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Burdeos Summer Island Escapade | Revisiting Polillo Group of Islands

I’d been to Polillo back in 2014 and my short stay experience here was 50/50. It is true that the islands here are beautiful but the road going to Burdeos was just painstakingly agonizing that you would lose your head if you did not bring enough patience in your pocket.

A local friend Dandan recently told me that the Polillo-Burdeos road is now passable and way better compared two years ago. I was really hoping it was the way I had wished to happen after I wrote my previous blog about the isolated municipality on the east side of the Philippines. So, I got curious to see the new developments in person. Tagging my buddy Kurt, we grabbed our backpack and headed to  Raymond Bus Terminal in Sampaloc,  Manila, Wednesday midnight on Lenten season.

I have never expected that the crowd bound for Infanta Quezon would be a “blockbuster”! Since we have no reservation, we waited as a chance passengers at the van terminal beside the bus terminal. Luckily we were able to get a seat after 3 hours.

Poor Government and Management as Usual 

But the agony did not stop there. Hell broke loose as we reached Ungos, where Real Port Terminal is located. There was very poor management in the Port of Real. Passengers don’t know where to queue for a line heading for Polillo or Anawan.

Port of Real, Ungos, Quezon Province

The Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Port Authority here were in no sight to manage the chaotic crowd. Even the ticketing system was poorly handled, giving wrong information to the sleepless people inside the port. We could only sigh and put in mind that we are in the Philippines and these people in “authority” were not trained well for such management. I wonder what happened to the budget for personnel development of the LGU? 

Anyway, finally, we were able to board the boat “Syvel 03” at 7:30am bound for Anawan. And guess what, not everyone in the boat has lined to get a ticket as what the rest of the disciplined passengers did. “So, pwede pala yun”, one passenger softly mumbled as the tickets were being inspected!

The restless night made us slept on the bench at the upper deck until we reached Anawan. There, customized jeepneys await the passengers bound for Burdeos. 

The Hell Road to Burdeos

I was in awe to realize that the road has somewhat improved only by an inch. The dusty road was still largely unpaved and gave us a difficult time to reach our target town. That was the longest two-hour ride of my life, trying to keep myself sane inside the jam-packed jeepney with other sweating passengers. The dust could be a good material for clay pot making if you could only scrape it off from our skin and your bags. Two years and still the same! Truly this part of Quezon is lagging in terms of development. Wake up Provincial Government of Quezon!

Anilon Island, A Home Away from Home 

After we bought some supplies at Jassel, Dandan, our local host, fetched us on a habal habal (motorbike) and took us directly to our rented boat bound for Anilon Island. It was a relief after we finally we reached the island and took some fresh grilled fish for lunch.

Fresh fish caught in Anilon Island ( Sibungin)

We decided that we settle the night in Anilon Island to rest our aching back and to refresh ourselves.

It was an unfortunate event when I stumbled over the boat and got soaking wet into the beach together with my camera bag along with my other electronic gadgets in it after we decided to look for the rock formations on the other side of Anilon. What the hell! But life is shit so I just carry on as if nothing happened but to dry-up and recover the things that were not broken. Good thing my Nikon D3200 camera was still in good condition but I have to say goodbye to my old phone, power bank, batteries, and charger.

Delicious Saang, a shellfish commonly found in the islets and sandbars of Burdeos, Polillo Group of Islands

The night in the island set so early that “Mother Earth”, Dandan’s mom, made us dinner. Fresh seafood as usual and I couldn’t complain about it. It’s my favorite after all and I could only wish I have brought enough anti-urolithic medicine with me.

Anilon is somewhat inhabited by a clan of family, the Gonzales. There were a number of nipa houses where some even have a “sari-sari” store where you can buy some basic goods. You're gonna love their halo-halo and burgers since you have no other choice. It's a good thing they have a solar panel to keep their ice frozen.

