Capturing El Nido: The Breathtaking View from Matinloc Shrine

Crystal clear azure waters welcomed us as the boat approached the heart-shaped island of Matinloc, one of the destinations included in Tour C of our island hopping in El Nido. Unlike other islands, Matinloc Shrine has a mini-port leading to an abandoned  two-storey establishment. It used to be a retreat house called the Immaculate Heart of Mary Prayer Center. While the others tried to enter the building, I chose to go to the gazebo where I saw a short description of the shrine. Here’s what it says:

“The Immaculate Heart of Mary Prayer Center rises out of a once uninhabited place to remind us of an approaching event glorious and magnificent–the Holy City to come…”

According to our guide Niel, the owners left the place. It was just sad that it has not been maintained since then. Masses were used to be held in the island, Niel recalled. I walked around the area and saw an image of the Sto. Nino hidden inside a small cave. I prayed and kept a few minutes of silence.What attracted me the most was a stairs leading to a cross atop the limestone cliff. I took baby steps until I reached the top. It literally and figuratively took my breath away. The view was something that would make anyone smile. It was a view that made me appreciate life more. From this view, one can see Tapiutan Island which was across Matinloc Island. The channel in between the two islands was as serene as it looked. My words weren’t enough. You have to see it for yourself.

I returned to the mini-port where I saw our boat Doulos in a picture perfect scene. The aquamarine waters were tempting me to jump. But the scaredy cat in me prevailed. I was not brave enough to plunge without a life vest. (hahaha)

Aboard the boat, I laid my last glance on the shrine. Despite being left behind by its owners, tourism has brought back life to the once undisturbed island. I just hope that tourists would be responsible enough to respect the place and leave nothing but footprints.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”– Henry Miller

READ the EL NIDO SERIES:

Commuting 101: Travel guide to Calaguas Islands

You’ve seen pictures of its aquamarine waters and your desire to visit this pristine beach might have brought you here. This beach is called Mahabang Buhangin (Long Beach) of Tinaga Island. Tinaga Island is part of the 17 islands and islets that compose the Calaguas Group of Islands in Camarines Norte.

Mahabang Buhangin, which has a 1.2 kilometer shoreline, has become a sweet escape from the busy life in the metro. It has now gained popularity especially among campers.

How to get to Calaguas Islands: 

  • From Manila, ride a bus going to Daet. Bus lines that ply the Manila-Daet route are Superlines and Philtranco. Travel time by bus from Manila to Daet is approximately 8-10 hours. Fare is around Php 600/way.
  • Superlines (Cubao Station) - +63 2 414-3321 / 414-3319
  • Philtranco Bus Schedule (MNL-Daet): 8:00am, 8:00pm, 9:00pm
  • Philtranco Bus Schedule (Daet-Cubao): 7:00 am, 9:00pm / Daet-Pasay: 8:00am
  • Tell the conductor that you’ll be alighting at the Talobatid Junction (Centro). From the Junction, ride a bus going to Paracale. Fare is around Php 20-30.
  • When you’re in Paracale, ride a tricycle to the fish port.
  • Since the Paracale port is a fishing port, you shouldn’t expect much. The boat that you’ll be riding is not a passenger boat but a fishing boat.
  • Travel time from Paracale to Mahabang Buhangin, Tinaga Island is approximately 2 hours
WHAT TO BRING: 
  • Before leaving Paracale, buy all the food and water that you need from the market.
  • Blankets/ Sleeping bag
  • Sunblock /lotion to protect yourself from mosquitoes
  • Shades
  • Camera
  • Dry bag /waterproof bag to keep your gadgets safe
  • Trash Bag (not just for your own trash but also to protect your bags from getting wet)
  • Extra trash bag in case you need to throw up. Don’t feed the fish :)
  • Anti-dizziness tab/ medicines (?)
  • Extra batteries
  • Flashlights
WHAT TO EXPECT:
  • Expect to get wet when going to Calaguas. Waves coming from the Pacific Ocean are huge. Watch how we conquered the waves of Calaguas.
  • Entrance Fees / Environmental fees: Php 100/person.
  • No cellular signal especially for Globe and Sun subscribers. Smart has a low signal though. You need to climb Tinago Hill just to get a signal. So if you want to be disconnected with the world for a day or two, then come to Calaguas.

  • There’s no electricity in the island.
  • There’s no sari-sari store or any establishment.
  • You may choose to sleep under the stars, under the tree by putting up a hammock, or you can rent a tent or stay inside a native hut.

  • Native Hut Rental is Php 200/night.

  • There are make-shift comfort rooms.
  • Water is scarce in the island. The locals whom I met (Ate Jennifer and his husband, Kuya Danilo) can fetch water for you. One pail of water costs Php 10.00 each. It’s one of their sources of income so support them and give generously.

BOAT RENTALS to Calaguas

  • Boy Quiajano- +63 917 449 2445
  • Rogelio Austria “Kuya Putoy” – +63 909 301 5417
  • Smaller boats can be cheaper but bear in mind that the waves are wild. Make sure that your rented boat has life vests.

PASSENGER BOAT to Brgy. Mangcawayan

  • If you’re really on a tight budget, you may opt to ride the passenger boat to Brgy. Mangcawayan. However, this passenger boat doesn’t have a definite schedule. According to Kuya Danilo, the passenger boat leaves Paracale at around 1:00pm to 2:00pm. The boat can carry six passengers. The locals call it Straton. Fare is Php 100/person.

  • From Brgy. Mangcawayan, you have to walk around 20-30 minutes to reach Mahabang Buhangin.

Just a friendly reminder: Don’t leave your trash behind. Pick up the garbage that you may find along the way. Let’s maintain the cleanliness of Mahabang Buhangin. So far, I can say that this is one of the best beaches that the Philippines has. I hope it remains as pristine as it is.

 

Sidetrips:

Essential Contacts:

  • Provincial Tourism of Camarines Norte – cometocamnorte@yahoo.com
  • +63 054 721-3087