At 4am, my friend picked me up at my house. We then proceeded to the airport and had an early check in. I was a bit dissatisfied with the new check-in policy of Cebu Pacific where all passengers queued at any of the check-in counters. Now, it is a must to come in at least 2 hours before the scheduled departure for just a one hour flight to Occidental Mindoro.
At the airport, we had our breakfast at a coffee shop. When we arrived at San Jose airport, I noticed that the airport signage was only made of tarpaulin with a liquor advertisement. I hope the local government could do something to replace the signage. And also, the airport does not have a luggage conveyor. To transfer luggages and items from the plane to the airport, the personnel just manually carry them and place them in a rectangular table. Again, hopefully the local government could improve the said airport since both local and foreign tourists flock to their province.
From the airport, we boarded a tricycle. We noticed that all tricycle drivers in the airport wore colorful polo. In just 15 minutes, we arrived at the bus terminal. We paid the driver PhP70.00, which was a bit pricey for such a short trip.
At the Dimple Star terminal, we were asked to get a seat number and boarded the bus going to Cubao as it would pass Sablayan proper. Initially, we were seated at numbers 20 and 21 until we were asked to transfer to seats 1 and 2 because the seats were already allotted to other passengers. The bus conductor explained to us that they prioritize passengers going to Manila. Of course, we argued that we were also paying passengers and that we should have been informed beforehand of such policy. After one hour of waiting, the bus left. On my personal opinion, the bus management should take a look at their ticketing system in order to address problems of over booking. The fare to Sablayan town was PhP140.00.
It was two and a half hours of paved and rough roads to Sablayan. We noticed that there were a lot of road improvement signages with pictures of the former president and the congresswoman. In fact it was their priority project that was never finished. The bridge was never built and based on our conversations with the locals, during heavy rain downpour, the bridge was unpassable.
We arrived at DJ Resort (mobile nos. 0907.2537815/0917.4965940) before 1pm and we ate our sumptuous lunch. Our lunch was prepared by Ate Amy (the owner herself). She served steam lobsters, fish and vegetables. Immediately, we just fixed our stuff and proceeded to the Tourism office (mobile No. 0928.4659585) to register and to rent the diving gears. For the permits, equipment and boat rental, we paid PhP9,750. It was a good thing that we were joined by three other persons also from Manila. Our boat rental costed PhP8,000 but it was divided into two so we only paid PhP4,000.00.
Our first stopover was Pandan Island. My friend Marcia together with dive master Toto (0949.6322778) rented mask and fins for the dive. The private island was just a 15-minute boat ride from Sablayan. The resort was very simple and it catered to foreign guests.
It was another two and a half hours of boat ride. There were no islands on sight for most part of the ride. It was tiring to wait for the island to appear. It was four o’clock in the afternoon when I finally saw the lighthouse of the Apo Reef. From my point of view, the lighthouse looked like a pencil. The water was turquoise. We felt exhilarated with the view as the water was very beautiful and inviting. From our boat, two islets could already be seen.
The sand in the island was very fine and white. There were only a few people and military and rangers who guard the island against illegal fishing activities. I noticed there were two boats apprehended due to fishing violations. The confiscated boats will be used to patrol the protected area. On the island, there were tables for dining, open cottages for the rangers, two comfort rooms, deep well, unfinished office structure, dilapidated DENR office and a non-operational desalination facility. From a reliable source, the desalination facility costed the government 20 million pesos but it was never used because the elected government official pulled out one of the important parts of the facility for unknown reasons.
There were no potable water and no electricity except for some light bulbs run by solar energy. It was my first time to set up a tent and sleep on the beach. Due to limited water supply, I washed my face with only one cup of water. I never thought that it was possible to use just one cup!
For our dinner, we had pork, chicken, fried fish and bananas. We even shared our food with the other group because our food can accommodate five more persons. It was only 8:30pm when we decided to sleep. A bonfire was set up for our light. I could have slept earlier just by staring at the stars but it was very humid. I only doze off for couple of hours. It was already 5:30am when I decided to take some photos of the sunrise.
After our breakfast, we prepared for our dive. On our first dive while we were already at 20 feet, I had difficulty breathing. I immediately asked the assistance of the dive master for us to ascend. On the surface, I was asked if I still wanted to continue with the dive. After a minute of careful thinking, I said yes because that was the ultimate purpose of my visit to the island. During the dive, I saw white tip shark and other sea creature that thrive from the protected area. After the dive, we went back to the island and fixed our things for our departure by 12 noon. Before our second dive, we saw pod of dolphins. I was very happy because I never expected to see them at 10:30am. Normally, these dolphins appear early morning. My photos of the dolphins were picture perfect as the water was crystal clear. From underwater, we saw a turtle but I failed to photograph it since I ran out of film. It was lunch time when we left the island. Our goal was to arrive in Pandan by 2pm. On our way, we saw again some dolphins as they swam along our boat.
When we arrived at Pandan Island, we had our snacks and swam for 30 minutes. The resort has a truly relaxing ambiance. It was 4pm when we arrived at the Sablayan town. We exchanged calling cards with our fellow travellers so that we could still have continuous communication in Manila.
At 5pm, Marcia and I decided to go around the town to see the lighthouse and old church. Unfortunately, we could no longer take photos of the old church since there was no light in the area. We proceeded to take our dinner in a nearby restaurant and just went back to the old church the following day.
On our third day, we left the resort at 6:30am to check the tourist spots within the town. We just rented a tricycle to bring us to the Penal colony. The road was terrible, unpaved and dusty. Millions of pesos have been spent for the road construction funded by the former Arroyo administration thru the congresswoman and yet still unfinished.
Inside the penal colony compound, we tried to enter the premises to reach the waterfalls but we were not allowed because we still need a local government permit. Anyway, we proceeded to Libuao Lake (entrance fee PhP50.00). I love this place because it is very scenic – the lake is surrounded by mountains, water is filled with lotuses and the blue sky reflects onto the water.
By 11:30am, we were back at DJ Resort for our lunch. At the bus terminal, there was a change in bus departure and we waited for two hours. It was already 5pm when we arrived at Jazmine Royale Hotel (tel. no. 043.4914269). We went to the plaza to buy souvenirs. I bought this wooden fish display and key chains (contact no. 0918.6113510).
At 5:30am on our last day, we went to the airport for our early check–in. We managed to go out of the terminal for our breakfast along the airport premises. Our flight back to Manila was at 8:10am, which marked the end of a memorable Mindoro adventure.
View Apo Reef Photos and Video
Visited last April 28 - May 1, 2011