Philippines - Day 6 (Beach Day in Zambales)

This is entry #8.

Link to entry #7.
Jolayne is also chronicling our trip here.

Day 6: April 4.  Slow-down day.   Partially written while there and partially after the fact; thus the difference in tone.  Today's agenda is finally a little slower than what we've had since arriving.  We're mostly just going to enjoy being here.  And of course, go to the beach.

The house we're staying in is just great.  It's only a few years old and was built by an American and his Filipina wife as their vacation home.  It's decorated nicely, has full air conditioning, and even purified water thoughout the house.  It's just great (and a real bargain).

It's located in the middle of a rice field, with beautiful views in all directions (the pix below were taken from the roof of the house).  The caretaker family, Analyn and Boyet Garcia, have been extremely helpful, and Analyn has even been willing to cook local dishes for us, which has been great.

This morning I woke up at 6, and decided to head to the palengke (market).  Amy and Misha were still sleeping, so it was just Kristen, Jo and I who went.  We decided to just walk and enjoy being in a very different place from what we'd experienced in the city of San Fernando.  It was much quieter, much cleaner (and least mostly), and certainly much more green.

On the walk, I chatted up a lady and found out how much stuff should cost, where it was located, etc.  People were very friendly and happy to chat with us, and nearly always surprised when hearing that I could speak their language.  Speaking Tagalog was such a blessing, and fun.  People are willing to chat with you much more readily over there than at home; it's just cultural, and it's refreshing.

I had a great time with Jo and Kristen walking around the market.

We saw the dry goods section with lots of various wares, many of which were draped lower than my height and made walking around just a bit challenging.

Then we moved over to the meat/fish area where the smell was a bit more 3-D.  Kristen saw many firsts: chicken legs, pig heads (actually being severed at that moment), fish flopping around on the table, etc.  It was great; just what I'd hoped.

I bought some sugar to go with our tamales (from yesterday) and oatmeal (picked up at the duty free yesterday) and almost bought a coconut, but decided it was too expensive.  I then purchased a "new load" for my cell phone since I ran out of minutes yesterday, and since we couldn't find any places with pandasal, bought some tiny donuts for the kids.  Then we found a trike driver and Jo/Kristen had their first trike experience.  Knowing what it should cost, I bargained the driver down to 30P, which is still more expensive for a short ride than you'd expect in most places, but people told me that's just the going rate here.  I think they enjoyed it, and it was a quick way to make the 3/4 mile trip back to the house.  I always have trouble figuring out where to put my feet on the back of a trike.  There's not often a peg for the rider who sits behind the driver.  I wind up holding them off the bolt that hangs out of the axle, but it's never a good grip for my long dangling legs.  Still, it was fun to be on a trike for the first time in over 15 years.

For the record, the little donuts I got were a super hit.  We had to buy more later.

Once home, we had breakfast and chatted with the Garcias about how best to get to Pundaquit beach, the shove-off point for Anawanggin Cove, our destination.  They were kind enough to find us a couple of trikes who only wanted a hundred pesos each (each way), more than appropriate for the 4-5km ride to the beach.  Amy then got her first trike ride; it was fun to watch the looks people gave as they saw a young American teenage girl riding a trike; I haven't seen another in that demographic since we got off the plane!

After arriving at Pundaquit, we were quickly assailed by 4-5 guys wanting to sell us their boat services.  I bargained with one of them and wound up agreeing on something like P1300, paid half on the outbound leg and half on the return.  It was more than I'd read online, but slightly less than Analyn told me was the now-present prevailing rate.  It was good enough.  We quickly got our gear loaded into the banka (narrow outrigger boat) and pushed off.

The water was just an incredible deep color of blue; absolutely beautiful.  The bankas are equipped with a large lawn-mower style motor connected to a long drive shaft.  They opened up the throttle after we pushed out and the thing got going a good 20-30mph.  The water was glassy calm and so we didn't bob up and down in the surf very much.  Misha's expression as we were moving along was just priceless.

Our destination was Anawangin Cove, about 30 minutes away.  The cove is only accessible by back-country hike (6 hours) or by boat.  It's pretty remote, with a beautiful sandy beach and an unusual stand of pine trees (very rare in this region).  This is a shot as we approached.

What a beautiful place!

We arrived around 10am and spent 5 hours snorkeling, swimming, and otherwise enjoying ourselves.  It was extremely quiet; perhaps only 20-30 people were there, though I could see how busy it might get on a summer weekend.  They charged us P50 each (about $1.25) to cover the entrance fee, but it really didn't include much of anything.  We rented a covered picnic area (called a kubo) for a few more bucks so we'd have some shade.

