Eker & Ely Lucban Longganisa and Pasalubong (Lucban, Quezon)

From the church, Jandy, Maricar, Violet, Lanny and I walked towards Eker & Ely Lucban Longganisa and Pasalubong, situated just behind the church where, we were told, we could buy the best Lucban longganisa.  It was raining heavily, so we brought our umbrellas with us. Established in 1958 (incidentally the year I was born), Eker & Ely is one of 10 longganisa makers in town.

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Their Lucban Longanisa is sold by the dozen –  P150 for big longanisa and  P55 for small.  I bought two dozen packs of the former while the others bought packs of the latter.  It’s a good thing we arrived here in the morning as their longganisa is usually sold out by afternoon.

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Longganisa hung on poles for buyers to see

Aside from their bestseller longganisa, the store also sells different delicacies made in Lucban and other parts of the country.  The list includes macaroons, coco jam, broas (the local version of ladyfingers), uraro, miki lucban, piaya, pastillas, mazapan, galletas (egg cracklets) espasol, achara, espasol, coco vinegar, peanut brittle, peanuts, cashews, etc.

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Lanny, Violet and Maricar deciding on what to buy for pasalubong

Eker & Ely Lucban Longganisa and Pasalubong: 114 A. Racelis Ave., Lucban, Quezon. Tel: (042) 540-3304.  Mobile number (0920) 237-9056.

How To Get There: Lucban is located 160.36 km. from Manila and 23.7 kms. north of Lucena City. From Manila, it can be accessed via the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX, exit at Turbna) and the Manila East Road.

 

 

Church of St. Louis, Bishop of Tolouse (Lucban, Quezon)

After checking out Batis Aramin Resort &  Hotel, Jandy, Maricar, Violet, Lanny and I proceeded to the Lucban town proper to check out its iconic Spanish-era Church of St. Louis, Bishop of Tolouse as well as to to buy some Lucban longganisa for pasalubong.

Church of St. Louis, Bishop of Tolouse

Church of St. Louis, Bishop of Tolouse

Plaque installed by Philippine Historical Commission in 1939

Plaque installed by Philippine Historical Commission in 1939

This wasn’t my first visit to this town and its church as Jandy and I visited it during a visita iglesia 15 years ago (April 2, 1999).  This church was featured in my article “A Cultural and Religious Pilgrimage to Quezon” (April 7, 2001), in the Travel & Lifestyle Section of TODAY, in my first book “A Philippine Odyssey: A Collection of Featured Travel Articles” (New Day Publishers, 2005) and a previous blog entry in B.L.A.S.T..

The side of the church

The side of the church

Arched windows

Arched windows

It was already raining when we arrived at the church and I parked by Toyota Revo within its shady plaza which is surrounded by gardens, grottoes and stone walls called quince-quince.  The church went through a history of fire, bombing during World War II and reconstructions.  It is the center of the Pahiyas Festival which is held here every May 15, the Feast of San Isidro Labrador (St. Isidore the Farmer). The church enshrines the image of San Isidro Labrador

Decorative keystone on top of the main entrance

Decorative keystone on top of the main entrance

Detail of column set in high relief

Detail of column set in high relief

Even in gloomy weather brought about by the rain, I was still awed by its lofty, fanciful facade with its curved, almost cloud-like outlines; cornice volutes; horizontal moldings that gently flow, from end to end, through the wall expanse; the columns set in high relief; intricately carved finials that cap the columns at the pediment area; the arched windows and the portal with decorative keystone. The moss and vine-covered bell tower, on the church’s left, rising up in three tapering levels, is topped with a weather vane. Both the church’s facade and the bell tower are finished with lime and cement.

The church interior

The church interior

Statue of St. Louis, Bishop of Tolouse

Statue of St. Louis, Bishop of Tolouse

How To Get There: Lucban is located 160.36 km. from Manila and 23.7 kms. north of Lucena City. From Manila, it can be accessed via the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX, exit at Turbna) and the Manila East Road.

