February 4 I posted a travel invite on CouchSurﬁng.org. I was inviting anyone to join me for a camping trip somewhere in Zambales – a 3-4 hours drive from Metro Manila. The place boasts of coves and islets good for island hopping and beach bumming.
With just 3 hours of sleep, I went to Victory Liner Caloocan terminal to meet with Couchsurﬁng people who will join me in this trip. Lauvee and Aggy were the ﬁrst ones to arrive, then we waited for Fredda and John. We were headed to San Antonio, Zambales, famous for Pundaquit Bay. It is the jump-off point going to Anawangin and Nagsasa Coves. Our one-armed boatmen was maneuvering the boat and uses the paddle like he had two arms. Talk about the tenacity of the Filipinos.
Twenty years ago, there was no such thing as these sandy coves. But because of the Pinatubo eruption in 1991, the ashes that accumulated on the mountain ranges fell and became small beaches. Lined with Agoho trees, every visitor will deﬁnitely say its scenic, while some say it adds eeriness to the fusion of the sea and summits.
Capones Island, I would say, is a small Batanes with its rolling hills, lighthouse, white beach, and strong winds sans the grazing cows. I used to think it was overrated but I realized I was wrong. It was actually beautiful and I enjoyed the sights during the island hopping tour. I even saw a big green sea turtle.
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Batanes is found in the northermost part of the Philippines. It is everyone’s dream place! Its like traveling back in time, maybe around 50 years ago. Rustic, raw and real. What what I love most are the locals- Ivatan. I want to share two incidents: First, we are taking some photos of this old bridge and suddenly little kids line-up to us and started getting our hands. At first I thought they were asking for money but I was wrong. They took our hands and put it on their foreheads for “mano po” a sign of respect. Second, we are walking along the streets of Sabtang island and suddenly the windows and doors of the old houses opened, the locals started greeting us good morning as we pass by their houses. Most of them already old but they managed to give their smile or wave to us, no animosity whatsoever.
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We settled for the less touristic Nagsasa Cove after seeing the many campers at Anawangin. Also, I saw souvenir shops and people offering henna tattoo over at Anawangin, those are enough to turn me off. Upon arriving at Nagsasa Cove, they pitched their tent while I hang my hammock. The place has no cell phone signal so it’s perfect for those who want to get some silence and sanity.
The boat ride took about two hours and we were tired of the scorching heat. An afternoon nap is a must. After another two hours, we began to see the setting sun. I had my cup of coffee as I admired the untroubled sea. I would never exchange this relaxing feeling for a nice-looking ofﬁce in the heart of the city. I was enjoying every sip of caffeinated goodness as the sun was setting down.
Some ﬁshermen caught an octopus, which they tried to sell to us. I met some Aeta kids and we played and laughed together, we did not talk that much because they cannot understand my Tagalog but we connected on a deeper level, beyond words. We used the universal language of laughter and smile. I also saw an Aeta family building their house using coconut leaves and forest woods. I met a mountaineer named John. He told me that there was no entrance fee to the cove back then, in 2004. Then when they returned the caretaker started collecting Php5 for each camper. Now, its Php 100 per person.
An almost full moon, illuminated that night, making the sea shimmer. What a splendid evening! I didn’t drink any alcohol but I found myself dancing under the moon and stars as my Ipod plays Matisyahu. It was pure bliss. I wondered what tomorrow will bring.
Route: Valenzuela – Caloocan – San Antonio, Zambales
Expenses for today: Php581
8- jeepney fare to monumento
265- bus fare, monumento to zambales
48- food contribution
30- tricycle fare
120- camp fee
50- extra fee