Friday, November 11, 2016

Alibijaban, Tinalisayan and Sombrero Islands 2016: Low-key Amazing, That’s All They Have To Be

As if your unconscious rawness isn't already a turn on
As if your cloud and sea's seamless melding isn't a miracle on its own
God so wished to show us what it’s like in heaven
He made you, said for now you’ll do, safe haven
He let me experience you with the other halves of my soul
Now no other could ever say they had you better than I did
Cos they'd never ever have you like I did
Cos they'd never ever have soul mates like mine
Who would’ve thought desertion could feel this divine?
Tinalisayan Island, Burias Group of Islands

I know I haven’t been to so many beaches yet, so I can’t tell for sure. But based on all the beach destinations I’ve been to, Tinalisayan may be the best island as of yet. I’m still torn because Lord knows the islands of Caramoan can give me a run for their money too.

Tinalisayan may be the most beautiful of all for it owns up to a bunch of things.
We were dropped off on a round sandbar which was an awesome welcome idea. The sand was basically fine white with a mix of pebbles. The good thing was they were small, so they didn’t really hurt the feet. From the sandbar, we walked through the cold, waist-leveled water until we reached the curvy shore. It was the perfect hue of turquoise water I’ve seen in my life. For someone who’s very particular with beach gradients, I was the happiest. It was beautiful. Swimming for a bit felt good too, as I didn’t feel any itchy or prickly skin sensation while in the water. It was usually unavoidable when in saltwater.
As if the sandbar and the beach weren’t already enough, a small plateau filled with palm trees may also be found. It was meant to serve as a chill spot for whoever needed shade and a place to stop and stare. Standing there, it was different seeing the beach from that vantage point, like everything was perfectly placed. The sand, the water and the sky were so perfectly blended that I couldn’t tell anymore where the sand ended to meet the water and the water ended to meet the infinite clouds.
                               
Sombrero Island, Burias Group of Islands

Sightseeing from near and afar, people would obviously get why Sombrero Island is named as such. Sombrero (hat in English) is the form the island takes.
I couldn’t tell for sure if they were once just one, but there were two islands. The one where we had lunch was at the bigger island. It was yet another pretty place of escape, a tad bit more commercialized too. There were little cottages and other accommodations. From here, a good view of the small, hat-looking island may be seen. They were being separated by meters and meters of water, not sure if the distance was swimmable though. Also, I’m not sure if the latter’s privately owned or not. What was weird was it was shaped so much like a hat that it made us wonder whether it was natural or was just artificially made to look like that. It was uncanny, too good to be true, but definitely an eye candy.
We also passed by Dapa Island, another part of Burias Group of Islands. It didn’t seem much like an island to me, though. It only looked like a flat rock formation that emerged from the waters. We went around it via boat but never actually stepped foot on it. As much as we would love to do so since every new place is worth discovering, we took a pass, so we’d still have time to visit Animasola Island only to be disappointed in the end.
Animasola Island, yet another part of Burias Group of Islands, was supposed to be our final destination on our first day, but due to the strong winds and waves, the boatmen decided against going anymore. It would be risky they said. We were really excited to see the rock formations that the island’s most popular for, though. We had been talking about it since the beginning of the island hopping. Too bad there wasn’t anything that could be done about it anymore. Aww. Next time perhaps?

Alibijaban Island

A small hut, a couple of tents, a make-do monoblock table – the only things that made up our lodging in this island where we kept our things, prepared food and rested for the night.