Kamay ni Hesus Shrine and Healing Center (Lucban, Quezon)

From Tayabas City, we drove on to Lucban where we visited the 5-hectare Kamay ni Hesus Shrine and Healing Center.   This all year round destination has a chapel where healing masses are conducted every Wednesdays and Saturdays, at 9:30 in the morning, by the gifted and well known healing priest Rev. Fr. Joseph “Joey” Ayala Faller.  Inaugurated in February 2002, its construction was financed with money Fr. Faller inherited from the family heirloom and funds solicited from Quezonians and other Filipino donors from various communities in the United States.

The Healing Chapel

The Healing Chapel

The shrine features a huge outdoor museum with life-size religious replicas of characters and scenes from the Holy Bible such as Adam and Eve, The Last Supper, the Garden of Eden, Pieta, among others.  Its stunning and interesting Noah’s Ark House of Prayer, with its conference hall, refectory and accommodation, is a venue for closed-door spiritual retreats, recollections and seminars for the couples and families in need of marital and spiritual renewal.

Noah's Ark House of Prayer

Noah’s Ark House of Prayer

Visitors can also visit the Resurrected Christ, Museo de la Manos de Jesus, the Gallery of Saints (saints from all over the world),  the Garden of Eden (statues of Adam and Eve sharing the first story of man and God), The Angels Hill (a nice garden filled with angels with different looks and poses), The Marian Park and The Murals (displayed inside the Kamay ni Hesus Healing Church, it serves as the altar).

The Pieta

The Pieta

There’s also a children’s playground, souvenir shops, a wishing pond and a canteen serving Lucban’s famous and delicious pancit habhab plus other delectable dishes such as sisig, chopsuey, fried chicken, fried lapu-lapu and many others.

Via Dolorosa Grotto of Healing and Way of Purification

Via Dolorosa Grotto of Healing and Way of Purification

For many, however, the highlight of a visit to Kamay ni Hesus is climbing the steps (301 steps on the left and 321 on the right, the difference dues to the smaller steps on the right) going up the top of the steep hill (representing Mt. Calvary) to the Via Dolorosa Grotto of Healing and Way of Purification.  Here, you can find the 50-ft. tall statue of the Ascending Christ, sculpted by Mr. Bernardo “Bernie” Caber.  Currently the world’s third tallest Risen Christ statue, it can be seen from miles away.

The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

Lanny, Jandy and I, both first timers here, decided to make the climb.  Though it was a steep climb, we didn’t feel too exhausted as scaling the 300 ++ steps were done in stages, with landings along the way with stunning, life size statues of the 14 Stations of the Cross. Upon reaching the top in about an hour and a half, we had a spectacular bird’s eye view of the town, truly a rewarding experience.

The Ascending Christ

The Ascending Christ

Opposite the hill of the Ascending Christ is the Luklukan ni Maria, a smaller hill with a statue of the Virgin Mary looking up to her son Jesus Christ as well as scenes in the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary.  The shrine is also a favorite Holy Week destination. 

View from top of the hill

View from top of the hill

Jandy, Lanny and the author descending Via Dolorosa

Jandy, Lanny and the author descending Via Dolorosa

Kamay ni Hesus Shrine and Healing Center: Brgy. Tinamnan, Lucban, Quezon. Tel: (042) 540 2206. Email: info@lucbankamaynihesus.com.  Website:  www.lucbankamaynihesus.com.

How To Get There: Lucban is located 160.36 km. from Manila and 23.7 kms. north of Lucena City. From Manila, it can be accessed via the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX, exit at Turbna) and the Manila East Road.

 

Malagonlong Bridge (Tayabas City, Quezon)

Leaving the Tayabas City proper, Jandy, Maricar, Violet, Lanny and I continued on our way to Lucban.  About 2.4 kms. outside the city, we made a stopover at the now unused, Spanish-era Malagonlong Bridge across the Dumaca-a River.  This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen this bridge, having seen it on our way to Mauban to attend the Maubanog Festival 3 years ago.

