, carabaos in Carabao Island remained as elusive as ever. The presence of that dry manure displayed near the pristine beach of Lanas was a testament to the fact that this island is undeveloped, unspoiled and yes, undiscovered.

I hope that it remains in that state for as long as it can.
Sunset in Lanas Beach

This post is part of my Rediscovering My Hometown, Romblon 2012 Series

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