Cresting a ten-foot wave, our boat crashed back down to the sea with a massive force, effectively smashing my face with a wall of cold sea water. This has been going on for almost half an hour now and I’m getting sick of wiping salt water off my face. The thought of sitting out front seemed like a good idea when we sailed off from the port of San Vicente, it definitely didn’t seem like a good one now. Another wave came into view. We climbed. We crested. We slammed. Wipe. Repeat.
|NAVIGATING THE ROUGH WATERS OF PALAUI|
Our Palaui Island tour wasn’t a hundred percent sealed even as our Lakbay Norte bus drove to Sta. Ana’s wharf. It was drizzling and the sky didn’t seem to approve of us boarding the outrigger boats dancing lightly on the choppy shoreline. We waited a few minutes for the coast guards’ verdict. And it’s a go.
I didn’t know if I should be glad or not.
|SAN VICENTE PORT IN STA. ANA, CAGAYAN|
And soon enough, we were rampaging through the waters of the Babuyan Channel, an experience similar to what I encountered a couple of years back on this same patch of sea en route to the farther island of Calayan. This time though, our boat was a fourth in size of what we rode back then.
|MASSIVE WAVES VERSUS MASSIVE LANDSCAPES|
A quick backward glance at our boatman confirmed what I had in mind though. This was but normal. He was gazing off nonchalantly into the horizon as he steered and maneuvered our outrigger boat. This was a walk in the park. What was not a walk in the park though, was the amount of sea water slapping my face every time our boat slammed back into the sea.
|ISLETS AROUND PALAUI ISLAND|
And at long last—as there’s no forever, as everybody keeps on saying—we hit land. A particularly beautiful piece of land. Anguib Beach.
ANGUIB BEACH, THE REWARD
ADDRESS: BRGY. CASAGAN, STA. ANA • BOAT FEE: P1,500 GOOD FOR 8 PAX • ENTRANCE FEE: PHP100.00 • GPS MAP: 18.515815, 122.212825
|DOCKING ON ANGUIB BEACH|
The weather was still as sour as our feet touched sand, but the water was calmer; a bluish green affair that I can’t wait to swim into. But first, food.
|ANGUIB BEACH’S CREAMY SAND|
Checking out of Hotel Dian [CHECK RATES & AVAILABILITY] before the sun rose in Aparri, we really didn’t have time to have a proper breakfast. And on one of the open huts dotting the interior of the beach, a mini feast was held just for us. We attacked the spread of crispy lumpiang shanghai, turon, and unlimited bowls of piping hot sopas with a vengeance Tarantino would be proud of. As an added bonus, we had a choice between coffee and beer. It cannot be more perfect.
|TALISAY TREES LINE THE SHORE|
|CURIOUS BIRDS PLAYING NEAR THE WATER|
I surveyed Anguib Beach with a bowl of sopas in hand. The sand was fine and cream-colored, although clumps of washed up seaweeds litter the edge of the water. We visited on the height of the amihan season, I imagine this place would be a total paradise during summer. The sand stretches for about two kilometers, with fringes of talisay and agoho trees lining the outer wall of the inland wooded area. I saw a couple of tents pitched along this place, for glampers, I was told. Wow.
|FURTHER INLAND AT ANGUIB BEACH|
After my umpteenth serving of sopas, I ran to the water. And stopped dead right as my feet hit the sea. It was freakin’ cold! I waited for my body to acclimatize, which it didn’t, before plunging headlong into the water. Clarity wasn’t that good due to the waves, but again, wait for summer and this would probably be as clear as your mother’s warnings about swimming right after eating.
INTO THE MANGROVES
ADDRESS: BRGY. CASAGAN, STA. ANA • GPS COORDINATES MAP: 18.512081, 122.196820
|A LEISURELY RIDE THROUGH PALAUI’S MANGROVES|
It was with great trepidation that we again boarded our boat. We were assured not to worry though, we would be taking a different route back to San Vicente for lunch.
Wait. What? Lunch?!
|THE PATH IS ONLY WIDE ENOUGH FOR A SINGLE BOAT ON SOME PARTS|
And unlike little kids promised a visit to the park, we weren’t lied to. The boat ride en route to Mapurao Beach was as smooth as can be. We navigated a narrow waterway guarded on both sides by lush mangroves; a pleasantly scenic ride and the total opposite of what we had just a few hours ago.
|SCULPTURAL ROCK FORMATIONS ALONG THE WAY|
We could’ve ridden through this same route on the way to Anguib Beach, couldn’t we? Did our boatmen needlessly scared the bejesus out of us just for fun? Lelz. It turned out the tides played a part in our hellraising ride to Anguib Beach and our boatmen were really the angels that they really were.
MAPURAO BEACH, AN INTERLUDE
ADDRESS JEROLYNDA’S WHITE BEACH RESORT & RESTAURANT, BRGY. SAN VICENTE, STA. ANA • GPS COORDINATES MAP 18.516046, 122.159253
|MAPURAO BEACH IN SAN VICENTE|
Another feast awaited us as we docked along the calm waters of Mapurao Beach. Lobsters. Lobsters. Lobsters. Just kidding. We also had fried tilapia, two variations of seaweed salad and shrimp sinigang. We ate like there was no tomorrow, it was as if we just didn’t consume ten helpings of sopas at Anguib Beach.
