Thursday, May 23, 2013

Subic Beach at Matnog, Province of Sorsogon

A Subic Beach in Matnog, Sorsogon
By Mark Nickson Garcia

Situated at the southernmost part of Bicol Region, known to be the “Exit to Luzon”, lies Matnog, a municipality in the province of Sorsogon where a beach with a familiar name can be found- SUBIC BEACH.

After a successful Legazpi City tour, theBACKPACKERS went straight to Legazpi Central Terminal near Gaisano mall to board a van bound for Sorsogon City. There are buses that regularly go to Sorsogon City but I thought that taking the van is more comfortable. However, unless you’re coming from Cubao, there is no direct trip to Matnog coming from Legazpi City. That's the main reason we needed to go to Sorsogon City first before hitting our target destination.

At Sorsogon City Central Terminal, we (BP Nick and BP Marion) rode a jeepney bound for Matnog. If you plan to go there, be prepared for a long drive, not because of traffic but because of passengers getting in and off the bus all throughout the journey.

It was already dark when We arrived at Matnog proper, and the tourism office closed at 5:00 PM that day. Since we did not get the chance to inquire, we had no idea on what to do. I have never been to Matnog before and was just relying on blogs. All along, I thought that it is a municipality with resorts lined up everywhere so we could just pitch our tents anywhere, but all I could see were fish markets here and there.

Everything happened so fast... so fast that when I opened my eyes, we were on Subic beach already...NO, just kidding!

We were actually still on the jeepney when a person approached us and asked where we were heading to. Soon as we answered "To Subic Beach," he suddenly grabbed my bag without asking for my permission. He brought us to “pampang” (seashore) and to a person with home we negotiated on the price going to Subic Beach. That person billed us PhP 1,600 that covered an island hopping activity. I then remembered reading a blog that said the boat ride costs around that price so we agreed on it A spoiler here - do read through to know what we learned from the Tourism Office the next day.

The name of the boatman is Mayong. He instructed us to buy what we needed from the market because there are no stores in the island he said. He also told us that he would bring us to Subic Beach - Small. And yes, there is a Subic Beach Big and Small. He explained that Subic Beach - BIG is much more expensive and crowded due to an existence of a barrio. We preferred Subic Beach - Small.

We boarded a very small boat (literally a fisherman’s boat) with no lifevests, no lights, and no roof. I was amused at first as to how we were going to travel literally in the dark and in the middle of the sea. As minutes passed by while the waters were splashing on our faces, and upon seeing Marion grasping on both sides of the boat, I uttered "Please let us reach the island safely..."

After a few minutes of prayer, our boat finally kissed the ashore. What did we see? Complete darkness! But Went ahead and pitched our tent. Suddenly, a beautiful creation of God showed from above- it was the MOON!

I have never seen the moon that big and beautiful. Its reflection on the surface of the waters made it even more striking. As an aspiring professional photographer, Marion immediately grabbed her camera and took pictures of it, while I did something which I failed to accomplish the last time- creating a bonfire. It was a success! And,  I felt redemption from my failed attempt when I was in Cagbalete Island.


The island was very peaceful on that night despite the fact that it was holy week when we usually expect people to go travelling and spending their time in a beach. We were the only visitors in that side of the island. As I closed my eyes that night, I felt the excitement of seeing the sun and to see the beauty of the island in broad daylight.

The sun was already up when some noise woke me up the next day. When I looked outside I saw the caretaker with his family, cleaning the sands using a traditional “walis tambo” (broom). I immediately grabbed my personal kit to wash up so I could start exploring the island.

As you can see on the pictures posted here, the island is so beautiful. However, we strongly advice that non-swimmers should just stay within three metres from the shoreline. The reason behind that is because the water in Subic Beach - Small deepens drastically beyond three feet from the shoreline. Good thing, we know how to swim so we were able to go farther than three metres. The bad thing was, i had no snorkelling gears with me and I was dying to see the beauty below the surface of the sea.

Early Morning at Subic Beach

Subic Beach - small

We strolled going to Subic Beach - Big. After chains of rocky paths we found out that there's nothing much of that difference between the two beaches. But, I would personally recommend staying on Subic Beach - Small. It is way cleaner and quieter there compared to Subic Beach - Big. The only huge difference between the two is that Subic Beach - Big has electricity and more nipa huts. However, when it comes to cleanliness, Subic Beach - Small wins!

