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Posted by on Aug 16, 2015 in Articles, Inspirational, Philippines | 46 comments

How Malapascua island restored my faith in humanity

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.

 

Malapascua island

Food at Gin Gin’s restaurant

 

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.

 

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Children playing CC0 Public Domain

 

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.

 

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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.

 

Malapascua island

 

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.

 

Malapascua island

Never felt so much at home like in Malapascua

 

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.

 

Malapascua island

 

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.

 

Malapascua island

Malapascua after Yolanda’s typhoon CC License

 

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.

 

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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.”

 

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Save the thresher sharks mural at the local school

 

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.

 

Malapascua island

 

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.

 

Malapascua island

A beautiful mural at the local school – recycle and plant new trees

 

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”.

 

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A group of us watching the sunset

 

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

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Photo by Malapascua exotic resort

 

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.

 

WELCOME TO MALAPASCUA ISLAND! YOU’VE MADE IT ALIVE!

46 Comments

  1. I honestly say with all my heart I loved reading your posts so far about Malapascua island, I feel your love for this island through your writing, this is so powerful and so so rare to find in travel websites and blogs these days. I feel like I want to and absolutely must do something to reconnect with life and people, so much so, that sometimes I cry a silent tear of joy when thinking I am coming close to it. Close to reaching out and loving complete strangers far away, those who will smile and appreciate the gems God offers and the beauty of life, a basic life is the best life.

    • Thank you so much for your words Christina :) Malapascua gave me a lot, specially during a really dark and negative time of my life. Seeing so much beauty and simplicity, made me reconnect with myself and my inner joy.

      I owe a lot to this place <3

  2. Hi Yara,
    It’s so wonderful to see you happy and enjoying life again. Malapascua sounds like a very special place, and I’m glad to hear that the locals are working to protect it and keep it that way. I will have to check it out if I’m ever in the Philippines again.

    • Yes I felt a genuine urge to save the sharks, the environment in a way I haven’t seen in other parts. I loved the murals painted all over the schools of Malapascua. I’ve noticed they’re both educating children from a very young age, the fishermen and punishing the illegal hunting at the same time. Thumbs up for Malapascua!

  3. I didn’t make it to Malapasqua, but a friend of mine stayed there and loved it! I’m so glad to hear that the local are fighting to preserve the marine life and the overall genuine vibe of the island. I want the Philippines to be recognized as one of the most beautiful countries in the world and I always tell people that they must visit, but I really hope it doesn’t turn into another Thailand, full of unrespectful tourists.

    I told you the Philippines were special :) you just had to find the perfect island for you, and there are so many to choose from! I left my heart in more than one..

    • You warned me, yes! And you were right, I fell for this place, I just needed the island that resonated with me.

      Next time, you can’t miss this place!

  4. It sounds incredible, thanks so much for this post, you have inspired me to visit as I was looking for somewhere in the Philippines to spend a week once my fiance goes home and this sounds perfect :)

    • This place is heaven, don’t miss it! And it’s not too touristic.

  5. I had a great weekend in malapascua back in 2006, I learned to love the Pilipinas like my second country

  6. Hi Yara! I love your article about Malapascua. We will be visiting the island next year. Have you tried having an encounter with the thresher sharks? Being able to see them in the wild is on my bucket list. Is it only possible through diving?

    • No, I don’t dive, but they’re the biggest attraction there and people are fighting to persevere them, which is amazing!

  7. chose this beautiful place for our honeymoon and have been back twice and fully intend to return there again. It is my favorite place in the Philippines. We have been fortunate to meet and bond with some of the locals there.

  8. Thank you for choosing Philippines . I was really moved with in each words you said I can totally feel your heart. I hope you will be back again here and explore more of our country.

  9. Amazing write up Yara! Lots of heart into it. I’m planing to visit Malapascua sometime early next year.

  10. Hi Yara, I really enjoyed reading your blog. It was really heartfelt and I can feel your love for Malapascua. I am from Cebu but I have never been to Malapascua…what a shame though. I have only gone as far as Bantayan Island which is equally beautiful as well. It’s quite ironic how the Spaniards named such a beautiful island into something negative since Malapascua means ‘Unfortunate Christmas’ in Spanish.

    • Malapascua got its name from when it was discovered, by the Spanish, on a stormy Christmas day. The Tresher Sharks are definitely the ‘pull’ within the diving community, so a larger part ofthe people who come to Malapascua are keen divers. That being said, The Tresher sharks are less visible now than a decade ago when thew were in abundance. Malapascua enjoys many beautiful dive sites with plenty of interesting macro life…Finally the villagers are the heart and sould of this place as mentioned in different posts above, and in the article. We left Malapscua with memories for life. Wherver you stay, it will be simple and hospitable.

