Escape Beach Camping in Zambales featuring Magalawa Island
by: Joseph T. Bautista
The backpacking community is now full of excitement over the recent discovery of Magalawa Island in Palauig, Zambales. Many who have visited are hailing the island as a perfect camping destination. It does have same cool, clear waters and white sand of Anawangin and Potipot but not the crowd, the noise and garbage.
Magalawa has a very interesting history. It used to be part of a small peninsula in Sitio Luan, Barangay Lupay. Before it became an island, a small river separated the sitio from the rest of the mainland. But due to strong currents and soil erosion, the river became wider, and after several centuries, this portion of land was isolated to become an island. The early inhabitants called this place “Mag-luwa” or “about two places”.
This 56-Hectare island remains as a fishing village, with a small population of less than 400 people staying mostly on south side. The main source of livelihood is still fishing. On the north side of the island is the private property owned by the Armada family, and this is where all visitors stay.
It is not easy to find where Magalawa is, and none of the current road maps gives information of where it is exactly located. It is best to contact directly the Armada family (Grace at 0939-8707413 or 0920-9483303) who will give you directions on how to reach Magalawa. For commuters, take a bus bound for Santa Cruz (fare is about 450pesos, 222km), and ask the driver to drop you off at Barangay Pangolingan, in the corner of Radio Veritas Road. From the junction, take a tricycle to Oslet Armada Fishdealer Compound in Barangay Luan (30pesos/head, 6km of rough road). From the Compound, a boat will take you to the island (100pesos/head round trip, 10minutes). It is advisable to call Grace Armada in advance, as the family would like to limit the number of visitors to the island. Their Facebook websites contains complete information about the island. To those who are bringing their private vehicles, there is ample parking space at the Fishdealer Compound (Parking fee is 100pesos overnight).
Entrance fee to the island is 100pesos for day visit and 300 for overnight stay. They have a weekend package of 1,400 to 1,800 pesos for fan room accommodation which includes boat transfer, entrance, four meals, and snorkeling/rafting. Majority of the visitors, however, prefer to camp under the shade of century-old camachile trees. The camp site can actually accommodate about a hundred tents. Water in the island is potable, maybe because the island’s underground is still connected to the mainland.
I visited the island in March when the moon was at its closed to the earth (supermoon phenomena). Even with the campsite almost full, I was pleasantly surprised that the usual loud music and the common shouting people high in alcohol common camp sites are non-existent in Magalawa. I was thinking maybe we all came here to find solace in place, and Magalawa is here to provide respite from anxiety of urban living.