We didn’t expect to go to Malapascua island at all. The original plan was to board the Trans Asia boat going to Masbate from Cebu and meet up with the Agir family after being referred to them by their family member who happens to be a good friend of ours. Everything was set, except for our tickets – big mistake!
When we were at the ticketing office of Trans Asia shipping in SM Cebu to pay for our round trip tickets scheduled to leave Monday afternoon at 6 PM, we were shocked to be notified that the said boat could not accommodate any more passengers – “fully booked” they said. Unlike other ferry boats, you could still get tickets on the same day when the boat will depart, but with Trans Asia Shipping their schedule is only three times a week, that’s monday, wednesday and friday going to Masbate from Cebu. We forgot to take this into consideration and we didn’t know the boat was not that big and gets filled up easily.
So, let this be a lesson to all – book your tickets at least one day before departure! We were so apologetic and explained everything to the Agir family who prepared a pump boat and a place to stay for us in their ancestral home in Ticao island. It was quite embarrassing on our part to be texting them that we couldn’t make it.
So, what did we do next? Well, we had to research on alternative places to go to. Since we were in Cebu and in very close proximity to the North Bus Terminal, we decided to go to Malapascua aboard the Maya-bound bus.
We got hold of Ronnie’s cellphone number – 09491810903, a boatman in Malapascua. He told us “P800″ initially for a special trip, just the two of us and with snorkeling gear to use. We told him we bought our own snorkels, so he lowered it to “P600″. He added that he’d pick us up at the docking area in Malapascua as part of his services.
We were already too late to do the island hopping on that same day, so we decided to just stick around in Maya port. After nearly 5 hours of traveling by bus, we finally reached Maya at around 8 pm. From Maya port, we went looking for a pension house or any place we could spend the night in. We found a decent homestay accommodation nearby, priced at P400 per night for a non A/C single room. We spent the night there and bathed several times because the room was hot. Luckily, the occupant of the A/C room next to us switched on their airconditioning. Guess what, there was an exhaust fan in-between our walls. The cool air from their room exited into ours, but don’t you think this is a bit silly? Anyway, we didn’t think much about it anymore.
We woke up at around 6 AM because we were too excited to board the pump boat. We were told the first trip was at 7:30 AM. Some people came to us to offer special trips or to share the cost of one 15-capacity pump boat at P80 each. There were a couple of foreigners there with us. And these sneaky people approached them as well. I said “no” many times and they kept threatening that the trip will be cancelled. We swear, if you happen to be at Maya port you will hear the word “cancel” a lot.
The best thing to do would be to approach the ticketing booth. Pay for your tickets at P80 each. Be patient. There will always be passengers who will come. Maya port also doubles as a parking space for Ceres buses going to Cebu. It took us around 30 minutes of waiting then we were called to another pump boat. It took off right away. We saved a lot of money in the process. Be sure to heed our warning.
We safely arrived at the Barrio docking area in Malapascua. There were pump boats lining the entire stretch of white sandy beach. Ronnie, our boatman, was already there. We asked him about the price of seafood, because we already researched beforehand and found out that it was expensive in Malapascua. It really was a bit steep, but we could care less about the price tag since it was an isolated island so what else can we do about it? We bought a squid for P150 and then a Trigger fish (locally known as “Pakol”) for P200.
Ronnie was kind enough to let us stay in his nipa crib first. It was a nice, well-ventilated home and has a deep well in the back. We gave him money to buy ingredients for our food. When he got back, he said the cooking of the rice will take around 30 minutes and then he offered us to use his motorbike to go around Malapascua for free. Yes, we didn’t pay a dime. Although, he informed us in our cellphone conversation that they’d normally charge P150 per hour for the motorcycle rent.
We drove away and asked the locals for directions to the lighthouse. Later we found ourselves motorbiking up the hills going to the lighthouse. There’s a house situated nearest to the lighthouse trail offering a parking space with no fees whatsoever. It took us only 10 minutes to reach the lighthouse. The view up there was nothing short of amazing.
Road Trip to the Lighthouse
Our road trip to the lighthouse only took 20 minutes. If you’re a novice motorcycle rider, please be careful of the sandy roads, sometimes our tire got buried because the ground surface was unstable. However, it was pretty exciting going to the lighthouse because we didn’t know our way around yet. We’re so thankful to the locals there for helping us out in reaching our destination – the lighthouse.
It was so hot that we had to look for shade near the lighthouse. We then observed the place and we saw some solar panels on one side and an overlooking view of the sea and nearby islands beyond. On our way back down, where we parked our motorcycle, we gave a small tip to the lady and her child, even though they didn’t ask for it.
Shipwreck Skin Diving
After our road trip to the lighthouse, we returned to Ronnie’s house. We found out that we were good to go. We then rode on his pump boat and headed to our first activity – shipwreck diving off the shores of Malapascua. Corals have already grown on the sunken Japanese ship, so it is a pretty good indicator that it’s been there for many decades. We got close enough to the shipwreck to really appreciate its beauty. We refrained from touching it because we were concerned that it might get damaged.
Mantigue beach was more like a bonus, really. We didn’t expect that we’d be able to see sand quality so white and fine and it happened to be where we will eat our lunch. Yes, we were so happy. Our food – a big squid and trigger fish masterfully prepared by our boatman Ronnie and his sidekick Joebert, a small kid. We took some pictures here and there and snorkeled the house reef by the beach. It was spectacular in its own little way.
Malapascua’s Coral Garden
Our third stop was the coral garden. When we saw Ronnie grab some leftover rice, we immediately stopped him. We didn’t like the idea of fish feeding. We found some really gigantic cabbage corals, branching corals, table corals, whip corals, sponges and small fishes. It was a lush garden of corals, indeed!
Our last and final stop were the Malapascua islets. At a considerable distance, it wasn’t much of a treat to our unsuspecting eyes. There were some exotic birds flying around the area. Little did we know that upon immersing ourselves in the waters we would stumble upon something unforgettable. The coral formations down there were so healthy and bursting with color. There were sea fans, fish varieties and other flowery marine organisms. If we had the option to keep this as a secret, we would have done so.
How to Go to Malapascua Island / Travel Guide
1. Leave Cebu city in the morning at 5 AM and then hire a taxi cab to North Bus Terminal (since riding a jeepney is confusing).
2. As soon as you arrive, look for the Maya-bound bus, board it. Fare is P169. No A/C.
3. It would take 4-6 hours of traveling time. As soon as you arrive at the Maya port, just ask them when the “next trip” is. 7:30 PM – 3 PM. Don’t worry if you miss those trips. There is a pension house nearby, walking distance from the port at P400 / single room.
4. Do not pay for special trips, immediately buy tickets from the ticketing booth. Don’t listen to anybody telling you to shell out a much higher amount so the boat can leave.
5. Contact your boatman ahead. We highly recommend Ronnie (CP# 09491810903). P600 for the boat, plus P200 for other fees and snorkeling gear so a total of P800 for a special trip. He also cooks for you and can lend you his motorbike.
6. You can stay overnight on Malapascua island, there’s a cheap room for backpackers at P400 each. The name is BB’s pension house. If money is no object, there are lots to choose from.
7. Enjoy! Go shipwreck diving first, then have lunch at Mantigue beach, proceed to the coral garden and then check out their islets!