Puerto del Sol Beach Resort in Bolinao

November 26, 2010
I must admit that I am not the typical "beach resort" kind of person. I don't see the need to stay in a fancy beach resort because I tend to explore more than lie around the pool. However, last weekend was an exception when I found myself together with some friends on a trip to Bolinao in Pangasinan.

Rediscovering Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan

November 24, 2010
I first visited the Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan when I was about 8 years old. The memories of that trip has become blurred, fuzzy and like a handwritten note kept for so long in one's pocket, the details have slowly faded. I've forgotten the formations of the islands, how white was the sand and how clear are the waters.

It's like that infatuation in highschool that you don't bother to include when asked how many lovers you had before. So, technically, yes I've been to Hundred Islands, but memory-wise, I've yet to visit the place. So, when an invite from a fellow travel blogger Myca reached my facebook inbox I hurriedly took the opportunity of tagging along.

At first I was like, okay join the trip, take pictures, write about it and that's it. However, the trip became more memorable because I got the opportunity to meet new friends, who just like me had this inescapable urge and desire to roam freely around our country, like me they also have their own reasons why they travel, to get to know more of our country - perhaps, or to simply satisfy a longing for the road - might be, or to profess a love for our country - simple as that, and at the same time increase our knowledge and gain experiences that one can never attain by just staying at one place for so long.

It was a great weekend made possible also by the Tourism Office of Alaminos who hosted us, 10 travel bloggers to help them showcase the tourism potential of Pangasinan, particularly the Alaminos city where Hundred Islands is located.

josh, darwin, ada cute, gael, myca, anton, robbie, estan (of langyaw.com) and me. (photo credit: pusangkalye.net)

pool of Islandia hotel (photo credit: http://www.islandiahotelph.com)

front of Islandia (photo credit: pusangkalye.net)
Alaminos, Pangasinan is at most - a 5 hour bus ride from Manila. A very convenient trip for those looking for a quick and worthwhile getaway for the weekend. Along with Gael and Anton, we took the 2am bus from Cubao, we arrived in Alaminos about 7:00 am and joined other travel bloggers, Mica, Estan, Robbie, Darwin, Josh and cutie Ada who were already billeted at the Islandia Resort (home of the 2008 Ms. Earth beauty contestants from all over the world).

After having a quick breakfast consisting of Alaminos longanisa, egg and fried rice we head out to the Hundred Islands for some island hopping, kayaking and snorkeling activities. Mr. Reynaldo Livara Jr. of the Alaminos Tourism office was very gracious, he volunteers as a tour guide by accompanying visitors to the islands.

Mr. Livara was proud to show us the potential of Alaminos as a tourist destination and as I revisit the place with a new set of experience based on what I saw and felt during our visit their over the weekend, I agree with him that it should be promoted further - given that Pangasinan is just a few hours from Manila, Olongapo, Zambales and Baguio it serves as a better option for those looking for a rush escape for the weekend.

Gael: the Pinay Solo Backpacker
We went to Governors Island, which from where we walked towards a shallow part to nearby Shell Island and then rode off the boat again to Quezon island where we had our lunch and kayaked ourselves to a small cave near Quezon island and eventually into the sunset.

Inside the small cave one could see dozens of bats and another small entry towards a further part of the cave which is covered in darkness. Our female kayak guide, who boasts a Vivian Velez cleavage took us to a part of the sea where one can snorkel and see some corals and giant clams. We took a couple of hours kayaking and snorkeling around the area of Quezon island. It was a great work-out for my arm and what better way than doing it on the open waters against the old fashion sweating it out inside a gym.

(photo credit: Rey Livara)

Afterward, Mr. Livara treated us for a busog dinner at the Island Tropics Hotel and Restaurant, this time with Cai - another travel blogger slash fashown mowdel who just arrived in the afternoon that day. One member of our group, Josh celebrated his birthday that day so the trip was very timely for him.

Gael, Myca, Cute Ada, Me, Mr. Rey, Robbie, Josh, Cai and Estan (photo credit: pusangkalye.net)

- For accommodation reservation, please contact Islandia Hotel at this link

- For more info about Alaminos, please visit their website at this link

- Direction: Take any bus in Cubao, Manila or Pasay to Alaminos, from there take a trike from downtown to Lucap (near the hundred islands port) or one can take any bus that goes to Bolinao, Anda and Agno because all these buses also passes through Alaminos.

- Boat rental starts at 800.00 good for 4-6 people.

Bolinao Falls

November 22, 2010

Bolinao falls is located in Brgy. Samang Norte in Bolinao, Pangasinan. If my memory serves me right, its about 30 minutes from the town center of Bolinao and the path leading to the falls is a stretch of rough road a kilometer off the main highway. We went there on a van arranged by the resort where we stayed in, but one could always rent a tricycle going there.


