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I always used to say that true white sand beaches don’t exist in Luzon. If there are websites claiming so, it was bound to be a marketing strategy. I held on to this hypothesis until I got off the 45-minute boat ride to the pristine sand and clear waters of Cagbalete Island. And then I ate my words.

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This is the scene that greets you as you alight from the 45-minute boat-ride.

Well, half the time. The whiteness of the sand is largely dependent on the amount of sunshine, but at noon, the vast expanse of very light-flesh-to-white horizon is unmistakable. And then afternoon happens, the tides recede, and this is what you see:

When the sun isn't directly hitting the sand, it returns to its usual light-flesh color.

When the sun isn’t directly hitting the sand, it returns to its usual light-flesh color.

The exaggeratedly gentle slope of the beach also lends to several sandbars and exotic birds feasting along the very thick expanse of walkable beach. The slope is so gentle that the bangka taking you to the island will have to stop at some point an arm’s reach from the actual island but not quite there (about 200 meters) and you transfer to a small boat, and then boatmen pull you to the shore, or at least until you can walk to the beach. The beach looks to be permanently low-tide, and even when it’s high tide, the beach is hip-deep at best, so no chance of drowning there (but no chance of swimming, either)!

The bigger motorized bangka has to dock about a few hundred meters or so away from the beach, where you transfer to a small paddleboat. Which, as you can see, is never paddled, but pushed.

Cagbalete Island is a paradox of sorts, in that it’s still a bit too inconvenient for the average traveler to go to for what you’ll get on the island. Public transportation going there is not as convenient as other beach destinations. There is no electricity on the island except for generators that run at night for the most basic things like fans and lights. The beach isn’t swimmable due to its exaggerated shallowness, there are no island hopping tours or any other tours. In short, it’s nothing to go exaggeratedly out-of-your-way for, but when you get there you’re sure to love it, which is what’s strange about it. It’s a pure escape to nature, where trees grow huge and wild and untamed in and around whatever establishments are there.

The lush greenery of Cagbalete Island begins a few steps away from the beach

The lush greenery of Cagbalete Island begins a few steps away from the beach

It’s simple, very much so–the kind of place where you will have no choice but to bond with your companions, and you will thank the rustic lack of technology on the island for it. It’s a pet peeve of mine when I see people spending “getaways” in front of their gadgets the whole time. Cagbalete will make sure to rid you of that sickness. Haha. Whether it’s beach volleyball, frisbee, bonfires, grilling, drinking, karaoke, you will find all manner of social activities to be the best (if not the only) entertainment the island has to offer.

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Beach volleyball in Pansacola Beach Resort.

Barkada, office, or family, Cagbalete Island is a good place to cement relationships amid honest and untamed views of nature (provided that your group is open-minded enough to overcome the inconvenience of actually getting there).

My final verdict is that the way to maximize value-for-money, time, and enjoyment on the island is if you go with a group of no less than 10 people, but arranging sojourns for up to 30 people shouldn’t be a problem if you can come in your own vans instead of taking public transportation, which is what I think keeps the island relatively un-commercialized and less populated.

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Trying in vain to find a swimmable or at least wade-able area, and failing. But sitting on the horizon, lightyears away from the shore, is fun, too.

Someday I hope to return to explore more of the island beyond Pansacola Beach Resort. I hope by then, the island retains its relatively pristine condition. :)

Shaira the Fargazer

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