Malagonlong Bridge

Malagonlong Bridge

However, this would the first time I would actually explore it, crossing the bridge’s 445 ft. (136 m.) length to the other end. The first time, I just took pictures of it from the modern, girder-type concrete bridge parallel to it. On August 12, 2011, it was declared as a National Cultural Treasure under the Historic Bridges of Tayabas. On its eastern side is the plaque installed by the National Historical Institute.

The plaque installed by the National Historical Institute (NHI)

The plaque installed by the National Historical Institute (NHI)

An older plaque installed at one of the bridge's balconies

An older plaque installed at one of the bridge’s balconies

The oldest in the province, the charming, ivy-covered Malagonlong Bridge (Puente del Malagonlong) is one of the few remaining and the longest Spanish colonial, arch-type bridge in the country. One of 11 Spanish-era bridges within Tayabas City, it connects Brgy. Mateuna with Brgy. Lakawon.

Dumaca-a River

Dumaca-a River

Built with about 100,000 adobe blocks, limestone and molasses, it was started, during the term of gobernadorcillo Don Joaquin Ortega’s term, by Spanish Franciscan parish priest Fr. Antonio Mateus in 1840 and completed 10 years later during the term of gobernadorcillo Don Julian S. Francisco. 

The bridge's 6 m. wide carriageway

The bridge’s 6 m. wide carriageway

The bridge has five spans, the first arch with a height and width of 36 ft (11 m); the second at 33 ft (10 m); the fourth at 30 ft (9.1 m) and the fifth at 18 ft (5.5 m). It has a width of about 20 ft (6 m.) and six small balconies.

The author posing at one of the bridge's balconies

The author posing at one of the bridge’s balconies

How to Get There: Tayabas City is located 147.28 kms. from Manila and 10.62 kms. from Lucena City. Malagonlong Bridge is a 15-20 min. tricycle ride from the city center.

Beach Camping at Dampalitan Island (Padre Burgos, Quezon)

From Borawan in Lipata Island, Jandy, Maricar, Violet, Lanny and I returned to our hired boat which was going to bring us to our camping destination – the rocky and undeveloped Dampalitan Beach on Dampalitan Island.

Western side of Dampalitan Beach

Western end of Dampalitan Beach

It was just a short 10-15 minute boat ride to the island and we made landfall just before noontime.  The island had a long, wide and lovely stretch of tree-lined white sand beach – the perfect beach camping ground.

Eastern end of Dampalitan Beach

Eastern end of Dampalitan Beach with exposed rock formations

As I was first off the boat, I proceeded to scout around for a suitable spot to set up our tent.  I found a spot somewhat shaded by some worn out and tattered coconut and pine-like agoho (Casuarina equisetifolia) trees.

Setting up the 5-pax Coleman tent

Setting up the 5-pax Coleman tent

Beside it is a bamboo picnic table and the remains of one of 10 nipa cottages which were damaged or destroyed by the recent typhoon Glenda (international name: Rammasun). Strung at the trunks of the trees are 4 threadbare but still sturdy hammocks.

Maricar, the author, Violet, Jandy and Lanny at our picnic table

Maricar, the author, Violet, Jandy and Lanny at our picnic table

Still, the spot suited us just fine.  The owner of the nearby house, which had a convenience store and a storage tank for fresh water (sold at PhP50 per container), informed us on the fees to be paid – an entrance fee of PhP60 per person (total: PhP300) plus a camping fee of PhP200.  We also rented the nearby picnic table (for PhP150) where we temporarily laid down our just unloaded camping gear and  provisions.

Lazing around in our hammocks

Lazing around in our hammocks

First up on our agenda was the setting up of our 5-pax, 3 m. x 3 m. Coleman dome tent with peaked rainfly.  That done, we rested awhile, with Violet, Maricar, Jandy and Lanny doing so on the hammocks while I did so in our tent.  Come late afternoon, the sun was now low on the horizon and low tide was setting in so we decided to do some swimming and explore the now exposed rock formations. Cloudy skies prevented us from viewing the sunset.

