What Ever Happened to Matabungkay Beach?

IMAGE Wikimedia Commons / Hyougushi / Hideyuki KAMON

Back in the ’80s and ’90s, the beach of Matabungkay was the ultimate destination for yuppies and college students who were looking for a perfect weekend getaway from the city. Families would also bring their kids to Matabungkay’s white sand beach during summertime. For those who grew up around Metro Manila and the provinces to its south, Matabungkay formed part of their childhood memories. 

As you enter the town, you are greeted by a sign that seems to have been lost in time: “Welcome to Matabungkay!” 

Back in the days, parents would allow their kids to swim on the beach, which has a shallow-water shelf that is safer than other beaches. Another quality that drew people to the beach was the gentle waves that licked the shores. 

Among the favorite attractions at Matabungkay beach were the bamboo rafts, which take people out to sea where they could enjoy their lunch while diving to see the reefs. This became the signature attraction of Matabungkay. 

But over the years, the popularity of Matabungkay has dwindled and reviews of the beach do not entice. 

“It’s not what it used to be,” writes one reviewer on TripAdvisor. “The sand is not the same as it was before.” 

Back in the ’90s, Matabungkay beach had rich, white sand. It was not as fine as the powdery sands of Boracay, but it was filled with exotic shells. People used to collect the shells and take them home by the buckets. There were no regulations for shell collecting at the time. 



Today, hardly any shells can be found on the beach. Much of the sand had lost its quality, either because of erosion or excessive sand collection by tourists. 

By the late 2010s, tourists avoided the beach, which earned a reputation for too much commercialization and pollution. 

The beach local to the resort is dirty and full of seaweed,” writes one reviewer in 2018.

Another reviewer wrote about the condition of Matabungkay in February 2019. “The beach was very dirty and the water was not clear. We had to hire a boat to take us to an area where the water was clear and we could snorkel.” 

The Glory Days of Matabungkay Beach

Matabungkay’s precious beach was allegedly discovered in 1950 by German immigrants looking for a weekend vacation spot. They put up a German Club in Matabungkay, and the place quickly turned into a tourist spot. By the 1960s, the beach had become a popular destination among the locals. 

But it wasn’t until the ’80s when people from the capital began flocking to the beach, which was just a couple of hours away from Metro Manila. They would leave very early in the morning to arrive at the resort before lunchtime and would spend the afternoon rafting at sea. 

By dusk, they would retreat to the floating bamboo rafts with huts and unload bottles of beer from their coolers. The day would stretch well into the night until they were ready to pack for home the next morning. 

Balsa @ Matabungkay Beach

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If you were lucky, you’d spot a striped sea snake burrowing in the sand when you snorkel. 

How is Matabungkay Beach these days?

Since 2016, the town of Matabungkay has been collecting a P30 fee that is supposed to be used for protecting the beach. But in 2019, the condition in the town allegedly worsened, according to town representative Dennis Ilagan

You’d find it hard to rest at the beach, especially when the karaoke starts to blare from dusk till dawn, which seems to be a staple at any beach nowadays. 

Unless you’re in a private resort that regularly maintains the beachfront, you’d end up in less picturesque areas whose beachfront is lined with houses and commercial structures and dozens of fishing boats parked on the shore. 

But there are good things that remain in Matabungkay. The snorkeling areas are well maintained and the private resorts at one end of the beach offer a more peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. 

Other private resorts offer banana boat rides, jet ski rides, and cove hopping within the island. There is a diving and snorkeling spot just 50 meters away from the beach. Paddleboats, kayaks, and paddleboards are also available. 

Matabungkay is no longer the same beach it once was during the ’80s and ’90s, but you can still have a great experience on the beach depending on where you stay. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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