In varying degrees, hotel chains, restaurants have surfaced near or around pristine beaches, that's it's oftentimes difficult to get an authentic nature feel.
Phuket, Boracay, Bali, Ibiza, Maui, Guam.....the beach fronts of these famous spots are filled with towering hotels, clubs, and restaurants. I guess, in this modern world, you really can't avoid modernizing tourist spots, especially since tourism provides revenues to the locals too.
But there is a big difference between modernizing for tourism sake and modernizing for profits' sake.
Fortunately, here in the Philippines, there are still a few beaches that have received minimal intervention from business moguls.
Take for example, the case of the gorgeous Cagbalete island in the province of Quezon province.
This island, located nearly six hours away from Metro Manila, boasts of soft, white sand beach. The sand is softer and purer than that found in Bali or Boracay. The sand quality is at par with that found in Caramoan, another virtually untouched group of islands, in Camarines Sur.
And unlike other more famous beaches, the main beach Pansacola remains virtually untouched except for a few nipa huts and cottages meant for the occasional visitors.
I was fortunate enough to visit Cagbalete island very recently, along with more than 140 other tourists, mostly foreign, and the shock of the local villages upon seeing that much people parading from the port to the other side of the island, was a good indication that they have never seen crowds as big as that.
We didn't bring food to cook so we had to rely on the available resources from the island's stores, so a few households cooked meals, barbecues and spring rolls and sold them to us.
It was an opportunity for profit so the locals jacked up the prices of alcohol, rice, soda, and everything else, much to our disappointment. But that's a bargain compared to the beauty of the Pansacola.
The beach was truly gorgeous and the fact that we visited during a supermoon phenomenon, added to the mystery and charm of this less explored island.
Water visibility is high and the presence of marine life signifies the healthy eco-system around the island. We star some starfish, and some sea urchins very near the beach.
There are no big hotels, clubs or restaurants in Cagbalate but some are offering guesthouses and tree houses made of nipa, to visitors. These cottages do not have air conditioning but it's cool enough so you won't need it. Still, there are fans available in the huts.
We were a big crowd so some of us had to squeeze in and cramp in these cottages to get a few hours' rest.
Overall, we were enchanted by the beauty of Cagbalete island despite the challenges of getting there.
To get to Cagbalate, you can take a JAC Liner or JAM Liner bus going to Mauban, Quezon. These bus companies have terminals in Kamias, EDSA. The ticket normally costs P218. The bus would drop you off to SM and then you can take a jeepney or tricycle to the port.
But since we took a special hired bus, we were dropped off to the Mauban port. To get access to the island, you have to pay P70 for the local tourism tax and another P50 for the ferry oat.
The adventure doesn't stop there. From the ferry boat, visitors must transfer to a smaller boat that would take you to the shore, at no extra charge. This is because the shore is really very shallow.
From the jump-off point, you will walk a few hundred meters through the narrow streets of the island, passing ogling locals, to the main Pansacola beach. Despite the ogling, the locals are very friendly and the island is quite safe.
In the end, you will spend more than a thousand for an overnight trip, but frankly, that is just a bargain for the amazing adventure in Cagbalete.