Exploring the exposed rock formations

Exploring the exposed rock formations

When we returned to our campsite, another group of young overnight campers have already set up their tents beside us and were already preparing their barbecue grills for dinner.  We also followed their lead, borrowing a grille from the caretaker and buying a pack of charcoal as we also brought along some juicy, marinated pork belly (liempo) for grilling.  While Violet and Lanny were tending to the grilling, Maricar was busy preparing her signature yang chow fried rice.

Dusk at Dampalitan Island

Dusk at Dampalitan Island

After enjoying this wonderful al fresco repast, we next washed away the sea salt from our bodies, Jandy and I sharing a container of fresh water.  We all whiled the time away by playing a card game of  pekwa (the Philippine name for the game fan tan or card dominoes) and later chatted about our life experiences.  Retiring early, Violet, Maricar, Jandy and I occupying the tent while Lanny slept in one of the hammocks outside.  The night was initially warm but it slowly cooled, via an incoming sea breeze, in the wee hours of the morning.

Dinner preparation courtesy of Maricar, Violet and Lanny

Dinner preparation courtesy of Maricar, Violet and Lanny

Come morning, breakfast was another al fresco affair, with pork luncheon meat,  freshly cooked steamed rice and cups of coffee.  We then dismantled our tent and packed our belongings.  As we still had time before the 10 AM arrival of our boat, the others went swimming while I decided to explore the island beyond the cliffs confining the cove.

Our grilled pork belly (liempo)

Our grilled pork belly (liempo)

Past the cliffs was another cove with a long, beautiful but deserted stretch of white sand beach lined, not by trees, but by mangroves.  I didn’t go very far as the sun was high up in the sky and I forgot to bring a hat.  When I returned to our campsite, our boat had already arrived and our gear loaded.  After paying our bill, we boarded our boat for the short return trip back to our cottage at Brgy. Basiao where, after washing up, we loaded our stuff and left for Lucban (Quezon).

The magrove-lined, white sand cove beyond the cliff

The magrove-lined, white sand cove beyond the cliff

Dampalitan Beach may not be outstandingly beautiful but it is still nice and somewhat laid-back, offering a quiet beach retreat quite unlike crowded and overdeveloped beaches such as Boracay.  Similar to Anawangin or Nagsasa Cove in Zambales, it is really more for camping, picnicking, swimming, hiking, watching the sunset or just lazing around in a hammock.

Borawan Beach (Padre Burgos, Quezon)

After an early breakfast of corned beef and rice at Basiao Resort, Jandy, Maricar, Violet, Lanny and I double checked all the stuff we were to bring for our island hopping and beach camping (at Dampalitan Island) trip – tent, portable stove, rechargeable lamp, provisions, extra clothes, etc. Our boatman arrived by 8 AM and he started to load all our stuff.

Borawan Beach

Borawan Beach

Limestone cliffs

Limestone cliffs

Soon we were off to our first destination – Lipata Island.  We arrived there after a short 15-min. boat trip.  The island is the site of Borawan Beach, situated within lush mountains and rocky cliffs overlooking the Tayabas Bay in the Sibuyan Sea.  Day trippers here are required to pay an admission fee of PhP80 per person (plus another fee if you will stay overnight).

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When we arrived, the island was somehow pack with a number of overnight guests who stayed in tents (for those without one, these can be rented for PhP500).  The island also has communal showers (PhP20) and toilets (PhP10) with fresh water.  There are also a few nipa picnic huts for rent and a small store selling overpriced food and snacks.