I've been to a dozen waterfalls in the past and for sure, this one ranks as one of the best as it has a large pool and a 15 feet high main waterfall and another which was about 20-25 feet high if my sense of height measurement was correct. The surrounding trees and the fine clear waters conspire to create a green colored water with shades of blue. The water was so clear you can see the bottom rocks on the shallow part. When I was there I was like "damn I wish I could swim" - I could swim a little but not gung-ho enough to go diving into a lake or a waterfalls, something I'd always wanted to do. That is, only If I could reinforce myself with much needed courage.  


I was along with other travel bloggers during our trip to Alaminos and then to the town of Bolinao in Pangasinan when we dropped off this waterfalls which according to folklore was the site where "Boli" and "Nao" met and fell in love and whose romantic relationship got the ire of a local chieftain or Datu and the ensuing events became a precursor to modern Romeo Vazquez and Vilma Santos-like romantic tales.


Today, the place has a man made stairs leading down to the waterfalls which was probably constructed decades ago. Personally, I'd prefer for these kind of places to remain as it is, if people would want to visit a waterfalls, they should be ready to hike along a natural trail. Putting cement infrastructures to accommodate lazy visitors creates more imbalance to the natural formation of these natural attractions.


We took a dip into the waters, wary of stepping on a deeper part and half tingling courtesy of the cold water, but once you dipped your whole body, it gets easy to conform with the cool temperature and just like any other waterfalls I've been to, the flow of the water makes a therapeutic effect on your weary muscles and you get to have a peaceful time hearing nothing but the splash of dropping water and the bird chirping as if saying other birds "yo birdy mavering lets drop a poop on this one, he looks frightened to swim anyway". Fortunately, those birds only exists in my mind and the actual birds just flew over the top without dropping poops. It was a bit windy as it's already the cold November month and as the wind kisses your face with splatter of water you can't help but feel a bit sleepy. 


And I wouldn't mind sleeping in such a setting. It's peaceful, its mother Earth as it's best and all these greens surrounding me, the trees and all of it creates a near perfect setting as I stare at my female companions who are posing like Dyesebels and supermodels with the picturesque waterfall pimping as the background.


 And here they are, Cai, Ada, Gael and Mica. Part of the wonderful new set of friends that I went on a trip to Pangasinan along with other travel bloggers; Josh, Robbie, Darwin, Anton and Estan.


This place makes a great sidetrip when you find yourself in Bolinao, an afternoon swim or nap or maybe a picnic here makes the whole afternoon well spent. Memo to myself, learn to swim so next time I visit a place like Bolinao Falls, I'll be diving like a mad Chinese Olympic diver and swimming like a young Eric Buhain motioning "five" on my hands re-enacting the classic 200 meter freestyle duel with the Singaporean dude during the 1993 SEA Games held in Manila.

Baler, Aurora Part II: The "Apocalypse Now" Surfing Scene

November 10, 2010
I'd be the first to admit I suck at surfing. I still believe I'm 15 pounds overweight and I'll have more success if I get a bit lighter. Anyway, It was inspiring watching the residents of Baler twist and turn up in the air riding shotgun on the waves, some are big enough to swallow em, you'd think they've crashed into the water then bam you see them still zooming across the wave gliding into the water with uncanny balance and grace.

There was this particular 10 year old kid who resembles a typical surfing prodigy. He was surfing far out the distance but it's impossible to miss him even from afar. He moves in and out over and below the waves like he's a part of "Oceans' 11". Yes he does his tricks out on the open sea and he's good at it. Wait till he gets older and I can see him winning surfing competitions even in the big ass waves of Hawaii.

Baler, Aurora has transcended into a popular destination for surfer hobbyist and for newbies (like us) who'd want to experience what kind of rush does someone feels like when they're out there. So far I can only do so with imagination as I've yet to surf well enough to experience that nature of ecstasy.

Belle was telling me that the beach where we went was where some parts of the classic Francis Ford Copolla film "Apocalypse Now" was shot. The place called "Charlie's Point" was where the movie reportedly shot some scenes, in particular the surfing scenes where American soldiers was seen trying to catch some big swell. After the shooting they left some surfboards floating around the beach which in turn were picked up by local residents. The result was a new generation of Filipino surfers - most of whom works there as surfing instructors, others have become participants in surfing competition around the Philippines and even nearby countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.

Aside from surfing, Baler is an ideal place to hike around. Surrounded by the scenic Sierra Madre mountains it has a number of waterfalls, ideal camping grounds and nature parks to visit. We went to a nearby waterfalls and passed by other points of the long shoreline around Baler. Chris (Belle's surf instructor) also showed us the fishing port of Baler and the spot where the surfing finals are held.


