To celebrate my 33rd year, I announced to my select friends that I rented an island. That’s right folks, I rented an island because that’s how I roll. But before you ask me for balato, nope, I didn’t win the lottery, I just happened to find an island that you can rent without the need of selling drugs, body, or soul. This tiny island is called Sundang, one of the small pieces of land dispersed about Lumot Lake. Yes, it’s an island and yes, you too can rent this place. Let me share with you how.
This little piece of paradise is located in Cavinti, a third class municipality in the province of Laguna. Cavinti’s natural landscape is voluminous and diverse with the existence of rivers and falls, lakes and caves, as well as mountains. Hence, tourist sites are abundant in this part of Laguna, the most popular of which is Pagsanjan Falls, called locally as Cavinti Falls.
There are man-made lakes in Cavinti, one of them is Lumot, which is connected to Caliraya Lake via an underground penstock. Lumot, as the name implies has water the color of moss. And on this lake, you can find Sundang Island.
I found Sundang on Airbnb, which I tell you, is like a treasure of hidden and wonderful accommodation. Booking the island can be a bit of a challenge as it is always reserved even on weekdays. To ensure that the island is mine on my birthday, I booked it two months in advance; the rate is PHP 2,911 (USD 62.23) per night (2020 Update: The current rate per night is around 4,000 pesos).
As soon as the booking was confirmed, the owner sent me the house manual. It is so long none of my friends had the patience to read it. But I did, but only after a few days when I had the time to really absorb what the love letter contains. It may seem a drag but trust me you need to read the manual. Sundang is not your typical accommodation, you need this guide to survive on the island. Well, I don’t mean in a Survivor-like sense but everything that you need to know about the island is written on that letter, what to bring, tips on what you can do, and things you should remember while you’re on the island. I will share some of them with you later, but first, the getting there part.
Whether you go there with a car or by commute, travel time will take about 3 to 4 hours. The manual has a detailed instruction for those with a car. For those who are taking public transport, here’s what you can do.
Take a bus with the Sta. Cruz route at the Greenstar bus station in Buendia, bus fare is PHP 140 (USD 2.99). Get off at the bus terminal in Sta. Cruz. From there you have two choices; take the jeep that goes to Pagsanjan-Cavinti, or hire a tricycle; we picked the latter. One tricycle driver offered to take us there for PHP 100 (USD 2.14) per person; there were four of us.
It took us, maybe 45 minutes to get to the drop-off point. The driver mentioned that that part of Cavinti is high and that it involves climbing up a hill. I didn’t understand what he meant until we reached the highway that ascends. There were some when the tricycle were moving in a zigzag manner across the road and I almost asked the driver what he was trying to do when my friend started explaining that because the road goes up it makes driving difficult. Apparently, it was only through this method that he could get us up there.
Finally, we reached the pick-up point, the NAPOCOR Watershed Management Field Office. That’s where we waited for the caretaker, Tony, to pick us up. It was another 15-minute ride, this time via a small boat that Tony stirred above Lumot Lake to get to the island.
Sundang is not the only island atop the moss-colored lake, and we passed by a few of them. Excitement grew when we finally spotted Sundang from afar. It is everything that I imagined it to be, picturesque, rustic, and peaceful. The ground is covered by crimson soil and grass and the place is surrounded by trees and plants.
Check-in time is 1PM and check-out time is 11AM. They are not too strict about it provided there are no other scheduled guests on the day of your arrival or the day of your departure.
We were greeted by a brown barking dog. A closer look revealed that it’s already old, its eyes muddied by cataracts. The dog is harmless, always there every time we eat but it never really bothered us. The owner mentioned two dogs in the manual: Big Boy and Panda. I figured the brown one is Big Boy because he doesn’t look like a panda to me. I vaguely remember the other dog that is of dark color but unlike Big Boy, this one didn’t hang around that much.
The house itself is big enough to accommodate 10 or more people. It’s about 80-square meters, only one bedroom with a queen-size bed and an extra bed. The bed has a canopy, which proved to be useful because at nighttime, the insects suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
Need more sleeping space, there’s one in the attic, which is also equipped with a fan, sleeping mats, and some pillows. Now if for some reason you brought so many people that the bedroom and the attic cannot accommodate you all then you may lay out the extra sleeping mats and pillows in the living room.
There are two bathrooms and a kitchen complete with cooking utensils. There is a gas stove and if you want to barbecue there is a grilling area outside, just beyond the house of the caretaker.
If you want to pen your future bestselling novel, there is a study room just across the house. It has a table with an office chair, a reclining couch, and glass walls that offer a lovely view outside. This study room is special to me because that’s where my friends and I hang out in the night for some card games and drinks.
You feel like dining al fresco? You can use the collapsible chairs and tables and set them up in the grassy area outside the house. Further down the path there is a fire pit where you and your friends (or family) can gather for a bonfire.
The place is clearly made with the word “leisure” in mind. There are books that you are free to read, there are playing cards and board games that you can play, and there are hammocks where you can nap and spend the lazy afternoon with.
And may I remind you the island is surrounded by a lake where you can go for a quick swim.
My friends and I spent an hour or two swimming in the shallow part of the lake. The water was freezing and the wind was blowing so it took us some time to get used to the cold. Then it started to drizzle and the water surface dimpled in the tension. The fog blanketed the other side of the lake. My friend and I looked at each other in silent understanding; both of us were in awe. This is the first time I went swimming in a lake and it was kind of weird, feeling the mud instead of sand. Only a few steps away from the shore and the water was already up to my neck, that’s how quickly the water gets deep. If you are not a good swimmer like me, best to not stray too far from the shore.
What to bring
It takes a boat to go to and fro the island so it’s best to bring all the supplies that you need prior to going there. You can ask Tony to fetch some things for you in the town, but you have to pay an extra PHP80 (USD1.71) for the gas of the boat.
Among the things that you should consider bringing are the following:
- Drinking water
- Ice (the place has no refrigerator, but there’s a cooler)
- Insect repellent
- Power bank
The island works on a generator and it’s only on from 6PM to 12AM. If you want to extend the time of its use, you have to pay an additional PHP 100 (USD 2.14) per hour. So make sure to charge your gadgets when the power is on, including their chargeable lanterns with electric fan.
This is my first time I celebrated my birthday out-of-town and the experience is nothing short of spectacular. I wasn’t with family, I only had three of my friends with me, and I didn’t even have a birthday cake, but I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. Sundang Island gave me an opportunity to live the dream that most of us have, to be on an island we can call our own. Never mind that it was only for a day because really how many of us can say, “I rented an island on my birthday.”