Living the Island Life

Camping at Lawis, Burdeos, Polillo Group of Islands
The young lads in the community invited us to try their famous Lambanog. I could have easily given in with the invitation if only I was not in a routine medication. Not to sway them with disrespect I joined the circle of conversation instead and even threw some jokes to give more life to the night. Surely, I had a good laugh hearing the old “probinsya” jokes from the unique high-pitched intonation of the islanders. 

Beachineering in Burdeos, Polillo Group of Islands

But I think it was my buddy, Kurt, who had a really good time that night. Hahaha. The drinking session lasted until 3:00 am until all were groggy and can no longer find our way back.

Clearwater of Burdeos, Polillo Group of Islands
The moon was full and bright that night that we decided to fix our tent on the sandbar-forming part of the island they called “lawis”.  It was quiet and truly relaxing and we had a good night sleep at the beach, minus the roaring snores of a drunken man beside me, grrrr!

The moon was still shining bright in the morning and I couldn’t move from where I sit, wondering if I could just stay there forever. The bluish waves running on the coral sand of Anilon were inspiring. The innocent view of the beautiful surrounding hypnotized me to get stunted to where I stood. But we must move on.

Fresh lobster or sugpo in Burdeos, Polillo Group of Islands

Breakfast was simply superb as usual as it was served with a heart. We even had a chance to see the few harvests of the fisher folks where you could only see these sea products frozen after it reached the market in the metro. But here, everything was fresh from Sibungin, Sigang Dagat, Dayang-dayang, Bukawing, a giant  Sibu, Kuray (mangrove crabs) and Banagan (lobster). Yum yum!

Island Hopping in Burdeos

One of the sandbars in Burdeos, Polillo Group of Islands
We took the boat and headed to see the littered islets nearby like the Pulong Buhangin, Puting Bato, Binombonan, Bakaw-bakaw, Pamagihan and Lawis (near the ship port).

Swimming over the coral reefs in one of the sandbars in Polillo Group of Islands

Polillo Group of Islands is blessed with dozens of sandbars during low tides. Instead of getting off in the islets like the famous Binombonan, we chose to settle in a small sandbar to take our lunch. There, we decided to take a dip, swim and meet the growing young corals at the shallow beach. It was noontime and we have forgotten about the strong sun rays burning our skin deep. We were red, crispy and toasted but we have no regrets as we witnessed the beauty that lies beneath.

Snorkeling over the corals of Burdeos, Polillo Group of Islands

If only we have a bigger boat that day, I could have requested to revisit the bird sanctuary of Minasawa Island and the coast of Palaypalayan in Patpanungan. But I guess we will reserve that for our next visit.

The Homestay Experience

Kuray or Mangrove crabs caught in Burdeos Polillo Group of Islands
We sailed back to Burdeos proper before sunset and took shelter at our host family. They have no lavish bathroom and you have no choice but take a bath fronting the rice field in their backyard.

(Censored) Kurt enjoying the exposed public bath in Burdeos, Polillo Group of Islands

Instead of getting shamed, Dandan’s family pulled out proudly from their shortcoming with a sumptuous dinner composed of Tamihok (Kuray or mangrove crabs cooked in soft grated coconuts), grilled fish and eggplant with fish cooked in coconut milk. Can't stop drooling right? I couldn’t complaint on this, as we never had this kind of meal in the city.

I  just enjoyed my dinner but took caution with falling dungs coming from chicken already resting on the branches of the trees above me. Hahaha!

Sibu fish caught in Anilon Island, Burdeos, Polillo Group of Islands

But the night was young and there was nothing to do in the barrio but to spend it over a bottle of lambanog they called “ipit”. I’m not supposed to drink as I am still in my ritual medication for my kidney, but how could I refuse the seldom invitation. A shot of two, three oops no, I think more than a dozen put my head swinging and banging that I requested to retire early on our makeshift bed at the backyard. Oh, did I mention electricity got cut off early as well? It was pitch black the entire night that we have to rely on our rechargeable flashlight.

