Who would have thought that at the tip of Southern Luzon in the overlooked town of Matnog in Sorsogon, mostly known for its ferry terminal connecting the mainland with the nearby island of Samar in the Visayas, lies some pristine beaches, just half an hour’s boat ride from the coast. These aren’t your typical white-sand tropical beaches though, but rather two unspoiled islands with rare pink sandy shores and inviting azure waters that beach lovers would find hard to resist.
The first beautiful island, visible from the shores of Matnog, seemed to beckon me upon reaching the port – Tikling Island loomed in the distance covered in green vegetation and a stretch of what appeared to be white sand. It was the nearest of several nearby islands, and easily accessible by boat in good weather. I was a bit skeptical however, of how it would turn out upon closer inspection since my best beach escapades yet in the Philippines had all involved hours of boat ride and some sort of distress in varying degrees.
It shouldn’t be this effortless, I kept muttering to myself as our group prepared to leave Juag Lagoon, where we had spent the day before leaving for Tikling Island. Based on my past experience, I reckoned there had to be some kind of hardship before becoming worthy of a delightful reward. And true enough, our supposedly short and breezy ride to the island didn’t disappoint my premonition of yet another eventful trip on Philippine waters. Huge swirling waves suddenly emerged the moment we left the calm waters surrounding the marine sanctuary. We actually thought of turning back and going back to the port, since we had more than our share of sun, surf and sand at Subic Beach the previous day.
Good thing we didn’t let our apprehensions and uneasiness about braving the rambling waves without life jackets nor admissible swimming skills stop us from sailing to the island. With our boatman’s skillful maneuvers, probably from years of dealing with the angst and tantrums of the seas, we were able to moor safely at its shores with no drama or casualties, with the exception perhaps of our friend who had disgorged back to the ocean all the seafood she had eaten for lunch. It was definitely worth pursuing this trip.
The scenery was stunning despite the gloomy weather. The crystal clear water shimmered in alternating shades of blue while the its sugary white sand was peppered with fine crushed red corals that made it somewhat pinkish in color. There was no cottage or any sort of accommodation here. Only the caretakers’ native hut and a tree house stand in the way of hundreds of coconuts and other trees planted haphazardly around. Tikling Island is privately owned, but day trip visits are allowed and perhaps even camping overnight if you ask permission from the caretaker.
Subic Beach is more secluded than Tikling Island and cannot be seen from the port. It is composed of two stretches of beach situated at the southern part of Calintaan Island fronting the Philippine Sea. The first time I laid my eyes upon this hidden cove sent flashbacks of beautiful images of Puting Buhangin in Pagbilao, Quezon. The aquamarine water, although restless was very inviting, but care should be taken when swimming here because the bottom drops away steeply as you leave the shore, so the water becomes deep very quickly.
There were no stores, souvenir shops or lodging on this side of the island but water from a deep well and an improvised toilet used by the caretaker and his family were available for visitors to use. There were also two makeshift cottages available for rent (P400), but if you’re on a tight budget, you could just lay a blanket under one of the trees and not spend a single dime for the rest of your stay since there was no entrance fee either.
We pitched our tents under the thick canopy of low-lying trees lining the shore. It was the perfect beach camping spot for me, and an almost perfect summer beach getaway if not for the intermittent drizzle that beset us for the rest of the day. But that didn’t dampen my excitement at all. After setting our camp, I hurriedly dug my feet under its pinkish sand and gladly joined Reese, my friend’s daughter in building a sandcastle that was washed away in an instant by the fast rising tide.
We had the whole beach for ourselves when the day trip visitors left later in the afternoon. We prepared our dinner early while there was still light and whiled away the rest of the night listening to Alvin’s tales of island adventures in Caramoan over some chips and canned goods washed down by “The Bar”. The highlight of the night for me though was seeing this tree swarmed by hundreds of fireflies that flickered like distant stars in the darkness of the night. It reminded me of the firefly watching tour at Donsol, Sorsogon, only this one was free.
Not a great spot for sunrise but it was still worth getting up early.
Subic Beach after daybreak.
I woke up early the next day to catch the sunrise and take some long exposure shots at the rocky end of the beach. The rest followed suit walking along the beach and taking pictures of each other while waiting for our boatman to pick us up. A few minutes later, Alvin excitedly approached us with three pieces of red coral on his hand. I guess he had finally satisfied his curiosity when he set out that morning to investigate the mystery of the pinkish sand.