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The island’s name is said to be a portmanteau (blend) of the world-famous islands of Boracay and Palawan. Indeed, the beach has its own spectacular (though not as grand) rock formations like the limestone cliffs of Palawan but, sorry to say, not the crystal-clear waters and the fine, white sand of Boracay. The coarse sand beach is actually beige and it certainly isn’t a long stretch dotted with coconut trees. Instead, the shoreline of this short stretch of beach is dotted with huge rock boulders with a backdrop of high limestone walls.

A small store selling food and drinks and renting out tents

A small store selling food and drinks and renting out tents

The shower room and picnic huts

The shower room and picnic huts

Still, its towering, Palawan-like karst formations and limestone cliffs are perfect for rock climbing, bouldering and rappelling.  It’s also a good venue for photo ops.  Swimming here is done cautiously as there are a lot of sea urchins and jellyfish.  The overnighters also told us that they saw 3 sea snakes near the huge boulder.  Anyway, we didn’t plan to stay overnight on the island.  After partaking of our packed lunch of adobo and rice, we left the island by 11 AM.

Lanny, Violet, Maricar, the author and Jandy

Lanny, Violet, Maricar, the author and Jandy

How To Get There: Go to Brgy. Marao in Padre Burgos and, from there, you can rent a boat bound for Borawan.

Return to Puting Buhangin Beach (Pagbilao, Quezon)

Jandy, Maricar, Violet, Lanny and I have barely caught our breath upon arriving at Basiao Resort but, as it was still early in the afternoon, we decided to avail of a island hoping tour.   Normally, it cost PhP1,800 for a day tour but, as we were doing it over 2 days, we were to pay PhP2,000.  We had a choice of 3 islands – Dampalitan Island, Lipata Island and Pagbilao Grande Island.

On our way to Pagbilao Grande Island

On our way to Pagbilao Grande Island

The first two, part of Padre Burgos town, were just nearby so we chose the latter which was part of Pagbilao town.  This wouldn’t be my first visit to the island, having done so during a media tour at Pagbilao a little over 4 months ago.  However, this would be the first time I would leave for the island from Padre Burgos which is, distance-wise, nearer to the island than Pagbilao town.

The Bagosina island with a house on top

The Bagosina island with a house on top

For this island tour, we just donned our swimming attire.  The boat trip took just 45 mins. Along the way, we passed the nearest of the Bagosina Islands, which had an unsightly roofless house (damaged by typhoon Glenda) on top.

Lipata Island

Lipata Island

We also passed the white sand beaches and towering rock formations of Lipata Island (site of Borawan Beach), one of our 2 island destinations scheduled for tomorrow (the other is Dampalitan Island).

A hill being graded at the TEAM Power Plant in Pagbilao Grande Island

A hill being graded at the TEAM Power Plant in Pagbilao Grande Island

At Pagbilao Grande Island, only the tall chimney of 735-MW Team (Tokyo Electrification and Marubeni) Energy coal-fired thermal power plant  could be seen during our boat trip.  We also saw the damage being done on the nearby hill, possibly to create a new road for the power plant.  It wasn’t a nice sight.

Puting Buhangin Beach

Puting Buhangin Beach

We soon made landfall at the beautiful cove of the 70 m.  long and 10 m. wide Puting Buhangin (which literally means “white sand”) Beach with its white sand, clear emerald waters and coconut trees.  Unlike my first visit, the beach (also called Lukang Beach  after the Lukang family) wasn’t  as  packed with picnickers and beachcombers.

Violet, Maricar and Jandy near the Kuwebang Lambas' beachside entrance

Violet, Maricar and Jandy near the Kuwebang Lambas’ beachside entrance

However, we were more interested at the small, unique and tunnel-like  Kwebang Lampas, located at one end of the beach, than with the beach itself.  During my first visit, the waters inside the cave were waist deep and we didn’t venture to go out its seaside entrance.  This time around, it was low tide and the cave floor was exposed.  What’s more, we were able to venture out its seaside exit, below beautiful rock limestone formations, and enjoy the warm waters.

