Raindrops trickled down through the holes in the tarpaulin that served as the roof of the boat, forming a puddle right next to me and waking me up from my sleep. “Duct tape,” I mentally added to my list of things I should always bring on a trip, as I moved my bag and huddled in the center of the boat with the rest of the people on the boat.
We were two hours in to the six-hour long boat ride from Real, Quezon to the island of Jomalig, our destination for a “beach-bumming and BBQ party” weekend to celebrate a friend’s birthday. But the ominous grey clouds in the horizon didn’t look too promising. I usually have no problem sleeping on long rides, except the weather was really fickle that day, alternating between stifling heat and bouts of heavy rain. It didn’t help that we had been on the road since 11 pm the previous night & had been waiting at the port since 2 in the morning. The boat ride seemed to stretch forever.
It was still raining when we got to the island. Our first couple of hours there were spent taking shelter in the porch of a local’s cottage and setting up camp on damp grounds.
Thankfully, the weather cleared up in the afternoon and the next day, revealing the
island’s true beauty. Despite the long trip, the island was so worth it.
Jomalig is one of those places that’s so near yet so far. It’s officially part of Quezon province, which is often overlooked by travelers because of its proximity to Manila. The jump off point to the island is in Real, which is 3 hours away from Manila by private van. Then there’s the 6-hour long boat ride on a cargo vessel through open seas. Jomalig lies on the far end of the Polillo Group of Islands on the extreme west of the Pacific Ocean. I heard the private island of Balesin is also somewhere in the vicinity.
The main beach of Salibungot is where we set up camp and spent a lovely Saturday afternoon. To the right of our camp, the shore was dotted with colorful fishing boats. To the left, there was a picturesque cove fringed by pine-like Agoho Trees. I spent most of the afternoon sleeping in a hammock under the trees. Beach-bumming at its finest.
Later in the afternoon, I took a dip in the water then walked along the long stretch of beach to catch the sunset. Through the clouds, the sun painted the sky shades of pink and purple, casting a glow on the dune-like formations of the pinkish-golden sand. It was a lovely sunset.
The next morning, some of us got to visit Kanaway Sandbar in another part of the island, gliding through insanely clear turquoise water as flying fish jumped in the distance. On the way back, we got a good view of the pine-like trees fringing the island’s creamy shore.
The food. Oh the food. While I enjoyed the “beach-bumming part”, I have even higher regards for the “BBQ party” part of the trip. My most fond memory of the weekend was feasting on freshly caught and grilled seafood. Lots of it.
Thanks to the group’s chef Arvin, I got my fill of fresh sashimi and kinilaw from an 11-kilo tanigue he bought that day from locals. Our first meal on the island consisted of grilled squid, fish, grilled eggplant and pako (fern) salad served on banana leaves and eaten with our bare hands – which is the the best way to enjoy beach food in my opinion. For dinner, the rest of the tanigue was grilled, along with chicken and liempo. For dessert there was fresh watermelon and a “surprise” concoction of pumpkin and mango in condensed milk.
On the boat ride back, we feasted on squid cooked in coconut milk, with more fried squid and dilis with green mango and chili for pulutan over lambanog. One lesson I learned from the trip: long boat rides are faster when lambanog is involved.
Photo credits: Group photo of boodle fight by Jun Villegas of Smart Backpacker; group photo in boat by Duane; grabbed from Facebook.
READ MORE: For a detailed guide including how to get there, rates & other useful info, check out Travel Guide: Jomalig Island