      • Actually pascua doesn’t mean Christmas, means eastern. Christmas in Spanish is navidad, so there has been so strange bad translation somewhere in history.

    • Cebuanos are really nice and friendly people too. I made friends in there :)

  11. Reading the blog almost makes me cry. I’m very proud and honored, I’m not a local of Malapascua but I live across the island. I was thinking of visiting other places but i never fully realize that a paradise is within my reach.Two thumbs up to the LGU for implementing such law in protecting the environment and full praise to the locals for embracing the ways on how to protect the future of our new generation. People see the efforts that you are exerting. A huge thank you to the tourist as well. You never came just to relax and enjoy but you also helped a lot: the economy, the people and the environment. You’ve helped the environment by simply not doing actions that could harm our nature. For the people who haven’t visited Malapascua; come and enjoy the treasure God has given us but never spoil it.

    • Chen, thank you so much for your words, they mean a lot to me :) I try to write with honesty and integrity always. I’m so proud of the Malapascua natives and all their efforts to save the environment :)

      • The pleasure is mine, Yara. The world needs people like you. You never write just to boost your ego or something that you have but you help to empower people. you encourage them to do what is best for everyone. You never impose to do what you did but you show how to be really happy by doing simple things. it takes a spark to start the fire. You are the spark that enlightens our mind to keep our fire burning in helping the environment. Nothing is too late when we start it now, we should help hand in hand in saving the environment.

  12. very well said…as what my friend told me last january this year,after they witnessed sinulog 2015,they visited malapascua island…such a lovely place to be there…

  13. Hi Yara a million thanks for your kind words and appreciation of the place. I am a Cebuano but working here in Manila. I’ve never been to Malapascua but I know it is a very nice place. Your blog made ma very proud of my being a Filipino. Again Muchos gracias!!

  14. Malapascua is Love! I left my heart there too :) I miss the island and Villa Sandra!!! ? See you again soon, my favorite island. One day, I’ll be back!

  15. Great article Yara! Your words moved me. I have been there and I agree with everything you said. Like you, I stayed in Exotic Diving beach front althrough out the day. They have beautiful beach front. But I stayed in BB Guest House. I wrote a complete travel guide about it.

  16. Strange that you talk about helping the local communities and then tell the people to book through Agoda (a real local website i guess ;))

    • Pieter do you have a better suggestion? If you only want to negatively criticize…..

  17. hi Yara, thanks for your blog and kind words for Malapascua, I am one of the locals from malapascua but at the moment i am at the city for work..Thanks for inspiring other people to visit my place it is such an honor that you as a tourist enjoyed your stay in our place..

    • Wow, you’re lucky! You come from paradise <3

  18. Hi Yara, I love reading your blog. Very heart warming, totally felt the sincerity in the way you told your story. Thank you for sharing your experience in PH. I want to visit Malapascua when I go back to the Philippines with my family.

    • Thank you so much for your words. Yes, I think my love for Malapascua can be felt on every word.

  19. Thank You to All of you :) I’m so glad, because I live there, in Malapascua :) <3

  20. It’s impossible not to love the Philippines. Try Palawan next time :)

    • I will try Palawan next time, but I’m aware of how touristic it is and I might not like it so much.

      • Trust me Palawan is the real Phillipines my future wife lives there 😉

  21. Wow, such an amazing experience you have. I visited this place 14 years ago. There are so many beautiful things in the Philippines that I truly miss. It is my home country and here I am living in the hectic life in Europe. I hope one of these days, I can go back for good. Glad and proud to know that love it there. safe and happy travels to you always.

    • I really loved Malapascua and you need to visit that island, its paradise!

  22. Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.
    You make my heart sad for I too love Malapascua, being going there for 6 yrs now. It’s a special place.

  23. You can also go to Malapascua Island through Leyte. From Manila, go to Tacloban via Cebu Pacific or PAL. Then take a two hour ride to the town of Tabango. From there, take a one and a half hour pumpboat ride to Malapascua. The Compound at Burabod, a BnB in Tabango, can arrange everything for you. For details, please see FB page of The Compound at Burabod.

  24. Great post! A few weeks after Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda struck, we, together with a group of outdoor enthusiasts, headed over to Malapascua for a relief mission. Although the island was devastated, we can see that it could be restored to its former glory.

    We plan to go back to Malapascua to dive sometime this year so we can check out thresher sharks and coral reefs.

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