This photo started it all.I was browsing online when I came across this photo of an abandoned island resort with a very interesting feature. It has two straight and circular rows of Greco-Roman inspired Ionic columns with matching statues of lions and maidens sitting on top of the hill overlooking a vast expanse of clear, blue sea. One can actually mistaken it as something taken from one of those Greek islands in the Mediterranean until I came to realise that what I am looking was actually shot in an island near Nasugbu Batangas, 103km south of Manila.
The innate laboy gene inside me kicked in so I just find myself crossing the beach at 4am in the morning heading to one of Batangas’ best kept secret – Fortune Island.
The abandoned island resort
Not many people know Fortune Island, a 27-hectare island lies 14km off shore of Brgy. Bucana in Nasugbu. When I posted the photo on my Facebook page, my inbox was besieged by inquiries about the island. So I did my own research and planned to see the island myself. I found out that the best time to go and see the island is during the summer months of February to May as the sea can be very rough, so rough that the treacherous waters around the area claimed MV Kimelody Cristy of Moreta Lines (1995) and MV Princess of the Orient of Sulpicio Lines (1998). Aside from these modern day shipwrecks, in 1600, San Diego, a Spanish warship sunk in the area and its wreck was discovered in 1992. A replica of San Diego was erected on the island that became it’s museum/restaurant. This alone may discourage ordinary tourist from going but for adventure and thrill seekers, this sure will add to the adrenaline rush.
Back in the mid 90’s, Fortune Island was a luxe resort open only to celebrities and people in the high society. The island was once owned by ex-Batangas governor Antonio Leviste. Aside from its imposing Greek-inspired structure, the island boasts of its amenities, a museum, white sandy beach and snorkelling grounds at the back of the island.Now, abandoned and dilapidated, but you can still see the traces of refinement from its cabanas, helipad, the galleon and other structures that was still remain standing over time.
In 1992, French underwater archeologist Franck Goddio discovered and led the excavation of the sunken merchant galleon turned warship San Diego with its treasures. The San Diego sank in 1600 after a battle between Spanish forces led by Antonio de Morga and Dutch naval forces led by Olivier van Noort off the waters of Nasugbu Bay. The shipwreck’s discovery was hailed around the world as one of the greatest archaeological finds of the century. Originally a trading vessel hastily converted into a war ship, the San Diego’s astounding number (34,407) of artefacts was an incredible showcase of the known world at that time, as seen in its trove of Chinese porcelains from the Ming dynasty, celadonwares, blades and katanas from Japan, casques from Spain, canons from Portugal and coins from Mexico. With the discovery of the shipwreck, historians refuted the claims made by Antonio de Morga in his book Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas where he has apparently covered up his failures in the tragic event. The San Diego Exhibition had been on tour around the world and was now on permanent display at the National Museum.
To commemorate the discovery, former Batangas Governor and then island owners Antonio Leviste and his wife, Sen. Loren Legarda opened the MV San Diego warship museum in the island. Now also in ruins, it was also doubled as a restaurant in its glory days.At the moment, there is a family that lives on the island along as its caretakers. The island doesn’t have electricity and fresh water supply is limited. There are no proper accommodation and restaurant/ eating places are non existent. Bring your own tent and food if you’re planning stay. There are toilet facilities but that now only serves as changing rooms as water supply was long been cut off. There’s a rundown function hall that overlooks at the whole stretch of the beachfront where you can use to store your things, eat and seek temporary shade during noon time. What to do
The place is also nice snorkelling ground for the island was listed as a marine reserve. At the back of the hill, there is a man made steps that leads to landing where one can do a dive to the open sea. You can also see colorful fishes frolicking the area. Beachbums will surely love the place.
• There are two things that turns off most people who like to go to the island: the area’s treacherous waves and its cost. So go there early and in big group as much as possible.
• Plan your trip during the summer season when the sea is generally calmer than the rest of the year. If you are planning for a day trip, leave before 5-6pm where the waves are much more predictable.
• There’s a landing fee of 300php per head when you go to the island. That would become 400php per head when you plan to stay over night. For boat transfers, permit and actual entrance fee to the island, the daytrip costs 4,000php for 10 people max. If your party wants to stay for a night, the its 5,500php. So the best way to minimized cost is go in large groups.