The trip was cut short that we decided to wake up at 2:00 am and catch the 3:00 am jeepney bound for Anawan port where the  4:30 am ferryboat bound for Real is waiting (first trip). Though we were sleepy, the trip back to Quezon mainland was a blast as we witnessed the glaring morning sun in the east. It was so inspiring that I was able to make another short poem motivated by this travel. Surely I will come back for more and next time I am going to aim for the farther islets of Patpanungan. If you wish to tag along, just let us know by leaving a comment below.

Sunrise in Anawan, Polillo Group of Islands

Travel Note:

  1. Electricity in Burdeos proper is rationed starting from 2pm to the next morning.
  2. No electricity in the islands  so better bring solar lamps or flashlights with you.
  3. You can pitch your tent on the island to spend the night.
  4. I have not seen ATM in Burdeos proper so better bring enough cash with you.
  5. If you have a sensitive stomach, bring or buy bottled water from the town proper as locals utilize deep well water for drinking and other domestic use.
  6. If you were invited for a shot of lambanog, please do not refuse, this is a sign of respect. A shot or two or many won’t matter, just take it.
  7. Do not abuse the hospitality of the locals, they will cook for you for free and serve food for free. But remember that it took them a lot of effort to catch that seafood and bought those spices at higher prices, so might as well give a little budget for that and give a reasonable tip for the host’s service unless you will fish out your own dinner.
  8. Do not haggle, they seldom have visitors and your contribution to buying the local products meant a lot to them.

I am sure you are wondering for our spent budget and itinerary in Burdeos, Polillo Group of Island and I am glad to share it with you.

1st day

Legarda to Ungos (Van)
Php 220

Ungos to Real Port (tricycle)

Real Port to Anawan (ferryboat)

Terminal fee
Anawan to Burdeos Proper           

Grocery at Jassel
500/2=250 each
Burdeos to Anilon Island (Boat Rental for 2 days)
3000/2=1500 each
3:00pm onwards
Lambanog drinking, fresh seafood dinner, breakfast, island-hopping, lunch at the sandbar
2nd day

Breakfast, island exploration, narcissistic picture taking
Island hopping, lunch
Back to burdeos shore, halo-halo
Public exposed bathing, dinner, lambanog drinking
3rd day

Burdeos proper to Anawan port (jeep)
Anawan port to Real Port
Real Port to Legarda Manila (Raymond Bus)


Polillo Trip Daily Schedule

1st Trip - 5:30am Syvel 04
2nd Trip - 7:00am Syvel 07

Monday and Thursday - RPN 888 - 11:00am
Tuesday and Friday     - Syvel 07  - 10:00am
Wednesday and Saturday- SEA J 3- 10:30am
Sunday- syvel/ SEA J /RPN 888- alternate schedule

Anawan Trip Schedule

9:00am daily - Syvel 03/SEA J 4/ Merry Grace ( alternate schedule)

Burdeos Trip Schedule

7:30am- St. Gabriel- As scheduled

Local Guide in Burdeos, Polillo Group of Islands

The tour guide services in Burdeos are not that established yet. We have been acquainted by Bernard "Dandan" Alpay and I can recommend getting his service to prepare your island hopping experience.

For the tour guide service, please do not expect full rounded assistance as they are not yet trained to do such, so better make your own adjustments. You may find him a little assuring when you contact him, trying to get the information over and over again (makulet) but that’s just him. You can contact him at these numbers (please don’t just text, make an effort to drop him a call):

Bernard Alpay: 09120624435 (updated, 2020)

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More pics here:

Sugpo or prawns freshly caught in the waters of Burdeos, Polillo Group of Islands

Saang, a shelfish commonly found and source of protein among the locals in Burdeos, Polillo Group of Islands

Kuray or mangrove crabs

Fresh fish good as grilled when in the island

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