Many years back, I had the chance to go on a road trip with my Chinese friend up north towards the famous islands that made Cebu famous. That despite of the fact that we could only see the islands from afar because we only stayed in a luxurious golf and beach resort in San Remigio, it was still a noteworthy trip. It was one of the most memorable trips I had in my lifetime and my first exploration towards the north.
For a long time, I have not been to that part of Cebu except for brief visits in Borbon, Danao and Liloan. So when the people at the printing press where I used to standby invited me to join them to Malapascua Island, I got excited. It was another chance for me to go to the north and my first time in that renowned island.
Plans of getting there in time for the first trip (which was supposed to be very early in the morning) were not so sympathetic to a traveler like me who had been doing overtime work for 3 straight days. We took a Ceres Bus trip at 9 in the evening. The trip to Maya port in Daanbantayan was about four hours long.
After spending the night over at some friend’s house, we were able to finally made it to Maya port at 7 in the morning the next day bringing our provisions for our stay in that island. People said that the basic necessities there were expensive (they were reasonable, I believe). The mother of the group made sure we would not be spending anything other than our accommodation. So we were seen with large plastic bags or heavy cartons of supplies. We joked among ourselves that we were like natives going home for the town fiesta. One was bringing a can of biscuits.
Haggling is almost always a must with some boat operators or with other entities and after few attempts we were able to board on one of the pumpboats at the cost of 70 pesos. The regular fare going to Malapascua was 50 but we were told we have to take a launch (those flat boats used to transport sand) to go to our designated pumpboat which was several meters away because the wharf was full. A truly creative way of finding money. Believe me, they were poorer than us so they have to create a way for some unscrupulous business. So beware.
After a short boat ride we finally arrived at Malapascua in high spirits. The island was shimmering from a distance. Its blue and turquoise waters were enough to engulf us with a sense of calm.
Despite the heat, no one bothered to make a grudge. There was no complaint. I was the only one complaining because the water was inviting and yet we were not yet settling down. Being a hard-head that I was, I jumped in the water and had my day ahead of my companions.
We billeted ourselves in a one-room cabana (1,200 pesos for 2 persons and 100 pesos for extra persons) at La Isla Bonita but we were made to wait for the guests to check out. So, like refugees, we made ourselves comfortable in the lawns of that resort. We set up our tents and other gadgets and asked the staff to cook for us. We all had our hearty meal of tinolang isda, kinilaw and pork adobo and lay down on our own refuge like satiated pigs, waiting and waiting for the room to be emptied.
When the room was finally given to us, we changed into our beach wear and rushed to our boat again for an island hopping tour (50 pesos per pax, 100 pesos for the snorkel and life vests). It was actually a tour around the island.
The 2 hour trip was the most exciting moment in my travel to that island. We were made to snorkel among the corals (Coral Gardens), was able to visit a shipwreck near the light tower and getting sunburned without us knowing it because the waters were unusually cold.
After a sumptuous dinner of fisherman’s salad, grilled fish, paksiw na isda and some canned goods, we spent the night drinking all the liquor we brought in and the beer we brought from a nearby store. As expected, we bond together with the help of alcohol.
The next day was spent swimming and getting ready for a long way home.
Compared to my previous trips to this part of Cebu, this Malapascua trip was made cowboy-style, a term we Filipinos often refer to anything without the usual amenities and whatever was available. No special treatments, no bad feelings, just pure enjoyment.
My road trip before was more planned and sanitized, traveling by airconditioned car, eating food according to our choice, drinking from our own bottles and staying in a golf course outside of the horde of people.
This trip gave me mosquito bites, sunburn, pain in the back from sleeping without mattress and pillows, but it was fun. Sleeping under a million stars was more fun.
Before we arrived at the mainland, I already have plans of coming back to Malapascua.
Malapascua Island is part of Daanbantayan, a coastal town north of Cebu. Its name was supposed to be coined by the Spaniards when they were caught in a typhoon in that island with no food and water available, so Mala (bad), Pascua (Christmas or could also mean Easter). The island is famous for diving and snorkeling with some thresher sharks always seen in the area.
The island is very quiet and laid back with an occasional celebration worthy of some noisy disco invasion. Other than that, it sleeps its way through the morning without much noise other than the waves scurrying towards the beach.
Walking around the island (which is only 2kms x 1km wide) is a worthy experience. The folks are basically friendly and helpful. You can always distinguish the tourists from the locals.
To get there
You can hire a private ride or a taxi going to Maya port in Daanbantayan some 3-4 hours drive from Cebu City. It sure is costly though. If you want cheaper means, you can go to the Cebu North Bus Terminal and take the Ceres Liner or Autobus or other bus companies that will get you to Maya port, the starting point to the island. It would cost you about 90 pesos for non-aircon and 130 pesos for aircon rides.
From Maya (Daanbantayan) port, a regular pumboat would cost you 50 pesos but you have to wait for the trip to have enough passengers to get you going. Others pay between 800 to 1,500 pesos for them to reach the island alone with their own company.
In our case, we have to take a launch boat at 20 pesos per pax just to reach our pumpboat which was a few meters away where we pay the regular fare of 50 pesos to Malapascua. There were 21 of us.