Sometime in 1994, Neil Gaiman in his Sandman series wrote about the World’s End Inn. It’s a free house for those traveling in between realms, a shelter where characters exchanged stories while waiting out a storm. There is something Romantic about being indefinitely stuck in a mildly terrifying, unfamiliar territory–until I had a taste of it last weekend and realized how intoxicating the experience could be; like having a dopamine + cortisol + gin + cream liqueur + meth cocktail, served in a hipster mason jar, rimmed with salt and topped with your ex’s eyeballs.
Seriously, now. January 16 to 19, I got stuck in Cagbalete Island, along with 50-kabillion other people, who were just trying to have a proper goddamn weekend. The incident is thanks to the country’s first tropical storm Amang. The timing couldn’t be any better, because it made landfall in Eastern Visayas exactly on date of the pope’s visit and then in Quezon, exactly when people were about leave. What a man-bitch.
Cagbalete is a small piece of land off the coast of Mauban, Quezon province, roughly 6-kilometers northwest, towards the Pacific, accessible via passenger ferry or small fishing boats. It’s home to a couple of resorts, a river lined with old mangroves, a pristine white beach visible only during low-tide, and a village full of the most hospitable people in the planet.
I left Manila mid-day on the 15th via bus to Mauban and got there late around 5:30 PM because of traffic in some parts of Maharlika Highway. Unfortunately, the last private boat departed 5:00 PM–and so began my ‘stranded chronicles’ Day 1. There were no more rooms in the only hotel in the port area, so I stayed in a shady apartment no bigger than a bathroom cubicle.
The owner, Mang Ramon, turned out to be pretty nice but his hospitality didn’t stop me from leaving as early as possible the following day to hang out elsewhere, specifically, this 7-eleven store near the tourism office. I chanced upon two groups there who agreed to share a private boat to the island. So at 8-ish, we were off sailing! And by 9-ish, I was already lounging, reading a decent piece of literature by Dona Choleng’s resort.
And then the following day (January 17), my good friend J., who was supposed to follow and was already at the Mauban port, broke the news that a storm was coming and that the coast guard already barred boats from coming and going to the island. Bam! The nerve-racking part is that I was then living in a P500/night-tent, pitched along the beachfront, which means once Amang arrives, I’d be soaked like a motherfucker.
Now, most resorts in the area are expensive. In where I stayed, for example, even if you’re checked-in as a guest, they will still charge you P100.00 for using the stove, another P40.00 to rent a pot, still a couple of pesos to use utensils, P5.00 for a small, disposable paper cup. Out-freakin-rageous. The resort’s kitchen was so busy I had to wait an hour for fried fish that never came. And, once, I had to pay a hundred for a very basic Tapsilog meal.
On the evening of January 16, after the tragedy that was my disappearing / non-existent fried fish, I decided to walk to the bario to get something decent to eat. There were a couple of ways to get there, first is by following the shore (which means going around the island towards Sabang Port and passing by a cemetery near Pansacola Beach Resort; well how about a big no-way for that), second is by using the unlit dirt road possibly infested with snakes. I chose the snakes.
It was pitch black and I had no flashlight. My phone was already drained. Twenty meters into the road and I knew I wouldn’t get through alive, but my pride kept me from going back. Also, I was so goddamn hungry. That was when I bumped into a local named Ian who guided me around town. The same night, I met Tita Pinay, who would later on save me from becoming a wet, penniless island refugee.
To be continued!
This blog post is part of my 2015 travel project called #epic7107 — to vist as many places within the home-country as possible and to write not just about destinations, but also, people.