Monday, May 26, 2014

Falling in Love with Luzon Amidst Its Pitfalls

Calaguas Sunset - Schadow1 Expeditions

Perfection is nothing but an idea, to which everyone aims to be; yet the most genius of them all ends up imperfect at the end. Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, with its magnanimity among other islands in the country may seem to cater everything: From dive sites, pristine beaches, remote islets, magnificent mountains and volcanoes, highly urbanized areas, and to the far rural reaches. Yet seemingly almost perfect with its diversity, there still lies some of its ugly reality. The island may fall short on some aspects, but being aware of its imperfections is the key to falling in love with it.

This article unhides some of the ugly truth on some of the most beautiful destinations in Luzon, so that we may be aware of it and find ways to protect ourselves from such negativity; and enjoy the various Luzon destinations as if those drawbacks were not there.

This is a real-life account of our experiences when mapping the various destinations in Luzon.

Apo Island Mapping Expedition - Schadow1 Expeditions

Apo Reef
A remote island located at the middle of the world's second largest contiguous coral reef. Forty eight kilometers away from the shores of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. Blessed with a fine white sand beach, no electricity, no communication, just pure serenity. The reef itself has 19 dive sites that gives an underwater view of virgin corals and immense diversity of marine life.  But going to this island is expensive. Boat ride fees runs from Php 9,000 to Php 23,000 (as of February 2014). If you want to reach this island, be in a group to save cost; and as much as possible, do not mix up with a group of foreigners or your fees would exponentially increase.

More about our experiences here.

Calaguas Mapping Expedition - Schadow1 Expeditions

A group of islands two hours away from the shores of Camarines Norte. Once it was a haven for backpackers due to its pristine white sand and serene environment with cheap boat rides. The Mahabang Buhangin beach is a 2-kilometer long beach which is consistently brazened by powdery white sand.

Now, the beach is still pristine however it has turned noisy during weekends as some tour operators started to bring in bands and strobe lights to convert it to a beach party hub. Paracale, a town of Camarines Norte which once provided the cheapest way to get to the island has started to exponentially increase its fees from Php 70 per person and now to a whopping Php 3000 for at most four passengers. And this does not even includes hopping to other islands of Calaguas except to Tinaga where Mahabang Buhangin beach is located. (as of May 2014).

More about our experiences here

Baler Mapping Expedition - Schadow1 Expeditions

Dicasalarin Cove, Baler
A serene cove only accessible when traversing the hills of Baler in Barangay Zabali. It was once a secret, quiet, and free destination in Baler. Even without development and amenities, a ruling politician of the province of Aurora has monopolized Dicasalarin by charging Php 300 per person to anyone who visits the cove. And you get a Php 200 discount if you happen to be a customer of their posh hotel that charges about Php 3,500 to Php 13,000 per night. (as of April 2014)

More about our experiences here.


Palaui Mapping Expedition - Schadow1 Expeditions

Palaui Island, Cagayan Valley
The northeasternmost frontier of Luzon is Palaui Island. An island known for a very long shoreline with mountains up to 200 meters above sea level. You can trek through the beach or through its mountains an grasslands to reach the Engano Cove famous for its Spanish Colonial era lighthouse and a breathtaking sight of the Calayan channel.
If you plan to stay in the island, be prepared with fees that will charge you an arm and a leg. When you recharge your phone, you need to pay, when you need to pitch a tent, you also have to pay. And local fish (common is the striped fish or isdang bato)  sour soup will cost you Php 350 per pax per meal.. Be alerted with the tricycle drivers of Santa Ana. The standard rate is Php 10/passenger from the market to San Vicente pier (which is only about 6 kilometers). But then, they may charge you for P150 if they feel like doing so. (as of March 2013)

More about our experiences here.

Sagada Mapping Expedition - Schadow1 Expeditions

Sagada, Mountain Province
Sagada is dubbed the highlands of Luzon being seated at 1500 meters above sea-level. It is a small laid-back town gifted with what nature can give. With a sweet scent of pine trees at the morning amidst the stunning sunrise at Kiltepan. Plus a romantic sunset by the lake of Danum. Cliff rappelling, mountain climbing, and even awesome food trips along the South Road. This town has everything can offer you to be one with nature.

However, as small as this town can get, going around it will cost you Php 400 to 800 even if the place you are going to is only about 6 kilometers away. (as of January 2014)

More about our experiences here.

Jomalig Mapping Expedition - Schadow1 Expeditions

Jomalig Island
This remotest island of Quezon holds two of the most pristine beach destination in Luzon that goes on par with Mindoro's Apo Reef. The Kanaway Beach is a wide golden beach with fine sands and natural ripples while the Salibungot is a golden pink sunset beach that has powdery sand and pine trees by the back of the beach.

But to reach this island, you must ride a boat used for both humans and cargo - including the poor anemone fishes being caught without regard to the environment at the noses of DENR at Patnanungan Island, Jomalig's nearest neighbor. Endure a 5-hour boat ride then transfer to a flat boat at mid-sea to endure another hour to reach Jomalig. (as of April 2013)

More about our experiences here.

As it was said, falling in love is loving someone including the imperfections. And this article is my romance with Luzon while mapping it.

Schadow1 Expeditions is a travel and mapping advocacy blog of the Philippines. We improve the mapping data of the country as we travel; for tourism, navigation, humanitarian, and disaster resiliency planning purposes. A street-level accurate GPS routable map of the Philippines is being compiled by Schadow1 Expeditions in a weekly basis and can be downloaded at our #mapPHL page.

This is a Pinoy Travel Bloggers' Blog Carnival entry for May 2014. "Luzon Lovapalooza" as hosted by Mervin Marasigan of Pinoy Adventurista.


  1. I like your perspective of traveling in luzon and this is so true. A reality that we should have been given more access to our own resources but the contrary is experienced. However, if fees go directly to the locals as this is their livelihood then i have no qualms on giving them more.

    1. That's correct. However most of the time, the expensive fee was due to politicians, pseudo-landlords and business owners who collect exorbitant fees and only give a very small portion to those who must have benefited from it. And of course there are quite a few locals that takes advantage of the situation.

  2. WillieEvangelista - Great post!!..I agree with @mark julius estur.."fees go directly to the locals"..and the most important is that we should have been given more access to our OWN RESOURCES...