The Charm of Coron

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A 45-minute plane ride from Manila can take you to the world’s best island, according to Travel + Leisure’s website . After garnering a score of 93.15 from its survey, Palawan, Philippines landed in the no. 1 spot of The World’s Best Island category published last July 2017. It feels so proud to be living in a beautiful country, envied by many. Although issues may arise like safety, I would still consider myself lucky being a local. I can freely move from islands to islands, without the fear that someone would just abduct me. If I could only purchase an island, I would have done it, and spend most of my free time there. The town of Coron in Palawan is so blessed to have such natural beauty, therefore it doesn’t need any theme park to “promote” or “beautify” the place.

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Coron, Palawan in a glimpse of 5 days and 4 nights (08.24.17-08.28.17)

I took the earliest flight possible from Manila via Cebgo. Knowing that most flights going to Coron are always full, I did not take the risk and took the first flight. Flying stand-by, can be heart-pounding so I kept my fingers crossed, and I was able to smoothly checked-in. When I asked the ground crew about the flights back to Manila on the 28th, he told me that all flights are over-booked.

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Francisco B. Reyes- Busuanga Airport

We arrived 15 minutes ahead of our scheduled time of arrival in Busuanga Airport. After getting my checked-in luggage, I took the van that will drop me off at our hotel. It was  a 30 minute ride with a picturesque view. I was wide awake at past 7 in the morning and trying to capture the beautiful scenery.

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Lush of green in Busuanga town

Our hostel was in downtown of Coron, and a few minutes away from the port. I was planning to sleep before all my colleagues arrive, but I was too early to check-in and all rooms are still occupied, so I waited for another 4 hours in the lobby and trying to get some sleep.

08.24.17- Mt. Tapyas

After several hours of waiting, we strolled around the town to look for a place to eat. First, we passed by Tea and Shake place to satisfy our cravings for shake. I got myself a mango shake while others got avocado. It costs PHP 119, and it was worth it. A few blocks away, we found a place to have our lunch. We ate at Island Boy Grill. They serve different seafoods, adobo, sisig, and a whole lot more that is budget-friendly.

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Tea and Shake place

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In the mid-afternoon, we went to hike Mt. Tapyas. It’s about 700 steps going to the peak, and it’s the second highest mountain in the town of Coron. You don’t need a tour guide to go here. Just navigate through your phone to get into the jump-off point. Once you have reached the summit, you get a nice view of the town. However, when we went there, it was a bit gloomy, and the sun was hiding behind the clouds.

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The giant cross at the summit

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We were supposed to take a dip into the Maquinit Hotspring after going up, but we all got hungry. We walked around the streets to search for a food place. We ended up eating at Altrove, where they serve pizza and pasta. The restaurant looks like an old house converted to a food place wherein you have to remove your shoes or slippers before entering.

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08.25.17- Hidden Lagoon, Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoon, Smith Beach, CYC Beach 

Our wake-up call is at 7:00 am. We had our complimentary breakfast with a choice of pork tocino, chicken hotdog, longganisa and danggit with rice and coffee before leaving for our day’s activities. We were transferred by the van going to the port to meet our tour guides and boat men. We availed the ultimate tour (3-day tour) for only PHP 3400 per head, which includes boat and van round trip transfers, lunch buffet and snack, entrance fees, tour guide, and lifevests.  We pay extra to rent snorkeling gears and kayak boat.

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Hidden Lagoon

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I could have just imagined how it looks like on a sunny day

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Kayangan Lake

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Our first destination is at the Hidden Lagoon. It’s so beautiful and quiet. Then we moved to Kayangan Lake. There are about 300 steps to reach the viewing deck and lake. The line to the viewing deck was so long, so we went first to the lake. We dipped into the lake with our vests on. It was not crowded when we were there. I could just imagine how it looks like during peak season. When we started leaving the lake, the clouds are getting dark too. The rain poured when we were about to go to the viewing deck. We were not able to enjoy the view because it was too foggy. We got into our boat and moved to Smith Island to have lunch. Our lunch includes pork liempo, seaweeds, shrimp, pineapple, banana and rice. The rain has stopped while having lunch, so we were able to enjoy the moment and we have spent some time in the beach.

