Island Getaways; Cuenca and Marcos Islands, The Hundred Islands National Park

The courteous PTA person at the information center in Lucap informed us that "there were two new islands, open for visitors." In my mind, I had a vision of two humungous rocks emerging from the ocean in the space of a day. What she really meant was that under their supervision, certain islands have been rehabilitated (cleaned up, improved, structures made, etc) and were now ready to receive the expected stream of summer visitors. Come to think of it, this was probably my 10th visit and I have yet to see Cuenca and Marcos, the two "new" islands she mentioned. It was low tide, a new experience for me and something I would like to experience again on future visits. Low tide definitely makes the islands more accessible in the sense that for some, a wider shoreline emerges and for those with none at all, a chance to explore what they offer, which would never be possible at high tide.

Marcos Island is near Quezon Island and has a cave aptly named Imelda Cave; something which became the source of much joking later on. There are steps and pathways going up the island's different vantage points. The Colors photographer who is an avid mountain climber, had no difficulty ably clambering down steep, jagged rocks for some of his shots. At a concreted viewing ledge, which offered a fantastic view of Marcos Island's shoreline, I had a feeling of de ja vu. And then I realized that the view was the same prize winning shot that won last year's Ating Yaman Photo competition.

It was with supreme irony that while following another path, I was surprised strongly enough to possibly fall over into it- Imelda's cave. It appears quite suddenly and darkly, an intriguingly mysterious thing that just takes your breath away. It was probably a 70 foot drop, accessible from below by kayak, or by anyone with the courage to swim into its sheltered cove. Even at low tide, our boat which is relatively small, couldn't go in without its roof hitting the rock ledge.Later over at Quezon, our gym-toned (!) biceps furiously working the kayak oars, we planned a second rendezvous which would enable Jeryc, the Colors lensman to take some inside shots. Midway however, he changed his mind, fearful that the waves or a sudden, unexpected accident would ruin his expensive camera, which was only protected with a plastic bag.

Quezon Island is definitely cleaner though and some of the vegetation had been cleared. Newer structural improvements have been made though sadly, (if we are to believe that the PTA or DOT has insufficient funding) leaves much to be desired in terms of aesthetics or function. Why this obvious obsession with anything concrete? Why can't they make structures made out of more natural materials that would blend with the island environment instead of sticking out like sore thumbs? On the way back, we dropped by Cuenca Island. It was definitely a day for caves. Cuenca is an island with a cave tunnel in its middle. There were some excavations inside and our manong bankero confirmed our suspicions that treasure hunters were responsible.

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