Jomalig is an island which is unknown to me until I accidentally saw it while browsing Google maps, in search for a nearby island/beach from Manila. It caught my attention because of visibly white sand and blue waters from satellite view and because it’s also near Balesin Island, which is until now is just a dream since it’s exclusive to members. After a few search, only then I realized that it wasn’t that near at all. We’ll not as far as our famous beaches, but to think how hard the island to reach, makes it so far and it feels like it’s already the last island on the edge of the Philippines. Aside from that, what I thought an island of white sand beaches, wasn’t white at all but it’s coastline is uniquely gold. Something I never experienced yet!
There were not so much information of the island except for few other blogs which in summary they all mentioned about the long travel time and how rough the sea it would get just to reach the island, and how it’s so worth it. Just by those, Jomalig immediately earned a spot on my bucket list. A dream probably not all my friends, especially not all my “not so adventurous” friends would understand. It took a long time before the Jomalig dream became a reality. At first I was determined to go there solo, but thoughts of I will be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in a very remote island. “Or will I ever reach the island?”, makes me want to back out for a bit. Until then a friend from the office took the challenge with me so we finally give it a go.
The Road to Jomalig
There were no concrete plans. I took few days time off from work including my rest days, just for us to make sure that we have enough time to explore the island and to make the long journey worth it. We don’t even know how long we’ll going to stay on the island. I have a list of what I want to see from all the blogs that I’ve read but aside from that nothing else, who knows we’ll discover more of the island when we get there. We planned to leave Manila as early as possible going to Real Quezon. When we arrived in Legarda in Sampaloc that’s when we found out that the vans doesn’t have schedules. Only when they only have around 8 passengers, before they leave Manila. We were so worried not to catch the one and only boat leaving to Jomalig between 10am-12nn. Thankfully, another van needs to be back to Real, due to prior commitments, so we left Manila even though there’s only the two of us plus another 3 passengers en route to Famy Laguna and Infanta Quezon. Our driver also promised that we will reach Real just in time before the boat leaves. The total van travel time is 3 1/2 hours. Our van driver took us to Ungos port and helped us on asking the locals where the boat going to Jomalig is. We found a small port, not really the kind if port I pictured out with a huge cargo outrigger boat. This is the boat that ships seafood in Real which will then be brought to Malabon fish port. Unfortunately, the boat is under repair and will leave Real early in the morning the next day. One of the locals advised us to take a passenger boat going to Jomalig’s neighboring island, Patnanungan, and then we can charter a boat to Jomalig. We paid 300 for the fare and 5 pesos for a small boat to take us near the big boat (they do not have those little bridges). The boat is huge with car seats which are soft and comfortable plus they have life jackets just in case. After loading some cargo and passengers we finally left Real at around 11am. The waves on Polilio straight and Lamon Bay is usually rough during the “ber” months up to January but the boat is huge enough to handle it but to be sure, take meds for sea sickness. It’s also fully closed with glass windows so no worries of getting wet plus they serve a humble lunch on board. Do not expect a restaurant quality of lunch, during our trip, they served stir fried vegetables and 1 cup of rice. We arrived in Patnanungan Island around almost 4pm. From there, we transferred to a small flat-boat because the big boat can’t dock near the port. This is also where we need to negotiate for a boat going to Jomalig. That’s when we were surprised that it costs 1500Php but we agreed at 1200Php since there were only the two of us. They said that the reason why it’s that expensive was because the waves around Jomalig are usually very rough and it’s really the standard pricing per group. The boat I think can take around 10 passengers. So then we were warned… my research says it’s not advisable to go to Jomalig during this season (we went in January), and as expected we were greeted with huge waves, probably the biggest that I close encountered with. At some point, I thought this is the end of my life but when I looked at our boatman, they were so relaxed and probably saying, “This is just normal”. We were all wet, as in really wet. Good thing our boatman waterproofed our bags. I am already chilling because the air is quite cold as well. It was the longest 1 hour in my entire life. When we finally reached Jomalig in Salibungot beach, I almost kissed the shore. It’s already sunset when we arrived and it was so beautiful. The blogs were right that the golden sands changes into shades of pink during sunset. But even though it’s so beautiful we had to leave right away before it gets dark going to our home stay.
Where to Stay
Jomalig doesn’t have any hotels or hostels; the only place where you can rent a room is at Tejada’s place in Sitio Landing for 500 pesos a night with common bathroom. Just in case the boat docked in Sitio Landing when arriving to Jomalig, it’s just few footsteps away. The room has air conditioner but we didn’t use it. Besides, the island only has electricity from 6pm – 1am, supplied by generators from NAPOCOR. They also have a room with own bathroom but we forgot to ask how much. The owners Tatay Rudy and Nanay Aida were really hospitable. They also have another resort near Bigwangan Lake with a huge cottage that can accommodate large group for only 1500 a night and you get the whole resort all to yourselves. Camping is allowed in Salibungot beach which is our original plan, but because we didn’t know if there is a source of freshwater near the beach we decided to take the home stay instead. For inquires about Tejada’s place, you can check out Lakwatsero’s page. This is where we got the contact number of Tatay Rudy and Nanay Aida.
