This is a guest post by my Palaui buddy, Imah, who have always dreamed of getting to Palaui Island. Our #SaPalauiMapapawi adventure happened on February 25-28, 2016. —POWELL
To say that I was over the moon for this trip was an understatement. I’ve bugged my friends (from work, from Elbi and even the frog) nonstop for us to visit this island. That in every coming long weekend where we tried to schedule an out-of-town, I always piped in “Sa Palaui, sa Palaui please!!”. So after passing three long weekends and text convos of “Yes, we’ll Palaui soon”, CebuPac has opened the gates for the sweet valley of Cagayan with a seat sale not costing more than 700 Php. And yes!!! The gods are in my favor as a flight was available on Feb 25, 2016-Thursday (holiday-EDSA30) and we have a scheduled vacation leave for the 26th Feb. So hooray! I asked Powell to book us a one way plane ticket to Tuguegarao (12-hour bus ride was our option going back to Manila).
After reading my fair share of Palaui related blogs, we found ourselves having breakfast at McDonald’s and a bit on our toes the morning of our flight to Tuguegarao. Taking the bus that went around the airport loop, we arrived at Terminal 3 just in time for check-in. The airport was jam-packed with people being holiday and all. This did not even bugged me until it started drizzling right before our boarding time. Aerial traffic delayed our flight for 15-25 minutes. Feeling a little disheartened every minute with the rain totally pouring (due to amihan winds) plus the pilot’s update of intermittent rainfall in Tugue, gloomy rain clouds welcomed us in the tarmac of Tugue airport by 1 pm.
First order of business was lunch with the famous pancit batil patung. The tricycle driver took us to Jomar’s, and since it was a first time (at least for me and Jo-c), we opted for the super special for each of us. From the looks of it, it was literally overwhelming with toppings. Turned out that a single serving of super special is good for sharing and trying to down it alone was a bit nakakaumay. That or maybe we just don’t know how to eat it properly (locals said later on, that it should be paired with sliced white onions and soy sauce). Anyways, it was worth the palate experience. After lunch, we took a trike to Sta. Ana van terminal, where the SUV departed few minutes before 2pm.
Along the way, locals were very helpful directing us to some local homestay and people for the boat arrangement. It seemed a really small town where everybody knows everybody. This retired teacher, another passenger, owned a boarding house where she offered us lodging for the night. Ma’am Tapaoan was nice enough for us, thus we accepted her offer. She gave us the room where her “mga apo” stayed during vacations. It’s not much but it was enough for an overnight shelter.
The weather at this moment was, to my dramatic heart dare say, worst. It started raining hard. Upon arriving at Sta. Ana, it came to a drizzle-rain-stop, drizzle-rain-stop situation. Stormy clouds continued to hover above but we still made arrangements for boat and buy some groceries for our plans the next day. This kind of weather continued until dinner time, and with all the heavy heart, up to the early hours past midnight. To say that I was worried, scared and disappointed every time the rain and wind howled at night was acceptable (not to mention I uttered too many ‘Lord, please’ every time the rain and the wind would disturb my slumber).
Our alarm set off at 4 am giving us enough time to worry about the weather, to get ready and to fix ourselves some coffee. At 5 am after breakfast, our service took us to the port (we made prior arrangement for the boat and tour the day before). After accomplishing the manifest and introducing us to the boatmen, we have set to sail. I was still scared and very worried of the weather condition (kuya bangkero assures us that it was fairly normal condition where waves were calm). But then I realized our definitions of “normal” were quite different. It was still dark and cold and *OH MY GOD!!* the waves are in no way near calm!
About fifteen minutes of boat ride from Sta. Ana port and getting our first dose of sea splash(es), the boat docked in Punta Verde in Palaui Island. Big sighs and we registered and go directly to the homestay where we can leave our things and fix our disheveled selves. After primping and getting our things ready, we went back to the boat that is waiting to take us to Anguib Beach. The weather was still gloomy.
The boat travel to Anguib Beach lasted more than 30 minutes. And even the beauty of the Crocodile Island that you see while crossing/sailing from Punta Verde to Anguib Beach did not calm my palpitating heart and shaking hands. The waves are bigger. And I think I oh-my-god myself until we reached the mangrove sanctuary where the water was still. The mangroves and the birds flying are a welcome sight for my nervous self. After passing through the mangroves, the ocean welcomed us back again with clear, pool-like water. The water itself is beautiful.
