The Secret Is Out!

Tent… check, sleeping bag… check, therma rest… check, swimwear… check, sunblock… check, pasta, pasta sauce and chorizo… check… cook set… check and the list goes on.  These however, are the essentials needed for an overnight trip to Nagsasa Cove.

Credits: J. Sprague You are Awesome Paper kit (Blue Leaf & Brown Red), Framers; LivE’s Worn Kraft tag, Sing 4 Spring elements (Button Accent 02 & Fight of the Bbee)

My friend S had been itching to make a trip there ever since she learned of Nagsasa.  And so the weekend after our Northern Samar trip, we were up early, traveling north to what we thought was a secret paradise.  Punta de Uian Resort in San Antonio, Zambales to be exact.

The boat we hired from Punta de Uian

A resort kind enough to take us to Nagsasa (for a fee, of course) even if it was not part of the trips they offer.

Off to Nagsasa…

Wondering why hire a boat through a resort?  I want my car parked safely in a parking lot while we camp out on a cove 8 kms away.   Better safe than sorry right?

The view on our way

Nagsasa is supposedly less popular than Anawangin perhaps because it takes twice as long (about 45 mins) to get to Nagsasa from Pundaquit Beach.

The approach

Arrival (looks empty)

So imagine how stunned we were at first to see scores of campers spread out on the crescent shaped stretch of beach, maybe having the same thoughts as ours, which is… “why are they all here?”

Water so still

Perhaps it was the long weekend and everyone who knows about Nagsasa had the same idea, or perhaps it is the magnificent paradise that makes it difficult to remain a secret for long.

Whatever it is, we were happy to be among those who were enjoying this wondrous cove with breathtaking Mt. Nagsasa serving as backdrop to a pristine stretch of ash colored sand.

Once we got off the boat, we looked for our little corner, Mang Augusto and his family lives beside our campsite, making him the caretaker.

Siblings – Mang Augusto’s kids

We had a picnic table for our meals and our chit chats.

We also had a bathroom just at the back, which I truly appreciate, never mind that it didn’t have a light, what are headlamps for anyway?

Our starters:  Greek and Chinese — an obvious lack of coordination… yummy just the same.

After we settled, we pitched our tent and then prepared our meal… we burned our rice (it was not easy using the aluminum cook set, really!).  Mang Augusto’s wife cooked 2 kilos of rice for us for only P100 ($2).  Way too much for 5 so we had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and there were still left overs.  So here’s the tip: don’t even bother to cook rice when you can have it cooked for you (for practically a song).   😉

Nagsasa (and Anawangin and perhaps others as well) emerged after the violent eruption of Mt Pinatubo in 1991.

The eruption actually changed the landscape of Zambales producing these coves of ash sand beach lined with Agoho trees stretching inland, rendering a beach so impressive.

So how did such a tree find its way to this part?  It is said that these trees were non-existent prior to the eruption and that the seeds of the trees came from the ash expelled by Pinatubo.

Streams and waterfalls dry out during the summer

How amazing is our God to reward us with unexpected loveliness after nature spewed out its fury?  Perhaps it is His way of reminding us that like a rainbow after a storm, something beautiful invariably comes after a tragedy.  Ain’t that a comfort?

Here are more snaps at different times of the day.

A bangkero (boatman) having breakfast

Sunset

More huts for rent

At sunrise (I didn’t wake up early enough   😉 but pretty impressive just the same)

Mt. Nagsasa

Nagsasa Cove from the boat

And I leave you with this last shot (simply magic)   🙂

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Summing Up the Year That Was

I am blessed.  Blessed to be able to explore the world, albeit not as extensive as I want to but I’ve had some fair share of adventure and fun last year.  So I’m not complaining.  Last year was a good mix of local and international travels, small and big trips. Rounding them up, there were highs and lows, great satisfactions and some disappointments.  Here’s a run down of my best and not so best experiences of 2008.

The Disappointment

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Donsol – in pursuit of the elusive whale sharks (Feb)

We were ready to jump anytime but the whale sharks were scarce.  There were way too many boats, way too disorganized and so we caught a glimpse of its… tail.  Oh well… this calls for another trip sometime in the future.

One Miserable Climb

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Mt. Pulag – rained out! (Feb)

We started the trek with just overcast clouds, then it drizzled and when we reached the campsite, it poured.  It let up a bit just so we can go to the loo and cook our dinner.  Then it started again.  Rained the whole night and the whole day, next day.  Needless to say, the summit was foggy and really, really cold!  No sunrise, just slippery, flooded trails.  Good thing this was not my first time here and I’ve seen a glorious sunrise in 2002.  But we still had fun.

My Favorite Asian Destination (thus far)

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Luang Prabang, Laos (Mar)

The jewel of Indochina and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by mountains at the junction of the Mekong and its tributary, the Khan River, Luang Prabang to me is a city where time stood still.

It was a wonderful 5 days of various adventures. One day was spent trekking to the Kwang Si falls, another learning to cook Lao dishes. There were a lot of walking, eating (Lao and French meals), sunset cocktails and we even had a taste of a traditional Khamu massage. It was fantastic.