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After lunch, we moved to CYC Beach (Coron Youth Club). The weather cooperated well, and we got to paddle a kayak along the shore and near the mangroves. It was the first time that our friend was able to fly his drone, since drones aren’t allowed in the lagoons.

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For our final stop, we went to the Twin Lagoon. As we were approaching, the rain is getting heavier. We still continued and swam in the lake. The water here is a mixture of hot and cold. You have 2 choices to go to the other side of the lagoon. First, you take the stairs, or you swim under the rocks. I opted to take the stairs instead, because I could see the sharp edges of the rocks, and you have limited movements.

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Swim must go on at Twin Lagoon

Before going back to the port, we had banana cue for snacks.

For dinner, we went to Carl’s BBQ and ordered ribs and barbecue. They serve good food, and ambiance is nice too.

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Carl’s BBQ

08.26.17- Malcapuya Island, Banana Island, Bulog Dos Island

It was a 2-hour boat ride from the port of Coron, and waves were a bit strong. We were soaked in water for half the trip because of the waves. Our first stop was at Malcapuya Island. The beach is nice as well as the sand. The sand is comparable to the sand of Boracay. We got to enjoy it before the rain has fallen. A store is available in the island, and we got ourselves a fresh buko juice, turon and banana cue. There was also a free taste of squid. If you like it, you can buy a pack for PHP 200.

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Malcapuya Beach

We needed to hurry up for Banana Island, because it’s almost lunch time. Luckily, the rain has stopped when we reached Banana Island. Banana Island is quite developed. There were nice nipa huts, hammocks, swing and a volleyball court. Perfect for your selfie needs. For lunch, we had pork liempo, tulingan fish, squash and stringbeans, banana, watermelon and rice, and for snacks, we had the Kababayan bread.

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For our last stop, we went to Bulog Dos Island. It’s a small island that has a sandbar, visible during low tide that connects to Bulalacao Island, where the Two Seasons Hotel is located. It has really a nice view, and quite plenty of underwater creatures. We hung out by the sandbar, and we saw a starfish. There was also a jellyfish, as big as a fist, that stung my boyfie. I told him to pee on his legs and ask the boatman to pour vinegar on his legs. It worked well, and the day after it was gone.

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Just a few meters away from Two Seasons Coron

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Glad to have seen a starfish during our trip

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For dinner, we went to Winnie’s. They serve exotic seafood dishes. Since I’m allergic to seafoods, I had porkchop instead and it was delicious.

08.27.18- East Tangat Gunboat, Lusong Gunboat, Pass Island

Our activity for this day is mostly underwater. We got to see the Japanese shipwrecks from World War 2. They are shallow and is easily visible once you go underwater. We went to the East Tangat Gunboat and Lusong Gunboat. Both can be viewed while snorkeling. There were also beautiful sea creatures living within the area.

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Getting ready for the day’s activity

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A Japanese shipwreck from World War 2

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Our next destination is at Pass Island. For me this is the most beautiful. Crystal clear water, fine sand, mangroves on the other end, coconut trees and plenty of sea creatures. Even in the shallow part, school of fishes are swimming with us. Some of our friends even saw a stingray when they went a bit far. Just don’t forget to wear your aqua shoes to avoid stepping on sea urchins and stone fish that can be poisonous. When we were half way eating our lunch, the rain poured. We have the same set of meal, but this time we have mangoes and chopsuey.

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Approaching Pass Island

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Plenty of fishes in the shallow water

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We spent the whole time in Pass Island, so we weren’t able to see the Lusong Coral. It houses beautiful corals according to our guide.