Then it was time to slather on the sunscreen and get in the water.

We had to take most everything we needed, so lunch was leftovers from the night before, along with some of the snacks we'd purchased at Subic the day before.  I had frozen some of our gatorades and water, so we managed to stay plenty cool  The weather was still hot, but it didn't seem as blazing as it had earlier in the week.

We had just a great time.  I spent 30-60 minutes snorkeling by myself; the water was just perfect for it, though there wasn't a ton of interesting stuff to see.  I did manage to see some great fish, but it wasn't anything like what we would later see in Boracay.

During my swim I got stung in a couple places by a jellyfish.  Ouch!  It's like electricity and leaves nasty red marks on the skin.  Stung bad.  Oh well.  Still a fun time out there.  Later, I went back out snorkeling with Misha.  She caught on pretty quick (her first time), and after a few minutes she was quiet comfortable with it.  We held hands and swam around the cove and she managed to video just about every fish in the place.  This was perhaps the happiest I've seen Misha in a very long time.  Her smile was simply infectious.  What a great day for our family.

In the afternoon we went over and explored the pine-tree forest.  It simply didn't fit into the place we were; I think the seeds were blown in during the Pinatubo eruption if I recall.  But it made for a great little camping spot, and on the weekends it fills up quickly.  To get over to the treed area, we either walked across a little lagoon or a foot bridge.

The bridge looked neat, but the water was almost hot because it was so shallow.  It must have been 90 degrees or more, with lots of baby fish swimming around.  The kids spent plenty of time devising ways they were going to catch those little swimmers.  No success.  Lots of fun though.  Jo and I meandered around the area to check it out.  They had a primitive set of toilets in the area; they were built in little cinder-block sections and you took your own water into the commode to flush things down.  They were certainly no dirtier than other places I'd been, though.

Of course, we all just peed in the ocean instead!

On our boat ride back in the afternoon, the wind had come up a bit and created some great waves.  The kids weren't scared at all, but we bounced up and down pretty heavily in the surf.  Lots of giggles as the bow would plow the surf and get us all wet.  It was like a fun amusement park ride.  When we got back and settled up with our boat crew, we had to wait for our tricycles to come fetch us.  I had no cell service at the cove, so it wasn't until we got back that I could text Analyn and ask her to send the trikes back.  She did, but we had about 20 min to kill while we waited.

Of course my kids found the tindahan (small store) and wanted snacks.  I told them they could order a soda but that they'd have to do it themselves without my help.  Talk about 3 nervous girls.  They were thirsty, though, and a Sprite sounded really good, so they agreed.  I coached them on what to say; they went over and asked how much, came back and got money from me, and then reappeared a few minutes later drinking their sodas out of little plastic baggies.  In the Philippines, the soda bottles are largely made of glass and you have to pay a deposit on them if you're not going to leave it there.  As a solution, sodas are often poured into these little baggies with a straw, so the buyer can take off and not worry about the deposit.  Pretty cute kids.  They were proud of themselves.

Our trikes then arrived and we took a trip back through town and to our house.  What a fun afternoon, especially since we'd been so frenzied up until that time.  Most of us kept from getting too sunburned.  My brother had recommended ahead of time that we get some rash-guard swim shirts; what a great idea.  Unfortunately, Kristen had forgotten hers and so she was more than a little pink by the time the day was done.  But the kid just sucks up the rays and turns pink into brown in about a day, so no harm done.

Once we arrived back at the house and got cleaned up, I went out and chatted with the Garcias for a while.  They were a really nice couple and we were happy to get to know them a bit better.  Before long, Kristen had made a friend again and was outside coloring and playing with toys.  She literally made friends everywhere she went.

Analyn again treated us to homecooked food and made pancit for dinner before they took off for an evening church service at Iglesia ni Christo.  I spent a few minutes playing basketball with their teenage son, Jay.  I haven't played ball in a while, and it was pretty pathetic for sure.  I'll blame it on the flipflops I was wearing, but anyone watching would know better.  Still, we had fun, and it was pretty cool that they had a court right there on the property.  I guess the neighbor kids like to come over and play regularly.  It was a  nice thing for David Hogue, the landlord, to build for everyone.  David lives in Seattle (works for Boeing) and built this place in Zambales as his vacation home.  The Garcias are his sister-in-law and family.   What nice people.

That evening we took things easy and just relaxed.  Everyone was tired.  Tomorrow we would be departing for another travel day, heading (by bus) all the way to Manila.  It was sure to be a long day, but we had enjoyed the rest.  If we get to go back, Zambales would definitely be on my list again; it's not too far and the water is just as great as any of the more famous places.


Jolayne said…
Good memories for sure. Who is your photographer?

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