Kuwebang Lampas (2)

Back at our boat, we paid the mandatory PhP80 entrance fee per person (PhP400 for all five of us).  It was now late in the afternoon when we returned to the mainland and our boat had to dock some distance from the shore as it was now low tide.

Jandy, Maricar, the author at Lanny at Kwebang Lampas

Jandy, Maricar, the author at Lanny at Kwebang Lampas

Puting Buhangin Beach: Pagbilao Grande Island, Brgy. Ibabang Polo, Pagbilao, Quezon.

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria (Pagbilao, Quezon)

We arrived at Pagbilao town by noon time and, as it was now lunch time, I parked the Toyota Revo at the compound of the town’s Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria.  A number of eateries were located around the compound.

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria

The church interior

The church interior

The church was first built in bamboo and nipa in 1688 by Fr. Cristobal Mortanchez, In 1730, the church was transferred to its present site by Fr. Francisco Xavier de Toledo.  In 1845, it was rebuilt in stone by Fr. Victorino Peralija and was completed, together with the belltower and convent, by Fr. Eugenio Gomez.

Plaque detailing the history of the church

Plaque detailing the history of the church

The 3-level bell tower

The 3-storey bell tower

However, the church and convent were heavily damaged by American bombing during the liberation in 1945, leaving only the 3-storey, hexagonal bell tower intact.  It was rebuilt in 1954 by Fr. Vicente Urlanda.  Beside the church is the 2-storey Casa del Niño Jesus de Pagbilao, a private Catholic school.

Jandy, the author and Maricar at the bell tower

Jandy, the author and Maricar at the bell tower

View of town from the top of the bell tower

View of town from the top of the bell tower

Jandy, Maricar, Violet and I were in luck as we were able to go up the bell tower, the only part of the church that wasn’t damaged by American bombing.  At the left side of the church, we went up the stairs up the choir loft.  From there, we crossed over to the right of the loft then went up the tower via a very narrow and steep wooden stairs .  The tower had three bells, one them dated 1890.  Here, we had a good panoramic view of the town.

Silangang Nayon Park and Restaurant (Pagbilao, Quezon)

Our final stop on our Appsline Travel-sponsored Lucena City/Pagbilao tour was the Silangang Nayon Park and Restaurant where we were to have dinner.  From Pagbilao Wharf, we followed Lurhen as we drove to this popular destination and quiet retreat which is a 25-min. drive from Lucena City.  From the Maharlika Highway, we turned right and drove 6.5 kms. inland before reaching the resort.  It was just about dusk when we arrived and we were welcomed by general  manager Ms. Mary Ann Padilla who asked us to proceed to its floating restaurant.

Silangang Nayon Park and Restaurant

Silangang Nayon Park and Restaurant

We descended down a series of paved walkways with dining cottages, nestled along the edge of cliffs, on either side.  At the base of the cliff, we next had  to cross a long footbridge with a sturdy  foundation of concrete stilts, passing two other dining cottages, before reaching the larger, boat-shaped restaurant at its end which overlooks Tayabas Bay, Pagbilao Grande Island and Patayan Island.

The footbridge and floating restaurant

The footbridge and floating restaurant

Ms. Padilla soon joined us at the table and we proceeded to interview her, at length, about the resort. The resort first opened in 2003 with just one seaside cottage. As the years went by it slowly grew into a cozy park with a  main restaurant (a very nice place to view the sunrise and feel the cool sea breeze while dining); bamboo dining cottages, function hall; a mini-zoo and a children’s playground.

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The resort also has a bed and breakfast, on top of a cliff and overlooking the sea, with affordable room rates: PhP2,500 (good for 2-4 persons with free breakfast for 2), Php4,000 ( good for 8 persons with free breakfast for 4) and PhP5,000 (good for 8-10 persons).  Each spacious, clean airconditioned cottage has a TV and a private bath with hot and cold shower.  They also offer boat trips or kayaking to Patayan Island Puting Buhangin Beach and Kwebang Lampas.