After a long day, we had dinner again at Carl’s Bbq. This time we ordered barbecue, chicken cordon bleu, chopsuey, and sizzling gambas.

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Barbecue for dinner

After dinner, we went around town to buy souvenirs like shirt, ref magnet and dream catcher. Of course, we will not forget the famous cashew nuts of Palawan.

08.28.17- Busuanga Airport

We have to leave our hostel after eating breakfast to catch our flights. I tried my luck to get into the first flight, but it was overbooked and I was bumped off. I waited for the next flight and I was told that it is full again. I already considered flying to Clark just to get home, but luckily, I got a slot for the midday flight. We were ahead of scheduled time of arrival again.

For our itinerary and total damage to our wallet, feel free to click Itinerary- Coron, Palawan 2017

Staycation at Pico de Loro

My last hurrah for Summer 2017 came in June. It has been raining for almost everyday, and I was already losing hope to get myself a tan. However, on that weekend of June 17 & 18, the weather was with us. It was a pretty good day to get ourselves soaked in the water.

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Passing by this beautiful scenery on our way to Pico de Loro

Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club in a glance of 2 days, and 1 night. (06.17-18.17)

We are expected to check-in at our room at 2 in the afternoon. Instead of leaving early, which we normally do when we go out of town, we left our house at almost 12 noon, and reached Nasugbu, Batangas at 2pm. It was a pretty decent ride, and I didn’t expect that it will only take about 2 hours going there from our place. We usually take the Tagaytay-Nasugbu route, which takes about 3 hours or more, depending on the traffic in Tagaytay. Based from our navigator, Waze, we’re suppose to take NAIAx and Cavitex, and take Noveleta Exit, and you will pass by the towns of Tanza, Naic, Maragondon, and Ternate, until you reach the Kaybiang Tunnel, and just a few minutes away from Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club.

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Kaybiang Tunnel

Pico de Loro is actually a members-only leisure club, but thanks to Airbnb, we found a way to get in there. After weeks of searching for an affordable, yet worthy escapade, I ended up in the page of our host who owns a unit at Pico de Loro. Our host’s unit is the cheapest among all those who have their units rented at Pico de Loro. For only PHP 3658 per night (all in) her space is fully furnished, and you’re allowed to cook and use her appliances as well. Although, you need to pay PHP 1200 per head as guest fee for the use of  facilities for non-members (as per management of Pico de Loro)

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Registration area

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Our room is at Carola B

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Mt. Pico de Loro in the background

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We arrived just in time for check-in, and we’re all hungry. As expected, we ended up eating at the restaurant. We had bulalo, pancit luglug, and beef salpicao, good for 4 pax. Afterwards, we headed to the pool and stayed there until sunset. My sister and her friend left the pool earlier, because they are tasked to prepare dinner.

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The night before we left, I went to the grocery to buy the essentials for our trip, and to actually save more money on food. We had Buttered Chicken with Salted Egg for dinner, and it was a good one. We’re suppose to drink beer for the rest of the night, but my sister fell asleep and we ended up watching k-drama instead.

06.18.18- Day 2

I woke up earlier than the rest so I prepared the breakfast. I cooked corned beef, hotdogs and fried rice. It was quite plenty for a group of 4. At 0900am, we headed to the beach. I wasn’t impressed with the waters (compared to those I’ve been to). It was so hot that day so I stayed under the umbrella for a long time, while my sister and her friend enjoyed riding the jet-ski. After a few more hours, we left and prepared for checking-out. I’m glad that in our whole stay, it didn’t rain and ruin the fun.

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Jellyfish warning to swimmers (but luckily I didn’t see any)

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Lifeguard on duty

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Maxi dress from Forever 21

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For itinerary and budget, feel free to click the link Itinerary- Pico de Loro 2017

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PS. They do not accept cash instead they prefer debit/credit card and cash card which you can reload with your cash.