For your information, Alibijaban is still located along the borders of Quezon province. This residential island was the first to grace our eyes, but it was the last we explored since we had to prioritize Masbate. If there was any good that this yielded, it was that we got to spend all of our second day enjoying this place alone.
On the one hand, the residential area is still raw, still isn’t inhabited by too many locals, still a modest place. Electricity is only available from 6PM onwards. Decent water is scarce too. There isn’t much to do but swim, but even that wouldn’t be so incredible because of the seaweeds. On the other hand, the island’s a long stretch that its other end is something else; at the other end of the beach was where all the magic was.
Alibijaban’s isolated portion is pure nature. It is where another fine sandbar may be found, but it is best known for its mangroves. Though they may not look that appealing at first (big thanks to horror/suspense films for using them during creepy scenes), they are actually nice to look at collectively. They are not that tall. While the stems are not that chunky, the roots are the opposite. They are huge and swarming. Their look during low tide kind of adds to the raw vibe in the tropics. Low tide also means us being able to wander and play around, come close to and actually go through the large beach forest.
Our restless feet even brought us to this abandoned, elevated and worn-out hut which was the coolest hangout spot after so much walking done. It was shaded and had a table. We would’ve eaten lunch there except we left our food in the boat, which as it would later turn out, was not a bad thing too.
One and a half days, three islands and no proper swimming just yet – because island hopping was just really island hopping, more about taking all the view in, appreciating the colors, feeling the air, not wanting to miss anything on the itinerary of islands. We couldn’t let this be all there’d be, so we asked our boatmen to take us in the middle of the sea where we could enjoy some sun and swim our heart away. It was our adventure capper. We just floated there then snorkeled a bit. Lunch, even though just made up of some canned goods, boiled eggs and dinner leftover liempos, was still awesome because we had it on our boat by the water, and that doesn’t happen everyday. Lunch by the boat was made more fun by my friends’ antics, as I watch them struggle, slip and eventually fall off the boat in an effort to actually get on the boat. Mantra at that moment was laugh first before helping, and they didn’t get mad about it at all.
As with our island hopping experience, I had been so accustomed to the idea of hopping as something stress-freejust quickly and smoothly sailing from one island to another.  Oh, how wrong was I to think that this time. Gratefully, the somewhat harrowing boat rides for hours lost their impact on us the moment we were off the boat and onto the sand. Clichéd? You could say that, but honest to goodness, it really was what happened, and I couldn’t come up with any other way of better putting it. There could be no better compliment to an island. From Alibijaban to Tinalisayan, it took us roughly two hours; from Tinalisayan to the other islands, travel time was more or less 45 minutes to an hour each. The waves weren’t so friendly either. Then there was also the high heat.
If I’m not mistaken, there are two routes from Lucena travellers can take to get here. The one we followed was the one where, from Turbina, we were dropped off at Lucena Grand Terminal where a van picked us up and took us to San Andres Port via the Pagbilao-Catanauan route. Travel time from Turbina to Lucena Grand Terminal was three hours; from there to the port was another three to four hours sans the traffic. From there, we rode a boat for less than 30 minutes to get to Alibijaban Island.
Even with these beautiful photos and high praises, I still somehow feel that I am not even halfway close to describing how heavenly these islands truly are. So what if they are pretty in photographs, they are 10 times better in the flesh.
Special mention to our organizers this year, Nhika Marfil and Sarah Danao, for putting this trip together! You’re the best! Also to Joeyleen, who, despite being the birthday celebrator, found joy in preparing food for everybody. With this in mind, we couldn’t let all her efforts be for nothing. We did our part by surprising her with gifts as she welcomed her birthday with us! We could tell she was more than surprised; she was thankful and content. We were happy with her happiness! Happy birthday again, Juwie!

Bottom line of this post: Why did I only learn about Masbate just now?!

Well, better late than never.

Now I’m ready for Christmas!

Watch our adventure video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lFV4B39bgo

Fees and fares:
P320
two-way fare Turbina-Lucena Grand Terminal (Bus)
P540
two-way fare Lucena Grand Terminal-San Andres Port (Van)
P8000
island hopping fee for Burias Group of Islands and Alibijaban Island
P200 (2 pax)
tent rent in Alibijaban Island
P1000 (6pax)
hut rent in Alibijaban Island
P100
entrance fee
P60
cost of water per drum in Alibijaban Island

Photo sources: Catherine Nhika Marfil & Antoniette Pulutan

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