And then there was Malapascua.
Out of all the islands and the beaches in the country, it was Malapascua. Somewhere I haven’t been to. A name that I’ve only heard of but wasn’t really sure of what to expect.
I just thought, there must be something special about it.
Located in the northernmost tip of Cebu, this island is quite off the grid as compared to some destinations in the Philippines. A very long commute from the city proper, Malapascua is mostly frequented by those who want to get acquainted with the thresher sharks and manta rays — a must for divers.
Some, however, find themselves in the island to escape the busier parts of the country where they can live the island life and lay back at the underdeveloped white beach. At least, for a couple of days.
Arriving late in the afternoon, I thought I should mellow down and take a stroll at the beach.
I was tired. But if there’s something to soothe tiredness, it’s being here. I thought, maybe I would want to take a dip.
And if I got lucky, watch the sunset.
Sunsets. I’ve always loved the sunset.
“You know — one loves the sunset, when one is so sad…”
– The Little Prince
That day was my new friend–Elisa’s birthday that day. It was her second day there and just came from Kalanggaman.
Just like me, she is awed by nature’s magic. Maybe, that sunset’s enchanting beauty was a present dedicated to her.
The vividness of the sky, the hint of the clouds, and the reflection of the fading sun was a beautiful introduction to Malapascua.
That night there were fireworks (literally). Something that some people at the hostel tried to catch while I was too lazy to even bother. It was then that we met another friend who brought us to the local casino (that’s what he called it, but it’s just a small gambling place) and ended the night with a beer.
Not an unusual past-time in small towns is to play Bingo
This type of game is usually found in a small carnival set-up or what we locally call “Perya”
Being in Malapascua, the rest of my days there were mostly filled with the sun, the sea, and friendship.
Five years. Five years and more was how long it took for me and my friend to see each other again after crossing paths in Barcelona and a visit in Dubai. And it was here, in Malapascua, where we finally met again. Although I felt bad for her arriving a day late and sleeping (not) under the stars, I was happy that it all worked out anyway and got herself safely here. She even made a new friend in MJ along the way. 🙂
Reunited with my “celebrity” friend, Flashback!
And then there was having new friends that lead to a sense of familiarity with the island. Friends that I’ve been accustomed to hanging out with, in spite of spending just a couple of days with them.
Walking between the hostel and the beach was always an interesting puzzle, with unmarked and unnoticeable paths everywhere. Getting lost, finding our way through the “market” that doesn’t really exist (Although there were a bunch of stores 🙂 It’s just a funny miscommunication/misinformation), late night conversation about my awesome post-spine surgery, hunting for the “green place” to eat, going to the hippest (not) bar to party, seeing the town beyond tourism, and having roosters in almost every step of the way were just some of the little details with them.
Malapascua beyond tourism: a local is drying the day’s catch as part of their livelihood
I remember eating at the same barbecue place at least 4 times in the days we’ve spent there. We only managed to eat elsewhere to find the “Green place”, only to find out that it possibly does not exist.
At one time, we even tried to catch the sunrise, the sole reason why we woke up at half past five in the morning. We eventually had some uninvited guests accompany us — guests who were attention-and-possibly-food-deprived-dogs.
Sunrise and the dogs that almost didn’t leave us
It was during our morning walk when I pointed at a dog doing the “downward facing dog.” I initially found that funny. But when the dog took notice, he called his mates and they got comfortable with us. I was bothered and they didn’t leave us even after the sun had found its place up high. It wasn’t until they saw a lady jogging that they left. They probably realized that someone else might return the same attention or food that they were craving for.
It was at the far end of the beach stretch, that area facing the north, where we found comfort. The clouds actually hindered the rise of the sun from the horizon. But seeing it get through for me was more than note-worthy.
Malapascua alone was almost enough for someone who simply craves for the beach and serenity. Although it wasn’t necessary to do a boat tour, our curiosity got the best of us.
Snorkeling in some reefs made me witness the devastation of what the past had brought the island. Most of the corals were dead in the areas we’ve visited. With dead corals in the sand, that shouldn’t have been a surprise. But what’s not dead (at least, for me) was the eerie feeling I got once I got around the perimeter of the ship wreck. There was some kind of force repelling me to go within that invisible gate.
And then there was another sunset.
And the day after, a visit to another island called Kalanggaman.
The sun, sand, and the water were the story of my life as the rest of the days went by. But what set this trip apart was having foreign friends immerse in one of the most local things to do.
Apart from the Red Horse, the street barbecues and the balut, there’s a favorite past time we call the Videoke (or internationally known as the Karaoke). You can’t go more local than that.
It started with only me singing. I recall the man-in-charge telling me that the rental is only good for an hour. Half an hour later, my foreign friends started to get their tunes on. What was supposed to go for an hour went on for at least 6 hours, upto the last few minutes when we were requested to stop just so the community of divers/neighborhood could take a good night’s sleep.
Besides, Malapascua is a divers’ hub. They had to be up and swimming by 5am!
Beach dogs (attention+food-deprived dogs), summer sun, salty water, white sandy – coral-y beach, balut, videoke, a local sense of community, catching sunrise and chasing sunsets, and of course friends, lots of them.
That’s what being in Malapascua meant for me. And surely, that was enough, just the way I liked it.
How to go to Malapascua from Cebu Airport:
1. Take the hourly airport bus to Northern Bus Terminal.
2. Ride a bus or van to Maya Port. Travel time is around 4 hours.
Ordinary bus (24 hour operation) – Php 163
Aircon bus (Operates until 7 pm) – Php 180
Van (Operates until 10 pm) – Php 180
3. Take a ferry to Malapascua Island (30 minutes) – Php 100
– The ferry operates from 7am to 4pm. There’s no official time and to be on the safe side, be there by 3pm.
– Sometimes, the ferry will offload passengers 50 meters away from the main land and you will be asked to take a smaller boat and will charge you Php 20.
Although, on our way back, the small boat + ferry was Php 100.
— If you missed the last ferry, there are several homestays around the area. Just make sure you arrive when the locals are still awake. Otherwise, you won’t have anywhere else to go.
Maya homestay – D&N Lodge (where my friend stayed)
+639177210118 or +639771786195
Php 800/room (2 beds)
Where to stay:
Where I stayed – Malapascua Budget Inn
Tawigan Logon, Malapascua Island, Daanbantayan, Cebu, Malapascua Island, 6013, Philippines
*roughly 5 minute walk from the beachfront. Can be booked via booking.com
*Dorm Bed = Php 400/night
Where my friend stayed – Malapascua Bed and Breakfast La Dolce Vita
*beach front, beside Maldito’s
+639176243710 – Haidee Globe
+639985797507 – Haidee Smart
+639778341562 – Emma, Jenny Globe
Bed = Php 350/night
Bed and breakfast = Php 400/night
Private room = Php 1000/night