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Ice-cold beer on a hot day

 

When Disaster Aftermath Lead to Nature’s Beauty- Mt. Pinatubo

Almost 26 years ago, it was the most devastating natural disaster that occurred, not only in the Philippines, but in the world. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales has gotten so many lives, and buried them underground alive. Many people were forced to leave their houses without any idea when they can comeback. The ashes from the volcanic eruption went as far as Hong Kong, and the world temperature for 10 years was decreased by 1 degree Celsius. I remember in the late 90s, whenever we spend our summer in Pundaquit, Zambales, we always pass by the province of Pampanga, and the remnants of the lahar look so fresh, and the surroundings were very much like a zombie land.

The calamity of yesterday turned out to be a beautiful disaster. As we trekked for 2 hours going to the crater lake of Mt. Pinatubo, we passed by several smiling Aetas, the locals of the area. Afterwards, we’ve seen the most rewarding view of the lake.

Mt. Pinatubo in a glance of a few hours (02.20.17)

My very good friend invited me to join their group, who will trek the Capas, Tarlac trail of Mt. Pinatubo. Without any hesitations, I said yes. I don’t normally do hiking, due to my very demanding work that requires me to sleep during my days off. I tried several before like trekking in Mt. Buntot Palos, and Mt. Isarog, and I have loved the rewarding view of the falls in those mountains. I strongly felt that I can do Pinatubo, since I got to experience spelunking at Biak na Bato, but heck that was in my freshman year in high school, almost 12 years ago. For someone like me who considers walking as a form of exercise, I got to reach the peak of Mt. Pinatubo without giving up.

In the Monday morning of Feb. 20, the group met in Ortigas. The trip was organized by my friend’s friend who happens to be working for Nat Geo, and they create new trails for mountains. Such a cool job, you get to discover a lot of new adventures. We were a group of 10, 3 of them were my batch mates in high school, and the rest were from the same circle of flying.

Our van left Ortigas, at 3:30am, and before the sun rises, we were already at the jump-off point in Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. We were required to register at the tourism office and once our 4×4 rides were available, we started our adventure.

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The ride was around an hour and a half, and we were the first ones to make a trip, so we created the path that will be followed by the other trekkers later.

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Toblerone-shaped lahar mountain

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We had a short stop-over at the Toblerone-like mountain. The mountains were created out of lahar.

After our 4×4 ride, this is when we started to trek. It was probably 3-4 kms in distance. They say that it used to be a very long trek, almost 7kms if I remember it right. However, according to what I’ve heard, some areas have been bulldozed to give way for “VIPs” who will be visiting/inspecting the area. Such a shame, it’s nature who will adjust for those people, and that’s the ugly truth.

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Another area for registration

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After several mins., i found a bathroom with water. Yehey!! I’ve been wanting to pee for the longest time, but I have to hold it or else, I’ll do it somewhere in the bush.

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Where do you belong?

After several walks again, we found a banner stating that it’s 20 mins. more to the crater. I saw some locals doing their laundry by the stream, and didn’t mind the scorching heat. There were families of Aetas living in that part, so please if you happen to go here, bring some snacks or anything for the kids. I’m sure they will appreciate it.

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Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations

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Finally!

At last, we reach the peak. It was 9am and the view was rewarding. My trekking was worth every penny.

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Happy, my hs batchmate & volleyball teammate during our varsity days

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Cat, beautiful friend since 2nd grade. 18 years of solid friendship.

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Kev, my good friend since 1st year high school

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Thank you to these beautiful people for the wonderful time

 

We stayed for an hour and camp by the lake. I suggest that you bring your own food and drinks and load up on carbs. There’s a lone store there, but the prices of his goods are way too high.

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High school never ends

Before we went back, we made sure that we didn’t leave any trash.

