We could see the long strip of the white sandy shores of Alibijaban Island from the port. We arrived just in time for the sunrise after a long six-hour drive from Manila. I was in the company of my fellow officemates from the university I currently work with and we’re on an outing trip. But it seems, we won’t be alone on the island as we were expecting. The newly built port already had a few vehicles parked, probably heading to the same island. Alibijaban Island has garnered quite a popularity in the past couple of years, and I had to blame my friends, Dong Ho and Allan of Lantaw for that somehow. I had some laughs when I recount Dong Ho’s story of being mistaken as an NPA when he first set foot on the island. He had to seek comfort and security under the baranggay captain since no tourist comes to their island. Now visitors here picked up especially on weekends. What drives people on this southern region of Quezon province?
Road to San Andres
The small team in our office department narrated how much they have enjoyed Calaguas Island in their previous outing and it has set quite a standard when they go on trips. I threw the idea of going to Alibijaban Island in the air hoping for something similar in character – white sand beaches, undeveloped infrastructure and crystal clear waters. While I haven’t been there before, my travel buddies speaks highly of it so I was confident it would deliver. I contacted my travel blogger friend Izah of Explore8 so she could arrange for us a good package for the tour since we had to make it official and they didn’t disappoint. We had to go through several dates until setting on one where we can accommodate more people. And so it was set.
It was a weekend night drive to San Andres via Lucena City. What would usually take 8–10 hours bus commute only took six hours with our van complete with all the bumpy ride parts of the road especially after Lucena. Our van driver has been here so it was easy to find the port. San Andres is a rural town with no major establishments. We settled on the small makeshift food stalls but had tasty lugaw (rice porridge), pancit and 5-peso pancakes. Coffee came from a local burger stand.
Alibijaban Island Allure
The wonderful Tigbi Falls was our first stop from San Andres. Coming back mid-day, we excitedly boarded a large outrigger for Alibijaban Island. It’s only a 20-minute ride and we we’re already mesmerized on how clear the waters were as we approach its shores. We could see flags flapping and also some tents of other visitors on the island. We were right to expect there were other visitors already but it is not as crowded as other places still. We stayed in a Pension House. Electricity is still a problem on the island and water too. For our group, there was only a drum supply ready but judging from our numbers it wasn’t enough. A Php 150 per drum of water supply is available. Water shortage is the biggest consideration here and the minimal facility for shower and toilet. Good thing our group rented the house with an ensuite toilet and bath and don’t have to line up with the hordes camping outside.
Arriving mid-day, we just settled on relaxing and catching up on lost sleep from the drive. Finding a comfortable shade where we could lay down, read a book, snooze or simply enjoy some tunes. When the heat was bearable enough we walked around the beach and find some area to take a dip. The water was warm and the tide was virtually none. I decided to walk further north of the island passing by a fishing village of lively locals midway until I reach the mangrove protected area of the island. I could have gone farther but forgot to bring some citronella oil to keep those sand mites I saw jumping around the beach. It was late afternoon already, the time they come alive. I just decided to shoot from where I am and walked back catching up with Tin who I found wandering as well. The walk back found us conversing with some locals and friendly dogs along the way.
Night finds the group gazing at the stars. It was more refreshing to stay outdoors by the beach with the cold breeze steadily simmering down the heat of the day. It was wonderful to look at the stars we can barely see in the city. I decided to sleep at the pension though seeing there would be noisy camps opening all the windows to let the air in. From my exhaustion I was in deep sleep in minutes.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.