The food, prepared by Jerolynda White Beach Resort, was quite superb. I was burping my way to the beach as I forcefully tried to tear myself away from the buffet table.
|A FULL SEAFOOD FEAST!|
The resort is actually located near the San Vicente Port in Sta. Ana where we started our Palaui Island tour. Apparently, we have to go back the same way we came since the waves are larger if we proceeded forward to Cape Engaño using the shorter route.
THE CAPE ENGAÑO LIGHTHOUSE
ADDRESS CAPE ENGANO, PALAUI ISLAND • BOAT P1,800 FOR 8PAX • ENTRANCEE PHP50.00 • GUIDE P300 FOR 4PAX • GPS 18.515815, 122.212825
|THE WATERS ARE MUCH MORE CALMER EN ROUTE TO CAPE ENGAÑO|
The final leg of our island tour through Palaui is the celebrated Cape Engaño Farola. It took almost another hour of boat ride through the western side of Palaui Island for us to reach the beach nearest the lighthouse.
The waves were relatively calmer compared to the island’s other side and it wasn’t a complete waste of time either, the route was more scenic, since we were closer to the lush cliffs lining Palaui’s western coast. I also spied a few seasonal waterfalls gushing straight to the sea.
|CAPE ENGANO’S CORAL BEACH|
|A NATURAL STREAM ALONG THE BEACH|
Soon enough, our boat scudded through Cape Engaño’s shell beach. It was quite hard to walk along the shore, with our feet sinking into the rough broken corals. Good thing I was wearing aqua shoes. The group converged on a tree-covered clearing where we were assigned with guides and briefed about the do’s and don’ts of the island.
And then it was time to hike to the lighthouse. Yey. I. Love. Hiking.
|CAPE ENGANO BRIEFING AREA|
|HIKE TO THE LIGHTHOUSE|
From the outset, the view, as we emerged from the woods, was very pastoral. Expansive rolling hills carpeted in greens and dotted with herds of water buffalos grazing the fields. We went straight to the highest peak and I was surprised to see concrete steps leading upwards. Ahhh. I can do this. Lol.
|I KEPT LOOKING BACKWARDS FOR THIS VIEW|
The view went from beautiful to breathtaking the higher we went. I was mostly alone during the hike up to the farola as I kept on pausing to look back and take a picture. Eventually, the two sides of Palaui Island came into view, the coral beach on the right and another smaller beach, blasted by enormous waves from the Pacific Ocean, on the left.
|CARABAOS GRAZING ALONG CAPE ENGANO’S HILLY TERRAIN|
And in between these, the rolling hills of Palaui Island. I gazed at the scene as a herd of carabaos right on the cliff (how?!) curiously stared at me. The resident guide dog, Palitaw, bounded from the steps, stopped and rested right where I was. He admired the view with me.
|CURIOUS CARABAOS LOOKING ON AS I RESTED FROM THE HIKE|
|THE FARO DE CABO ENGANO|
About twenty minutes into the hike, Palaui’s lighthouse soon came into view. Faro de Cabo Engaño, as it was used to be called by the Spaniards. Built in 1892, it is one of the only four lighthouses erected during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines. If it looks familiar, it might be due to the fact that it was designed by the same Spanish dude that did Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Ilocos Norte and the Capones Lighthouse in Zambales.
|THE WALLS ARE SLOWLY BEING RETAKEN BY THE WILD|
|THE LIGHTHOUSE IS MADE FROM LOCAL MATERIALS|
Sadly, the Cape Engaño Lighthouse is now in disrepair, with its two-foot walls doing the Angkor Wat routine—being eaten and reclaimed by wilderness in poetic slow motion.
|PALITAW, THE ISLAND’S RESIDENT GUIDE DOG, LOOKS ON TOWARDS THE END OF CAPE ENGANO|
|CAPE ENGANO’S FARTHEST REACH|
|MESMERIZED BY THE RAGING WATERS OF THE PACIFIC|
Past the lighthouse and a few meters down its back, the view opens up again to the Pacific, one of the northeasternmost edges of the Philippines. Besides the towering twin sentinels of an island dubbed as the Dos Hermanas, there’s nothing here but the full orchestra of the Earth; the gust of the wind, the massive sound of the crashing waves, and the full grandness of the ocean.
~ THIS TRIP IS PART OF NORTH PHILIPPINE VISITOR’S BUREAU'S (NPVB) LAKBAY NORTE 6 TOUR,
A FOUR-DAY MEDIA FAMILIARIZATION TRIP AIMED AT PROMOTING NORTHERN DESTINATIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES.
Palaui Island Tour
Address: Palaui Island, Sta. Ana, Cagayan with starting
point at San Vicente Port
Sta. Ana Motorize Boat Association
Contact Number: (0915) 467-0964 | (0920) 281-7878
Island Hopping Boat Rates: PHP500.00 to PHP3,500.00
per boat, maximum of eight persons
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