Lubang Island for me is a trove of beautiful memories. I could clearly recall those summer afternoons I spent biking around town, trying to imprint every landmark in my young mind: the church, my great grandfather’s house in the corner of E. Quirino and L. Abeleda, the backyard with a pugon stove, and the school where my mother used to go to.
I would always associate the island with April showers which would seem to rain on me at times my cousin and I hung out at the Plaza. Its yellow petals that have fallen from the trees were like sand burying my toes. Lubang Island was part of my childhood. It was part of my mother’s childhood. Lubang Island was a part of my late grandmother’s childhood.
It’s a wonder to me, though, why the world has not raved about the island yet. At this day and age of aggressive local tourism, why hasn’t Lubang Island been found? Should I blame the island’s mysticism?
Mama (my grandmother) would fondly tell me stories about Lubang while the 90’s prevalent blackout plagued us in Kamuning. She once talked about how a number of Japanese fleets during World War II tried docking on its pristine shores. Since their intentions were vile, the shore seemed to turn to soap, giving them a laborious time disembarking until they were spooked to their wits and called it a day.
The beaches of Lubang Island, were anything but soap but everything that is clear and uncorrupted. It serves as a testimony that you need not spend more to witness the beauty of Bali or the Bahamas. I only spent 1,500 Php to get to and from the island comfortably. My heart raced upon the sight of the vast oceans that had taken the extreme end of Teal in the color wheel. I am not even exaggerating! My mother recounted stories of how she collected shells in Tumibo when she was young and I have validated those stories myself when I caught a glimpse of that beach for the first time. Imagine a shore covered with seashells, ruined by the waves but still elegantly alluring…and the mangroves! It was so new to me at that time that I am conflicted between swimming or just looking at the beautiful scenery!
My grandfather (Papa, as we fondly called him), narrated to us once about a story of a giant who set foot on one of the beaches in Lubang. In the process, he left his footprint and this has then made one beach famous. Binacas was the name given by the townsfolk to this place and up until today, you can see the footprint in the ocean, I kid you not!
However, Binacas is more than just a tall tale (excuse my pun). The local government developed it to a park/public resort, providing chairs and tables among the beautiful trees so that visitors can dine and lounge about. Binacas beach is entrancing because of its headlands trapping the ocean. It is as if you have been transported to Hawaii, only better.
The residents of Cabra Island, Lubang has stories to tell too. As Filipinos, religion plays an integral part among the people that is why when Mary, the mother of Jesus, chose to manifest herself to the people of Cabra, a whiff of devout service was instilled among the people. According to local accounts, our Lady of Cabra wanted them to build a church, 30 meters wide to aid people away from sin. My mother was present during one of the apparitions but she was too young to understand then. My great grandmother, Lola Bertha Sanchez-Valbuena saw how the cross danced wildly as prayers of the people swelled.
From the supernatural and divine, miracles through will also happened in the island. Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda will never be forgotten by history and will be remembered by the people of Lubang as the Japanese soldier who went in hiding in the mountain forest and caves of Mount Puting Bato. He was so resourceful that he utilized nature during those toilsome decades to survive while entertaining himself (he has a music room) and even preserve his food using the river. He refused to lose himself to the long years and has emerged a hero by his country for surviving the war. He was reunited with the island in his later years and put up a school and means of livelihood for the locals. What’s left of his tale are the caves you can visit along the trail.
There are countless other chronicles that I, and the people who lives (and have lived) in Lubang Island, can tell. Lubang has a rich history and a vivid culture. Had you witnessed how they celebrate Holy Week and Flores de Mayo, I will bet that you’ll return annually and be part of it until it grows as your personal tradition.
Having written all these, I am again at a loss as to why Lubang, Island isn’t as famous as it deserves…but after hearing all these stories, I am comforted with a resolution: the island will bloom at its own time. Like a flower, it is reserving and nurturing itself until such moment that it is ready to bloom. It will astound tourists soon and I trust that the time is at hand. After all, Lubang Island isn’t just a sight for the eyes but a whole legend that will enchant the other senses.
For more information about the island, you can visit their FACEBOOK PAGE.