Sunday, April 06, 2008

Zambales: Capones Island and its lighthouse

Capones Island has always been famous for its white sand beaches and the Spanish colonial lighthouse perched on top of a hill. It was the last stop for our San Antonio, Zambales trip. From Anawangin, we had prearranged with our boatman to pick us up and bring us to Capones Island. We made it there just in time for lunch.

The island was so picturesque as we slowly closed in on it. When we finally made landfall, I was raring to find a shady place to take a nap having had no sleep for the last 30 hours. And I did and found myself cozy on the sand drifting away to lala land.

Since we didn't have much time left, we had to forgo the hike up to the lighthouse. Add to the fact it was hot and I had already consumed my supply of water. So we were content with making one round by boat on the way back to Pundaquit.

What's sad about Capones Island is that its riddled with tourist garbage and vandalism. The fantastic rock formations have been converted into modern petroglyphs etched with names of stupid tourists who do not know any better. And the sand was full of garbage! Here are the list of things that have to be done:

1. The Municipal Government of San Antonio, Zambales should lead efforts to clean up the island. They can charge fees to pay locals to ensure that the place is kept clean all the time and to reprimand tourists who vandalize the rocks or leave their garbage on the island.

2. Boatmen should be trained to brief tourists who hire their boats. They have to remind tourists that everything they bring to the island, especially garbage, they should bring back home with them. In fact, the community should take the initiative to make sure the island is clean since it is their source of income.

3. Finally, tourists should share the responsibility of caring for the environment. As the saying goes: "Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time." So don't leave your garbage anywhere.

Anyway, the boats to Capones and Anawangin are quite small. It can fit about four people. Don't even try to be stingy since the waters around Capones are known to be quite rough especially in the afternoon. And these are open seas. So it's best not to overload especially since there are no life jackets. We learned about the rough waters first hand as we went around to check out the lighthouse. There were just four of us and the waves were pounding and water was getting in our small boat. But we did get our photos but not with ease.

The boat ride back to Pundaquit was about 30 minutes and it was relieving when we finally made it. You usually take a shower at the house of the boatman. But since we wanted to leave as early as possible, we just washed out the sand and freshened up.

On the way back to Subic, we stopped by the house of President Ramon Magsasay in Castillejos, Zambales. We made one last stop in Subic for a hefty meal at one of the Korean restaurants before motoring back to Manila.

Part 1: Hiking up Mt. Anawangin and down to the beach
Part 2: Anawangin Cove in San Antonio, Zambales

Related entry
Nagsasa Cove in San Antonio, Zambales

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Zambales: Anawangin Cove in San Antonio, Zambales

The famed beauty of Anawangin Cove has spread far and wide as being one of the best beaches in the country. And we were finally there, well almost. It was an exhausting trek to Anawangin Cove. But the hike to the beach was not yet over. At sea level, we still had to navigate a kilometer along a dry river bed.

But the bizarre landscape felt mysterious in a way. It didn't look like I was in the Philippines with all the pine trees right beside the beach. Walking the dry river bed with that pyramid-like mountain in the background added an eerie feeling to an already uncanny trek. Anawangin got its name from nuang the Ilocano word for carabao since there is an abundance of it there. Remember the wild carabao?

After several meters under the hot summer sun trekking on the rocks, we finally made it to the shady cluster of pine trees. I wonder how they got there. Our guide said many were planted after the Mount Pinatubo eruption but he added the trees were there even before. To add to the mystique were crystal clear streams that reflected the tall pine trees on the surface like you were in some enchanted forest. And to think this whole area was devastated in 1991. It just shows how fast nature heals itself.

And then the beach finally appeared. It was a long strip of near-white volcanic sand dumped by Mount Pinatubo. The locals said that before the eruption, this area was mostly rock. The sand from Mount Pinatubo had created a wonderful playground for beach lovers. And it's even more wonderful that the locals take good care of it. So whatever they charge you, they most probably deserve it.

After taking photos, I went for a dip in the beach. The cool water washed away all the exhaustion from the climb, all the stress from school. It was a great way to welcome the summer!

How to get there
You can take any bus from Manila to Iba or Sta. Cruz, Zambales. Buses to Zambales leave the Victory Liner stations in Caloocan (about 23 trips from 5 a.m. to 12 midnight) and Pasay (four trips from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.) Fare to San Antonio is about PHP235.

Get off at the town proper of San Antonio and charter a tricycle to take you to the jump-off point in Pundaquit. That's about PHP50 per person or PHP200 per tricycle. Boat rentals to Anawangin and the nearby islands range from PHP800 to PHP1200 depending on your itinerary.

Where to stay
While many visitors to Anawangin camp there for the night, there are a lot of accommodations available in Pundaquit:

Punta de Uian
+63 918 888UIAN (8426)
+63 918 800UIAN (8426)

Nora Resort
+63 919 6374917

Part 1: Hiking up Mt. Anawangin and down to the beach
Part 3: Capones Island and its lighthouse

Related entries
Anawangin's mystical beach
Nagsasa Cove in San Antonio, Zambales

Friday, April 04, 2008

Zambales: Hiking up Mt. Anawangin and down to the beach

Anawangin in San Antonio, Zambales is fast becoming a popular destination for those seeking a beach to getaway from it all. There aren't too many amenities on this secluded beach. In fact, there are none. It's a favorite of those who want to camp out with nothing but bare essentials. And that's because there are only two ways to get there, by pump boat or via a 5-hour hike up Mt. Anawangin.

