For the record, my family was blessed with opportunity to travel on a frequent basis for recreational and other purposes. My family regularly go to Baguio to check on my younger brother and sister who study there, but my family has gone as far north as Vigan (I wasn’t able to join because I was busy at school. 😦 Maybe next time?). Down south, we’ve gone as far as Daet, Camarines Norte (Sur?). We have also left the Philippines not only once or twice but five times, and have also visited three countries. But thru the countless enclosure inside various transportations, our trip last Saturday, May 2, marks the first time many members of our family, including me, went to Hundred Islands in Lingayen, Pangasinan.
Unlike the other trips, this one nearly didn’t happen.
End of April:
Tita Ofel had been endorsing the excursion since the third week of April. Everything seemed perfect from the start. Transportation isn’t really a problem, in addition to Tita’s van, there’s always ours. Gasoline prices had also been dropping recently. My mother, who’d gone there before, assured us that we don’t need to worry about expenses during the entire trip, the services there were affordable and we could always bring anything we need in order to cut costs further, since we’re using our personal vehicles.
As the day approached, however, it seemed that the vacation wouldn’t push through. One reason was money, and while my family had some money and no major expense because it was the summer vacation, my parents were extremely frugal when it comes to spending (a typical Ilocano trait that is both considered positive and negative). Later on, it had also been decided that my family should shoulder the fuel for our own vehicle (this was expected), but when my father said that anyone who should be riding in our van should give some contribution for fuel, it wasn’t unsurprising that a lot of our relatives who had pledged to join the trip backed out the night before the trip (this was another ugly Ilocano trait I absolutely hate, whenever someone gives a free treat, it’s expected that he/she should shell out extra money because there’s almost always some uninvited guests. Hey, I don’t want to bash my fellow kababayans, but anything worth noting is worth mentioning, isn’t it?)
Usually, on early trips like this, my mother will rouse us an hour before the departure time for the final preparation. We have packed all our belongings the night before, so there’s not much to do this time. I woke up at around 3:30 unassisted and it’s unusually quiet. Looks like we won’t be going after all. I went back to bed.
It took several phone calls from my Tita to persuade my father. We left the house at 4:45.
[Note: unfortunately, I forgot to bring my watch or my phone, so the posted times here were mere approximations. I assure you, however, that these times were guessed accurately].
At this time, we’d passed the town border. For the record, it had been sunny since yesterday. It’s a godsend, considering that the past days were all rainy. Even a small puff of cloud could have spoiled the trip, since it almost always grow through the day and results in rainfall later in the day. It wouldn’t be fun to be caught in the middle of the sea while it’s raining. (Ironically, the rainy weather returned the next day, Sunday, May 3).
The journey time was shorter than I had expected, even though we had to pass through snaky paths in the mountains at some point.
Before going to the islands, a few things must be done first from the port. Registration is required for all visitors to the islands. Of course, you can’t reach the islands unless you rent boats. The rate for renting boats is ₱2,000, but it’s good for a one whole day of cruising.
After a rush breakfast, we started boarding our designated outrigger. I had not ridden a boat for a long time, the last time I rode a boat was in 2002, when I went to Pulillo Islands with other classmates to make a documentary as a class project. Each of us were given life vests to wear, though some of us didn’t bother wearing them. LOLX
By this time, we’ve seen Sulpot Island, the first in a row of islands visible from the port. The name roughly translates as “to appear (suddenly).” Very appropriate.
The islands were stunning. Most, but not all, of the islands are semicircular in shape, and lushly covered with greenery on top. They looked like buns floating on the sea. In a way, Hundred Islands is similar to Chocolate Hills, except that the hills are floating on water rather than on land, which adds to the appeal of the islands.
Our first island destination is Governor’s Island, though we didn’t stay there long. We just rested for a while and explored a cave.
More islands, the next one always better than the previous. Based on my estimation, I have counted and seen more than 50 islands, though I’m sure there’s more (123, according to Wikipedia). The route of the boat is not straightforward, enabling us to circle and view several islands.
We had a problem. Most of the islands reserved for tourists were mostly full. Finally, after passing more than five islands, we’ve finally settled on an island with no visitor lodges and a very narrow beach, roughly occupying only about 1/10 of the entire island. There wasn’t any trail either, so an exploration of the whole island is out of the question. The island didn’t have any billboard indicating its name, but later on, I discovered the name etched on a small stone: Dela Rosa Island.
