For metro dwellers in the Philippines, the worsening density of city life has increasingly pushed people’s yearning to travel – nurturing the sense that far is solace in the maddening place where daily life revolves around. The natural reaction to the lack of breathing space in the midst of the daily grind has driven people to look farther and farther away for prospective holiday destinations.
Recently, Expat was fortunate enough to partake in Lakbay Norte 6—a media familiarization trip organized by the North Philippines Visitors Bureau—where a group of travel writers were taken about as far as you can go northbound in the country – Cagayan.
And if there’s one thing the far-flung province and its natural gems reminded me of, it’s that traveling is partly a search for a break from routine – a search for adventure, however far.
Harbor in the tempest
We were warned that the combined efforts of the elements could possibly make it unsafe to navigate the waters going to Palaui Island. Of course, we paid it no heed (the coast guard saying we’d be fine certainly helped as well). There was no chance we drove for close to 15 hours (spread across five days) only to be denied breathing in the promised beauty of the Sta. Ana, Cagayan island.
Shortly after the hour-long ride started, Cagayan’s notoriously tempestuous waters introduced itself to our mini fleet – challenging the build of our small boats with sets upon sets of crashing waves, some of them reminiscent of the CGI The Rock had to go against in “San Andreas” – or at least it seemed like it.
As I turned around to check out the demeanor of our boat men (for reassurance that the future held a scenario where I would once again be stuck in Manila traffic), I found they were almost rendered brain dead by the mundanity of what lay ahead. And with that one glimpse, I managed to convince my mind to consider the experience as nothing more than a theme park ride—albeit, one with very real and possible consequences.
It made me wonder how they ever felt like it was cool to ride small outrigger boats in the face of such conditions. Then I realized that people in Metro Manila drive while taking selfies and adding filters to their Snapchat posts as they navigate the chaotic mess of our roads. To each, his own, I reckoned.
The calm of Anguib Beach
Short of an hour later, the boat stopped galloping over and through the waves. The sun peeked from the clouds that had taken ownership of the past week. And then it came—Anguib Beach. Quite a reward for the thrill.
Anguib is a 1.8-kilometer J-shaped stretch of white sand beach. While it is but one of the many beaches in Palaui, the soothing calm that curtained that slice of tropical paradise made it strike me as the ideal temporary base for exploring the breadth of gifts possessed by the island.
With no visible concrete structures, camping is the default accommodation, but if you’re feeling a little fancy, there are also glamping options offered by Anguib Beach Club.
Should you choose to, I reckon it’s best to schedule your visit to Anguib Beach on a weekday. Not only do you get a gorgeous, tree-lined beach that’s perfect for lazy days of introspection (and a few cold ones), you get it all to yourself – mostly.
Serene, scenic, spectacular
Local travelers have long been buzzing about Palaui Island, the reasons I would find that pleasant February afternoon, were more than justified. With a number of coves and beaches to comb, as well as a slew of hiking trails that have some of the most stunning vistas as a backdrop, Palaui has a remarkable blend of scenery, serenity and adventure.
A talented word-weaver I traveled with worded Palaui Island brilliantly as a “windswept parcel of heaven on earth, with an edge-of-the-world atmosphere where verdurous promontories drop into an endless expanse of churning azure.” Amen.
Our schedule did not allow us to go on a lengthy trek, but the presented alternative took us to the island’s highest point—Cape Engaño Lighthouse – a structure built in 1892 that has managed, over a century later, to still hold on to its enchanting allure.
Embarking on the short trek to the lighthouse was, to be laconic, breathtaking. It seemed like every eight steps, the view – which gradually expanded to feature a grassy knoll sandwiched between a pebbled beach and a rugged shore – got exponentially more stunning.
Staring out into the Pacific, at what felt like the edge of my country of birth, ushered in thoughts of the many possibilities brought about by seeking adventure – and a reminder that adventure is out there, just waiting to be discovered.
From Manila, Victory Liner buses have daily trips going to Tuguegarao City in Cagayan (12 to 14 hours)
Should you choose to skip on the road trip, there are flights that go directly to Tuguegarao (1 hour)
From Tuguegarao, another bus/van takes you to Sta. Ana (3 hours), which is just about 15 minutes from San Vicente Port – the takeoff point to the Palaui Islands
For glamping and various other packages offered at Anguib Beach Club, contact (0917) 652-0581 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find them on Facebook @staanaglampingandcampingresorts
To get around Palaui Island, contact the SAMOBA (Sta. Ana Motorize Boat Association) at (0935) 383-9878, (0926) 1880213 and (0935) 130-6745. Boat ride rates vary for each destination.
For groups of up to four, the standard rate for tour guides is PhP300; two guides are required for groups of 5 to 8; and three guides for 9 to 12
Visit www.victoryliner.com for bus schedules
By TIMOTHY JAY IBAY
Photos by MARTIN SAN DIEGO courtesy of the NPVB