It was our second day on Polillo Island and we had just finished exploring some beautiful islands in the municipality of Burdeos. Our first day was spent at the Isla Polillo Beach Resort in Polillo Town. Our stay at the resort had been pleasant and comfortable with all the conveniences you would expect but I was actually more excited about going camping in the islands of Burdeos. I had been looking forward to “ala survivor” beach camping on an unknown and untamed island. Originally we wanted to travel light on this trip, without camping gear, so we had tried to look for Burdeos accommodation online before we left. Unfortunately we weren’t able to find anything, so we decided to pack our camping gear as well just in case there wasn’t any accommodation available there at all.
The sun was about to hide under the horizon when we finally reached Ikulong Island to camp for the night. The water here was so calm with mangrove trees more exposed at low tide and rows of palm trees along its shore. We really didn’t know much about this island until Tita Pines of Isla Polillo Beach Resort gave us a tip about a pearl farm there, so I figured that it would at least have a water source that we could use. Sure enough, there was a bobon (deep well) and some native huts that were used as lodging houses by the pearl farmers. Although it wasn’t suitable for drinking, having fresh water was luxury for a camping trip like this.
Upon reaching its shores, we went straight to the caretaker’s hut to ask for permission to camp for the night. I think we spent about an hour trying to convince them that we really wanted to camp on the beach and that we actually like the idea. They wanted us to use one of the cottages and they even offered us to camp at the rooftop of the mansion of the pearl farm owner located on the hillside. It was like a tug of war trying to talk us out of camping on the beach because of mosquitoes and even tales of NPA and military raids. The military raid made me think twice though because of the recent shooting of a soldier in the area. I just hoped they wouldn’t mistake me and Charlie as NPA if ever they did drop by the island and do an inspection
After a while Charlie started to pitch our tent while I gathered some twigs and logs for a cooking and overnight fire. We would have brought a cooking stove but the stores we went to before we left Manila had run out of butane gas, so we decided to just bring a pot and cook noodles on the fire. By this time however, we only had about a liter of water left – just enough for our cup noodles for dinner and breakfast the next day. Luckily Mercy and her children, whom we met on the island, were really helpful. Not only did they start the fire for us but also gave us buko juice to drink, which we needed badly in order to save what little drinking water we had for the next day. She also shared her knowledge of the many sights to see in the islands and even visited our boatman when they got back at Burdeos to instruct him to bring us to all the places she mentioned in her stories.
It didn’t take long before the loud sound of the generator started to reverberate, drowning out everything else. The island has a 24-hour power supply to maintain the pearl farm – so much for my “survivor” escapade here. By 6p.m, we were done with our cup noodle dinner and by 8p.m. we were already inside our tent trying to avoid the mosquitoes and other insects. Our four-season tent, however, which had been our life-saver in the freezing temperatures of Mt. Pulag, was a living hell here. It wasn’t really suitable for the hot tropical weather so I woke up in the middle of the night, took my sleeping mat, and slept on the beach hoping I would see daylight before the mosquitoes totally devoured me. Luckily it cooled down a bit in the early hours of the morning and before I knew it we had survived our first night in Burdeos.