Around 6:30 AM last Friday, six and a half hours after my journey’s start, I woke up, took off my hot pink eye mask that allowed me a few hours of relatively peaceful sleep (kailangan hot pink pa talaga no? bigay lang yun), sat up and groggily looked outside. Our boat was approaching the Abra de Ilog pier, and the weather was not looking good. I groaned. Is this going to be another rainy Sablayan adventure? What can this island possibly have against me?
My fears were unfounded, however. Barely an hour after our van left the pier (tama ka Harvey, may vans na nga! At isang beses lang sya nagka-flat tire, ha ha), the sun came out, and chased us all the way to Sablayan. As it turned out, the heavy rains were confined to the northern tip of Mindoro island. A friend called us up when we were nearing Sablayan, asking how we were doing because she heard in the news there was already flooding in Victoria, Oriental Mindoro. The next boat trip after the one we took was apparently canceled. In Sablayan, however, the weather was great. Clearly, things went my way this time around.
Anyway, the major implication of the good weather was that we were able to go on a day tip to Pandan Island.
Pandan is a beautiful tiny strip of an island only about 20 minutes by boat from the Sablayan town proper. The website of the island’s lone resort describes it as a “private island.” No such thing, of course, as far as I know, no one can legally own an entire island. But it is definitely “private,” in the non-legal sense of the word. An antidote to the crowded and chaotic atmosphere of Boracay, Pandan is just good, clean beach fun. It’s basically a stretch of fine white sand, good snorkeling/diving areas, a single resort, and beach forest. Should you wish to get intoxicated, the resort’s bar will happily set you up with your beverage of choice wrapped in its very own Pandan Island cloth bottle holder. For a different kind of activity, a trail that starts behind the resort takes you through a half hour’s walk through the woods and out to the lagoon on the other side of the island, where you’ll go, ooohh, so this is where all the rocks are hiding!
The resort is owned by a Frenchman, which explains the fact that the guests were mostly, if not all, French. We were the only local tourists that day, and we couldn’t care less, of course, because we only had a few hours there, and had two spanking new sets of snorkeling gear and fins to test out. I didn’t see the pawikan that Don encountered on a previous visit to Pandan, but there are plenty of other fish to make up for it, and to make me forget the fact that my swimming skills are actually pretty pathetic.
Pandan can also be your base in getting to Apo Reef, one of the country’s top dive sites. For now, I was content with a day trip and a few hours of snorkeling in Pandan, but next time, next time…