The next day, Belle and Gretz took up surfing lessons with the local residents working as surfing instructors. Because there were a lot of people learning to surf that day, Gretz ended up with a part time surf instructor slash tricycle driver because her instructor was our trike driver the day before when we went around the nearby area of Baler.

Even dogs tried surfing that day.

A trip to Baler is always a good idea for a few days, there's so much thing to do aside from trying to learn surfing. The people makes it easy for anyone to feel at home. The Pacific ocean and the surrounding Sierra Madre region definitely makes up for an ideal setting.

Going to Baler is very easy. Just take a bus in Cubao (Genesis Bus Terminal) to Baler. Or take any bus that goes to Cabanatuan and there would be buses going to Baler at any time during the day and early nighttime. Or, beside Genesis Bus Terminal in Cubao there is a terminal of vans that can be hired going to Baler (good if you're 8 or more people).

Budget for an overnight stay (with surf board rentals + instructor and bus fare) = 2,000 pesos (foodtrip pa yan)


Baler, Aurora Province: Part 1

November 10, 2010
My friend Belle who is starting to get the hang of surfing invited me to travel to Baler, Aurora. We were supposed to leave the weekend of Nov. 1 but it did not pushed through so we rescheduled it the next weekend. Soon, Gretz came on board to join us on the trip. I have traveled with her to Caramoan way back in 2008. Yolanda, a facebook friend also joined us. It was my first time to meet her in person at the Genesis Bus Terminal in Cubao, on the eve of our departure. Belle, Gretz and Yolanda all met each other for the first time.

Traveling it seems is also a great way to meet new friends. I have difficulty forming friendships on the fly - at schools, office, neighborhoods but when it comes to traveling I get more comfortable and at ease with forming close personal relationship with others who like myself, have an itchy feet and has a place for both the madness and ecstasy of being on the road in their own selves.

After a couple of hours delay, the bus finally left Cubao around 2:30 AM early Saturday morning. We slept most of the way waking up in random stops before finally waking up for good when the sun made its appearance. I enjoyed the view from the bus window as I could see the Sierra Madre mountains, we passed narrow zigzag roads, sleepy towns, rivers and a lake that can be seen on the left side of the bus window while on the opposite side you'll see a deep ravine.

Replica of Quezon's Presidential Car
We arrived at Baler around 10:00 AM and took time to roam around the town after getting a quick breakfast.  At first I really thought we're heading to Baler, Quezon province. I SMS a few friends telling "I'm off to Quezon Province". Then I later found out that "Baler" is a part of Aurora Province. It was formerly part of Quezon province but in 1979 a legislation was passed to name it as "Aurora" in honor of President Manuel L. Quezon's wife Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon who was also born in Baler.

Baler's most famous son is none other than the first President of the Philippine Republic, Manuel L. Quezon, making Baler a very historic municipality. Aside from being the birthplace of the Quezon couple, Baler was also the site of the last Spanish Garrison in the country.

The Siege of Baler was a year long siege between Filipino revolutionaries allied then with the Americans and the last remaining bastion of Spanish forces holed up in the church of Baler. A detailed historical account can be seen in clear visual and text presentation at the Museo de Baler.

Inside the museum there are sections honoring President Manuel L. Quezon with various framed newspaper clippings, photographs and other historical facts displayed for immersion into one's historical knowledge.

well said Mr. President
Aside from being a popular surfing destination for both surfer fanatics and wannabe surfers like myself, Baler is also known for being a historical place. Birthplace of the founder of the Philippine republic, a beloved first lady and the Siege of Baler - I'm not sure though if the Jericho Rosales - Anne Curtis movie "Baler" was based on those events.

Historic Church of Baler
The people just like in any other part of the Philippines are very friendly. It's a rustic seaside town with an edge of romanticism, adventure, sleepy at first glance but very lively when immersed on deeply. Places like Baler makes me wonder of someday setting up a small house in such Baler-like place. Quiet, peaceful and hearing only the chattering sounds of friends and the rampaging waves that has many falling gripped into its allure enough for them to make a long 7 hour journey just to experience (or in my case - a continuous process of trying to learn) surfing.


We stayed at "Bahia de Baler" where we chose a relatively affordable room for 4 people (P1500 / 4) for the night. Surf boards are rented by hour for 200.00 PHP with an instructor its 300.00 PHP.

I'm glad that the road has again led me to a place like Baler one supposedly boring weekend that turned into something awesome. Now that I'm back in my full time job in an office with the view of Makati - I am not complaining but there's something pulling me out of this 'corporate' world and I hope someday I could make it longer than just a long weekend, until then I can't wait to make another trip even for just a couple of days.