It used to be a laidback, sleepy town in a province better known for cattle-raising and sometimes referred to as the “Rodeo Capital of the Philippines.” But once word spread around about a group of six islets with pristine white-sand beaches and stunning rock formations lying just offshore, San Pascual in Burias Island, Masbate soon burst into the tourism scene. Although we’ve first read about this town and its island gems 5 years ago it was only last March that we finally got to organize a visit along with a friend and our nephew.
In the Philippines, Holy Week – that long weekend from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday – is a time when people flock to the beach or go to the highlands to cool off. We used to do that for some time until it became a hassle to find flights, bus trips, ferry trips or resorts at a time when everyone else was trying to do the same thing. Or to go to a beach where there was hardly any breathing room.
From our resort at Barangay Laurente in San Pascual town, it was the farthest of all three islands in our island-hopping tour. Sombrero Island is about an hour away from the port at San Pascual town. However it is almost two hours away from the first island on our itinerary – Animasola Island – situated much farther to the northeast. Fortunately we could stop at Tinalisayan Island on our way to Sombrero – or it would have been almost two hours of a monotonous journey on the deep blue of the Ragay Gulf.
In the middle of a trip that requires a total of 7 vehicular transfers – a taxi ride starting from home, an 8-hour bus ride, a 2-hour ferry ride, 2 van rides and 2 transfers by trike – you come to a point when you begin to question the sheer absurdity of going through a self-flagellating travel schedule just to cross out an item in your bucket list. And it didn’t end there. The following day after our arrival in sleepy San Pascual town in Burias Island, Masbate we had to negotiate a not-so-calm sea on our way to the islands of Animasola, Tinalisayan and Sombrero. In a boat just big enough for the five of us. These islands had better be good or else.
We’ve already seen it from a distance the day before, as our ferry made its way from Pasacao in Camarines Sur towards the port of San Pascual in Burias Island, Masbate. It looked like a massive piece of rock, almost featureless, from afar. But now, as our rented motorized outrigger neared Animasola Island on our island-hopping jaunt, we began to realize that this place could be the most interesting piece of marine real estate in San Pascual. Continue reading Animasola Island Rocks!
Our main reason for visiting Matnog – the town on the southernmost edge of the Bicol mainland in the province of Sorsogon – was to see the pinkish white sand beaches of Subic (in Calintaan Island) and Tikling Island. To get to these beaches we rented a boat at the pier in Matnog and soon learned that a private marine sanctuary in Juag Lagoon was included in the itinerary. But because the beaches were our primary destinations we considered the sanctuary a mere afterthought. We were soon to discover how wrong we were.
It was before breakfast time last Friday when we got the news that we’ve been dreading for some time. June, a friend and former teammate residing in San Diego, California with her husband and two kids, had just passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. Our old team has a unique and close bond with each other throughout the years. Losing someone in our team meant losing a family member.