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2013 March 16

A worldful of grays are scattered along the shore of Matabungkay. It is strewn with ashen sand that sparkles a white glow when hugged by sunlight. It is bordered landward by a long, cramped lane of resorts and stores. Many times, it is littered with trash that unabashed locals and tourists left behind. And lying on the berm, almost safe from the swashes of the struggling tides, are memories — neither fresh nor stale — that I always come back for.

I envy this kid!!!
I envy this kid!!!

I always find myself lazing on the beach of Matabungkay. Sometimes with friends. Other times, just me. My last visit was almost a year ago, April 2012. There’s just a hole in my heart that only the sand of this place can fill.

The Beach

I grew up in Batangas, and I had always heard of its name since I was a kid. But my first time to set foot on this place was when I was already working here. It was famed for being a sanctuary, a place that lights up the spirit and boasts a lighter gray sand. Hidden along the western shore of the province, facing the West Philippine Sea, it was for the longest time an idyllic fishing village until tourism changed it completely.

Legend has it that Matabungkay was “rediscovered” in the early 1950s by Germans who were looking for a go-to paradise within proximity to the bustling Manila. Slowly it gained prominence and for a long period became the “it” destination in Southern Luzon, way before the rebirth of Anawangin or the rise of Caramoan.

Today, Matabungkay is not as famous, but it continues to offer refuge to work-battered capital-dwellers aching for a respite and families wanting an easy getaway. One thing that’s going for it is its accessibility — only two hours away.

The Crowd

In our town, going to Matabungkay, despite its being just over an hour away, was a dream. I remember, when I was a kid my mom would always tell my siblings and I how expensive it was to go on a vacation there whenever we brought it up. Of course, things are different now. For starters, we can already afford to stay there. Plus, a lot of cheaper resorts and inns have mushroomed along the shore through the years. Its proximity coupled with affordability had brought in a lot of tourists, providing livelihood to the locals and changing the face of the place along the way.

Those who are looking for a quiet, secluded paradise will be disappointed by the commercialism that had taken over it. Stores are everywhere and vendors of souvenirs approach guests, sometimes persistently. These floating huts have become almost a fixture that it’s almost impossible to take a shot without them in the frame.

Bamboo rafts
Bamboo rafts

But those patient to find a good spot are rewarded. For example, Matabungkay Beach Hotel’s beachfront is bookmarked by runways that extend to the sea, drawing a border between the pricey resort and the rest of the beach.

At night, your elusive peace of mind might be chased away by the ubiquitous showstopping videoke/karaoke performances, good and bad, that play in the background.

Children building sand castles
Children building sand castles
North end of Matabungkay beach
North end of Matabungkay beach

The Trash

In the many times that I returned to Matabungkay, one thing that is constant is the trash. Each time, I spotted food leftovers, plastic wrappers, disposable plates and cups, glass bottles, and cigarette butts. I know that you find these in many other beaches in and out of the country but they’re glaring here — because of both the size and the number. It was actually Matabungkay that inspired me and my teammates at PhilippineBeaches.org to launch a Responsible Travel campaign.

The last time I was here, the condition was a lot better, but it definitely has seen better days. Still, it’s a good sign. At least I know that the environmental fee that they have started collecting is going somewhere. Again, it’s been a year since my last visit and I can’t speak about its current state. I hope it’s better now.

Ces picking up trash
Ces picking up trash
Swept together!
Swept together!
My friend Andre cleaning up this part of the beach
My friend Andre cleaning up this part of the beach
Always a sad sight
Always a sad sight

The Memories

My very first serious job sent me and had me stay in Matabungkay in Lian, Batangas for two months. I had just graduated from college, and it was my debut to the corporate world. Part of my job was to manage a group of Korean students studying English at Matabungkay Beach Resort. Those two months were filled with unforgettable experiences with the kids and my co-workers. Although the hectic schedule did not allow me to get out of the resort often, it did not stop me from creating fun memories here. That was in early 2007.

I had never seen many of those Korean and Filipino kids and colleagues again since then. Even despite exchanging emails, there is still something missing, something that may be the music of voices or the warmth of physical presence. Looking back, I can’t believe just how close I was to them and appalled by how distant we now are. It’s like our friendship only existed during the two months that they were near, that they were here. Six years later, when contacts have been lost and links severed, there is only one place to relive those days — on the beach of Matabungkay, among the trash and the crowd and the ashen sand that once was scarred by our footprints.

