Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fuga Babuyan Islands: Not Your Typical Island

Getting sick and tired of the usual beach bumming?

Has island hopping been a customary thing for you every summer? 

If you're looking for a more daring escapade, then Fuga island is for you to explore. 

This is for the gutsy. But here, I give you pointers so that it is not as daunting, and that you'd end up enjoying your island vacation.

. getting there .
From Ilocos, we took a midnight Florida bus bound for Tuguegarao, specifically reminding our bus driver to drop us off at Claveria. By 5 am, we were awoken by the conductor, the smell of fresh bibingka wafting through the mini store beside the bus stop. Not really knowing where to get our boat to the island, we asked a tricycle driver to take us to the nearest port or jetty. The driver looked confused.

"So is it in the fish port or Taggat?," he asked.

"Uhm, you're the driver, not me! How would I know? Isn't that what you're here for?" Of course, I only played that screaming prima donna line on my head. 

But that's when it hit me, that Fuga rarely receives visitors.

Upon arriving the fish port, we asked the locals if there were boats leaving for Fuga. They were clueless but pointed to several men loading up cargo on their boat, "Ask to ride with them." We didn't approach them right away since we didn't want to disturb their synchronized rhythm of carrying goods. Almost 30 minutes of waiting, we learned that they're headed towards Dalupiri, a different Babuyan island.

Another tricycle ride and we were taken to the "other" port. This looked more promising since there were almost 20 boats lined up, but only four getting some action. Later, I learned that only one was bound for Fuga, the rest were going to the remaining Babuyan islands. Keeping our hopes up, we patiently waited for the scheduled 10 o'clock departure. By schedule, it meant, "It depends if we fix the problem on this boat, and if we still have space enough for you". In the end, we got bumped off.

Again. The weather was not cooperative the entire week, thus, there weren't any trips, so most of the goods to transport accumulated the entire time. And they're prioritizing the goods to ensure the people on the island are fed. 

From the bus stop, take a trike to bring you here. This is where you get your boat ride to Fuga

. relying on kindness .
My heart was already broken and at the point of giving up, when a local approached us. He introduced himself as Pastor Manny. Knowing the ins and outs of the islands, he somehow managed to arrange for us a ride with another boat, plus a home stay with a local family. Sweet!

while waiting, two magnificent rainbows displayed their beauty

. waterproof .
For a two-hour travel, the ride is rough. We went on an October and it was the peak of the rainy and typhoon season. Be prepared to get wet. And salty. Water-proof everything. Specially your clothes. I never got to use the clothes I brought because the sun didn't come out till our third day in the island. 

. home stay .
Apparently, when you refer to Fuga, it is actually composed of three islands--Barit, the main Fuga island, and Mabog Island (a high-end private island resort which you have to book in advance for). Before heading to Fuga, we first stopped at Barit where Mang Roger fed us an island delicacy (coconut crab) and fish which they dried themselves. It was nothing fancy and we were honored that they shared their meal with us. A walk around the island displays their main source of income. You'd think it's fishing, but actually not. They collect pebble stones, and fine grains to sell to builders.

from Barit looking on to Fuga Island

As we let high noon pass, we made our way to main Fuga in the cooler afternoon. After about half a kilometer's walk from the shore, we were welcomed by the natural state of the island. Pigs, horses, and goats were freely roaming and co-existing. 

unspoilt land

horses and pigs roaming freely

Fuga Island on a clear, sunny day
goats in wooden fences, still free range

this clam will become a souvenir after its flesh is
taken out by the stone weighing it down 

We were immediately led to our home stay hosts: Cherry and Larry Visario. The first night, they fed us chicken, and the succeeding days, it went to exotics--bat and shark. As Fuga is remote, even supplies can become scarce and expensive. We weren't prepared for it, and had we known (that we would be stranded), we would've brought with us food stuff from the city: coffee, bread, eggs. And even medicine! Before we left, they were asking if we brought with us painkillers. It pained us that we weren't such good guests and came empty-handed. :(

with hospitable and selfless hosts: Cherry and Larry Visario

Another thing you should know is that they do not have electricity. Luckily, the Visarios have a generator which they run everyday. And they are the more generous ones as the other family who owns a genset do not particularly like sharing the blessing to others. So every night, as long as it doesn't rain, they play a few Christian songs and even hold a film showing! Their house immediately transforms into a mini-movie house. 

So what's a traveler there to do? 

Aside from being our host, Manang Cherry, instantly became our tour guide. She brought us to Frazer beach, where after a swim, we met fishermen whom we helped with the day's catch. We helped them remove fish from the net. As payment, we got some for lunch! 

trying hard not to split the fish's head from its body

Frazer. Looking on to Mabog Island

helping the fishermen to get some free lunch!

Another fishing spectacle was when we were having a picnic by the beach and a boat was approaching the shore. The fishermen just caught the most humongous Lapu-Lapu I have ever seen! (It must've been more than half my height.) That and a shark! As we displayed our fascination over it and even taking pictures, the fisher gave us a slab. Dinner! Best way to serve it is  by seasoning it with salt and pepper and searing. *mmm* Now salivating.

humongous Malarbar grouper


For me, the best part I truly enjoyed was our trek to the cliffs. It was an easy walk through the grasslands. Soon enough, we heard crashing waves of the ocean. And the sight was just breathtaking. You have to be there to truly appreciate it.

with Cherry

How about you?

Have you found an unfrequented island of the Philippines? Please share it!


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