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Leave nothing but footprints

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The expenses for this trip was PHP 3100 per head for a group of 10. It includes transfer rides from Manila to jump-off point and vice-versa, registration fee, environmental fee and 4×4 ride. Pack light and wear something comfy that can cover you from heat.

After our trek, we took a shower in one of the houses near the jump-off point, and paid 50 bucks.

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Since it was still early to go home, we had a side trip in Angeles, Pampanga, and ate at Funnside Ningnangan.

For itinerary and budget, click Itinerary- Mt. Pinatubo 2017

1/3 Edited using phone app while stuck in traffic. 🙊 Trail to Mt. Pinatubo | 02.20.17

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2/3 Edited using phone app while stuck in traffic. 🙊 Trail to Mt. Pinatubo | 02.20.17

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3/3 Edited using phone app while stuck in traffic. 🙊 Trail to Mt. Pinatubo | 02.20.17

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The Mystery and Beauty of Masasa Beach

Masasa Beach is approximately 3 hours away from Manila. Located in Maricaban Island, town of Tingloy in Batangas. It is neighboring to Mindoro Island, Isla Verde, and Anilao Batangas. It is near the famous Sumbrero Island, which they say that it’s part of Anilao (please correct me if I’m wrong). Among all the beaches that I have been to, this is the most quiet and cleanest. When I was walking in their downtown, it felt like I was transported in the old times. When you want some peace and quiet time, you can go here. It is under-developed and it has not been commercialized.

I’ll take you back in 2015, 2 years ago

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Masasa Beach with the over-looking Mindoro island

 

This DIY trip is the most buwis-buhay getaway in my entire existence.

It happened to be a long weekend, 17th of January 2015, because of the pope’s arrival in the country. Long weekend means time to pack our bags and go somewhere. Fortunately, it’s also the birthday weekend of my other half. I planned the whole trip and gave it as my birthday present to him.

A glimpse of Masasa Beach, Tingloy, Batangas in 3 days and 2 nights (01.17.15-01.19.15)

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Crystal clear water of Masasa Beach

We left our house at 5am, so that we could catch the JAM Bus Liner going to Batangas City Grand Terminal at 7am. The bus ride took almost 2 hours coming from Buendia, Makati.

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Bus ride to Batangas

Upon reaching our destination, we took a jeepney ride to Mabini Port, which took 45 mins to an hour from the city. The boats at the port are scheduled to leave every hour starting at 10am. Unfortunately, a storm happened to enter the country on that day, as a result the provincial government declared Signal no. 1, which means that no boats could sail. We were not informed that there was a storm signal, because the sun was out there, and not even a single drop of rain has fallen. But rules are rules- storm signal warning, strictly no sailing. We were stuck in the port for 4 hours, and I have thought of just going to a resort in Anilao. However, we saw some locals of Tingloy heading home. (so there must be a way to go to that island). He, first tried talking to the Tingloy locals, in his Batangueno accent, (so that they won’t assume that we are Manila kids & might take advantage) and asked if we could hitch a boat ride with them, and we’re willing to pay some extra bucks just to go to Tingloy. The very nice man agreed, and accommodated the 2 of us in their small boat with a capacity of 10 people. We sailed away. It was very smooth and we’re just passing through the shores of Anilao. The waves were very peaceful and there was no slight evidence of a storm approaching. We called the caretaker of the place that we’re staying, and told her that we will be arriving in about an hour.

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Waiting at Mabini Port in Anilao, Batangas

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The waves are very calm

When we’re about to cross the middle of the sea, I’ve started seeing giant waves. Waves that could make our boat sink. I could not make a single move from where I am seated, and it feels like, one wrong, all wrong and we die. I tried my best to hide my emotions so I wouldn’t scare the birthday boy. Mind you, we were not even wearing life vests, and if the boat will sink, I wondered if there are sharks out there to eat us. It’s impossible to be saved by another boat because we’re the only boat in that part of the sea. Prayers are already shouted in my head, and I thought of my family (feels like the end of the world). It was the longest 1 hour boat ride of my life, and thank you that we made it alive to Tingloy.

