I sit here asking myself if that very long wobbly boat ride had been worth it.
The trip we took to Malalison Island had been marred by roughly an hour of bad weather that left me seasick for the first time in my life–something not even Samal Island’s wobbly boat rides could beat.
But I was definitely beyond grateful for all the help given by the local men, who had to take us from the enormous fishing vessel we were riding into a canoe that would take us through the final stretch leading to Malalison (and that wasn’t smooth sailing at all too. Because the boat was going against the gushing current, we had to pray hard the little wooden contraption we were riding doesn’t topple over).
We did manage to clamber out of our canoe alive—panting and nervous, but alive—and into a sandbar, a good part of which was submerged in water at that time due to the weather.
We were welcomed by a feast of grilled fish—at least four different kinds, including talakitok and tambilawan—cooked by the residents. It looked just like any other Pinoy gathering—some bustling about cooking, others exchanging pleasantries. It was a simple, warm welcome, and the freshly grilled seafood was a big come on too.
Unfortunately, the rains continued to batter the island and the sky grew darker as the afternoon ambled on. We were supposed to head to the back of Malalison and trek through its hills, but obviously that wasn’t about to push through.
I spoke instead to the island’s barangay captain Mario Fuenteblanca—Malalison is an island barangay of 700 people and maybe a thousand times more coconut trees—and I simply had to content myself at jotting down sights and activities that could have made a great afternoon.
SNORKELING & DIVING
Apparently the island has a fish sanctuary somewhere beyond our station at the multipurpose hall. Most Malalison visitors—the barangay keeps a logbook for this—go there for snorkeling or scuba diving. Majority of the divers who flock here are foreigners, no doubt drawn to the island’s raw and rugged beauty.
Divers would first have to secure a municipal diving permit from Culasi (the municipality that Malalison belongs to) for PhP200. Then there is the PhP150-barangay diving fee to pay for as well. Snorkelers, meanwhile, would have to pay the barangay a PhP150-entrance fee.
The island has its own chapel and elementary school, but electricity only becomes available from 6 PM to 9 PM everyday. This also means there are no hotels, though visitors are welcome in locals’ homes. Most of them, however, bring along tents and camp right outside the multipurpose hall, which has plain sand dotted only by a couple of trees and three concrete benches. This space stretches all the way to the tip of the sandbar, around a hundred meters from the hall. Locals can cook for visitors who decide to stay overnight. Those who visit for picnics only would have to pay PhP10 each, which covers the environmental fee.
SEAFOOD AND COCONUT, AS MUCH AS YOUR BELLY COULD TAKE
Speaking of provisions, Malalison is a simple island which can’t offer Krug Grande Cuvée NV for those who even want to ask. But lobsters it does—all you can eat, Mang Mario would quip—and everything else the sea could offer, from tuna to lapu-lapu to abalone. Mang Mario would explain that since electricity is limited, refrigeration isn’t an option in the island, which means residents have to consume everything else they catch before these even spoil (couldn’t help but envy the man at that point—all the lobsters you could eat!). Fishing is obviously the main local livelihood.
Apart from that, Malalison also has an oversupply of coconut trees, and hence fresh coconut juice, which visitors can have for PhP7 apiece. Between lobsters and fresh coconut, who needs air-conditioning?
This hike would be across grassy hills that would give you a panorama of the rest of the island as well as others nearby, not the type you’d do to reach Mt. Pulag; not even an almost vertical slope—which isn’t a slope at all—just to get to a waterfall. Mang Mario said the trails would be good enough to develop for horseback riding, although we’d have to see in the future how they’d manage to make that work. And they’re planning to include a zipline too—nothing final I assume, but ziplining across grassy hills surrounded by the sea is definitely something to look forward to. Imagine having to do that during sunset.
This is more of an islet since it’s connected to Malalison via a sandbar you could walk on during low tide. The part of Malalison facing Nablag is a cove with white sand—kind of makes you think the islet would fit right into that void, or previously did. You could see this view from above during the hike, and though we haven’t seen it firsthand, the photos of it are stunning.
GETTING TO MALALISON is relatively easy on a sunny day, especially when you take on the usual route from Poblacion in Culasi, a stone’s throw from the Culasi Municipal Hall. This route would take roughly 15 minutes (we had to take the longer route then because we had to take caution against the waves). A regular outrigger that could sit about seven people could very well handle the water. According to Mang Mario, a round trip would cost PhP1,000 (just make sure to drop by the Municipal Tourism Office, which could help you arrange for a boat for that price).
So, back to the boat ride—had it been worth it? If I do get around to fulfilling my mini bucket list here, then it’d be more so.
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