Summer has officially begun in my part of the world. One moment, I was just in my full length yoga pants cuddled up with my favorite blankie on the couch. And then like a mood swing of a woman at the peak of her PMS , the weather hits me with sudden warmth. Too much warmth, that yoga pants would be dreadful to wear. Did I also mention that I live in one of the very few cooler part of the Philippines?
I have just gotten back from a beach trip up north, but the other day, I got an invite from people I met while traveling to go to a particular island very close to where I live– Fortune Island. UnFORTUNately, (see what I did there) I’m going to pass on this one. Apparently, on Black Saturday (in reference to Holy Week, not shopping), there’s going to be an event there with live music, food stalls, and all that jazz. Meehhhhhh, I don’t know how I feel about that. It’s actually a pretty fun idea, you know, an exclusive event at an abandoned island. But that’s not why I would want to go on a precious abandoned island for. (READ: 5 Beautiful Islands To Camp At Near Manila)
I have actually been to Fortune Island two years ago, when it was still considered a hidden gem. Back then, you could barely find any information on the Internet on how to get to the island. But now it seems as if not only most local bloggers have blogged about it, but it seems that there are now tours operating to take you there. Feeling a little annoyed, I thought I’d share with you the Fortune Island I’ve gotten to experience.
Fortune Island once used to be an exclusive getaway spot for the rich and the famous. Owned by a politician who somehow ended up in jail, Fortune Island was soon abandoned. I tried looking for photos of how it looked in the 90’s during its prime, but I somehow couldn’t find any. I tried to picture it as our boat docked on the shore, but I was too mesmerized by its rustic beauty that I just couldn’t care anymore.
Going to Fortune Island from where I live in Tagaytay is extremely easy. It’s only a 30 minute bus ride and another 40 minute boat ride away. From the city, you can just get on a bus headed to Nasugbu. You’ll be dropped off at the town proper where boat men will now approach you. Back then, there were only two contacts that you’d have to contact in advance to bring you to Fortune Island. Today, you can easily go spontaneously. The boat prices are a bit high, I think we payed around 5k to rent the boat overnight. On top of that, there’s also a camping/entrance fee that you need to pay individually, which was around 350php if I’m not mistaken. The fee is lower if you’re just doing a day trip.
The boat ride was milder than I expected, but the waves getting to Fortune Island is known to be treacherous. There has been a lot of shipwrecks here throughout time, so the waves’ infamy here is apparent in history, and rumor has it that the ghosts of the victims roam around the island once darkness strikes. But that wasn’t enough to intimidate us to spend a night in this abandoned island. As our boat gradually approached it, the obvious changes of the gradient is mesmerizing… from blue, to emerald, and turquoise. It was almost unreal to me that this island existed so close to the city.
The beach is rocky, and it’s very grainy, but the white sand still gleams under the sun so blindingly. The sand doesn’t feel soft and powdery, but none of that mattered as we scurried our way to the shaded area because the sun was malicious and ruthlessly out this morning. As we reached the building which I presume is what used to be the lobby area, I stared right back out to the horizon to enjoy the refreshing view of the sea. There was one small group already there, although they left not too long after we got there. We chilled, ate our PB&J sandwiches, and took shelter here until the sun felt a little more friendlier.
We soon found our way heading down for a dip in the water. Maneuvering my way through the rocky sand was a bit of a struggle. Walking barefoot was almost impossible so I highly recommend water shoes. The waves were getting stronger but the water felt wonderfully welcoming. We had the island all to ourselves, with the exception of our boat men, a few of his friends, and the caretaker.
It wasn’t just the blue clear water that I find this island so appealing for a great summer destination, a weekend trip, or a Tuesday. The entirety of the island is mystifying, and the eerie vibe it brings is nothing short of captivating. The abandonment was electrifying, making the camping experience completely different from the usual nature trips. Electricity doesn’t run here and the only rest room available are practically just remnants of the past, giving the campers the least convenience there is. But when camping, the rougher the better, am I right?
You’ve got the ruins of the Greek pillars on the hilltop on the left, and there’s a shipwreck replica on the right, which used to be a restaurant. However, I’m no longer sure if they still have it up there today. There are also spots that makes a decent cliff jumping spot, although we didn’t. We headed back up to the ruins around sunset, but there was none that day.
The wind was pretty strong, but somehow we got caught up there as we watched our boat man at the bottom of the hill approach our tent. From what it looked like up there, he was trying to open our tent, and fortunately we locked it. It doesn’t take a genius to realize what he was attempting to do. He then realized that we were up there watching him, which he awkwardly reacted to like a typical red handed man would react, just pure awkwardness. It started to feel a little sketchy when we realized him and his company had been drinking. Athough we had a guy with us in our group (and a baseball bat), I kept my guard up the entire night.
Before darkness fell, we started collecting wood for fire. You know what’s so odd about this island? There’s so many unpaired slippers everywhere. It makes you wonder how they found their way here. Did their owners accidentally lose them in the water or did they get caught in the sand? Were they originally from a different island, the mainland perhaps, and they somehow floated their way here? Why are they all over Fortune Island? Anyway, the caretaker came by to check on us and helped us set up our bonfire (he wasn’t sketchy, thank bob). He gave us a big piece of tree trunk which lasted until 3am.
He also showed us the turtle eggs which were laid just last night! It was so amazing to see it, however, the caretaker kept touching the eggs (and tossing it at one point) to show us. Instead, my friends and I started to dig a hole to put the eggs back in gently and safely.
We ate our leftover chicken for dinner which wasn’t satisfying enough. I was completely famished by then and regret began to kick in as I wished we would have prepared more on this spontaneous trip. There was no signal on the island so we had nothing else to do than to enjoy each other’s company. The stars didn’t show up but thick clouds kept us company instead, together with the moon which was shining bright enough for us to watch the clouds change shapes. It’s funny how disconnecting from the rest of the world makes one feel even more connected to yourself and your surrounding even more. We played with hermit crabs until we al began to feel sleepy. We tried to stay up to wait for the turtle to check on its eggs but we had no luck. I was able to get some sleep despite how hot it was and despite the paranoia at the back on my mind because of our sneaky boatman. As for the ghosts, I felt no odd vibe, although a friend said they saw some shadows while we were asleep. Apparitions of sunken victims or shadow of sketchy boat man? Who knows.
As we left the island in the early morning, I imagined what this island would look like today if it thrived back then. It’s such a beautiful island, staying true to its name, as I find it a complete gem (though Fortune island was dubbed from the belief that there were fortune from sunken boats around). It’s a shame though, because the island isn’t very well maintained. Not only were the pieces of slippers and trash was very apparent on one end of the island, but in the morning prior to leaving, it smelled like literal shit. A few months later, the same friends I went with visited again and reported that there were trash floating around the ocean by then.
I don’t know how Fortune Island looks like today, two years after I camped there. I’ve been wanting to make a trip back actually, but I’m intimated at the thought of it changing so much and losing its original charm that I know of, that I find myself backing out from opportunities to finally go. I think with its sudden rise in popularity and local tourism, I’m better off just knowing Fortune Island the way I’ve seen it once. I’ll keep it that way for now.
PS: It was an awkward ride back, and our boat man couldn’t look us in the eye.
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