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Trike ride going to the shore

We took a trike from the shore going to our inn, and we were welcomed by the caretaker. After changing into our swimwear, we headed to the beach. It’s indeed a virgin beach! Crystal clear water, white powdery sand with a few pebbles, calm waves, and even if you go far, it’s still safe to swim. When we were walking along the shore, we saw a camp site of 2 pax, and they look very much chill.

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Passing by the green fields before you reach the shore

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It’s actually a 10-min. walk

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Met a carabao on our way

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And a goat too

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We returned to the inn when it was 6pm, and cooked our baon for dinner. The caretaker was so nice that she even allowed us to use their stove, and other kitchen utensils. We were even lucky that we get the house all to ourselves, which means that we don’t have to share the bathroom with anyone!

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All to ourselves

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The famous staircase, I’m not sure of the name

 

Day 2- 01.18.15

We got up so early, but it was raining hard. The caretaker informed us that there is still a storm signal, and we cannot go back to mainland Batangas yet, so we went back to sleep. We went to the beach at 3pm, and the whole beach was ours. Nobody wanted to enjoy the beach except us. Mr. Sunshine showed up in the afternoon, and it was just perfect to get my tan.

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Our campsite

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Getting a tan

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Mr. sunshine is about to set

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Day 3- 01.19.15

Storm signal has been lifted, and we could leave.

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Time to go home

On our last night in the island, we felt something strange. I mentioned above that we got all the house to ourselves. The house is relatively new. All the floors are made of cement including those in the 2nd floor. There are 3 rooms upstairs, and I noticed that there is also no ceiling. You can already see the roof, if you look up. There is also a rotating brown-out in the island, starting 11pm until 6am. We were already in bed at 10pm, then the lights are out. We only have the rechargeable fan and light. We turned it off because it was so cold. We were so silent because we both felt sleepy and tired, not until, I heard something. I went like, “Naririnig mo ba yun? (Do you hear that)”, and he goes like, “Oo, wag mong pakinggan (Yes, don’t listen)”. Then he covered my ears. Well, we just heard footsteps going towards our room. I’m sure it was not a cat, because the floor is made of cement. It was heavy footsteps. The wall in our room, doesn’t extend up until the roof, because there was no ceiling, so there is a space, and you can just peak outside our room. We knew what we heard, so I said, “Ang lapit na niya, papunta ata sa’tin (It’s near, I think it’s going towards us)” So we were under the sheets the whole wee hours and hugging each other tightly, and very scared. I never told the caretaker about it, because she was so nice to us, and I don’t wanna say anything negative because she’s very accommodating. Probably, it was just a welcome from the other side, but we got scared.

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I was planning to take my sister to Masasa Beach, not until I came across a very recent blog post about it. I suddenly felt sad, coz it was no longer the Masasa Beach that I was imagining. It was so packed with campers, and it felt like there was no space to pitch in my tent. The locals have made curfews for campers, unlike before that we can camp overnight. I hope I’m wrong, and it only looks like that during peak season, but you can barely see people before even if it’s a peak season.

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How to visit Masasa Beach?

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I wish it stays like this for a lifetime

From Makati or Cubao, take a bus ride going to Batangas City Grand Terminal, then transfer to a jeepney bound to Mabini. You may drop-off at Mabini Port. Ferry rides going to Tingloy and vice-versa are scheduled and available daily. Once you reach Tingloy, you may walk or take a trike going to your accommodation or to the beach site.

FYI:

The beach is a public beach so it is free. I suggest that you buy your food and toiletries from the mainland as these items are expensive in Tingloy. Prepare your budget on transpo and accommodation. The people are very nice, so please be nice to them too. Don’t forget to dispose your garbage properly. Keep the island clean and enjoy.

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Itinerary & budget for this trip