How Malapascua island restored my faith in humanity
Awake, shake the dreams from your hair, you sleepy traveler. It’s another day in paradise…. It’s a new dawn in Malapascua Island…. It’s 8am, the soft warm breeze from the sea shakes the orange and black curtains of my bedroom window. The banana and coconut trees outside dance to the same warm and gentle breeze.
I hear a loud music coming into Villa Sandra’s direction…. ” Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera… Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera”
I look out of my window and see the turquoise sea down the hill. “The neighboor loves to play some loud music in the morning. You have no idea what kind of things he puts sometimes”, tells me the smiley and friendly Mariela, a Chilean who fell in love with Malapascua. She too, ended up staying longer than expected.
We both laughed. “I almost thought i was in Cuba” I tell her in a joking tone. “But I’m gad im in Malapascua island instead.
As I leave Villa Sandra, my home for the time being in Malapascua island, people greet me along the way. “Good morning amiga!” waves the nicest Filipino in the world, an old man who owns a little store in the tiny village and who’s partial paralysis didn’t stop him from smiling.. “Good morning amigo” I wave back at him.
Oh I love this life, where people have time to greet each other and share a sweet smile.
I head to my favorite breakfast joint, the local carinderia that serves the most delicious, fresh and rich foods I’ve eaten in the Philippines.
Even the tiny Malapascua island, a place with very few inhabitants, no cars, no banks or ATM’s offers delicious vegan traditional foods. “Mung beans, rice and vegetables today m’am?” asks the boy of the carinderia with an open smile. “How did you guess?” I joked.
I’m the only westerner eating rice and mung soup at 8am. Actually, Mariela and I might be the only westerners who eat at the tiny family carinderia. Most tourists sleep, eat and stay at their exclusive resorts only, not even realizing they’re missing all the culture exchange and interaction with the friendliest locals in the world.
No, i wouldn’t change my tiny carinderia for any resort. I love to see the children playing and the yellow frisky cat taking a long nap while i go though my delicious home cooked meal.
I take some moments to think about life… When I left “home”, I had a brutally broken heart. I was on the lowest of my life. I felt there was nothing left for me nowhere. My friends back in Portugal had moved on with their lives, had no time to meet, between excuses and a zombie life of work conformity. Family… that abstract word never really meant much to me.
I couldn’t find anything to hold me back there. But i had no idea where I would like to live neither. I just knew I couldn’t be a nomad girl forever although I’m not sure I’ll ever find the reason to settle down.
While most young people feel attracted by the thrills of the city, I appreciate the smiles, the morning greetings, the long chats over a warm tea…. I like the simplicity of life. I love to see children playing on the street without fear of violence or kidnappings. I love watching dogs taking long naps on the beach.
I found it all in Malascua island, just one month after I left home, feeling like an emotional wreck. Life is so precious and delicate here, i can almost feel the presence of “God” when i sit by the beach watching the many shades of blue.
And today is a beautiful day. I enter the warm still clear waters and swim around for almost 3 hours. Suddenly i noticed i might have a sunburn. I retrieve to the shade and watch the fishermen chatting on their boats. The cheerful music coming from the boats, turns into the soundtrack of my Malapascua island experience.
I observe the world around me. A mix of luxury resorts and simple beach huts, covering the beach front at Bounty beach. I hope one day, the fisherman won’t face eviction so new resorts can grow and take over the island. Right now, there is a perfect balance between tourism and local life. I hope this way of life is preserved, so future generations can appreciate all the beauty and magic I’m experiencing here.
I enter the waters again. Geez it’s hot and it’s only 11 am! The local fisherman greet me from their boats “good morning! How are you today?” They ask. “I couldn’t be any happier! I’m loving your paradise island”. They smile, showing a certain pride for their beloved island.
I have only experienced kindness, honesty and welcoming hearts here in Malapascua island. No one ever tried to take advantage of me. No one ever treated me as an outsider.
Once more i come to the same acknowledgement. These people who don’t have much material wealth, who have suffered horrors after the typhoon Yolanda that basically whipped out Malapascua and some of their resources, still find a space to smile and be joyful. This gratitude for life is something that made me feel so jealous of the Filipino people when I visited Manila.
The Philippines have been a reality check for me. An experience of inner peace and fulfillment. Malapascua has been the cherry on the top of the cake.
I head to my carinderia for lunch and bump into Mariela and a Filipino guy who was having lunch with her.
