When in Malapascua…

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Logon Island. According to records, Spanish colonizers named Logon “Malapascua” because the Easter (“pascua”) of their arrival here was not exactly propitious. There is, however, nothing “bad”  about this island-heaven in Cebu! (2012 Google map)

A little over an hour’s flight from Manila, we land in Cebu International airport past midnight on a rainy Tuesday in June, and decide to kill four hours in the airport before setting out on a long bus ride to Logon, more familiar to many as Malapascua. We’re too cheap (and scared!) to venture out and look for lodging, as daybreak will definitely find us trooping to the North Bus Terminal anyway, where buses ply a daily route to Maya Port, and on to beautiful Malapascua. A sea-horse shaped island off the northern tip of Cebu, it is close to becoming, they say, the next Boracay. Hope that never happens!

Taxis to the bus terminal, when they think you’ve just landed would initially be unreasonably priced, but prepare to haggle, which we did, since June is considered an off-peak season. Business is slow this early morning in June, and we expected taxi drivers to be more than willing to accommodate visitors. We were right. If that had that failed, we would have been more than willing to step out of the airport into the city, where taxis with regular meters abound.

For individual backpackers, air-conditioned buses are an inexpensive way of getting to Maya Port, although vans are also available (at Php3,500.00 per trip). If you’re a group of at least ten people, you might want to consider this better option, instead of the buses which make frequent stops to pick up passengers, as well as for chow and bladder breaks in the many “bastap” [bus stop] scattered along the highway. There are also “regular” or non air-conditioned buses, not radically cheap at Php 165.00, and the dusty roads and the long trip make them a not very enticing alternative. Travel, I’m sure, would be doubly faster with private transportation.

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Nights are blue in the gathering dusk.
Nights are blue in the gathering dusk.

Buses unload their passengers practically on the boats that crowd the pier in Maya Port. Prepare to shell out Php80.00 per person for a boat ride that takes a little over 30 minutes. By boat I don’t mean fancy ones, just the sturdy wooden kind that has outriggers and can accommodate 30 persons. Unless it’s a stormy day, the boat ride will most likely be very uneventful.

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Sunset on Bounty beach. When in Malapascua, it’s best to enjoy the sunset.

Bounty Beach is the gateway to Malapascua island, although a small port on the other side of the island, where hotels like Amihan, Angelina, Tepanee, and a host of others are found, is also used. A 3-km stretch of white beach, Malapascua is surrounded on all sides by the best diving and snorkeling sites, although its beach, notwithstanding the fine, powdery sand, is not something to jump up and down about. I’ve seen remarkably better ones in Coron. (But hey, that’s just me.) That said, Malapascua’s biggest draw is its quiet. In June when it’s no longer noisy with the summer and mostly foreign crowd, dusks are almost spiritual moments. The sight of the mauve sun, going down behind tropical trees is not something you’d easily forget. The sound of the surf rhythmically hitting the beach recalls a Matthew Arnold poem. And all that will most likely make you hungry for a grilled seafood dinner.

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Walking on white… sand, that is.

Snorkeling and diving sites surround Malapascua. Some of the few we checked out are:

Location of snorkeling sites that surround Malapascua. To the bottom left of the picture is Maya port, the port that connects Cebu to Malapascua. To the bottom right is Kalanggaman island, a 2-hour boat ride from Malapascua. Kalanggaman is an island off Palompon, in Leyte. (Screen grab from Sunsplash Diving.)
Location of snorkeling sites that surround Malapascua. To the bottom left of the picture is Maya port, the port that connects Cebu to Malapascua. To the bottom right is Kalanggaman island, a 2-hour boat ride from Malapascua. Kalanggaman is an island off Palompon, in Leyte. (Screen grab from Sunsplash Diving.)

Dakit-dakit. A few minutes out of Bounty beach, this shallow snorkeling site offers glimpses of colorful fishes.

Guimbitayan. Situated in the northern part of the island, this snorkeling site is near a watch tower, and underneath remains of a Japanese shipwreck. The actual length of the sunken ship’s hull is there to see.

Bantigue Cove. Underneath its turquoise waters are blue and yellow fishes, big and small ones, and some of the most diverse underwater plants and corals.

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Searching for Nemo.

Garden Corals. This site affords snorkelers glimpses of wide swaths of living corals underneath. Schools of fish that frequent these parts are a sight to see! My 18-year old son’s squeals are heard even from behind his snorkeling gear.

Kalanggaman Island, Palompon, Leyte

Like sentinels, the coconut trees stand shoulder to shoulder at the approach to the island.

Only three-fourths of a kilometer in length, Kalanggaman Island is a 2-hour boat ride from Malapascua, and 25 minutes from Palompon, Leyte. This spectacular island paradise boasts of a 200-meter white sandbar that vanishes with the tide.

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Place marker. Yes, dolphins are endemic in these waters.
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Midday shot of a picture-perfect tropical island paradise in the Visayas.
The pristine sandbar appears from early to  midmorning, but "vanishes" around lunchtime.
The pristine sandbar appears from early to midmorning, but “vanishes” around lunchtime.

 


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