I think most of us will reach that point where we prefer reading a book in a lakeside rather than hopping on a plane from one province to another. As a hippie traveler (a term I’ve found in a Reddit thread that I find really funny), I always go for virgin locations, but these days quiet becomes more than a preference. With all the political hubbub in the social media and some personal matters, I feel like I need to get away and give my incarnated soul a chance to breathe in some refreshing prana.
Anyway, this is how I come to book an overnight stay in the serene Greenvalley Island in Cavinti, Laguna. It’s an island for rent near Manila that can be booked via AirBnb.
Tip: Sign up using Airbnb using this link and get P1100 initial credit to your account. 😉
The stillness of the lake, friends’ chatter and a far-off sound of videoke
I went here with Hali and a few friends from various circles. We left Manila on Saturday morning and arrived after lunch time in Cavinti. Cavinti is on the right edge of Laguna, even farther from Los Baños and Sta. Cruz. It has a more rural feel compared to the first municipalities mentioned, with public jeepneys going through the mountainside, wide farms and lush forests.
One of the caretakers of Greenvalley Island, Ate Amy, met us in the port in Lumot Lake. We sailed on a small boat for several minutes. There are several low-lying islands in Lumot Lake. We passed by one islet where a lone carabao was grazing grass. We asked Ate Amy how the animal got there, and she said the carabao swam.
This was a revelation to all of us because we didn’t know carabaos can swim.
Indeed, during our overnight stay we would spot two or three more carabaos swimming in the lake, their huge bodies disappearing completely in the water.
Greenvalley Island is aptly described as “serene” in its advertisement online. It’s an elongated island with a small cottage for guests. Ate Ibeth, the island’s owner and who also stayed there for the weekend, keeps animals in the island: a few dogs including a husky and an overexcited puppy whom we played with for a while, a horse and chickens.
After arrival, we deposited our bags and stayed in the floating cottage in the lake. Mainly we talked about random things. A friend said the quiet is deafening, though there was the muffled sound of videoke from a nearby island. Combined with the cool wind and cloudy weather, we were almost lulled to an afternoon nap. Instead, we abandoned the floating cottage and swam in the lake.
Swimming in the moss-green basin of Lumot Lake
The word lumot translates to “moss” in English. There isn’t any moss in the lake of course. The name applies to the deep-green color of the lake. A few times, I opened my eyes underwater and couldn’t see anything apart from the bottomless green and my hands. Once, Hali swam a few feet away and instructed me to watch him dive. He disappeared and I didn’t see him until after he emerged in front of me.
The water in Lumot Lake is mostly calm. Around the middle there’s a weak current, and in the morning it’s possible to get sweep away. We wore life vest as per house rules, though every now and then Hali would dive unaided.
Aside from the lake itself, the islands around it are also distinct in themselves. The soil seems to be made of red clay. Toward the lake it slowly turns to mud, and soft clumps of it cling to the feet. Underwater, it feels smooth and silty.
Bonfire and roasted potatoes
We brought over cooked meals and ate these for dinner. Afterwards, we told stories for what seemed like hours. Later, I insisted we go over the bonfire area, where a stack of wood was already waiting. Prior to this trip, I’d browsed through interesting forum threads on backpacking and was then convinced to try cooking using the bonfire. I’d brought a small pack of baby potatoes, with butter and salt, along with cans of lukewarm beer.
There was occasional drizzle the time we were outside. We threw the potatoes, wrapped in layers of foil, right in the brightly burning fire and ended up with a burnt batch. Who would have guessed. We carefully placed the second batch directly in the still-hot embers. The outcome was better. Some of the pieces were still burnt, but we easily peeled off the torched skin and ended up snacking on some good midnight snacks.
Although it was cloudy all day, it didn’t start raining heavily until after we’ve gone to bed. Half of us occupied the double-deck bed in the cottage, and the rest stayed in outdoor camping tents, as Hali and I did. I was glad for the thick insulation mats on the tent flooring, since it made sleep more comfortable. The heavy rained that poured the rest of the night was welcome, bringing in fresh and cool air.
Overall, I think it’s a pretty good weekend rest.
Greenvalley Island in Cavinti, Laguna
I found Greenvalley Island while browsing in Airbnb. Originally I wanted to book Sundang Island. Sundang Island is located in the same area and features a rustic bungalow for guests. However, it’s always booked in advanced and it’s almost impossible to secure a slot in the same month. Greenvalley Island has more open dates and also cheaper, especially if you’re just a small group.
As of this writing (August 2016), the rate for Greenvalley Island is $35 (~P1750) for the first 2 people (including service charge) and $10 (~P500) for every additional person. You can secure an exclusive stay by adding $100 (~P5000) and you can take as much as 8 people for no additional cost. In our case we opted not to, and Ate Ibeth and her family was with us on that weekend. We didn’t mind since the island is big enough for all of us.
(The currency is in dollars because I was a first-time user and didn’t know there’s an option to choose which currency to display.)
Guests are required to bring their own food, though the caretakers can do the cooking for a fee. Dinnerware and utensils are available in the island. In our case, we brought prepared rice meals and an array of bread loaves and pandesal — unintentionally, since none of us knew what the other would bring as snacks.
To get to Greenvalley Island, ride a bus in Buendia or Alabang bound to Sta. Cruz, Laguna. Get off at Pagsawitan and ride a jeep or tricycle to the local market. Ride a jeep bound to Lumot and ask the driver to drop you off at Gloria Hall. The island’s caretaker will usually meet you there.
We paid P620 each for the overnight stay and about P350 for round-trip commute fare. Travel time is about 4-5 hours.
All in all, we spent about P1000 each.
Greenvalley Island can be found in Airbnb here. If you haven’t signed up in Airbnb yet, you can do so using our this referral link and get P1100 initial credit for your account. 😉