How to get to Matabungkay: If driving, from SLEX, take Sta Rosa Exit, Silang-Tagaytay Highway, and continue until you reach the Batangas-Cavite border. Turn right onto the road under the Nasugbu arc until you reach Shell gas station, turn left towards the direction of Lian and Calatagan. Watch out for a Matabungkay signage on your right hand side.

If taking public transportation, take a van (shuttle) or bus going to Calatagan or Lian at EDSA-Taft (near Pasay Rotonda and Metropoint Mall). Simply tell the driver/conductor to drop you off at the junction to Matabungkay. From there, take a tricycle.

BATANGAS GUIDE


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Adelle

It makes me kind of mad to see trash on a beautiful beach. parang kasing natatakot ka ng maligo sa tubig. I hope the local gov’t will raise awareness on this :)

charlie

This beach was part of my childhood, we went there like it was the only beach in the country. Even as a child I always remembered it being dirty, those floating cottages unappealing, snorkeling sucks, people just casually dump their mess everywhere, and instead of watching out for dorsal fins sticking out of the water, the Jaws theme starts to warn you for floating human feces slowly bobbing and drifting towards your face–it ruins summer break for me and I kept asking myself why my parents always take us here, either they’re too cheap or they simply don’t love us. I’m now 40 and have been lucky enough to travel to the most beautiful beaches our country has to offer, took my parents to a few of them, and each time I tell myself “Now THIS is a beach!” thinking back at this pathetic place. I can’t believe the local government hasn’t lifted a finger to make it a competitive tourist destination. Not sharing this on my FB. I don’t want any of my European friends to “re-rediscover” this lousy beach. This place is for the locals who love tossing their “gifts” into the wide open seas. Even if you’re just driving from Manila you deserve much better, this will give you more stress, there are better alternatives–try Laiya. No one deserves to swim along side half-digested corn.

The Poor Traveler

Hi Adelle! Yes, it’s very sad. My friends at PhilippineBeaches.org and Save Philippine Seas and I will be doing a cleanup and awareness project here in Matabungkay soon. :)

Kara

Hello! I am planning to have a coastal cleanup in Matabungkay and I was wondering if there are public beaches there? :) Thank you!

Juan Derrer

It has been many years since this travel blog has been created. Just this weekend, I had brought my family there and I know already that the beach itself is a nice beach to stop by and spend a nice weekend getaway. Anyway wala na rin kasi kaming mapagpiliaan dahil ang mga beach resorts somewhere na malapit sa amin sa Cavite which is sa Nasugbu at that week are all fully booked. Baka na rin dahil sa pag ease out ng quarantine protocol at excited na rin ang lahat ng mga taong lumabas at makatikim muli ng vitamin sea. Yeah, what really gives the bad expression of the place are still the same, the trashes/garbage. Name it meron kang makikita within the shoreline, to add are the facemask and the faceshields which we know dahil sa pandemic. The Brgy. volunteers papasok pa lang ay haharangin ka na para sa tinatawag nilang environmental fee, the cost is 25 pesos na I believed is not worth it. Why did I say that, man, ang dating basura sa dagat. Sa shoreline at wala naman akong nakita on our two days stay there na mga environmental warriors ng brgy. of whom the 25 pesos should be used per head of tourist that is arriving. I believed hindi bababa sa 1K per day ang visitors arrival nila. To simply equate that, eh 25k per day ang pasok sa income ng brgy. multiply that by number of days in a month lets say 28 days and that will give us 700K in a month. That 700k is enough para passhurin mo ang mga local volunteer warriors for at least 20 persons na may min. wage lets say na 500 a day to 280K. The rest can be shouldered by the brgy. for other income generating projects they can create out of tourism. Ang ikauunlad at ikagaganda pa ng matabungkay ay nakasalalay sa mga turistang gaya ko na mag kakalat ng good impression para sa mga future visitors or tourist sa lugar. For now I can say, masyado na syang commercialise to the point na ito dapat ang sinasabi ni Duterte na cesspool. Tsk.tsk.tsk.