Misibis Bay, found in the island of Cagraray, is not exactly near Manila. Neither is the choice of this beach destination totally free of safety concerns, at least in the last few weeks, with Daragang Mayon’s most recent rumblings. This resort paradise, after all, basks in the shadow of the world’s most perfect cone volcano, Mt. Mayon, spewing lava in the past days, prompting the local government to evacuate residents in the volcano’s permanent danger zone. Of course, we very well know that travel does not come without risks — after seriously considering the cards dealt on us, we came to a doubt-free conclusion that Misibis Bay must be explored and, with the decision to make the trip more adventurous with a long drive, it turned out to be an experience of Misibis Bay by day and night.
The Long Drive
Five hundred twenty-four kilometers. That’s 524 kilometers from the starting point in Manila all the way to Misibis Bay, the car GPS proudly proclaimed. Sounds exciting enough, like going up to Baguio and back, twice over. If there’s anything the long drive to Pagudpud or Donsol has taught us, it’s the reality that half of the fun in travel is the journey and, more importantly, if you’re going to massively reduce travel time, you avoid the hours stuck in metro traffic by leaving earlier. This means traveling really early, way before the sun rises, which comes with huge risks. For one, the route from Manila to Bicol is a main artery for public buses and huge cargo trucks that constantly stream to and from the Manila-Leyte-Mindanao route. You’re on the road with heavy, big vehicles with tired/sleepy drivers that have spent the whole evening on the road. The dark and uninhabited stretches along the route, like the bitukang manok, is not exactly hospitable for newbie drivers.
However, we’ve done this before and we’re familiar with the route (refer to the earlier post on the itinerary to Bicol: Legaspi and Donsol, Sorsogon). Leaving Manila by 2 a.m. means having breakfast by 6 a.m. at Pili, right after Naga City. That means reaching the Cagsawa ruins by 10 a.m., having a good amount of time posing with Mayon volcano (although it’s good to remember that the volcano is cloud-free around 7:00 a.m. or earlier), having lunch and enjoying chili ice cream at the 1st Colonial Grill. Driving straight to Misibis takes around 10 hours but we don’t recommend our pace. Target 12-13 hours.
A Bridge Too Far
The phrase “a bridge too far” refers to book by Cornelius Ryan and its movie adaptation on the Allied Forces operation during World War II (remember how fun history is? Corregidor? Japan as part of the Axis Powers defeated by the Allied Forces?). The operation, dubbed as Operation Market Garden, called for control of bridges deep inside Nazi-occupied Netherlands. Criticisms have it that the Allied Forces overstretched themselves and have gone a bridge too far. Most historians agree that the operation was a failure.
We’re not going to remotely discuss any military operation. What we’re concerned in this post is the travel to Misibis Bay. At the end-stretch of the journey, there’s a marker — right before a new bridge — proclaiming that Misibis Bay is 9 kilometers away. What’s interesting about this bridge is the fact that this used to be the place where guests have to go down and take a boat going to the secluded Misibis Bay. It’s also the point where the GPS directs the driver to another route, away from the bridge, which purports to be 6.2 kilometers from the destination. So, there we were, having driven for more than 500 kilometers (and having navigated the extra 20 kilometers of absolutely dizzying winding, narrow road from Sto. Domingo), confronted with a fork on the road. Which way to go? It’s a man vs. the machine moment (perhaps road sign vs machine moment).
Even if we make a mistake, we figured, it’s not really too much of a hassle to turn around and drive 9 kilometers back. There’s just something inviting about that bridge. It’s a bridge too far into the trip and we had to experience crossing it — if not for anything, for the psychological satisfaction of crossing the finish line. It’s the only bridge in the entire trip where we stopped in the middle, stepped off the vehicle, took a deep breath, sucked in the fresh riverine air, and watched a yacht gracefully slice the serene green water. We could stand there all day, except that Misibis Bay is waiting. And one of us has a weak bladder. So, just like with all good things on this strange world of ours, that moment had to end. We had to go on and get to Misibis Bay.
Travel catalogues normally tell us about the destination. It’s rare to read about the travel itself, which, as a noun, means “the action of traveling” and, as a verb, means “to make a journey, typically of some length.” If travel is 99.99% about the process of getting from the point of origin to the point of destination, how come we don’t get to read more of it? Perhaps it’s a boring subject. For us, however, it’s a kind of story that tells us a lot of things — for instance, about the wisdom of clearing one’s bladder while at the cit of Legaspi (around 40 kilometers away) or the town of Sto. Tomas (around 20 kilometers away), which is the last place with commercial establishment where one could do the deed. Do this and you’ll have enough time to admire the scenery after that steel “bridge too far”.
If you travel by plane, there’s an airport transfer and Misibis Bay uses big vans to ferry guests to and from the airport (yes, you must ask for the airport transfer when booking at Misibis, and, yes, the vans have wide glass windows that allow guests to soak the scenery). We don’t know if it’s ok to ask the driver (and if it’s ok for other guests in the van) to stop in the middle of nowhere to take photos at the observation deck.
The Glorious Sunset
We didn’t plan to spend some time enjoying the chili ice cream, such that it was already late in the afternoon when we entered the last stretch to Misibis Bay. We didn’t know about the great view and we didn’t know that there’s an observation deck, but we travel with the camera on constant full alert status and with an eternal sense of adventure. Every sunset is different. It won’t be the same 30 minutes after, the time it would take to get to Misibis Bay, check in and get to the room, get out and come back to the observation deck. The Misibis Bay resort, we discovered, has the sunset to its back, covered by the hills, so the viewing deck is the best place to be for sunset viewing (sunrise, on the other hand, is perfect on the beach at Misibis Bay).
There are two observation decks, although we’re not sure if the smaller concrete structure is indeed an observation deck. We’re sure, however, that the two-roof structure is an observation deck because it’s where we stopped and took some really nice photos. We’ve discovered a good reason for the extreme seclusion of Misibis — you can pose all you want, even poses that will tickle your cheeks pink while looking at your own photos, because there’s practically no one around (unless, of course, other guests happen to have the same plan at the same time, or when staff pass by on their way home).
The Beach and the Pools
The main draw of Misibis Bay, in our opinion, is not the beach. Don’t get us wrong — Misibis Bay has good brown sand and clear waters. Clean and clam waters, hugged by a protective breakwater. The helpful staff is ready with the life vest and other beach fun gears. A yacht is on standby for those who booked this option. The row of white beach chairs, with the individual beach umbrellas wide open, is bereft of guests.
Unfortunately for Misibis, or any destination in the Philippines for that matter, it has to contend with the fact that there are a lot of really fine strips of beach in the country’s 7,107 islands. We’ll need only to throw in Palawan, Boracay, Panglao and Camiguin’s White Island to prove our point. Any beach resort, therefore, has to offer something more.
To be continued…in the meantime, check these photos (click to enlarge).