A Delightful Road Trip

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Viaje del Sol (Apr) – a blend of good food and the arts.  From Kusina ni Salud (for dinner) to Ugu Bigyan (for lunch and his potteries) to Carlito’s (for coffee, mangoes and his sculptures) in one weekend resulting to another follow-up weekend.  This time, we stayed in Casa San Pablo, checked out Kinabuhayan Café, and had a satisfying lunch at Sulyap Gallery Café, a restaurant cum antique gallery.  There definitely will be a 3rd trip to this Viaje del Sol sometime in the future.  Perhaps we’ll try a meal at Kinabuhayan Café, try that famous buko pie locals are raving about and do an overnight at Sitio de Amor.

Wonderfully Surprised

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Dolphins Galore at Puerto Bay (May)

Didn’t even know that they had a lot in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.  There were tons of ’em.  What we didn’t see in Donsol, these dolphins made up for.  We didn’t even need a spotter as they were all over the place.  Never saw so much in my life.  Tons and tons of them.  Hope to dive there someday.

A Junk Experience

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Cruisin’ Halong Bay, Hanoi (Jul)

When in Hanoi, one must experience cruising along Halong Bay in a junk at least once. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the bay features calm water and thousands of limestone karsts and islets in various shapes and size.  Something like Palawan.

A Star-strucked Moment

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Dinner at Restaurant Bobby Chinn, Hanoi (Jul)

Even if he wasn’t around, I was excited to be there.  Totally am infatuated with this celebrity chef of Travel and Living’s World Asia Café series.  And the food did not disappoint.  Maybe because I’m so infatuated. Hee Hee! Expensive but superb.  Sorry but no photos of the food and the place except from across the street.  It was a treat from DBF to cap our Hanoi adventure and we agreed no cameras, besides the place was too dark to get even one decent photo.

Great Amusement

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Watching the traffic of Hanoi at the Old Quarter (Jul)

We spent hours atop a restaurant sipping beer, relaxing and watching the traffic below with amazement.  The chaos of Vietnam traffic just amused us no end.  Watch and be amused.

The Best Reunion Ever

sf-reunion

A San Francisco get-together with my high school buddies (Aug)… some I haven’t seen in 26 years.  It was a trip down memory lane but more importantly, it was literally a food trip as well.  Our friend and classmate, JT, now a chef cooked a superb dinner for us!  They’re actually planning another one this year… a US trip 2 years in a row is out of my budget if I want to explore other new places as well, so boohoo for me.

A Cove Truly Breathtaking

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Anawangin Cove (Sep)

This could pass as my runner-up for the Most Miserable Climb too.  I am a clumsy person and more often than not, I fall and hurt myself.  So during the trek I was already asking “why do I do this to myself”? when I banged my knee in the course of what I thought was an easy trek. I’ve seen beautiful pixes, read and heard so much about this “not so secret” place and finally am hours away from it. Thrilled and excited as I started the 7.3 km trek to Anawangin Cove, I was 3rd to arrive at the saddle (which had an awesome view of the cove, by the way). Not bad, if I may brag… Many months of lifting, walking on a machine (that goes nowhere), puffing and pushing is finally paying off.  THEN… without warning, I slipped and fell about 30 minutes through our descent, all because I was not paying attention to the trail. It was agony from then on. Let’s just say that I trudged downhill, passing rocky streams for another 2+ hours before I reached the camp… From 3rd to last! Thirsty, tired and in pain but dampen my spirits it did not as it was indeed so BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL! Picture this, Agojo (imagine pine trees as it looked so much like it) forest on the beach with a meandering fresh water stream that flows out to the sea. And that is why I keep doing this to myself.

An Adrenalin-filled Birthday Weekend

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Rafting the Chico (Oct)

Been doing this for almost a decade but never on my birthday.  So that’s new.  If you’ve never tried this, you should!  You will experience one heck of a weekend, a totally worked out upper body, and the thrill of a lifetime.  Contact Anton Carag of AEPI for bookings.

An Incredible Underwater Experience

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Mantas and Sharks up close in Yap (Nov)

Amazing… is all I can say.  An experience of a lifetime.  Read more about it here.

Playground

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Credits:  Papers:  JSprague (U&R week 4 kit) leafy blue, leafy green, stripe, yellow circles, green solid, blue flower; Brushes:  JSprague swirl; Alphas:  KPertiet Snap Frame Alpha

Feb 2003:  Children of Balbalasang, Kaliga Province.  Swimming and having fun without a care in the world.  How lucky to have as their playground one of the most beautiful site in the Philippines.  Owing to the difficult journey, Balbalasang is shielded from a lot of visitors, which in large part kept it pristine.

Balbalasang National Park was established to in commemorate Kalinga’s opposition to government-backed logging operations in the area in the ’70s (as per Lonely Planet Philippines- 9th edition).  The drive to Balbalasang albeit very scenic was long and bumpy.  But the beauty of this side of the cordilleras made the journey all worth it.  Not too far away from where we got off is this nice campground with 2 converging rivers and an absolutely magnificent landscape.  One can feel really small against the grandeur of Balbalasang.  Take a look!

Getting there:

Take a jeep from Tabuk, Kalinga all the way to Balbalasang or Balbalan town.  This might take 4-5 hours depending on the road conditions.  The campsite is just walking distance from the town plaza.  You can also arrange for a guide from the plaza to guide you through the different trails.  Note that I was there 5 years ago so this information may be old.