What to See and Do
The island can be toured by boat, but since we experienced the terrifying boat ride from Patnanungan to Jomalig, we said no for the boat this time. Instead, we hired a motorbike to take us around. It’s quite expensive for 100Php per way, but thinking how hard goods like gasoline to reach the island, I think it’s pretty much acceptable. And besides, we plan to only see 1 spot in a day, so spending around 200Php going there and back is not bad at all.
This is probably the premier beach of Jomalig with long stretch of neat golden sands and a forest of agoho trees. There is a community near the beach but on the widest part, there is none. The sand is so golden and the color is even. It’s not fine but close to be bead-like or sesame seed-ish. It’s so soft that your feet will sink a little bit.
The beach is so quiet that day, I think were the only tourist on the island. It’s still early in the morning and a little bit cloudy when we arrived but the water is still insanely blue. I wished for a sunny day to see the beach better. Then my wish was granted. I was so excited to immediately take photos. We went for a swim but when we found out that the water is so deep and the waves were quite huge, I backed out. But thankfully, we brought life vests so we were able to swim or just float I think. I am not a surfer but I think, with this kind of waves, this has a potential to be a surfing spot.
Then I heard from a local that there were some American tourists who just visited to surf on what they thought were deadly waves. I initially planned of just lay down on the sands and read a book but surprisingly, the mobile data signal is incredibly strong and fast for both Globe and Smart. The 3G signal I think is even faster compared to Manila. Probably since there is no much of competition with other users. By then, I just turned on Spotify and we just listened to relaxing music the whole day with the beach, the sand, trees… perfect.
The other beach that I wanted to see is the one in Sitio Kanaway, which is like the one in Cagbalete that exposes it sands during low tide. Kanaway is quite far from our home stay so we have to charter a motorbike for a day to take us there and back. It’s 600Php per motorbike but it’s only good for 1 person so we ended up getting 2.
Travel time is approximately an hour passing through some concrete roads and a lot of muddy off roads, but the view of the field is beautiful. The beach in Kanaway is not as appealing compared to the one in Sitio Salibungot but not bad at all. It’s more swim-able (if that’s the right term), since waves are milder and the water is shallow.
But from afar it’s very visible how high the waves were. No local would brave going there, but according to them, some foreigners go there to surf. We spent few hours just to swim and take some photos and then we hired a paddle boat to take us to nearby Pulong Maliit. There is no standard amount for the boat. Just give any amount you think will be enough.
It’s a little piece of paradise. Too little that having 20 people in the island will make it looks like crowded already. Good thing no other tourist were there that time. The sand is white and fine with live rocks in the middle of the island, which according to our boatman, there used to be a small cave before, but after the discovery of golds and after it was taken by some foreigners it was then collapsed and the live rocks were also being harvested. There were some little trees (or bush) to provide some shade when it gets too hot.
Its twin Pulong Malaki is also visible from the east side the island but were not able to go there since our boat already left. When we arrived in Pulong Maliit, we can’t hide our excitement. The island is so beautiful and the water is unbelievably blue… literally blue. Although the underwater is not impressive because we didn’t see any corals, I still can’t complain. It’s such an Instagram moment. Unfortunately, there is no cellular signal on this part of the island.
Around 4 pm, we decided to go back to the main island by just walking. It’s already low tide and the water is just knee high. We were not able to see the full exposure of sands with natural ripples because it just didn’t happen that day.
Going Back to Real
Were supposed to leave the island the following day, but because of low tide the boat going to Real can’t sail. So we have take another boat leaving the next day. With no other plan, we just spent the whole day by the beach relaxing and just doing nothing. The next day, we finally left Jomalig on a fish cargo boat in Sitio Moros. By this being a cargo boat, that means that there is no decent seat. You just have to lay down, on the upper deck and we paid 300 for the ride back.
Although we experienced the most terrifying boat ride, we still enjoyed Jomalig. I just love it when everything is so simple and beautiful. The people in Jomalig were also very nice. It’s very rare to see people now who are not used to seeing tourist and people who will not take advantage of you being a tourist. I would say that the island has a big potential for tourism. It already has an airstrip but since there are no commercial flights going there, and to charter a plane is expensive, it would be better if there is a direct passenger boat to the island. While riding a cargo boat is a unique experience, it still wouldn’t appeal to some. Though I do not want the island to be as commercialized like other beaches, I hope when development comes, they would implement some restrictions, so they can still preserve the natural beauty of the place.
PS. There is no ATM on the island. Bring enough money, in case you get stranded. To avoid the rough boat ride, visit Jomalig during summer, according to the locals, the sea is as calm as oil during this season and travel time is shorter.
Updates (As of March 27, 2015)
Starting March 24, 2016, the tourism council of Jomalig is now implementing below fees for visitors. All visitors now are being dropped at Talisoy port. From there habal-habal can be hired to reach Salibungot beach for Php 75 per passenger.
Barangay Fee: Php 50
Environmental Fee: Php 150
Special thanks to my friend Rhan of Rhandomphotography for the new info.