By JOHANNES L. CHUA
Images by JOHNALD B. ATENTAR
In a country of 7,000-plus islands, it is nearly impossible to see—or even step foot—in each one of them. But I’ve been lucky enough (or stubborn even) to see dozens of islands that are not part of the usual tourist destinations. These islands are quieter and more subdued but their beauty lies deep—they imprint their mark on your memory and leave a lasting impression.
In each island, I also remember them for its distinct features—the quality of sand, the clarity of water, the stillness of the atmosphere. In these islands, the beauty of the country shines through and this is true in the case of Jomalig Island in the eastern part of Quezon province.
Jomalig Island is near Polillo Island and nearer to the exclusive Balesin Island. It is safe to say that both islands—Jomalig and Balesin—are miles apart when it comes to amenities, accommodations, and features. But both share the same azure waters, the erratic climate,
and the warm hospitality.
I first felt that brand of hospitality when my friend, photographer Johnald Atentar, invited me to visit his hometown of Polillo Island (they lovingly refer to it as ‘Poland’) three years ago. He is very proud of his birthplace that he spends any free days from work to go back home. Even though he is already established in Metro Manila, he does not miss the opportunity to promote Polillo.
When I was in Polillo, I remembered Johnald mentioning Jomalig to us but with limited time, we were not able to go there. That idea resurfaced once again during the summer of 2019. I was finding an island to go to and test a smartphone lent by the office. I said that I want to go to an island that I’ve never been to so I found myself one night onboard a ‘packed’ van on the way to Real, Quezon.
At the Real port, there are various boat trips going to different islands in that part of Quezon. We were led to a boat going to Jomalig and at the crack of dawn, we were off. The journey was smooth yet “hot” as it was the height of summer. I was not ready to be toasted from the five-hour boat ride from the mainland to the island. In a matter of an hour, I found my arms and legs glowing red like the crackling skin of a lechon (serves me well for forgetting the sunblock).
Upon arriving at Jomalig’s busy port, there was a motorcycle waiting for us from the resort we booked. Immediately, adventure ensued as Johnald and I were to ride in that motorcycle. Now there are three of us in that small riding machine and I was sandwiched in the middle. My hands squeezed the shoulder of the driver and I remembered that he quipped in Filipino: “Sir, be ready with an actual Temple Run.”
And before I could ask anything, we were zigzagging through Jomalig’s lush landscape.
There were wide fields with no trees exposing us to the sun’s fierceness which “roasted” me further. Then the landscape would change—vast plantations of pineapples, dusty trails with vines and shrubs, land cracked with streams of water providing a cool relief.
I arrived at the resort awakened with a sense of relief. After lunch, where we had the freshest fish and where I tasted the sweetest pineapple, we went around the island onboard two wheels.
The afternoon sun still shone brightly and I was regretting once again that I forgot to bring sunblock. We went around other sites in Jomalig and as an island, there was nothing to see but beaches and their fellow beaches.
There was a beach dubbed “Little Batanes” and the scene when you climb a rock was similar to that of Batanes. I did not go up and instead filled myself with liquids. But looking at Johnald’s photos, it was indeed a sight to enjoy.
After that, we went farther, visiting a beach they dubbed “Little Boracay.” I initially thought it was hype but it was quite appropriate as I scooped the powdery white sand. It was Boracay without the commercial trappings and the crowd. Then there was an area where the sand was golden (where a big “We Heart Jomalig” sign distracted me). The place was so quiet that you could hear nature’s heartbeat.
HOW TO GO THERE
In Manila, take a van parked in Legard55area (near Raymond bus terminal). The trip will take around three hours to the port of Real, Quezon.
In the port, make sure that you line up in the ticket area for Jomalig. The boat ride will be around five hours so make sure that you are protected from the harsh sun.
In Jomalig, the best way to go around is to drive or ride a motorcycle