Pundaquit is a small town in San Antonio, Zambales (LINK to official website). Shockingly, it was very accessible from Manila (just one bus and one tricycle), that I can’t believe I waited this long to go there.
“Swim at your own risk” was what a friend told me when I asked him about this place. And, “many people have died there” said another one.
So with a plan (thanks to the Internet!), a backpack filled with clothes, a wallet stuffed with a few bills, and a stern resolve to enjoy what Pundaquit has to offer, my friends and I whisked our Manila-weary selves to Zambales (and all its promises of doom)!
After all, I consider it a dreadful sin for every Filipino not to see as much of the Philippines as they can.
We had to fight for our bus tickets from the throng of students who were going home for the long weekend. We initially wanted a Victory Liner bus headed for Iba or Sta. Cruz, Zambales, so that it would pass by San Antonio.
But, we only got seats for Olongapo and had to board another bus from there. It wasn’t a lot of hassle though, because the departures were prompt. And, we arrived at Pundaquit just three hours and a half after leaving Espana Avenue, Manila.
A lot of resorts/inns have sprouted along the Pundaquit coastline. My friends and I weren’t really particular with the rooms, just as long as we had our own airconditioning and bathroom.
Our mastermind, Wean, booked us with Sir William’s Cottage. Kuya Jon, the owner, was more than willing to regale us with stories about Pundaquit and even his plans for his business. He is into photography and even shared his Flickr site (LINK).
The initial itinerary was to have a whole-day island hopping to all the Pundaquit hotspots (Nagsasa Cove, Anawangin Cove, Camara Island, and Capones Island). But, the weather was being masungit and the boatmen refused to bring us to those places.
We went to one of Pundaquit’s falls instead. The water was cold, clear and delightful. We watched many local kids and some foreigners jump over one of the higher set of falls.
Looking back now, I realized I should have jumped, too. I have dived from even higher spots (i.e. diving board) before. So what if I embarrassed myself in front of a bunch of complete strangers, right? (Note to self: Carpe diem!)
Kuya Jun, one of the fishermen, also accompanied us to a part of the beach where the waves were relatively calmer. We went swimming, although it was still difficult to swim far because of the strong undercurrent. We just took a lot of pictures and stole pretty pebbles from the sea like the bunch of stereotypical urbanites that we were.
For the rest of Saturday, we prayed for better weather and overdosed on potato chips, chocolate, rice, softdrinks, and cable television.
I also kept channeling The Secret. “Makaka-island hop tayo niyan bukas. Sigurado ako. Hindi tayo hahayaang umuwi ng luhaan.” (We will go island-hopping tomorrow. I’m sure. We will not go home frustrated.)
Everything worked. The next morning, Kuya Jun finally said we can visit Camara and Capones Islands.
Camara Island was nearest to the main land. “Dito nag-shoot si Marian Rivera nang commercial niya” (This was where Marian Rivera shot for her commercial) was the first thing I learned about it.
It was pretty interesting to watch the waves crashing over the sandbar connecting the two portions of the island.
It was a very small island compared to those enormous landforms I have seen in El Nido, Palawan. The large boulders and the rocks curiously stuck to them were clues as to how this island was actually formed — a product of the centuries of collisions between the freshwater from the mountains and the warmth of the seas.
I tried swimming, too, but I ended up getting my right knee injured. Yes, I am stubborn like that. The waves were huge, and this was on a sunny day. I now know what the boatmen were saying about this island being unapproachable during stormy season.
After a good 20 minutes of huge waves as our instant rollercoaster ride and seawater rudely splashing on our faces, we arrived at Capones Island. We had to disembark at the “back” of the island, because the boatmen said the waters were very rough at the usual disembarkment point.
I didn’t mind walking through the big pebbles and rocks on the short beach. We also had to hike our way up to the old Spanish lighthouse. The usual route would have involved a beach and a set of man-made stairs.
The last time I did something similar was when we trekked towards the biggest crater of Taal Volcano, but it involved volcanic ash and the beating sun. On Capones Island, we had to contend with the gradually increasing incline, overgrown bushes, ancient trees, and the beautiful sea singing to us just below the cliff.
I got gashes on my hands because of trying to hold onto rocks and thorny plants. I was extremely relieved that my slippers survived the trek. FYI: Those slippers were the only footwear I bought with me. Very wise, I know right?
When we finally arrived at the ruins, our possibly exasperated guide immediately hustled us onto the series of (seemingly) endless staircases to get to the top of the lighthouse.
The fact that I didn’t have great upper arm strength crossed my mind a hundred times while I was going up the final set of stairs.
After about thirty minutes worth of trekking and climbing, all our hard work finally paid off.
Having seen the world around us, we went to the cliffs to take dozens of pictures with the ruins, the lighthouse and the sea. What is it with lighthouses that makes it seem so romantic? 🙂
The ruins were so photogenic, I couldn’t even catch a bad angle with my measly camera. This place must be a haven for photographers like me.
It was too bad we didn’t have time (and enough energy) to trek to the beach below. We had to be back by 3 PM, so we chose to forego the famous coves. We could have done the three-hour trek to Anawangin, if only we had the proper footgear. We fully intend to come back on a bright summer day to visit Pundaquit’s Anawangin and Nagsasa.
We almost didn’t get to have our weekend getaway. So, it was also quite miraculous that it was only after our four-hour trip that the rain poured again heavily.
It was like the waves were calmed just enough for us to try a bit of what Pundaquit had to offer.
Even if I sustained injuries and feared meeting the depths of the ocean as we rode the boats, the most disheartening thing about our short stay in Zambales was seeing litter (e.g. plastic wrappers, broken slippers) everywhere we went. People should take as many pictures as they want, but they should know better than to leave their trash to rot (if it can rot) on those beautiful islands.
In spite of the ugly events that transpired these past weeks, Filipinos can never deny that we do live in a country that is blessed with so much beauty and promise.
Getting out of Manila’s often stifling atmosphere is always a welcome, refreshing experience for me.
Sharing the experience with the ones I love, like and adore — now, that is absolutely precious.