Docking in Anguib Beach, our boatmen chose the part of the beach where they only collect cheap entrance fee. The beach was pretty, white sand, clear aqua green water and agoho trees surrounding the beach. It may not be as pretty as Boracay but the place was so serene and you can literally have it all to yourself. Took a lot of pictures. We dipped and pretend-swam in the ocean for about thirty minutes and took some more pictures. Then we explored the other side of the beach. We stayed for about an hour in Anguib Beach before we decided to face the waves again. This time, the sun has stopped hiding from the clouds giving me a very good vibes that the rest of the day will just be perfect.
Upon arriving at Punta Verde, we got our guide for the trek to Cape Engaño. After doing some bathroom business and putting on enough sunblock we started the trek. We sidetripped to Baratubot Falls, which was also a pretty good sight. The cold water was very refreshing and just perfect for shedding off mud, sweat and salts in our skin. We took some pictures before proceeding with the trek; continuing to the woods until we walked through the Mabolbol Beach (the name coming from the Philippine bolbol birds that can be seen around the area). The long stretch of the beach is about a 30-minute walk. And here you’ll witness how those intimidating waves are formed and broke in the ocean.
Taking a little break and sugar at the end of beach, we walked through the first part of a Heidi-like kapatagan, then back to the woods with some steep trails. I noticed a lot of insects and birds chatterings. Butterflies in blue, violets and stripes are hovering around and wild tiny flowers are seen around.
The first glimpse of Dos Hermanas Islands was magnificent and surely gave you another boost of energy just enough to continue with the trek until you reach the rolling hills and the famous plain-like Batanes view that you see in most blogs. And yes, it was just as pretty as what the blogs are saying. And we obliged a thousand (an exaggeration, of course) pictures for this!!! I do not have enough words to justify its beauty. This hill was a few meters away to the Cape Engaño Cove where the boats were waiting and this served as the jump off for those who wanted to see Cape Engaño Lighthouse without doing the trek. We decided to take our lunch first before proceeding the climb to the lighthouse.
We allowed some time for short naps and simply breathing in the salty air. We started ascending the stairs leading to the lighthouse with renewed energy and enthusiasm. It was about 234 or something steps up to the lighthouse. The view was simply breathtaking. The cliff and the ocean and the wild wind welcoming us. I feel that the cliff had a different vibe compared to the one I see in Uluwatu (Indonesia) in which I have to say has a little ‘holiness’ touch in it. This awesome view behind (and atop) the Cape Engaño Lighthouse really gave me the wow feelings. I must utter the word a hundred times while taking in everything that I was witnessing. There’s no reason for you to not love with this island.
The hours spent trekking were soon forgotten. Trying to take in everything was too overwhelming. These beauts really left me speechless for all the good reasons. Yes! Take lots and lots of pictures. Pose, pretend and daydream all you like. Laugh, run around, shout or simply hold your smile the whole time that you were up there basking in the beauty of nature. Forget for a while that the waves are big and mean on your way back to Punta Verde. Just love the place and love it some more. The short time you spend there is worth keeping in a lifetime not to mention that draining your camera phone batteries and filling your SD cards are equal to a year (or two maybe) of snapshots that are all Instagram-worthy.
SA PALAUI MAPAPAWI
This place is magical in its own way. (And yes, I really used the word magical.) Maybe the long ride and intimidating waves were just some of the reasons we tried to convince ourselves that everything here is worth seeing. What I saw (and felt) up there was the best fix to my worried heart and month-long February heaviness in general. Nevertheless, Palaui, your beauty exceeded all the anticipation and expectations. To state it in a more dramatic way, you do not only make my ‘dreams’ came true, you also made it a very happy one.
Descending and leaving the lighthouse was bitter. Several times did I took my last glance. Truthfully, I thought we all took our time taking each step down and forward to the awaiting boat. It was not even a twelve-hour experience but the beauty we witnessed is too much to contain in just one day of appreciation.
Love notes to Palaui: Thank you Palaui for fixing me (in a way). You are indeed my Pangarap na Isla. You slayed me. And my heart is yours.