There’s an island called Fortune located a few kilometers off the coast of Nasugbu, Batangas. Two decades ago, it was turned into a luxury resort, but a few years later it had to be closed as its owner fell into bad luck. Somehow, the island appears to continue to fall into a series of “misfortunes” over the past centuries.
It was near this island on December 14, 1600 that the galleon San Diego was sunk by the Dutch warship Mauritius under the command of Admiral Oliver Van Noort, or so it is said.
Mauritius didn’t actually fire a single cannon. The galleon San Diego was doomed from the very start: it was a merchant ship requisitioned and hurriedly armed for a battle. Antonio de Morga, a lieutenant governor of the Philippines and chief of the Supreme Court with zero experience of commandeering a battle ship, sailed off Manila to stop the Mauritius.
On the 115-foot 300-ton San Diego were 14 cannons, 127 barrels of gunpowder, thousands of cannonballs and musket balls, hundreds of jars for provisions and hundreds of men. It was so overloaded that water came up to the gun ports and its cannons proved useless.
And so it sank near Fortune Island and lay there for almost four centuries with everything it sailed with.
But the San Diego was not the first ship to sink near Fortune Island. The treacherous waters surrounding the island may make passing through it more challenging. The recent maritime disaster that happened near Fortune Island was the sinking of MV Kimelody Cristy in 1995 where the ship caught fire and sank, and the tragic MV Princess of the Orient in 1998 when it sailed during a typhoon. It sank off Fortune Island resulting to the death of 70 people.
This 25-hectare island was turned into an exclusive island resort in 1995 by Antonio Leviste, then the governor of Batangas. The resort was complete with a clubhouse, swimming pool, several cottages, a helipad, an acropolis with Grecian pillars, and a replica of the San Diego that doubled as a museum.
But business was not good and it had to be closed. The resort lay abandoned for several years and was leased recently by a Korean company that re-opened the island for divers and campers.
The island’s challenging approach, white sand beach, “abandoned” resort facilities, shipwreck stories and the faux Grecian pillars are slowly attracting the back-packing crowd. Fortune Island is now the “in” place for a quick weekend getaway.
How to get there
Nasugbu town is 98 kilometers from Manila. There are several ways to reach Nasugbu.
There are many buses that leave Buendia, EDSA Pasay, Lawton Park n Ride and Coastal Mall that go directly to Nasugbu via Coastal Road, Aguinaldo Highway and Tagaytay. The one-way bus fare is between P150 to P200.
Those with private vehicles can drive either thru SLEX, Santa Rosa and Tagaytay or thru the newly-opened Kaybiang Channel from Cavitex. Driving time via the latter is shorter and more scenic.
The jump-off point for Fortune Island is the Fortune Island Resort located at Apacible Boulevard at Barangay Wawa. The resort has ample parking for private vehicles. For those taking public transport, it is a short tricycle ride from the bus station. Contact person is Maricel at mobile number 0915-5047166.
The resort collects P300 for day-trippers and P400 for those staying overnight. The island has no toilet and bath facilities, so the resort provides these amenities when the guests return from the island.
Boats can be hired directly in Wawa, but prior arrangement is necessary because only a few boats are allowed to land at Fortune Island. Boats can accommodate a maximum of 10 passengers. Rate is more or less fixed at P4,500 for day trip and P6,000 for overnight. Because it takes about an hour to reach Fortune Island, it is best to sail in the morning when the waters are calmer. Contact numbers for boat arrangement are 0908-7225628 (Mang Chris) and 0939-4895292 (Mang Dante).
What to do, what to see
The first thing that a visitor to the island must remember is there are no luxury amenities there. Yes, the original structures are still there but they have suffered many years of neglect. The only remaining cottage is the one being used by the caretaker.
There is no water in the island. There are no rest rooms, so visitors will have to do their own things the old-fashioned way.
But the island’s “abandoned” feel is what is bringing throngs of day-trippers and campers to Fortune. It is a good island to escape the city and to live like a “castaway” for a day or two.
There are more things you can do in the island once you set aside the feeling that you may have to sleep without washing your face:
Sleeping under the stars. There are only a few places near Manila where you can view the stars, and Fortune Island is by far one of the best places.
Sunbathe at its long stretch of white sand beaches. Or if you get tired of that, swim in its crystal clear cool waters.
Dress-up like a Greed God and have your photos taken at the Acropolis. This seems to be the favorite activity of the visitors to the island. The best time to do this is during mid-day when the columns sparkle in white behind the blue sea background.
Go cliff jumping. There are several spots at the eastern side to do this.
Sunset and sunrise watching. The Acropolis is also the best spot to do this.
Re-trace the glory days of the Fortune Island Luxury Resort. There are still plenty of landmarks around that will remind you of how the rich and famous enjoyed this island once.
Go fishing. Just bring you fishing equipment and wait for your dinner to bite your bait.
Comb the beach and look for artifacts that may have come from the sunken San Diego. You may also check the replica of this ship on the northeastern side of the island.
Climb up the lighthouse. There is one recently built on the highest point of the island and going there will require some trekking.
Organize a clean-up activity. Many visitors simply leave their trash in the island. Helping keep the island clean may help bring it back to its glory days.
Where to stay, what to eat
Since there are no facilities in the island, visitors must bring their own camping provisions. There are many places to camp: on the beach; in one of the abandoned cottages; and even in the old clubhouse.
Food is also bring-your-own. The public market of Nasugbu is a good source to get supplies. Load up on fresh seafood, fruit ands vegetables to take to the island. Be sure to bring camping stoves and lots of water when you go.
Fortune Island is slowly springing back to life. Soon, big-time developers may build another resort there. But whether this happens or not, the most important thing now is the island is getting a lot of attention from adventure-seekers and environmentalists, who are keen on helping the island return to what it was once was – nature’s paradise. Maybe, when that happens, Fortune Island will finally deserve its name.