Interior of restaurant

Interior of restaurant

The place also had its share of misfortunes, being almost reduced to rubble by the wrath of typhoons, notably Milenyo. From the ruins, it slowly rebuilt, replacing the bamboo and thatch main restaurant and the bamboo bridge with sturdy concrete.  It also closed down a not so successful second branch at SM City Lucena.  Even with the same cooks preparing the same food at both branches, the SM branch simply could never relicate the ambiance of the original.

L-R: Lurhen, Mary Ann, Mel, the author and Rannie

L-R: Lurhen, Mary Ann, Mel, the author and Rannie

Even as we were interviewing her, our cooked food slowly arrived, delivered to the restaurant from the main kitchen/grilling area on the mainland via a helicopter-shaped dumbwaiter running along a steel cable, truly an attraction by itself. The restaurant serves very affordable and great tasting Filipino and Chinese seafood dishes and we got to sample a number of their signature dishes.

Seafood Cream Soup

Seafood Cream Soup

Beef with Broccoli

Beef with Broccoli

First up was the filling seafood cream soup (PhP340 for medium and PhP500 for large) followed by the green mango encelada, beef with broccoli, calamares and crab szechuan (PhP100/100 gms.). The ostrich with mushroom sauce (PhP415 for medium and PhP615 for large), its meat sourced all the way from Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao, was really tender and tasted like beef.  The piece de resistance was the grilled oysters .  These oysters are first steamed, then grilled and flavored with garlic and butter.  For dessert, we had the not so sweet but still great tasting buchi plus brewed coffee.

Camaron Rebosado

Calamares

Ostrich with Mushroom Sauce

Ostrich with Mushroom Sauce

It was now late in the evening when we finished dinner and, as we had a long 3.5-hour drive back to Manila, we said our thanks and goodbye to our gracious host Mary Ann as well as Ms. Lurhen.  With me at the wheel of the car, traffic was almost non-existent but we were sometimes traveling at a snail’s pace because of slow-moving trucks.  We arrived in Manila past midnight.

Grilled Oysters

Grilled Oysters

Silangang Nayon Park and RestaurantBrgy. Bantigue, Pagbilao 4302, Quezon. Tel: (042) 716-0077 and (042) 622-2173. Mobile no.: (0922) 886-7677, (0920) 813-2324 and (0919) 442-0042. Contact Person: Ms. Mary Ann Padilla.  Email:  silangang_nayon@yahoo.com.ph

Appsline Travel Services and Consultancy: Phase 2, Krisanta Village, Brgy. Bukal, Maharlika Village, Pagbilao, Quezon.  Tel: (042) 716-0067.  Mobile number: (0922) 633-0363 (Ms. Lurhen T. Cortes). E-mail: yvette_24@yahoo.com and appsline0305@gmail.com.

The Pagbilao Islands (Pagbilao, Quezon)

It was already midway in the afternoon when we finished our lunch at Cortijo de Palsabangon Farm Park & Restaurant and, according to Lurhen, we had to leave now if we were to catch the boat and avoid the low tide at Pagbilao Wharf (also known as Daungan) in Sitio Kalawit.  Up ahead was the piece de resistance of our Appsline Travel-sponsored Lucena-Pagbilao Media Tour – the Pagbilao Islands.

Author at Pagbilao Grande Island

Author at Pagbilao Grande Island

Upon arrival at Daungan, our huge 25-pax outrigger boat was already waiting for us.  Here, we met up with Mr. Celedonio “Dionnie” Dapla, member of the town’s tourism council and former head of the DENR Mangrove Experimental Forest.  We were supposed to visit Dionnie’s forest-farm and nursery in Brgy. Pinagbayanan but, as it was already late in the day to do so, he just saw us safely off.

L-R: The author, Lurhen, Dionnie, Rannie and Mel

L-R: The author, Lurhen, Dionnie, Rannie and Mel at Daungan

Mel, Maichel, Angela, Lurhen (with her son Marxus), Rannie and I were soon on our way, cruising the river, passing thick patches of mangrove forests along the way before heading out into Pagbilao Bay and the open sea.

