Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quezon Roadtrip Part 2: 3 Days, 3 Towns, 3 Islands - Mauban and Cagbalete

Quezon Cagbalete Birds and Fern
Birds we found trilling high above the coconut trees in Cagbalete
This is the second part of my two-part post series on the Quezon Province roadtrip/test drive of Kia Carnival assignment for InFlight Magazine.  In this post, we visit the town of Mauban and cross over to Cagbalete.  To read the first part of the series, just click this link.

Setting out for Mauban and Cagbalete Island.  The closest we got to following our itinerary was on our third day when we traveled further northwest to Mauban, just three towns away from Padre Burgos and close to Lucena City, the capital of Quezon Province. Arriving early ahead of schedule, we had to time to look for a place to have Pancit Habhab (fried noodles laced with pork ideally eaten with pinakurat, a strongly-flavored vinegar made from fermented coconut water), the quintessential Quezon dish. 
InFlight July-August 2012 Cover Story Page 7
Chilling out in Cagbalete
There are two boat trips going to Cagbalete daily, one at 10:30am and another at 3:30pm. We took the latter, boarding a large boat that sits anywhere from 75-100 passengers. The trip was splash-free and dry save for the time to board off at Sabang as the water has receded far from shore, necessitating a ride on a flat-bottom boat and wading near the shore. The western side of Cagbalete is littered with houses and various commerce mainly run by migrants from the Visayas who have made the island their home. Making our way to the home of our host, a retired judge of Mauban, we had to weave through an assortment of houses, sari-sari stores, bakeries and shops. As it was already nearing sunset, we contented ourselves with walking along the fine sand shore accompanied by friendly neighborhood dogs, talking to the locals, and engaging the fishermen who were getting their boats and implements ready for the next day. 
Cagbalete Quezon - Child Hauling Fishing Net at Sunset
No such thing as being too young to help in the fishing
Electricity comes on at 6pm and lasts until 10:30pm, that is, if the community generator does not falter. Our place has its own generator but electrical connection problems meant enjoying our feast of local adobo cum binagoongan (pork cooked in oil laced with fish sauce), crabs laden with aligue (crab fat) and inihaw na pusit (grilled fresh squid) in the flickering light of an emergency lamp. Our kind host, Coco Llamas, offered us lambanog (strong liquor made from coconut water) but we decided to pass it up (I’m a teetotaler to begin with), preferring to prepare our stuff for the next day and catch up on sleep. When the lights went off past midnight, it seemed the sea breeze also came to a standstill. It took awhile before I dozed off to the sound of waves lapping the shore just outside the window.

We woke to a bright, clear morning. Fueled by a hasty breakfast of coffee and peanut butter cookies, we hiked 20 minutes through grassland to the eastern side of the island. Emerging from the windbreak rows of she-oaks (trees that resemble pine trees but grow in drier land), we find a shoreline littered by seaweeds and a deserted stretch of beach with fine, fair sand all to ourselves. Snorkelling and diving are favorite activities here. The waters are also home to the island's favorite coconut crab. And if you're lucky enough to to stay a few days, you just might spot kingfishers, parrots, eagles and some migratory birds.  
Quezon Cagbalete Window Low Tide View
The serene view just outside my window
We combed the shore and went resort-hopping mainly finding only caretakers and workers. We wanted to see the undulating sand patterns exposed at low tide on this side of the island so we thought of hanging around, finding things to do. At Villa Cleofas, we ogled the copra workers as they go about their business, shucking coconut and preparing them for drying. After an hour, we lie in hammocks by the beach to watch the birds and survey the empty beach. Restless and wanting to find something to do, I rented out a kayak to get to the next resort, MVT Sto. Niño, which is on the other side of the island separated by a river that runs to the sea.  

We weren’t able to stay long enough to see the sand patterns, ride a horse along the beach or venture to Bonsai Island, a sandbar with stunted trees that emerge at low tide, as our boat going back to Mauban was leaving at 1pm. But having kayaked the shallows to the mangrove areas, I thought I’ve seen enough to want to come back. 

Epilogue.  Passing through Lucban on the way home As if waiting for us to conclude our assignment, the rain fell long and hard as we were leaving Mauban. We passed by Lucban and had a late lunch at Buddy’s (Pancit Habhab along with Lucban longganisa (local sausage) and a quick pasalubong stop at nearby Pavino’s Bakery for broas (lady fingers) and pancit miki (egg noodles for Pancit Habhab) as well as uncooked Lucban longganisa from the shops at the back of the church to take back home. 

Over three days, we’ve traveled over 800 kilometers to visit three municipalities and hop to three islands. Fate and weather may have altered our original plans but the detours and on-the-spot changes have made the roadtrip more interesting. We’ve seen our fair share of beautiful sceneries but more than that, we’ve been on the receiving end of incredible hospitality. All these make the trip, long and arduous as it may seem, but well worth it.  
InFlight July-August 2012 Cover Story Page 8
Essentials: car hires, transport and accommodations
Going to and staying in Mauban.  Car hire will set you back about P10,810 per 12 hours' use of a van, inclusive of fuel and driver.  Book at Carfield. 
Take a bus from Manila bound for Lucena City where you can take a bus at the terminal or vans at SM Lucena bound for Mauban. 
Fiesta Royale Apartelle located along the National Road in Sitio Sabang offers basic accommodation. Call +6342/ 784 1099, 784 1104. Room rates tart at P950. 
Cagbalete Island also offers four huts that each can house eight people at a time, costing P2,000 per hut per night. Day trippers can visit for a P50/head fee. Villa Cleofas has cottages from P2,000 (two to four persons) to a dorm room good for 25-30 people (P5,500). Call +63939/ 838 2589. MVT Sto. Niño Resort has 24 rooms; aircon rooms are from P2,000; fan rooms at P150; huts for five persons at P1,000; call +63921/ 727 5398. 
To get to Cagbalete Island, you can catch either of the two boat rides daily from Gat-uban port: 10:30am and 3:30pm at a boat fare of P40 per way. Travel time from the pier takes about 45 minutes. 

Quezon Borawan Island Sunrise BoatTo read Part 1 of this 2-Part Post, click here.

Attribution:  This story was published in Inflight Magazine's July - August 2012 Issue under the title "Crossing Wild Quezon by Mini-Van" • Photos by Hermes Singson and Jocas A. See • Art direction by Jocas A. See • Photos 1, 3, 4 & 6 in this post by Oggie Ramos

Our thanks to our hair and makeup contributing stylist Rocky Orejola for recommending off-the-beaten places in Quezon. Our thanks also to our generous Quezon locals for extending assistance to the InFlight team: Judge Virgilio Alpajora (for housing the team in his resort on Cagbaleta Island) and Coco Llamas of Mauban; Cely Rances and Playa’s Beverly of Padre Burgos; and Dina dela Torre of San Andres


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