On our way to Subic Beach - BIG

Subic Beach - BIG

BP Marion in Subic Beach - BIG
BP Nick in Subic Beach - BIG

Clear water
Mayong arrived bringing along with the same boat we rode on our way to the island. In the middle of the scorching heat from the sun, our island hopping commenced. First stop, we went to the caves. However, the boat even as it was as small as us, could not enter the caves. We instead enjoyed the rock formations.


enjoying the island hopping and sun bathing!

We went straight to our next target- Juag Sanctuary, where different kinds of fish freely swam around the area. There we saw almost all types of fish, we assumed. There is no required fees to be paid to visit the sanctuary, but they receive donations and sell food for the fish. When we were there, I remembered a blog that I was able to read that said "we swam with the fishes"; but unfortunately, we were not able to do it as swimming is presently prohibited.

Juan Lagoon

BP Marion wants to swim with the fishes

Feeding time with BP Marion
Lastly, we went to Tikling Beach. It is a small island similar to Subic Beach. It has clear blue waters and it also immediately becomes deeper beyond a few metres from the shoreline. A funny thing about Tikling Beach is that even though you are a strong swimmer, the current will bring you far away from the shore. We experienced it, and it was scary. Our Matnog experience ended at around 2 PM.

Tikling Beach

While deciding on what we should have in our next itinerary (planning to swim with the Butandings at Donsol), we went to Matnog Tourism Office and we found out something interesting revelations on our trips! Here it goes:

First, all tourists are required to register and pay an Environmental Fee upon arrival at Matnog. The fees are as follows: Registration fee of PhP 300.00 (for foreign tourist) or PhP 50.00 (for local tourists). Remember that we did not pay anything upon arrival- it is because we were not able to catch the Tourism Office.

Second, according to the Tourism Officer, the normal boat rental ranges from PhP 1,500.00 to PhP 2,000.00, depending on the number of tourists. I thought that we paid fair but we were wrong. Upon showing the picture of the boat, we noticed that it was different from what we rode the whole time. The authorized boat should have a life vest and a roof. I was shocked when I knew that information. We were exposed to the sun on a very small boat during the whole island hopping experience.

Lastly, there are no regular trip back to Sorsogon City during that period (holy week). We were then forced to ride a tricycle bound for the Municipality of Irosin and hoped that a jeepney coming from the Municipality of Bulan would arrive to bring us to Sorsogon City.

But despite all the things the Tourism Office clarified with us, I was still thankful that no one was hurt and that we were all safe. Let those information be a warning to all future Matnog Tourists then:

1. Register and pay the necessary fees at the Tourism Office and ask questions. They are very helpful. Tourism Officer Weng Salvador number is 09206148466.
2. Ride only a boat with a lifevest and with a roof. Never ride a fisherman’s boat because it is not authorized and the Tourism Office strictly discourages it.
3. Better bring your tent.
4. Make sure to contact the Matnog Tourism Office if you are coming late at night in Matnog. The office will wait to gladly assist you. 

Another experience that we gained from this trip was an adventure with fellow The BACKPACKERS. We did try to interact with the Butandings in the Municipality of Donsol, Province of Sorsogon.

Sharing our Itinerary here...

(Van from Legazpi to Sorsogon City)
PhP90.00/ person
Arrival in Sorsogon City

(Jeep from Sorsogon City Grand Terminal to Matnog)
PhP90.00/ person
Arrival in Matnog proper

(Boat from Matnog proper to Subic beach
PhP1,600.00 boat rental
Arrival in Subic Beach
PhP200.00 “donation”

Light out

Breakfast, swimming, strolling, picture taking
7:00am to 11:am

Island hopping
·   Caves
·   Juag Sanctuary
·   Tikling Beach
12:00nn to 2:00pm
PhP50.00 donation at Juag Sanctuary
Arrival Matnog proper

(Tricycle Matnog to Irosin)
PhP200.00 tricycle ride
Arrival in Irosin and late lunch

(Jeep Irosin to Sorsogon City)
PhP50.00/ person
Arrival in Sorsogon City

(Van Sorsogon City to Legazpi)
PhP85.00/ person

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