Mangrove forests

Mangrove forests

The Pagbilao Islands, also called Pulo Island, are a lovely pair of islands (Pagbilao Grande in the north and Pagbilao Chico in the west)  joined together by a 500 m. long, 200 m. wide (3 m. above sea level at its highest point) sandy isthmus called Tulay Buhangin (meaning “sand bridge”).  The main settlement (also called Tulay Buhangin) is located here.

On our way into the open sea

On our way into the open sea

Though part of Pagbilao town, the islands are more accessible by boat from Padre Burgos.  Bounded by Laguimanok Bay in the north and east and Tayabas Bay in the west, the islands are 100 feet above sea level on a promontory overlooking Padre Burgos town to the east.  This ancient and still developing coral rock formation has numerous coves, caves cliffs and a hilly interior with clumps of giant yuccas and small, emerald forests.  There are also white sand beaches and rich fishing grounds.

Patayan Island (Pagbilao Chico Island)

Patayan Island (Pagbilao Chico Island)

Around 30-40 mins. on our journey we passed Pagbilao Chico Island, also called Patayan Island.  It has a smooth stone beach and a single privately-owned beachhouse that can be rented out.  Its Bansilan Cave has cathedral-like dimensions.

The Team Energy coal-fired thermal power plant

The Team Energy coal-fired thermal power plant

We next espied the tall chimney of 735-MW Team (Tokyo Electrification and Marubeni) Energy coal-fired thermal power plant.  During our visit, a  huge cargo ship was unloading coal at the power plant.  The plant is the landmark for those taking the land route to Puting Buhangin Beach. Turning a corner past the power plant, we were greeted by beautiful rock limestone formations and Kwebang Lampas and, past it, the beautiful cove with white sand Puting Buhangin Beach with its clear emerald waters and coconut trees.

Puting Buhangin Beach

Puting Buhangin Beach

The 70 m.  long and 10 m. wide white sand Puting Buhangin (which literally means “white sand”) Beach, with Kwebang Lampas at one end, is located in Brgy. Ibabang Polo at the southwestern part of Pagbilao Grande Island.

Author at Puting Buhangin Beach

Author at Puting Buhangin Beach

We requested the boatmen to dock and, upon reaching the shore, Rannie and I  made for the beach. This private beach (also called Lukang Beach  after the Lukang family), available to the public on day trip visits (PhP100 entrance fee), was filled with people during our visit.  Some were staying on native picnic huts (rented for PhP300-500); others pitched tents along the beach, while others just availed of the shade of coconut trees.

Visitors making their way to the beach via the power plant and limestone formations

Visitors making their way to the beach via the power plant and the treacherous limestone formations

Other destination, though, was the small, unique cave right at the edge of the cove famously known as Kwebang Lampas whose opening we saw on the way to the cove.  Walking along the beach, we reached the foot of the limestone formation and carefully negotiated the rocks to the entrance of this easily explored, tunnel-like cave.   We could see the cave’s other opening at the opposite end.

Kwebang Lampas

Kwebang Lampas

They say that the water at one end of the cave is freezing cold, while water at the opposite end is warm, but I didn’t notice any difference.  Mel, Angela and Maichel soon joined us. After the usual photo ops, using Rannie’s camera, we made it back to the beach and our boat, thoroughly sated with the adventure we just experienced.  It was with some feeling of regret that we  left the island back for the mainland.

The author, Maichel, Mel and Angela at Kwebang Lampas

The author, Maichel, Mel and Angela at Kwebang Lampas

Appsline Travel Services and Consultancy: Phase 2, Krisanta Village, Brgy. Bukal, Maharlika Village, Pagbilao, Quezon.  Tel: (042) 716-0067.  Mobile number: (0922) 633-0363 (Ms. Lurhen T. Cortes). E-mail: yvette_24@yahoo.com andappsline0305@gmail.com.