Just as the James Ingram and Linda Rondstadt song says, somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight, an unspoiled hidden gem of a destination awaits discovery.
“Big surprises” truly “come in small packages.” In a beguiling archipelago endowed with some 7,100 island wonders, this adage applies to a best-kept tourist spot off the beaten path—in Samar province in the eastern region of central Philippines.
One of these big surprises is the bucolic town of Marabut, which takes pride in its diverse ecosystem, marvelous rock islands, crystalline water and its own little stretches of fine white sand beach that every Filipino travel bug longs for.
The good thing is you don’t have to go through hell to get to heaven as is the case in many of the Philippines’ so-called hidden Edens.
Marabut can be reached within an hour from Tacloban City, passing through the iconic San Juanico Bridge and the meandering scenic highway, which reveals the natural allure of Samar out there.
Your interlude with nature begins at Marabut Extreme Resort (formerly Marabut Marine Park), which offers a front row seat to the awe-inspiring limestone rock island formations punctuating the bay. The scene is so irresistible that the next logical thing to do is to paddle a kayak for the all-important island-hopping (or shall I say, say rock-hopping) tour.
Each rock island has an amusing shape and interesting feature to showcase, among them lush coral gardens, limestone cliffs, patches of greenery and white beaches, which are short in length, but never short in the unique experience they can offer.
A must-see is the Tinago Enchanted Lagoon and Cave, which can be reached after about 30 minutes of leisurely paddling. Tucked behind the towering rock formations, it can be accessed through a low-ceilinged tunnel entrance where a new world unfolds.
It’s best to hop around the alluring islets of Sohoton, Kapuloan, and Madung-Badung on board a kayak for a close-to-nature experience that is simply nirvana.
The lagoon is a rich wetland ecosystem teeming with mangrove forests that are habitats to various species of fish, as well as fowls that make the area their retreat at dusk.
The Marabut Extreme Resort is also a swell venue for team-building excursions with its adventure facilities that test the participants’ mettle physically and mentally. Guests can negotiate obstacle courses and cross suspended cables, the standard adventure activity long before zip lines became a national craze.
The resort is also an ideal take off point for an exhilarating cliff trek to a vantage peak, which offers a breathtaking view of the vast expanse of Marabut Bay.
For a touch of luxury amid a rural setting, guests can stay or dine at the newly opened Caluwayan Palm Island Resort, which boasts well-appointed rooms with views, an infinity pool and aqua-sports facilities. Caluwayan’s bar and restaurant not only satisfies your cravings for regional Waray cuisine and all-time Filipino favorites, but it also offers a front-row seat to a dramatic sunset.
For a more complete nature tripping, visitors can trek to the Kadongos Falls for a mesmerizing view of its enchanting cascades and a rejuvenating dip in its ice-cold waters; or be amazed by the lush underwater life at the Amambucale Reef.
And if the big surprises of this proverbial small package are not enough, the alluring best-kept secrets of the neighboring towns of Guiuan and Basey are yours for the taking.
The gateway airport to Marabut is Tacloban City, which is about a 55-minute flight from Manila. Five airlines ply the route (Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, Airphil Express, Zest Air and SEAir). From the airport, take a cab to the van terminal of Marabut or Guiuan, or get off at Marabut Extreme Resort or Caluwayan Palm Island Resort. To know more about Marabut, log on to www.marabut.org.
Bernard L. Supetran is editor of EZ Maps, the leading map brand in the Philippines, which publishes the tourist maps of major travel destinations. In the course of his map-making for the Samar provinces, he stumbled upon the marvel of Marabut town and decided to linger a bit.