This is the most updated Malapascua Island Travel Guide 2019
Snobbery is an unlikely character of a wanderlust. A traveler opens not only his heart but also his mind to the intricacies and complexities of a place. It is inevitable, however, that there are places I considered too exposed, too comfortable to the horrors of tourism. I tend to avoid them like a plague. Places, islands like Malapascua—an island in northern Cebu known for its thresher sharks.
It is, I thought, an island for someone who has a perpetual ache for the deep. But I do not ache for the ocean. I ache for the salt water, the saline breeze, and the extravagance of the color blue.
During my second visit, I saw Malapascua in an entirely different light: this island is not only for the divers. It is for the sunset chasers, for the beachcombers, for the island lovers, for the love seekers, for the brokenhearted, for the story-gatherers, for the storytellers in us.
Malapascua, an island in northern Cebu, can be deceiving. Geographically, it is a lot nearer to Ilo-ilo, the neighboring island province that has an entirely different language. Malapascua is the name non-locals use. For the old locals, their home island is Logon.
“Malapascua” means “bad Easter” in Spanish. According to some island tales, the island got its name from a colonial incident (what’s new?): a Spanish ship got stranded on the island due to bad weather. It is said this happened on the 25th of December 1520. They got stranded til Easter. There is no historical evidence that this is indeed true.
However, if you can understand Tagalog or Cebuano, locals often joke about the name Malapascua. Malas ang pasko. Unlucky Christmas.
From June to November are typically the monsoon months. It is for the better if you visit the Philippines somewhere between December and May. Summer is April and May for us, so these months are the peak season. If you go to popular tourist destinations during these months, expect a throng of local tourists around. But then again, there is climate change, so any time of the year is okay. But if you’re a diver, thresher sharks and manta rays can be spotted all year round but the best seasons for manta rays are winter and spring. Hammerhead Sharks can be seen schooling with best chances from December to April.
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There are none. However, most dive shops and 3-star accommodations accept credit cards. But in general, the island functions in cash. So bring some pesos with you that can last you on your entire stay. The nearest ATMs are located in Bogo City, roughly an hour away from Maya, Daan Bantayan. So it is a hassle. So bring cash.
A part of Cebu, the main language used by the locals is Cebuano. But since the island’s main industry is tourism, English is the language currency. The locals have a certain accent, somewhat different from the central Cebu. It has a mix of Waray, Hiligaynon, and Ilonggo—the languages of the neighboring islands.
There is no Cebuano equivalent for hi and hello. Cebuanos love using “hoy” as a casual way of calling someone your age. You can’t use it to someone way older than you though, it can be misconstrued as disrespectful.
Aside from hi or hello, we use greetings depending on the time of the day. This is still widely used in the countryside.
Good morning – Maayong buntag
Good noon – Maayong udto
Good afternoon – Maayong hapon
Good evening – Maayong gabii
How much is this? – Tagpila ni?
Where is the ______ – Asa ang _____
It is so delicious! – Kalami oy!
Thank you very much! – Daghang salamat!
RIPPED FROM MY CEBU TRAVEL GUIDE
From the airport. The easiest and most expensive way to go to the island is through a private car. The airport is located in Lapu-Lapu City. Malapascua is on the northernmost part of Cebu Island.
Travel to Malapascua Island and Kalanggaman Island without a hitch when you book this private city transfer from Cebu City/Mactan to Maya Port! Waste no time commuting and get to your destination instantly with this direct transfer. Book now and choose from 3 vehicles: a modern Sedan, an AUV or a van. With seating capacities of up to 12 and free child seats, you can now bring the whole family. On the day of your scheduled travel date, your chosen vehicle will conveniently pick you up from your hotel. Relax inside your spacious ride and enjoy the modern amenities it offers. Trade stories with your English-speaking driver as he drives through the direct routes of this transfer. Arrive to Maya Port just in time for your boat ride!
From North Bus Terminal. From the airport, take a taxi to the north bus terminal. It costs about Php300-Php400, if you’re not stuck in the horrendous traffic. For an affordable option, SM Supermall now provides MyBus services from the airport to SM and SM Seaside. A MyBus ride costs Php40.00 from the airport to SM City. From there, you can take a jeep or taxi to North Bus Terminal.
For convenience, book a Grab ride. Or book a reliable private car.
Bus rides to Maya, Daan Bantayan are available as early as three in the morning. The bus ride takes around four hours and costs around Php210.00. I suggest you leave the earliest time possible, so you find yourself in the island by noon. For tall humans, take the Air-conditioned buses, they have more leg rooms.
Vans are also available at the terminal. They cost around Php250.00. The van ride takes around three hours. But I prefer long bus rides with open windows.
WARNING! If you’re a long-legged creature 😛 , avoid shared vans! Drivers fill up the seats! Like 4 people in each row! It is too cramped and too uncomfortable for a long ride!
The passenger boats Php100 per passenger. At times, the lantsa (the big boat) can’t dock on the port because of the very low tide. In cases like this, you have to transfer to an outrigger and pay another Php20.00.
The earliest passenger boat to the island is at 630AM and the latest is at 430PM. The boat leaves every 30 minutes. There are no passenger boats after that. If you miss the last boat, you can hire a private boat for Php1000.00-Php1500.00, depending on your haggling skills.
Depending on your budget, Malapascua has the right range of accommodation for you.
BB’s Lodging House charges P400 per person with a shared bathroom. It is located at the Village, a five-minute walk from Bounty Beach. Bigger rooms with personal toilet cost P600 a night. They have free WiFi too. I stayed here on my second night at Malapascua. They provide free hot water for their tenants for those who want to have coffee.
Ocean Vida’s Pork Adobo at P210 with rice.
