I was already awake by 3:30 am so I took the second trip and continued my slumber inside the non-air-conditioned bus to Alaminos, Pangasinan. It was frigging cold inside as we pass by the rice fields of Zambales and Pangasinan. These provinces are part of Central Luzon which is called “The Ricebowl of the Philippines” because most of these lands are used to plant palay (unhusked rice). Rice is a staple food for each Filipino and we eat loads of it.
By 5:00am, I saw myself walking alone the streets of downtown Alaminos. Sad and lonely? Nope, I was in the moment, in meditation, looking for a place to get some rest. I saw a bakery so I bought five cheese bread and coffee as I sat and waited for daybreak. I even charged my mobile phone because the next adventure will be on the islands once more – this time alone.
I walked for a few more meters and looked for the tricycle terminal to Lucap wharf where I can board the boats going to Hundred Islands National Park. Even though I’ve been here before, I still added this on my itinerary because the 100-island park (actually 123) should be included in the 100-day journey.
I talked to the tourism staff and told them that I was the one who e-mailed a week ago asking them permission if I can camp in one of the islands for free. The next step for me was to find a group where I can tag along and pay my share for the boat ride to the islands. It was like the whole universe granted my wish, after an uncomfortable night at the bus terminal I’m island-hopping for free. I was allowed to go with the maintenance crew boat and stay at Quezon Island for a night. It is always a good thing to ask, right? I am also reminded of my previous reflections on the road – “those who don’t have much are the ones who share the most“. The maintenance crew, the one in charge of cleaning the islands during the day welcomed me onboard their service boat even though there is not much room for everyone else as some are already standing on the sides of the boat. They talk in Pangasinense and Ilocano and only a few words seem to make sense.
In each developed island, there was someone in charge. We all took off in the last island – Quezon island, named after the 2nd president of the Philippines. This is where I will be spending my night: Hammock-hanging-style.
I tried to get a good nap before exploring the island. I hung my hammock in the hut near the comfort room. I was glad I managed to rest even as throngs of tourists came and went to the comfort room. I noticed that most of them were high school students, so maybe they were there for an excursion.
Enjoying the serenity of the sunset at Papaya island, reachable by kayak from Quezon island, Hundred Islands National Park
By dusk, I rented a kayak to revisit Lopez Island or Papaya Island as locals call it. I first saw this island because we had our picnic here back in 2004. I can still remember that we ate grilled milkfish (Pangasinan is known to produce big and good-tasting milkfish or Bangus) and rice kamayan-style. I was in college back then and I remember that traveling is a luxury those days, no airfare promos yet and all I can do is to look at postcards in the National Bookstore dreaming of finally seeing those tourist spots one-by-one. I looked back and I couldn’t believe that I’m living that dream now.
Route: Sta. Maria, Zambales – Alaminos City – Hundred Islands National Park
Expenses for today: Php 557
87- sta.cruz, zambales to alaminos city, pangasinan by bus (3hours)
25- cheese pandesal and bread
35- coffee and energen
250- food (lunch, dinner and breakfast for the overnight camping in hundred islands)
150- kayak rental (discounted)