• Remember that Fortune Island Resort is not a functioning resort. Fresh water, food, accommodation and (civilized) toilets are non existent on the island, so better get your supplies with you when you hop on the boat. Fishermen sometimes offer their catch to you but do not rely on that for your food as sometimes no one goes to the island and sell their catch.
• small watertight bag for all your electronic gadget. Those foldable watertight bags are ideal.
• a change of clothing (a complete set of wardrobe if you are planning for a photoshoot)
• all the protection from the sun man had invented- sunglasses, sunscreen lotion (the higher the SPF, the gay-er, I mean the better) scarves, umbrella, windbreakers and the likes.
• a comfy footwear (youll be hiking rocky hills and sandy beaches, just make sure what you wear can withstand the change of terrain)
• bring goggles if you want to snorkel. If you want to scuba dive and you have your gears with you, the caretaker said that it would cost around 2,500php. There is a very nice dive sport near the island. According to scubadiving.com, the Blue Hole is often described as one of the most fascinating underwater structure with 3 large holes in the coral reef leading to an open-topped cavern.
• Leave early! If you want to catch the sunrise on the island and you have a car, leave in Manila around 1:30-2am. You’ll reach the jump off area in Nasugbu by 4am. Travel time by boat is between 1-1.5hrs (when the water is calm)
• Cellular access is only for Smart and Globe networks.
• Because of the proximity of the island to few of the modern day shipwrecks, there have been stories that the ghosts of people who died in the tragedy haunt the island. On top of that, some structures and cottages that have fallen into disuse and neglect add to the “Walking Dead feel” of the area. A lot of tourists don’t stay there overnight because of these creepy tales. But, for the adventure and thrill seekers, these paranormal beings are considered additional charms of the island.
• If you plan to commute, the earliest bus going to Nasugbu starts by 3am.
• Chris (+639087225658) and Mang Dante (+639394895292) are the only contacts where you could arrange trips to the island. Contact them prior your trip for them to quote how much the trip would cost you. You can haggle but most of the time they will say that their rates are fixed. Try your luck, it would’nt hurt.Getting there and away
From Manila, the most convenient and easiest way to reach Nasugbu, Batangas is through SLEX, exit to Sta. Rosa, after the toll exit, turn right and follow the road the leads to Tagaytay. From Tagaytay, follow the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway and pass through towns of Alfonso, Amedeo and Mendez. At Palico, the highway will diverge into Tuy-Nasugbu road and Palico-Nasugbu Road. From Palico-Nasugbu junction, drive through until you reach the JP Laurel Street that runs through Nasugbu Town proper. From here you will be advised to wait on or near Jolibee/7 eleven by the caretaker that will bring you to the island.
Alternative route if you will be coming from Cavite will be passing by at the newly built Kaybiang Tunnel, that is the longest underground tunnel in the Philippines. At 300 metres, it connects Ternate Cavite and Nagsugbu Batangas through Mt. Palay-palay. At the time of writing, the tunnel is now passable by only light vehicles and still not 100% fully operational. But this will cut travel time significantly because it would chop off travel time simply by not passing to Tagaytay.
San Agustin Bus Line (Cubao) BSC Bus Line (EDSA/MRT Taft) and Coastal Mall Terminal (Paranaque) have buses going to or passes Nasugbu Batangas everyday. Fare 210php aircon/ 155php ordinary one way. Travel time is 3-4 hrs depending on traffic. From the town proper, get a tricycle that will take you to Bucana port.
If you want to impress someone and or you have so much money to spare, try going to Fortune Island by helicopter. Trips can be arrange by . A trip costs 65,000 – 85,000php depending on what helicopter tupe and how long you want to stay on the island.
From the port, travel time to the island by boat is between 1-1.5hrs. Going back to Bucana port, you need to advise the boatmen of the time they need to take you back. Most of the time, they will just hang around the island with you.Suggested itinerary (this is what our schedule like when we went to the island on April 2014. We’re 3 and we brought our own car – ed)
1:00 – 1:30am : meet up
1:30 – 2:00am : head to Nasugbu
4:00am : arrive at Nasugbu
4:15am : meet Chris the island caretaker
4:30am : head to the island
5:45am : arrive at Fortune island
6:00 – 1:00pm : freetime
1:00pm : leave the island
2:00pm : arrive at Bucana port Nasugbu
2:00 – 3:00pm : shower, change
3:00pm : hit Tagaytay, head back home