Monday, February 2, 2015

Monday, February 02, 2015
Cagbalete Island of Mauban
The town's old public bath house


O F   T H E


When your domicile’s in Metro Manila or in any northern Luzon spot, a visit of the town of Mauban is a definite detour from any potential immersion in Bicol. This is perhaps why Jacliner, a bus company in Quezon City, only has one 5:00am-bus ride bound for the Quezon Province town every day. For the rest of the day, most tourists hie off to the southern coast of the province or its neighbors -- Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon.

What’s there to see in Mauban then that can rival Mayon Volcano’s charm? Aside from its colorful seawall where the Dumagat known by locals as Gat Uban (the origin of the town’s name) led the defense of the early settlements from the invading Moros, the town promises memorable experiences that can surprise a visitor. Some of which are stepping into a century old public bath house, meandering at the town proper’s streets to check out old houses, gazing at a vanishing rock formation, strolling or skinny-dipping at powdery white sands at an island village, and visiting its beachfront cemetery. Truly, a side trip to this old town can develop into a long-term visit as it appeals to both the patriotic locals and intrepid travelers, many of whom tend to linger.

Young local at Cagbalete Island
White House of Mauban
Mauban Seawall
Alquiros-Pastrana Ancestral House

I recently brought a group of young professionals (former office division staff members) and two fellow travel bloggers to Cagbalete Island. I ended up embracing the town where it belongs to and for most of what it has.
Here are five reasons that make Mauban’s attractions essential enough to be shortlisted as tourist destinations in 2015 and the years to come:

The Poblacion’s Ancestral Houses

En route from anywhere outside of the town to its port, a tourist can discover ancestral houses in hidden street corners and junctions. The poblacion offers visiting pedestrians a cultural trip via its well-maintained, 19th century-old residential structures that dot the streetscape. A simple walk from the town hall or a few blocks away from its colorful seawall are well-paved roads that weave the location’s rich historical past with its urbanized present.

(top L-R) Almires-Clemente Ancestral House and Garcia-Pastrana Ancestral House
(bottom L-R) Gloria Pastrana Ancestral House and Tenio Ancestral House
Virgilio Pansacola Ancestral House
Pelejo Ancestral House
Quintana-Pastrana Ancestral House

After sampling pancake, a favorite local merienda or snack, I took a stroll through busy intersections and quaint passage ways which showed me Spanish stone houses that belong to prominent families that include the Pansacolas, Pelejos, Peñalosas, Taiños, and Villabonas. Reused for commercial and office purposes, the houses are extended the life span that they deserve.

The most palatial of all the mansions seems to be the so-called White House which is esteemed for its pristine white paint all over. Interestingly, it’s the birthplace of Fr. Horacio dela Costa, a known authority in Philippine and Asian culture and history.

Old public bath house

The Old Public Bath House

A few steps away from the town’s Saint Bonaventure Parish Church is a nondescript bungalow that cradles an old way of life. The facility, an old public bath house that was commissioned by a village captain in 1725, stands as proof of how enduring the locals’ heritage is in this part of Luzon.

Originally made of lime and shells, the more than 200-year old structure is no longer operational but is still perfectly functioning for the purpose of exhibition. Visitors can see up close at the site how fresh stream water still flows from the detailed repaired features of the bath house’s raw wall finish. Interestingly, the wash areas were divided for males and females back in the old days. The space for female users is larger because they were expected to also do heavy laundry at the site when washing machines were not yet invented.

My group tour at Bonsai Islet
Bonsai Islet
Rushing on low tide to reach Bonsai Islet

The Vanishing Rock Formation of Bonsai Islet

When I recently stayed at Cagbalete Island for three days, I grabbed at the chance to visit the vanishing rock formation that’s just a 20 to 30-minute stroll on crystalline, low tide water at the beach. From my group tour’s booked stay at Villanoe Beach Resort, I easily spotted the so-called Bonsai Islet that showcases a vast rock expanse that’s as big as a conventional campus quadrangle. The difference is that it’s not entirely flat as the rock formation has distinctive cracks darting through the expanse of the whole revealed sliver of attraction. I was enamored by some of the narrow, tunnel-like openings that I saw sliding down onto one of those natural trenches.

I had to reach it fast enough with my group tour in time for a 2:00pm return to the beachfront to beat the incoming high tide. Thankfully, we did just in time to warn another group that has a kid in tow that they would not be able to return safely if they still proceeded with the stroll. The ennui involved might have been unnecessary but it was intentional to be exciting.

Cagbalete Island beach on low tide
Cagbalete Island in the afternoon

The Unspoiled Beach of Cagbalete Island

Cagbalete Island is approximately 40 minutes via passenger boats from the port of Mauban which makes it accessible. Although the area is still suffering from rationed electricity, the need to read a book during daytime instead of ogling at a boob tube complements the tropical surroundings. At this island barangay, the pace is not hurried and bonfires are lit in selected areas as a prelude to a restful sleep under star-studded skies.

It was here where I managed to get rid of my skivvies and skinny dip with reckless abandon at a secluded shoreline. I also got to try kayaking in the late afternoon even on a breezy day. Check out my full beachfront experience at Dona Choleng Camping Resort here.

Beachfront cemetery
The Beachfront Cemetery

While checked-in at Dona Choleng Camping Resort for my second night at the island, I had the chance to walk along the long stretch of powdery white sands. After a few minutes of evading several driftwood that had been washed ashore by strong waves, I wound up standing next to an open grave with a tombstone that I did not dare read anymore. I just got mesmerized by how the final resting place of one local got to find itself forever checked-in at such a beachfront property. This patch of beach looked and felt eerie for all apparent reasons, but it was a side of the island that I had to see to make it seem real to me.

Mauban Port
At the edge of Bonsai Islet
Boarding a passenger boat for Cagbalete Island at the Mauban Port
Pilipit at the Mauban Port

Lastly, trying out the local diet of Pilipit (sticky rice snack made from squash and glazed with caramelized sugar) at the port or public market, plus seafood like what locals call as bukawin for lunch can make the visit of the town enriching.

Mauban is a splendid surprise waiting to happen on your calendar. Go ahead and don’t schedule but take note of it for summer. Try not to meticulously plan except for booking at a resort. Make it more than a side trip. Make it your weekend destination soon.

Check out my Dona Choleng Camping Resort experience here.

For accommodations at Cagbalete Island, contact Dona Choleng Camping Resort
Address: Cagbalete Island, Mauban, Quezon Province, Philippines
Phone: 0910-882-3346 or (042) 784-0789

Check out my other Quezon Province-related blog posts:
Infanta, Balagbag Falls, and Nonok Falls
General Nakar and Agos River
Cagbalete Island getaway
Real's Tignoan Beach
Attractions in Tayabas City
Graceland Estate and Country Club of Tabayas

More Photos Below:

Dona Choleng Camping Resort


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