Just beside BB’s lodging house, is the cheapest for travelers in Malapascua. I had breakfast (fish, scrambled egg, and rice) for P70. And I got a free buwad (a grilled dried fish that Cebuanos love) because I was craving for it.
The yellow resort you can see from the passenger boats’ port, offers different types of food. I tried their stir-fried vegetable with seafood. This place can be costly.
It is something to try. But I haven’t tried it yet.
It is my favorite. In afternoons, staff laid out huge bean bags on the beach where guests can eat or have a drink while looking at the expanse of the sea or waiting for the sunset. Their shakes start at P100.
Cliff-jumping is a must-do at Malapascua
Pocket-wise, scuba diving is not for everyone. But mingling with the colorful sea creatures without shelling out thousands can be done. On the right of the Bounty Beach are the Dakit-dakit islets—the starting point of the popular snorkeling tour in the island. A WWII shipwreck by the lighthouse and the coral garden are the other two famous snorkeling sites.
We were admiring the varied colors underwater when we heard a crackling explosion somewhere deep within. Our boatman said that some fishers practiced dynamite fishing. That is rather saddening. While the creatures at the sanctuaries made do with what is left of their habitat, in some parts of Malapascua waters, both corals and fish died a horrible death.
Boat rates range from Php1200-Php1500.00
Kalanggaman Island is not part of Malapascua Island nor of Cebu. It is an island that belongs to Leyte’s jurisdiction. But since its popularity skyrocketed, there are boats that organize day trips to Kalanggaman Island from Malapascua Island. It takes 2 hours to reach Kalanggaman Island from Malapascua Island. And another 2 to go back. Staying overnight on the island is possible.
From Dakit-dakit, Boboy—our boatman—brought us to the snorkeling site by the cliff. But the cliff itself has gathered attentions these recent years. Cliff jumping, I know, is only for the brave and the young. While Siquijor and Camotes Islands have jumping boards ready, Malapascua has it raw. The cliff looks intimidating, and jumping off can be nerve-wrecking.
There are so many trends circulating on Facebook like “Things You Must Do before You Die” or “Things You Must Do before You Reach 30.” Cliff-jumping deserves to be in the list.
Earlier this year, the masseuses at Bounty Beach start wearing an alternate uniform of blue and green. With their hair in a bun, they all look professional and dignified.
I went to Malapascua with the thought of pampering myself, so I gave in for a massage on a beach. I had mine at night with a full gazing moon and stars as my ceiling. Ponalisa—the masseuse assigned to me—shared it is for the better that they are now wearing uniforms. Aside from the fact that the guests can now easily distinguish them, the uniforms can also help to stop customers from sexually harassing them.
There are many motorbike (habal-habal) drivers around, encouraging tourists to do a tour around the island. Back then it was only Php150.00, but now it has ballooned to Php300-Php350 per person.
What do you get from the tour? A local will drive you to Lapus-Lapos Beach, Bounty Beach (the most popular beach), Los Bamboos, the Lighthouse, and Langub Beach—a long stretch of undeveloped shoreline.
Bounty Beach is the tourist belt of the island. Yes, there are areas tourists frequent for chitchats and drinks like Ocean Vida Resort, which has huge bean bags laid on the beach on sunny afternoons.
The extravagance of Bounty Beach is too wide for the tourists to cover. Patches of quiet stretches can be found here and there, between resorts, between Yolanda-tested palm trees, between new and damaged boats.
Against the soft afternoon light, a couple found a shaded spot and spent their time together with a book in hand. They stole kisses from each other in between pages. I’m such a voyeur: I love couples like them.
In between pages of the book I was reading, I stole glances at the horizon. The sunlight got softer and softer.
Isn’t it a miraculous work of nature when the horizon so blue gradually turns into shades of yellow, gold, orange? Travelers have witnessed thousands of sunsets and sunrises. But no two dusks or dawns are exactly identical, which makes every moment wowing, which makes every moment worth the attention.
At Bounty Beach, the sun settled between the biggest Dakit-dakit islet and the blue resort at the outcrop. After framing the golden god, I put down my camera and uttered thank you.
Malapascua reminds me of Siargao. The two are cha-cha-loving islands. Most of the cha-cha songs are from the waray-speaking neighbor Leyte. While the night was young, old locals dominated the dance floor, happily swaying their hips and hands with tunes older than them. As the night went deeper, foreign tourists and resort staffs arrived and the mood on the basketball court turned dance floor changed. The air becomes young and festive with song lyrics like “you found love in a hopeless place.”
Isolated from mainland Cebu, the disco at the village is the only nightlife in the island. It is an interesting island culture that should be in every passing traveler’s itinerary.
The islands in the Philippines resemble one another. The beach has a story of lavishness, of relaxation, of escaping from our individual realities.
It is painstaking sometimes to find something inherent to the island. And that is where walking comes in. You can only see the island’s inherent character through strolling around the village. You experienced Malapascua—the foreign-sounding island when you are at Bounty Beach, but once you walk around the village, it will eventually dawn on you—I hope—that your Malapascua is every local’s Logon.
If you want to experience or witness a real island living, walk, and hear the locals’ stories. Because the heart of every island has a different narrative to tell.
On weekends, locals mostly men go to their church. This is an island culture or a Filipino culture worth observing or worth experiencing.
This is one of my favorite pastime when I’m traveling. I love hearing island gossips and rumors. There is no better way of knowing a place beyond its touristy front than talking to the very people who call it their home.
Sure, it is not mandatory, but to be in a place where the rare to be seen thresher sharks live, it is almost a shame not to see them up close. Sharks, contrary to Hollywood narrative, don’t like the taste of your flesh. So. 😛