Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Philippines: Island Hopping in Pundaquit, Zambales.

Our next road trip was to Pundaquit, a small Filipino fishing village located in San Antonio, Zambales, about 3.5 hours northwest of Manila. We used Pundaquit as a jumping-off point for island hopping and to see some of the beautiful coves along its coast. A few weeks ago, Sheila came up with the idea to visit Pundaquit while brainstorming about our next trip. She said that she’d been there before and that it was beautiful. I was in. This time, however, we invited a few of our friends to join us as it was close enough in proximity to Manila. Plus, the more friends that joined the cheaper it would be as we would have to hire a boatman for the day. Sheila called the boatman that she’d used before and arranged everything. In total, there were six of us: My friend, Joey, and Sheila’s friends, Joseph, Jane and Ella.

The six of us took a bus from Manila and arrived in Pundaquit at around 3am. Two tricycles awaited our arrival as we exited the bus, and we were quickly whisked away to the boatman's house. Because we weren't going to set sail until 7am, the boatman's wife led us to an establishment in which I would simply describe as a 'shelter'. It was a small room with concrete floors and bamboo walls. Real basic. Just a place to get some rest and a little shut-eye before our morning departure at sea.

About three hours later I was awakened to the sound of the ever-so-annoying roosters that inhabit Southeast Asia and dogs which barked and scurried around our haven. I don't know how I did it, but I did manage to get some sleep. After I popped my back and slowly got up from the cold concrete floor, I walked outside where breakfast was being served. Our boatman's home was located about 100 meters from the sea in a tiny, basic village with pretty mountainous scenery. The homes in the village were essentially huts, consisting of tin roofs and bamboo walls - and the water from the village had to be fetched from wells.

After breakfast our boatman led us to the beach. The beach was lined with rustic-looking boats manned by Filipino men whose skin had been darkened by the baking sun. After we boarded our boat, a group of ten guys helped push our small vessel off from the sandbar and onto the sea.

And off we went . . .

The first island that we visited was Camara Island, near the shores of Pundaquit. The waves were strong, and continually crashed onto the island's shores. There were also a lot of boulders and interesting rock formations, undoubtedly caused by the wind and the daily pounding it receives from the sea.

The next two pictures below are of mainland Luzon, the coast of Pundaquit.

To the next island! . . .

Just adjacent to Camara Island resides a larger island, called Capones Island. Like its neighbor, Capones Island experienced strong waves creating an unsafe environment to swim in as there were many rocks and corals. But we didn't travel to the island to swim, we came to the island to see its lighthouse.

To reach the lighthouse we had to hike for an hour. This entailed hiking over to the other side of the island, along its coast, and up a steep mountain. Before we hiked over to the other side of the island, however, we passed through a stretch of beach where large deposits of sandals had been washed ashore. Very strange.

The Capones Island Lighthouse was constructed in 1890 under Spanish Colonialism. I was surprised to learn that the lighthouse was still functional. Because believe me, the 120 year old lighthouse looked every bit its age.

Apparently, the tower is the only part of the building which has been renovated, and is now solar-powered. The rest of the building is noticeably deteriorating. So when everyone began climbing the decrepit-looking spiral staircase to the lantern tower, I was extremely conscientious of my surroundings.

Initially, I declined the invitation from everyone who'd climbed to the top. It just didn't look safe. It was only after Sheila and everyone had repeatedly hollered for me to join them - which echoed throughout its eerie chambers - that I decided to join.

In the end, I was glad that I did as the scenery was spectacular. It was almost like a sensory overload. My depth perception was inhibited due to the sheer magnitude of the geological phenomena that I was witnessing. I momentarily felt dizzy and my stomach felt as if it was dropping, like I was riding a roller coaster or something. Weird.

After we descended back down the spiral staircase, we walked outside and to the edge of the cliff where we further soaked in the resplendent scenery.

Our third stop was to the amazing Anawangin Cove, about a 25 minute boat ride from Capones Island located along Pundaquit's coastline. And whether you are a beach lover or a woodsy-camping kind of person, Anawangin Cove is the place for you. I was in awe as our boat entered the cove. It's nestled in between riveting green mountains, has a beautiful whitish-grey sand beach, and tall pine trees.

Beach, mountains, and pine trees? It doesn't get much better than that.

We had lunch in the woods amongst the pretty pine trees. Our meal included fish, shrimp and veggies. Delicious.

After lunch we took a stroll to take some pictures. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an old woman carrying bundled tree branches came walking out of the woodwork - literally. Sheila and I exchanged a few looks as if to say, "How in the heck is she able to carry that?" For someone her age and size, it seemed physically impossible. After she crossed the shallow riverbed, she managed to lay them down next to a tree before walking away. Sheila's friend, Joseph, quickly walked over and picked it up. Even he struggled lifting the branches over his head. Next, Joey gave it a shot. He was able to do it easier than Joseph, but it still took a lot of effort.

Quite impressive.

After relaxing on the beach, swimming, and playing frisbee for a few hours, we left. Our next and final stop was to Nagsasa Cove, about a 45 minute boat ride south of Anawangin Cove.

If you can believe it, Nagsasa Cove may have been better than Anawangin Cove. It had less people, a longer beach, a pretty river that flowed into the sea, mountainous scenery, and an unobstructed view of the sunset. Unbelievable.

It took over an hour to reach the shores of Pundaquit from Nagsasa Cove. Back at the boatman's house, everyone took a bath outside by pumping water from the well into a bucket. So refreshing. There's something invigorating about taking a bucket bath outside.

After dinner, we expressed our gratitude to our boatman and to his family. I was really in marvel at everything that I'd seen and experienced. And I was thankful to be able to share my experiences with such a great group of people. It was another great adventure in the Philippines.



  1. Zambales is just 2 to 3 hours away from where I live but haven't been there! EEEKK! I should go there YAY!! Great photos by the way!

  2. Ah, man. You definitely need to go then! I think there's another cove further down from Nagsasa that's suppose to be amazing too. So keep that in mind if you decide to go soon :)


  3. Outstanding photos; lots of color.

  4. hi! would you, by any chance, have the contact number of the boatman? we'll be going there this april and I would like to be prepared.

    nice entry, btw. well written and helpful! :D

  5. I'll post the information tomorrow. Okay? :)


  6. @Calle: Sorry, Sheila has the number at the office. I will try to post it tomorrow :)


  7. @Calle: Here's his number: Mang Ed 09293832877

    You can arrange to have your food prepared by his wife, too. I recommend it. It's delicious. Masarap!

    Enjoy your travels there.