I was sitting on a bench busy reading my book and travel magazines while alternately watching people plunge in the water and make sand castles—their boisterous laughs filled the humid air which only I seemed to hear. Maybe, many suspected that I was a stranger. There were times I eavesdropped on interesting conversations of trippers and of couples—some made me smile and some made me quip. While most of them were hustling things, I preferred to stay in one corner relishing my solitude and the placidity of the atmosphere. After a couple of minutes, I became envious of the vacationers. I ran towards the other side of the island, placed my backpack under a tree, took off my shoes and shirt, prepared the shutter of my camera and dipped in the beach. I thought it was surreal until I realized that I was in Magalawa Island. And yes! I traveled solo.
I, too, like many others spent some time planning for my long vacation during this year’s Holy Week. Planning was harder than the trip especially if there are a lot of places you want to visit. With all the research and day-dreaming, I finally settled to ramble in Zambales.
I started my Zambales exploration as early as 5 in the morning. Hopping from one town to another to visit Catholic Churches was a great way to spend the first half of my day. Shortly before noon, I was on my way going to Palauig—the town that harbors Magalawa Island. My initial plan was to stay there for only 5 hours so I could still visit the remaining three towns of Zambales and make it to Pangasinan before noon the next day. But all plans got twisted the moment my feet touched the fine white sand of the beach. I was speechless and instantly captivated.
Though I’ve seen it on web articles, Magalawa island is a new discovery. Disparate to most beaches which are only photogenic, this island is more beautiful in bare. I was approached by the owner when our boat docked at its shores and asked me if I had made reservations prior to my trip. Since all the rooms were occupied, she then offered me a tent if I prefer to stay overnight. In just a snap I grabbed it. Tent is around P400 for 4 persons but I got it for only P300 since I was alone.
I took my lunch past 12. There is a small cafeteria in the island, also being managed by the owner. Their meals have fixed price—P200/person for lunch and dinner and P150 for breakfast. Every meal comes with rice, soup, 2 viands, desert (mostly fruits) and a bottle of softdrink. Most of the guests, even I, were surprised with the big servings of food. A complete meal for one person can feed 2-3 persons (seriously). Dine-in is counted per head. If you think of sharing food like ordering one complete meal for two persons, you’ll still be charged P200 each, in total that’s P400. So better forget your diet and indulge yourself on a food-fight. They only cook 2 sets of menu for all the guests. But there are also special orders like sugpo, crab, and meat if available and that’s on top of the P200. Special requests can also be made for breakfast—like for instance you want corned-beef or ham for breakfast which is separate from their breakfast meal. Please be reminded that requests can only be granted upon availability. It’s an island, so it’s understandable that transportation of goods is hard.
They didn’t serve meat during my stay here, only seafoods and vegetables; that kept me more delighted every meal-time since seafood is a treasure to my taste buds. P200 was reasonable especially for someone like me who went there alone. The owner and staffs were very accommodating; however, I think they are understaffed because I had to wait for 20 minutes before they served my meal. But you’ll see them hurrying to attend to your request.
Magalawa island is embedded by trees of various kinds that serve as shades for campers. Here, you can easily find a place to stay. Benches and wooden tables are everywhere. I also peeked through the rooms; they are very homey. Air-conditioned and fan rooms have their own comfort rooms and faucets, but those staying in tents and nipa huts share comfort rooms and deal with the water pump.
Among those I’ve visited, Magalawa is one of the best islands in Zambales. Flaunting its pristine water and white sand combined with the diffidence of the area, it appears perfect for a solo traveler and for people looking for a peaceful place this summer. Its seawater is very calm and it seems to entice every visitor to swim and explore its fullness. There are also portions of the beach where tourists are not allowed to swim due to indeterminate depth of the water; warning signs are posted in the area.
Beachfront is the most suitable area for swimming; other side of the island breeds abundant sea grasses and mangroves. I walked on this part of the island after spending some time with the water. That gave me a feeling of possession of the place.
This island has been my comfort zone during my two-day Zambales exploration. If time permits, I would have extended my stay here. I’ve visited three other beaches last week and only in Magalawa island I dropped a promise of coming back… again and again.
Make a reservation if you want to stay in one of their air-conditioned rooms. Please bear in mind that there’s a big increase on the influx of tourists this season (summer). You can bring your own tent and food without any corkage fee. Prices of goods are reasonable too, e.g. shampoo-P6, bottled water-P15, RC big- P25. There are cellular and internet signals in the island. Cool!
Boat- P500 round trip. The island is only 10 minutes from the coast of barangay Luan. A boat can carry 5 people, so if you’re 5 in a group, that’s only 100 each. If you arrange a special trip, you’ll shoulder the whole amount. You can bargain with the owner. I’m sure they’ll give discount.
Tent- P400 for 4 persons
Entrance fee- P300/overnight
I wasn’t able to get their room rates. I think it’s best if you contact them through their fanpage: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Magalawa-Island/204336016808?sk=notes
If you want to try snorkeling and rafting, I suggest you avail their package for you to save money.
You should also be armed with your bargaining skills. I was supposed to pay P1,430, but I was able to get discounts and ended up paying only P1,000 for everything.
How to get to Magalawa Island by means of a public transport:
1- Ride a Victory Liner bus going to Sta. Cruz, Zambales. It’s a 5-hour trip. Fare is around 300-400.
2- Get off at Brgy. Pangolinan, Paluig, Zambales. Palauig is the 11th town of Zambales from Olongapo. You would see a Pangolinan sign at the right side of the highway.
3- From Pangolinan, ride a tricycle to brgy. Luan. Fare is P150 if you rent the whole tricycle. They usually allow maximum of two passengers per tricycle because of the rough roads going there. It would take you around 20-25 minutes before you reach bgry. Luan.
4- From brgy. Luan, ride a boat to Magalawa Island. It would take you only 10 minutes.
GRACE ARMADA (09209483303)