My Birthday Getaway at Pagbilao, Quezon (Borawan)

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Living in the Philippines means having thousands upon thousands of beaches to visit on account of the 7,107 islands that make this country. On my 26th birthday, Gab and I decided to pack up the car and drive a few hours to the town of Padre Burgos in Pagbilao, Quezon, relying only on the ever so glitchy Waze app. The trip took around 4 hours, and I fell asleep halfway through. I woke up when Gab needed help in looking for the pier in the town where we were supposed to meet with our boatman. We got lost at first, overshooting the sign "Barangay Campo Pier" which was easily missable, but the boatman was cool enough to have one of his people meet us in the town proper and lead us to the right direction.

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The island that looks like a dinosaurs back got me curious, but we never got to visit it.

They wasted no time in starting our tour. Our boatman, Efren, joined by his wife, took us to our first destination for the day which was Borawan Island. We decided to set up camp there, and then visit Putingbuhangin (White Sand) & Kwebang Lampas, and then Dampalitan would be our final stop before heading back to our base camp.

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The pier behind Gab as we were about to leave for Borawan Island.My fake tan looking on point..

Borawan Island

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The first sighting of Borawan.

Borawan Island is named after two famous places in the Philippines: Boracay + Palawan. They say it's named after these two places because it possesses Boracay's fine white sand and beautiful rock formations reminiscent of Palawan's limestone cliffs. Well, I've been to both places and I'll be honest... It doesn't really compare. But Borawan and the other islands around it is still a great place to visit for a weekend with your family or friends at a cheap cost. I mean, it's 4 hours away from Manila. I don't think you can beat that kind of convenience! We were also quite lucky because we went on a weekday in February, so we practically had the island to ourselves.

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The quieter side of Borawan where our boat docked and we pitched our tent.

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Cottages for rent at Php 700-850 -- personally I prefer the tents. The cottages don't have any space to actually lie down and get a good nights sleep.

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Our little tent area which casts a nice shade from the sun.

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Gab's making a face, don't bother zooming in. He looks freaky.

At Borawan you can either rent a cottage (Php 700-850) or rent a tent for Php 500. If you have your own tent, you can rent a space to pitch it for only P200-P250 (depending on the size) Gab and I decided to just rent a tent for the night and pitched it in a quiet area where no other tourist on the island was. Before we left to visit the other islands, we asked the canteen to prepare us some dinner for when we returned later that afternoon. They have meats for grilling and veggies. Gab and I had our snacks too, and I had some Spam, but I didn't feel like asking them to cook it for me. We ordered some liempo, rice and pinakbet and then off we went to explore the other islands.

Puting Buhangin & Kwebang Lampas

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Our second stop: Puting Buhangin and Kwebang Lampas

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Puting Buhangin, which literally means 'white sand' in English, was my favorite island out of all the three islands we visited.

Unfortunately, it's a bit more steep to stay the night at Puting Buhangin, and they aren't as well equipped as the other islands in regards to having a canteen and a proper bathroom to use. They also charge you for the fresh water you use to shower (something like P400 for a barrel), while in Borawan they've included it in the entrance fee of P250, giving get unlimited water usage. So, I guess you can understand why we picked Borawan as our home base instead.

In Puting Buhangin you'll also find a cave called "Kwebang Lampas", which basically means "a cave that goes right on through until the other side" -- not the best translation, my apologies, but you get the picture. At low tide, you can walk into the cave and right out the other side of it.

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Kwebang Lampas entrance is quite rocky, so you need thick slippers with great traction to keep from slipping and falling

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The entrance of Kwebang Lampas

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Low tide season means being able to go through the cave with no problems and bring your camera to take photos too. Our boatman was kind enough to take us inside and insist on taking our photo. Haha

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I was joking around with Gab when I asked him what pose I should do, but then this shot actually turned out pretty cool. 

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Dampalitan

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After spending some time in Puting Buhangin and Kwebang Lampas, we decided to move along and check out Dampalitan Island. This would be the island I liked the least. The beach space was quiet narrow and the marine life was close dead or nonexistent. It was quite sad to see so much dead corals. Kuya Efren told us that this area was ruined by fishermen who didn't know better about proper fishing practices. I thought that was pretty obvious and was deeply saddened that in a country that's built up of thousands of islands and fishing is a main livelihood, these fishermen weren't properly educated about the consequences of dynamite fishing -- but that's what you get in a country that is only starting to develop.

At Dampalitan, you can also camp and they have more or less the same facilities as Borawan. An added bonus is being able to play beach volleyball or start a camp fire... In Borawan, a camp fire is strictly prohibited.

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A live jellyfish we found by the shore. Gab and I decided to place it back in the water. Poor jellyfish.

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Dampalitan had halo-halo for only Php 25. The weather was quite humid, so I bought for myself and the boat crew. Gab and I didn't stay long in Dampalitan because there was a shoot going on that involved lots of guys in their underwear. We've no idea what it was for but it looked really cheesy.

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An interesting area with interesting rock formations, there was a prenup shoot happening here when we passed by.

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Back at Borawan with our boatman Kuya Efren.

Gab and I had our early dinner at the canteen (unfortunately no more photos as I was saving battery), which was quite good, especially the pinakbet! By nightfall, I was already in the tent reading Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets on my iPhone. Gab kept himself busy by watching movies on his phone. We did have internet (data on the island was lightning fast!) but I chose to turn it off to avoid battery drainage.

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The island runs on a generator, which they turn off around 9 or 11PM. I didn't mind, as my main reason for going away was to more or less disconnect from the internet and just be in the moment. I fell asleep by 9PM, which was early and definitely abnormal for my usual sleeping pattern.

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The next morning I woke because of the boats of tourists arriving. It was a long weekend, so it was expected. Thankfully, we were to leave that morning as well. Gab went kayaking and I stayed by our tent, getting on my phone to thank the people greeting me a happy birthday.

The day before, I asked Kuya Efren how much it would cost to buy crabs so I can eat them the next day as a birthday meal. He told me he'd see what he can do. That morning, he arrived at Borawan with around 6 alimasags (small crabs), and sold it to me for only P250 ... In manila, six of those would probably cost my P800 or more. I'm not so sure, but I know P250 was cheap. They cooked it for me, and I brought it home to eat. It was a good birthday.

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A cheesy birthday kiss. I'm sorry for the cheesy photo but I really like this. LOL

A breakdown of our expenses :

Boat rental: P1,600 (for two, for more it will be around 1,800) Tent: P250 Tent pitching fee: P250 Food (canteen): P440 (Liempo - P150/pc, Rice - P20/pc, Pinakbet - P100) Borawan entrance fee: P440 (220/person) Puting Buhangin entrance fee: P160 (80/person) Dampalitan entrance fee: P150 (75 /person)

TOTAL: P2,850 (1,425/person)

Should you be interested in visiting Pagbilao and the three islands, Kuya Efren is an excellent boatman! Tell him I recommended him and he'll take care of you ;-) You can contact him at: +63 948 272 1649

Do I think Borawan and the other islands is worth visiting? Yes. I still enjoyed my time there, especially in Puting Buhaning/Kwebang Lampas! If you want a quick getaway, it's not very far from Manila and it's quite affordable. My only advice: go on a weekend after summer, and don't expect it to look anything like Boracay or Palawan, especially if you've been. :-P