Believe it or not, I first heard of Magalawa Island from a friend from another country about two years ago. Seems like its reputation has gone far. Now, I could understand why. Doesn’t it feel awkward when your neighbor knows more about your own home than you do? We can’t be a stranger to our own country.
Magalawa didn’t cross my mind again until a friend reminded me of it by sharing a photo via Facebook. The short of the story is, we made it happen. Took us about more than two months of planning (and dreaming) but it happened.
Magalawa came from the locals’ native word mag-luwa, which means two places. It was said that in the early century, Magalawa used to be a part of Sitio Luan, where the port is. Said to be divided by a small body of water that can still be crossed by the locals until such time that the water became wider and wider.
Magalawa Island is one of the barangays of Palauig, a province of Zambales. The island is surrounded by the China Sea and near the disputed territory Scarborough Shoal. It has a population of less than 400 people. It is one of the youngest tourist destinations of Zambales to add to the growing list including Potipot, Anawangin, Capones, etc
Look at this map. See the tiny black circle? That’s Magalawa!
You will only have two accommodation options when you get to the island – Armada Resort and Ruiz Resort. There is an ongoing dispute between the two on who the rightful owner is. The issue has not been resolved.
We tried both. My initial plan was to stay at Armada. It is known for being on the ‘ more picturesque’ side of the island – great view, clearer water, finer and creamier sand. It also has better facilities – rooms, bathrooms, cooking area. The problem is we weren’t satisfied by how they handled (or not handled) our inquiries. We made email reservations twice and followed thru twice. We also tried calling them at least ten times at different times of the day (and night) using different numbers but the calls were all dismissed. Not sure why. Maybe they were full.
Anyway, we decided to switch to Ruiz, from which we got a very fast response. We made the right move. The only reason I wanted a better accommodation was because we have friends who have never done something like this before. I wanted them to have a comfortable stay as possible.
For P2,700 (est $60) per head, we got the following:
- Round Trip Van Transfer ( P1k)
- Round Trip Boat Transfer
- Fan Room Accommodation
- Four Meals of our choice
- Snorkeling or Island Trip
- Resort Entrance
Given that there’ s 13 of us, we could actually get a lower price. I did not ask for it anymore. The little amount we could save for ourselves would be a great deal for the local tourism. Might as well give it. This is a very good deal and the rest of this entry will tell you why.
You have two options to get to Magalawa.
1. Public Transportation is consists of the following:
- In our case, we need to hail a cab from our office to Victory Liner.
- From Pasay, you may get on a bus to Sta. Cruz at P466. Trips are scheduled at 4A, 7A, 1130A and 4P. Another option is via Earnshaw Sampaloc to Sta. Cruz at P498 with trips at 6A, 10A, 2P, 4P, and 11P. If you get on a bus to Iba instead of Sta. Cruz, you will need to get another to get to the Brgy. Pangolinan. If you plan on buying food before heading to the resort, it’s best to get off Iba so you can pass by the market before heading to the port. (Fares based on Victory Liner Twitter responses)
- Get off Radio Veritas Rd of Brgy. Pangolinan and look for the tricycle terminal going to Luan Port. It is going to be a very dusty, bumpy ride so each can only accommodate two passengers with P75/pax. I suggest that you bring a hanky or head gear to get you through this ride. Nevertheless, I bet it’s going to add to the life of the travel.
- From Luan Port, get on a boat going to your choice of resort. Usually, your resort includes this in your reservation. If not, you will have to pay P100 per head. The ride will only take about 10 minutes and the view steals your attention.
2. Private Transportation – There is a parking space at the Luan Port for a fee. There’s 13 of us and we hired a Nissan Estate, which was just a good fit for everyone including a kid who was allowed to go with us for free. We were charged P1000/head for a round trip transfer. Good deal! This option would be great especially for groups like us who came straight from the night shift and would like to catch some Zzz’s on the way. It also allowed us to be picked up from the office, stop for bio breaks, listen to our own music, get some private time, sleep, and grab some grub.
Upon reaching the port and while on the boat, we did not let the sight leave our memories. We snapped these photos.
Upon arrival, we settled. We got ourselves three kubo fan rooms that are good for up to four heads each. There’s a socket that you can use for charging. Would be better if you bring an extension cord for more gadgets. I initially thought that electricity was only available in the evening but seems like that has changed. It was available the whole time we were there.
Aside from the fan room, you may also pitch your own tents or rent tents for a much cheaper fee. When we visited, there were a lot who did that because there were only few fan rooms available. Our reservation was made about two weeks prior to the trip. I, honestly, don’t mind staying in a tent. The place looks very safe for camping. I went out in the middle of the night to make water and heard the snoring from some of the tents. I would like to assume that’s comfort!
Part of our P1,700 accommodation fee is our food. It covers four meals.