We decided to do the latter, a night hike at that! We left Manila at 1 a.m. and after a leisurely drive, arrived in the town proper of San Antonio, Zambales. Our destination was Pundaquit, a barangay several more kilometers down the road by the beach. If you get lost, you could easily ask the tricycle drivers how to get there. We finally made it to the jump-off at 4:30 a.m. just in time to start our night trek.

The silhouettes of the mountains showed us why Anawangin is such a popular destination. As the sun slowly rose, a beautifully landscaped environment greeted us. Nature is indeed the best landscaper. We marveled at how the bamboo, the trees and the rocks were artistically arranged creating this surreal scene.

By the time we neared the peak, the sun was up. And the heat added to my exhaustion (it was another sleepless night and being the designated driver, I could not catnap). But to make the long story short, we reached the pass leading to the beach. The view of Anawangin Cove was nothing but fantastic! But instead of going down to the beach, the group decided to go up a few more meters to reach the summit.

With that settled, we all thought going down was going to be a breeze. But it wasn't! The rocks were just too much. And the sad part was that the grass was tall enough to cover the rocks so you couldn't see if your next step was on soil or on rocks. And that could spell disaster if you lost your balance. It's good thing I got myself a pair of Colombia Titanium Kailua sandals the night before and it did me wonders.

We finally made it down. But not before we almost got attacked by a wild carabao. There are a lot of wild carabaos in the area according to our guide so be careful. It was a good thing our guide saw it in time and scared it away.

Part 2: Anawangin Cove in San Antonio, Zambales
Part 3: Capones Island and its lighthouse

Related entry
Nagsasa Cove in San Antonio, Zambales

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Rizal: Nemiranda and the Blanco Family Museum

After lunch, we visited the Nemiranda Art House which houses the Angono School of Arts. Of all the galleries we visited today, this is the one I've already been to during the Higantes Festival in 2006. In fact, we had a sumptuous fiesta lunch courtesy of the artist himself.

There were several paintings on display in his gallery. But one painting called Isang Kahig Isang Tuka struck me because of the powerful symbolisms used. It's a woman giving birth to her sixth child. Behind her on the left are her five other children holding cigarettes and garlands of sampaguita which they sell on the street. In front of them is a plate with a single piece of galunggong. Behind her on the right is her husband drinking. While beside here is the statue of the Sto. Nino and placed under it is an unused condom. Sad but true, this painting tells us about realities here in the Philippines don't you think?

Our last stop was the Blanco Family Museum. The family of Jose "Pitok" Blanco and his wife Loring is so unique because they and their children namely: Glenn, Noel, Michael, Joy, Jan, Gay and Peter Paul are all master painters in their own right. And they all follow the school of Realism, depicting subjects as they appear in everyday life.

Walking around the museum was a wonderful experience because of the beautiful images of the country and beyond which they have captured in their paintings. This is indeed a must visit for everyone.

I had to leave early since I had to catch my class. So I was not able to join the group when they visited what is probably the oldest existing artwork in the Philippines, the Angono Petroglyphs in Binangonan. But since I've been there already, just check out my previous entry on it.

Part 1: Art gallery overload in Angono, Rizal
Part 2: Lunch at Balaw-Balaw Restaurant in Angono

Related entries
Viva San Clemente! Higantes of Angono, Rizal
Angono is the Art Capital of the Philippines
Angono Petroglyphs in Binangonan, Rizal

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Rizal: Lunch at Balaw-Balaw Restaurant in Angono

As part of Havila's tour of the Angono area, we visited the Balaw-Balaw Folk Art Museum of the late Perdigon Vocalan for lunch. It's more known as the Balaw-Balaw Restaurant which serves both local specialties and exotic foods. For the brave, try ordering uok (larva of beetles that are found in coconut trees cooked as adobo or steamed in tamarind fruit and tomatoes just like escargot), nilasing na palaka (frogs marinated in wine and cooked as adobo), kamaru (a popular Kapampangan cricket dish), Soup No. 5 (cow butt and balls), bibingkang abnoy (aborted duck eggs cooked in banana leaves) or palos (freshwater eel cooked as adobo).

There are also unusual salads such as rose petal salad, rose petal tempura, bougainvillea salad, or crispy alagaw leaves (like crispy spinach or kangkong). But for today, they served us the traditional foods.

If you're a group, you might to their Minaluto which is a little of everything such as chicken and prok adobo, various seafoods and vegetables, steamed with a heaping mound of rice and served in a large bamboo container lined with banana leaves. Minaluto is another term for binalot or a meal with rice packed in banana leaves. It's a little over PHP1100++ if I remember it right.

Above and around the restaurant are paintings and sculptures of Vocalan, a lot of them! Indeed, the place was a feast for the eyes, mind and stomach.

Part 1: Art gallery overload in Angono, Rizal
Part 3: Nemiranda and the Blanco Family Museum

Related entries
Viva San Clemente! Higantes of Angono, Rizal
Angono is the Art Capital of the Philippines
Angono Petroglyphs in Binangonan, Rizal
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