For the next two hours, we did the usual things: swimming & food trip. Because there aren’t any spot suitable for food preparation, some of the foods we brought were just broiled on a rocky outcrop. Besides, there’s the adobo anyway.
The water was so crystal clear, you can see the bottom. Unfortunately, the water was so deep, anyone can only swim a short distance from the shore without any life jacket. It was good to be back at sea, since our last trip to the beach happened in 2005 in Batangas; unless the trip to Palawan Beach in Sentosa in the same year be considered technically valid.
We got bored soon enough we decided to move to another island.
We traversed a different route this time, presumably.
We made a short stop to Cuenca Island, which has a cave, extending from the port to the opposite end of the island. While exploring the rocks on the other end of the cave, one of the other visitors saw a large snake among the rocks, probably of the dangerous kind, since its hide’s color is alternating black and white. It didn’t stop us from approaching the rocks to get a closer look of it. LOL
(On a related sidenote, something creepy also happened on the cave, though I only found out about it at home. Starting at the port on our way back home, I noticed my digicam randomly reporting memory card errors. Thankfully, it wasn’t a serious problem, the camera appears to work normally after a while.
Later on, back home, while viewing the pictures from my lappy, I noticed one of the pictures and it brought shivers to my spine. It was one of the pictures taken from the cave. It was unusually blurry, like most of the pictures taken there both from my low-spec’d Canon digicam and even from my cousin’s Cybershot which is obviously more powerful. Perhaps, it has something to do with the concentration of light inside the cave, but we can’t be sure. Anyway, the picture shows my father waving inside the cave, but what caught my eye was a full person standing on the right end of the picture, looking somewhat transparent. Moreover, it appears to face directly to my camera and stands vertically upright. Even creepier was the fact that his unusually white garment resembles a barong Tagalog, though it’s really hard to tell. Had I just caught a ghost oncam? I hope not.)
More islands. I assumed these were the islands we’ve seen this morning, but too far to get a closer view. I assumed that the route of the boat this time is perpendicular to the boat’s route this morning.
We landed on our second island, and this one is a hundred times better and lovelier than the previous one. The island contained a shallow lake from within the island. Moreover, the wide shore of the isle is filled with corals and shells, which is the obvious reason why this one is named Shell Island.
After the second lunch of the day, we set our sights on the rest of the island. Most of the rocks are climbable and the walkways aren’t too narrow or steep, so even in the absence of any form of protection, climbing thru the rocks weren’t quite dangerous. The rocks are high enough and makes a good vantage point to view neighboring islands. We’ve finally proven that the saying that says that the view is always better from the top is true. Thankfully, there aren’t any snakes in sight.
We discovered a cleverly hidden pathway from behind one of rocks (you won’t notice it unless you linger close enough in the area). Following this path leads to the opposite side of the island, and here, we discovered another island! It’s very small, only 50 ft in height, and shaped in almost perfect hemispherical shape. It’s just a bare rock, devoid of any plants. We contemplated going to that island since it seemed close enough, but the waves lapping on the rocky shore were much stronger than on the other side, so we finally decided against it. The trail also led to still greater heights, but this area was so overgrown with greenery, we couldn’t proceed any farther.
Having exhausted all our food, rested and swam to our heart’s content, our trip finally came to an end. We had less than an hour to get a final look at the islands before returning to mainland. Somehow, I was saddened as I looked back at the islands as they resized back to tiny lumps on the horizon.
I wasn’t bothered in the least by sunburn on my shoulder and on my nose which lasted painfully for about a week. But hell, I missed the islands and the boat ride already. Hundred Islands will definitely be one of those places I plan to revisit sometime in the near future.
Thinking about it, we Filipinos are lucky to have a land that’s blessed with so many natural wonders. We don’t even have to build many artificial parks to attract visitors from within and outside our country. But having said that, it’s still saddening that many of these tourist spots were mostly undeveloped, leaving them as is, lacking accommodations for visitors, and even completely neglected to the point where they are already on the verge of destruction, like the rice terraces in Ifugao. We must exert some effort to maintain the pristine state of these spots and to make them more accessible to all people.