There are only two seasons in the Philippines: wet and dry. The dry season typically runs from November to May, with the wet season – usually the time for rains and typhoons – picking up the rest. Filipinos often refer to the dry and hot months from April to May as summer, an attempt to identify it with the closest season in temperate countries. Traditionally we would wait for “summer” to go on extended vacations but four years ago we decided that there would be no waiting. We would start hitting the beaches beginning January. By then the rains would have stopped but it would also be the time when the temperature wouldn’t be as hot as during the dry months beginning April.
Eventually, we ended up going to Magalawa Island in February of that year after an earlier visit to Cagbalete Island. Magalawa is just a stone’s throw away from the mainland of Palauig in Zambales province. We still had to negotiate a rough and dusty road from the main highway to the jump-off point in Palauig. But from there it was a quick 5-minute boat ride to Magalawa, not unlike Potipot Island farther up north.
Among the features of Magalawa that drew us to this island is its white (actually closer to creamy beige) sand beach and emerald green and turquoise waters. Ruiz Resort where we stayed has basic facilities only but the staff were quite helpful and the whole place had a very laid-back atmosphere. We were planning to just stay overnight before moving on to Potipot Island but we liked the place so much we decided to spend all of our time here.
A number of open huts line the beach and since we were practically the only ones at the resort during that time we were able to relax and doze off at a hut of our choosing when not swimming. There is plenty of sea grass just off the beach but 50 meters from the shoreline we could already observe several corals.
On our first day we sauntered off towards the beachfront of the adjoining Armada Resort during the golden hour and waited for the sunset. Before going here we knew there was an ongoing controversy between Armada and our resort for possession of the land next to the beach but the Armada people left us alone when we walked along their beachfront.
The beachfront at Armada Resort is actually the best in all of Magalawa Island with its curving, almost cove-like appearance. On our first day here we walked all the way to the mangrove area at the end of Armada. Several minutes later we got to experience a colorful sunset as the sun slowly began its descent on the western skies. Moments like these make us forget the 5 hour drive to the jump-off point at Palauig town.
The following day we hopped aboard one of the boats from Ruiz Resort to explore the giant clam farm and the Bacala Sandbar and Rest House just off San Salvador Island in the nearby town of Masinloc. Later that afternoon we explored the fishing village to the north of Ruiz Resort, chatted with the locals there and walked to another mangrove area past the fishing village.
A fishing village nearby means access to fresh catch. So on our final morning at Magalawa, we woke up early to meet fishermen bringing in their catch after a hard night’s work. This included red snapper (maya-maya), grouper (lapu lapu), fusilier (dalagang bukid), parrotfish, squid and a fish that’s popular here: the tarian (unicorn fish). The folks at Ruiz Resort grilled some for us for a minimal fee; the rest we placed in an ice box to take home.
By car: If you’re traveling via a private vehicle from Metro Manila drive all the way to Pangolinga in Palauig, Zambales. The fastest way to Palauig is via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and on to the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). The SCTEX goes directly to the Subic Bay Freeport from where you can get back to the national road going to Iba, Zambales.
After passing through the Iba public market continue up north until you reach a junction called the Amungan Triangle. Stay on the right to avoid passing through Palauig town and continue on until you reach a second junction – the Banlog Triangle. Keep right as before, heading north towards Pangolingan. You will pass by a Mt. Tapulao signage, the Zameco Electric Cooperative and the Bgy. Salaza Bridge. Look for the welcome sign to Pangolingan. Slow down after this sign and look for a waiting shed on the left side of the road. Turn left on Veritas Road at this waiting shed and drive for around 20 minutes or so until you reach Luan Port and either the Armada Resort parking area or the parking area for Ruiz Resort customers.
By public transpo: Take a bus bound for Sta. Cruz or Iba, Zambales (Victory Liner has buses going to both places from Metro Manila). If you take the Sta. Cruz bus simply ask the driver to drop you off at the Veritas Road in Bgy. Pangolinan, Palauig, Zambales. If you take the Iba bus you will have to take an ordinary bus at the Iba terminal to connect to Bgy. Pangolinan. The first bus option is obviously better but the buses to Sta. Cruz are not available every hour unlike the Iba buses. From the waiting shed in front of the Veritas Road you can then take a tricycle to Luan Port and to either the Ruiz Resort or Armade Resort jump-off points depending on which resort you will be staying.