Summer in CagbaleteSaturday, May 23, 2015Ryan Mach
I was a little brokenhearted in the summer of 2014. Before springing on a Jam Liner bus in Cubao for a long road trip down south, I posted a rather bitter status on Facebook ("I'm going to the beach and I'll forget about you, b*tch") to let everyone know how sullen I was but of course, nobody cared even if it was a finely crafted line, or so I thought. The beach I was referring to was Cagbalete, an island off Mauban in the province of Quezon.
It was going to be a long bus ride, my travel companions had cautioned but I didn't really mind. I was going to sleep anyway. When you're seated next to someone who had lots of stories to share, sleeping was simply hard to come by. My bus mate and I ended up talking about work and career and everything in between all the way to Lucena. We managed to steal a few minutes of sleep before the bus halted at a quiet terminal in Lucena.
We arrived quite early. Buses bound for Mauban didn't start operating before 5AM. So we waited. It pained us to wait, so we asked around to see if there were other alternative means of getting to Mauban without waiting for the bus. I don't remember how we got the jeepney that was willing to take us to Mauban though I recall sneaking away from the terminal and finding the jeepney parked at a gasoline station. We split the fare with a group of Cagbalete-bound travelers we found at the terminal. Slick.
Just before reaching the languid town of Mauban, a torrential rain poured in buckets, stalling us from getting off the jeepney parked beside a waiting shed. The downpour eventually subsided, leaving an overcast sky, rendering the morning a gloomy panorama. I began lowering my expectations. Rains have somehow ruined my trips to the beach in the past. I suspected the same for our Cagbalete trip.
Under a drizzle, we roamed around town to look for a place to eat and to buy food for our overnight jaunt in Cagbalate. Buying food in Mauban is a practical thing to do when you're doing a DIY trip to the island.
As we scooted to the jetty, ignoring a bunch of men trying to scam us by offering a ride (Malayo yung pier, sir), we saw a rainbow and a cluster of puffy clouds in the horizon, signalling a sunny day. The appearance of the rainbow and the prospect of a good weather should make us stoked
but the series of offers from locals who were clearly taking advantage of us had left a bad taste in our mouths.
Didn't mean it spoiled the experience though. Fortunately, my travel companions simply knew how to travel and have fun. Now, those two are fundamentally essential if you're gunning for a great travel experience. So yeah, there was a lot of ranting and the expletives hurled were as intense as the waves. It was a fun, bumpy and wet ride to the island.
Someone from the group had made arrangements with one of the resorts in Cagbalete. I've heard there are two docking points in the island. There's one that requires some trekking. Our boat parked a few kilometers from the shore because the beach normally gets very wide at low tide. We didn't have to trek to the resort but we needed to do some wading and walking.
It was May; high season apparently. A lot of campers and beachcombers had settled under a shaded area fronting the beach. Our hut was still occupied and the guests were not checking out until 1AM so we momentarily stayed at one of the benches shrouded by a big Talisay tree.
While waiting for lunch, my friends played frisbee; I slumped on a grass-carpeted area, took out my book and camera, read, photographed and observed the beach, which was charming with its wide pocket of white sand glowing and extending to the blue ocean in the horizon.
We scurried off to our rented hut after filling our bellies with the provisions we bought from Mauban (grilled squid and pork sinigang, if I remember it right, we cooked ourselves).
The humid afternoon beckoned for a siesta - my spot at the attic was too hot so I opted to curl on the bamboo bench haphazardly left outside the hut.
A couple of hours later, I woke up at a virtually empty accommodation, my back soaked with sweat. I heard some shrieking and squawking from afar - a dead giveaway that my companions were frolicking on the beach, which had transformed into a completely different view. The sand bar was gone so was the wide white sand. One of the things I liked about the beach was its shallow waters. You have to wade a few meters away from the shore until you reach the part where you can properly swim. There wasn't much waves too even when it rained. The seabed wasn't particularly clean, with dead seaweeds and shattered corals here and there. We heard there used to be a rampant illegal fishing activity.
The rain was back in the evening, though not as strong as the one that welcomed us in Mauban. If anything, the soft pitter-patter of rain made the night idyllic and a little romantic. Literally speaking, there was some romance going on in the area pretty much caused by alcohol. There was booze to be had and jokes to be shared.
In the morning, I set out a little adventure alone propelled by a desire to find that danggit I craved for. The spontaneous journey led me to a small fishing community at the other side of the island. I found no danggit, but I went back to the resort carrying a bucket of enormous but edible shells which I bought from an old lady. Finding that little village added a different layer to the overall personal experience in Cagbalate. It made my little heart problem quite trivial.
My friend did a recent trip to Cagbalete. Read his blog here.