This first serving and the rest of the meals are worth the money we paid. There was more than enough every meal. They tasted good and were prepared on time. Most of all, everything that we had requested for from Ate Rhodora (wife of the owner) was served, to add, in beautiful plating. We were even able to provide for our driver, reserve some for the next meal, and give away some for the resort cleaners.
The resort offers free use of the cooking areas. If you will have more time, go ahead and be more adventurous and cook your own meals. But if you don’t and you’d rather spend more time relaxing with each other, let the Resort do it for you. This way, you also help them have more opportunities to earn. You help the local tourism even more plus you get a chance to be served by their hospitality and local cuisine.
There was a good number of tourists at the resort. It’s summer. But I still think that it wasn’t too crowded. Just enough to make the place alive. You just need to come up with a strategy in order to catch the shower rooms at the best time. Overall, we like the ambiance, the energy, and the harmony of the place. Everyone seems nice to each other – stranger or familiar.
Right after lunch, we wasted no time and headed to the water. We had been imagining it ever since we left the very warm Manila.
There are no strong waves so it is perfect for kids.
Just be very gentle when you meet these “locals” as you swim. They’re everywhere in different shapes, colors, and sizes.
When the sun was no longer at its peak, we went for a boat trip to Bacala Rest House in the middle of a sand bar in San Salvador Island. In a little less than 30 minutes, we reached our destination.
The best time to enjoy this place is during low tide or when the sun is up. The sparkling water makes it more picturesque. And the low tide gives you more space to enjoy. It’s like being in the middle of nowhere. You have a 360 degrees view of China Sea, the nearby lands and plantation.
Waste away. It’s yours.
The waves were a bit strong when we went back to the island but we made it safe. Ready for dinner and some well-deserved rest. If we had more time, we would have done more. There’s a lot to do and see in this part of the country. But at least we got more reasons to come back.
When I travel, I like waking up earlier than everyone else for two things – to catch the sunrise and to witness how the place comes to life. It did not ever fail me. My phone got busted the night before so I was not able to capture on video the sight I wanted you to see. But my friends took some photos. This awesome photo was taken by a friend at 6AM.
I wanted to show you photos my eyes saw between 5AM-6AM. But I guess, no photo or video can ever give justice.
As the minutes pass by, more and more people came to the shore to capture the beauty of the day. It was quiet. No one talked. All you can hear was the sound of the boats passing carrying the locals going to the nearest market to prepare for everyone’s food for the day. Even the sea was serene as if we were all patiently waiting for the ‘star’ of the day to signal another beginning.
Right after breakfast, we prepared ourselves in exploring the other side of the island – Armada. Due to the ongoing dispute, Armada does not allow any one from Ruiz to visit their resort without paying. They charge P50 each. Ruiz does not charge Armada visitors when they cross over. Even if we want to argue with this, we have no choice but to pay.
When we got to Armada, there were very few people. I wondered why our calls and inquiries were not answered. But, anyway, we’re glad that we got in pretty easily after paying.
We were lucky to have this part of the island all to ourselves the first few hours we were there. To give you a top view of where we were, let me use this photo from runnington.com
We were at the tip of the land, to your right. Imagine what you can see and feel from it.
There is a part of the island that is dangerous because the current is very strong. This is why they don’t allow visitors to swim in this area.
This was also the perfect setting for some crazy team bonding activities.
The eager audience.
If hungry, Armada also has a floating restaurant you can rent for a more unique dining experience.
Or you can stay at spots where you can just cool off or relax. They also offer water activities such as snorkeling or island hopping.
This was our last chance to enjoy it for this trip so we all made the most out of it.
After another good serving of food from Ruiz, we headed back to Manila. As an appreciation for all of you, my readers, Ruiz Resort (Rhodora) and I came up with a discount code for you if you wish to stay in Ruiz. Just by giving this promo code We Park and Ride , you can get a 10% discount off your total bill before you check out. Do not forget to text her the code. Her name is Rhodora Aragon and her contact information is +63929-467-05-05. She and her husband, Mang Mulo, usually only requires a P1000 deposit via Cebuana branches nationwide. She may not honor the discount request unless you give her the promo code given. The promocode may change without prior notice. You may also send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want me to notify them that you will be availing of the discount. I hope you make it to this beautiful island.
It was an awesome trip. And personally, one of my favorites amongst all of my travel adventures. Am glad we made it happen.
More than anything, it was a great chance for all of us to just be together and share the simplest of things – eat, sleep, laugh. Set aside differences for the good of everyone – give way, share food, sing a song, listen, hand over that plate, laugh with, welcome new friends, keep old ones, forgive, make someone feel better.
People who have gone through the same battle have a stronger bond. Am glad that we did not have to go through one at this time. But, we know that this is a good investment for whatever battle that might come our way. The chance to share this experience with good people in a beautiful island such as Magalawa is truly an amazing experience.
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Travel Dates: April 18 & 19, 2015