Now on its fourth year, my friends and I went to Puerto Galera for the Malasimbo Arts and Music Festival. The festival is held in the slope of Mt. Malasimbo, in the middle of a tropical island. Thousands of people gather every year at this natural outdoor amphitheater to experience soulful-jazz sounds from foreign and local artists. This year’s line up includes Jose Gonzales, Robert Glasper Experiment, Roy Ayers & Lonnie Liston Smith. Aside from performances, interesting art installations can also be found all over the venue. Various workshops are also offered during the day, such as yoga, poi dance and ukulele sessions.
The island of Puerto Galera is just 3 to 4 hours away from the busy streets of Metro Manila. We drove to the Port of Batangas on a Saturday morning and from there, we took a boat, which brought us directly to the shores of White Beach.
Known as the country’s best diving destination, we decided to go island hopping as soon as we got to the beach to experience Puerto Galera’s marine paradise. So we left our bags at the hotel and only brought along with us our skin diving equipment, GoPros and Aquazorb towels. It was a beautiful sunny day and the bright blue-green waters took our breath away. The visibility was great as we were able to see the incredibly rich underwater world. It was my fourth time skin diving at Puerto Galera but it was the first time I encountered a pawikan, which swam around 30 feet underwater. After exploring a few dive spots, we sang songs and chatted endlessly on a rickety boat until the golden hour.
At night, my friends and I took a jeepney to the festival from our hotel. Upon arriving at the festival, we were welcomed with a grassy terraced amphitheater filled with people relaxing on mats and colorful art installations.We didn’t know most of the artists, but we found ourselves enjoying every performance and dancing to every song. It was such a festive night and the trees swayed gracefully in a quiet breeze as bright colorful lights reflected on our blissful faces.
We didn’t have anything planned the following day and ended up playing frisbee and napping by the sea after lunch. Nothing beats the feeling of listening to chill music with sand on your toes and the smell of the sun and salt.
Our 2nd night at the Malasimbo festival was definitely one for the books! Aside from the fact that we got to see the talented Swedish musician, Jose Gonzales up close, we took part in an unexpected flash mob. It all began with a small group of friends, no more than 10 people dancing to the same steps to the music of Osunlade. We decided to join the fun and copied their simple dance moves. Suddenly, everyone started to join and after a few minutes, the crowd grew to around a hundred people dancing happily. It was like a scene taken from a movie. It’s amazing how music can bring strangers together! Since it was our last night at Puerto Galera, we decided to enjoy the stars and wait for the sun to rise. We brought our mats and sleeping bags to the seaside and played our favorite songs as we waited for the first boat trip to Batangas at 6:15am.
The trip to Puerto Galera made us fall in love with the Philippines even more! There is so much to see and explore in our tropical paradise. Indeed, it is more fun in the Philippines!
Rachel Halili is a young freelance graphic designer, photographer, and all-around adventurer. A recent graduate of UP Diliman, she has her hands full with art and design projects. But every chance she can get, she’s off trekking to the mountains or skin diving in some nearby tropical paradise, carrying her trusty GoPro everywhere she goes. Her bucket list includes visiting every single one of the country’s 7,107 islands.