Malapascua, above sea level

PEPE DON’T PREACH - Pepe Diokno (The Philippine Star) - December 13, 2014 - 12:00am

Malapascua is a tiny island that’s 116 kilometers from the mayhem of Cebu City. It’s a paradise for divers — a jump into its crystal blue waters takes tourists into a world of thresher sharks, hammerheads, manta rays, and a plethora of other beautiful creatures. But for all its attractions under the sea, Malapascua is also magnificent above sea level. Its pristine sands, breathtaking sunsets and warm, friendly locals make it an ideal destination for long walks on the beach and general muni-muni — which is exactly what I did on a recent trip.

Four four days, I stayed on this island meeting people, hiking to different villages, sleeping by the sea, reading books in my cottage and listening to music under the night sky. I hope this little photoessay gives you a sense of the beauty and magic on these shores. Malapascua’s residents are still picking themselves up from the ravages of Typhoon Yolanda, and making it your next travel destination will help them rebuild.

How to get there: A trip to Malapascua involves a five-hour bus ride from Cebu’s North Bus Terminal to Maya Port (this costs 180 pesos one way) and a thirty-minute ferry ride from Maya to Malapascua (80 pesos, one way).

Where to stay: Bounty Beach is the island’s main hub of activity, with dozens of resorts dotting the seashore. Locals come here to sell their crafts and fresh catches of seafood, and foreigners have come here to set up restaurants — making it an ideal place to stay. You’ll find people of all walks of life on Bounty Beach, from the hippie local to the drunk Caucasian backpacker, to a host of avid divers. I, however, was in the mood for seclusion, so I booked my stray on the far north-eastern end of the island, at a new resort called Thresher Cove. The place has air-conditioned cottages, a backpacker’s dorm, a pool and diving facilities, and its own seashore.

How to get around: Malapascua is small enough to get around by foot — if you don’t mind hour-long strolls. Otherwise, take a habal-habal —  the locals drive these motorbikes, and you can hitch a ride for about 20 pesos. There are no cars on the island.

Where to eat: My favorite meal involved buying freshly caught fish from a local and having it grilled right on the beach. Not only is the seafood crazy good, but buying it directly from a local helps the island’s residents. However, if you’re in the mood for international fare, my favorite foreign-run restaurant is The Craic House, an Irish pub that sits on the far end of Bounty Beach. It is pricey, but the food is homemade and servings are big. The pub is also a great place to meet travelers. One night, I found myself drinking with an Aussie celebrating his birthday, a European couple who seemed like they were diving experts but in truth had learned how to dive only days before, and, randomly, Facebook acquaintance who just happened to be driving around the Visayas. What a small world.

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For more of my travels, follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/PepeDiokno.


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