MALAPASCUA ISLAND IS IN THE FOREFRONT OF NATURE AND MARINE LIFE PROTECTION
“… So yesterday we arrested 11 people and today 9. They need to know killing the thresher sharks will bring big consequences” He told Mariela.
I asked: “what happened?”. He explained “We’re trying to pass new and strong laws to protect our marine life, the thresher sharks and turn Malapascua into a sanctuary.” My eyes lid up. “Tell me more” – I asked. “The other day there was some dynamite fishing going on.
This destroys our corals. It destroys the extremely sensitive life underwater. Tourists from all over the world travel to Malapascua to see the sharks and our corals, and some fishermen jeopardize everything. Fortunately, we’re managing to educate people and enforce the laws for the ones who disrespect them.”
Wow, i thought to myself. After seeing so much disrespect for the wildlife in Bohol – panglao and the numerous stories of injured dolphins and turtle riding by the Chinese and Korean tourists, knowing that the Malapascua residents are fighting back, made me love this place even more.
Indeed Malapascua is a tiny island with a very fragile environment. It’s up to us visitors to be very aware of our impact in this precious paradise. Avoiding plastics and refiling our bottles instead of buying new ones is extremely important.
Refrain from eating sea foods at every meal, which will put a strain on the marine life balance, consume more fruits than ever (fruits fall from trees, therefore they don’t put any stress of the local environment). Check out my “Eco-tourism and responsible travel in 5 easy steps guide”
The sun is going to sleep in paradise. A group of us heads to the beach for the famous sunset. Today I realized what I already know: “HOME, SOMETIMES HAS A HEARTBEAT”.
Night falls in Malapascua island. The deep black skies, painted with tiny glittery silver stars announce another warm, humid night.
I join a group of Spanish travelers for dinner. We’re heading to Gin Gin’s, a cheap and local restaurant famous amongst backpackers.
We cross the dark little village. The villagers greeted us with a massive smile: ” hello friends!”
The night went on amidst travel stories and jokes over dinner.
This was just another day in paradise. Tomorrow there’s more.
I LEFT MY HEART IN MALAPASCUA
No place will ever match Malapascua. This is my favorite place in the whole world. Here I found the true Filipino hospitality. I found beautiful people that made me feel incredibly welcomed.
In Malapacua island I found peace, happiness in the little things of life. Here life goes by slowly, softly and magically.
Malapascua island gave me the best sunsets in the world. It gave me the opportunity to meet inspiring people and to finally interact with the Filipinos.
Malapascua offered me the best sights I’ve ever seen. A beauty I thought was only possible in highly photoshoped postcards. The finest sand in the world. So fine and white it felt like flour under my feet.
Practicalities – Malapascua island
Where to sleep in Malapascua island?
If you’re a solo traveler, backpacker, shoestringer or simply love to meet long term travelers; head to Villa Sandra. I originally booked a 6 night stay, but ended up extending it to 10 nights. I’m not a big fan of hostels anymore, but this one is very special. The social aspect is very important here and people still take the time to hang out together. You’ll get to meet fellow travelers and also Filipinos.
Villa Sandra is conveniently located 5 minutes walk away from the port, from the beach and from my favorite carinderia. If you like the local feel, search no more. The place is extremely clean, laid back and has some cool hammocks to relax. Free fast wifi included and free refiling fresh water.
I booked my stay online with Hostelworld with the lowest prices. This place is usually full, so I strongly advise you to book beforehand.
Looking for something more private? Head to Malapascua exotic island dive and beach resort. You’ll have sea front rooms at a beautiful location. People are extremely friendly there and you’ll find a restaurant serving both western and Filipino foods. They have a spa and organize diving trips.
I didn’t stay there, but I used their beach basically everyday, simply because it was my favorite. You can book your entire stay here with Agoda for the best deals. Agoda offers the possibility to book online, so you don’t have to bother about exchanging money or having added fees to your credit card once you’re here.
How to get to Malapascua Island?
From Cebu city, take a very early taxi ride to the northern terminal bus station. It should cost you around 65php. Once in the bus station get a bus to Maya port. They have a fixed price of 163php non air con and run every 30 minutes.
Once in Maya, get ready to deal with some intense haggling. You need to take a short ferry ride to Malapascua island there and you should NEVER pay more than 100php. That is the price, no matter what they say. They’ll try to rip you off, so be assertive and tell them you know very well how much the ride costs.
During the afternoon it might be low tide, and you might need to get a small boat to get to the ferry, it will cost you 20php.