Who survived Pundaquit?

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,ย  “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 airconditioningย  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!)

The falls originated from high up the mountains

Wean “attempts” to jump into knee-deep water :p

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.

Here was where the freshwater rushed out.

Zambales

Wow! My camera can do this???

Those crazy Manila tourists who think they can island-hop even with the brewing storm

While we moped, the surfers raved about the waves

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 – so near, yet so far

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.

Most Interesting Sandbar I’ve Seen Award goes to Camara Island, hands down. ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

Kuya Jun and the boat I shared with Grace

Curious rock formations on Camara Island

Camara’s beach: All small pebbles & shells

The nature geeks on another part of the island

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.

Wean and her entourage (Yabang ni Kuya!)

An old barracks that now served as shelter for passing fishermen or navy men, on Capones Island

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 hope stealing rocks from the sea isn’t a crime :p

I didn’t mind walking through the big pebbles and rocks on the short beach.ย  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?

Not me: “Aakyat tayo sa batis? For real? Are you kidding me?”

As we trekked, this was what we had on one side.

I almost knocked myself onto that tree, while I was busy taking pics. :p

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.

First set of stairs: A rickety, rust-ridden spiral one

Wean on the second set of stairs, a kalawang-ridden set too

Wean’s leg on the final set of stairs, a vertical test of upper arm strength

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.

The breathtaking South China Sea, from the lighthouse

Me on top of the lighthouse. No, I’m not scared. :p

A view of the ruins and the courtyard

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? ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

The Capones Island lighthouse has stood since 1890 and is still photogenic.

We look so underdressed, don’t we?

We felt like sashaying with petticoats on.

How to make this a bad picture: Put anyone in it.

The other end of Capones Island and a far view of the Anawangin Cove

Pundaquit

One of my “Maria” moments

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 stayย  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.

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13 thoughts on “Who survived Pundaquit?

  1. Wow, Zambales is beautiful! And you take very good photos. I agree Pinoys should see as much of the PI as they can. Itโ€™s my lifelong dream to see the whole of PI. Maybe one island at a time. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Thank you, Earthianne! Zambales is gorgeous! I can’t believe it took me this long to discover it was. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I actually have separate bucket lists for travelling in the Philippines and for travelling the world. Hope you get your dream too!

  2. I’ve never been to Nagsasa. I’ve heard it’s the best of all the Zamba coves. =)Me wants to go next time! Magre-rain dance na ba ko? Hahaha… parang on cue kasi lagi ang pagdating ng ulan lately eh. Pagdating ng gabi… TADAAAH! Hahaha. =P

    • Oo! Iyon daw ang best eh! Where did you go when you went to Zambales?

      When we were there, default ang ulan, sunny ang pinapangarap. We plan to go to Anawangin & Nagsasa before December. Sama ka!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Ganda ng pics Ivy! Hope makavisit din ako dyan! The roaring waves reminded me of the time I was in Halona Blowhole in Hawaii =) Now I want to get up and plan a vacation!

  4. I also been to Pundaquit last weekend..I’ts my first time in Zambales and I can say it’s one of the best outing I’ve ever had. We stayed at Punta de Uian, a wonderful place to stay. From punta de uian we can see that falls ๐Ÿ™‚ W e have no chance to go on island hoping due to typhoon. Punta de Uian of Pundaquit is awesome, seems like paradise….

    • Hi Karen! Welcome! ๐Ÿ™‚

      I guess we were there at the same time. We managed to hop on a few islands on Sunday morning na, when the rain stopped for like a few hours. I loved it! We’re already planning to go back. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I’m glad you liked Pundaquit. Thanks for sharing with everyone your FUNtastic experience. I hope everyone in Manila would be as adventurous and curious as you.

    Regarding the debris, those are from overflowing ponds and lakes. They are also brought there by waves from the north making the coves and offshore canyons its settlement. But it’s a good thing when they get to shore, people clean them up specially the resort owners. It’s quite inevitable but I guess that’s one of the causes of overpopulation and lack of initiative by other people.

    Regardless of this, thank you for sharing your experience.

    • Are you from Pundaquit? I really want to go back! I didn’t think there’d be such a place that is very accessible from Manila, aside from Batangas. ๐Ÿ™‚

      What struck me most was when I saw a handful of plastics on the trail leading up to the Capones Island lighthouse. It was obviously discarded by people. I was disappointed, but I am hopeful that the beauty of this place will be preserved.

      Thank you for visiting this blog! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Pingback: Where can you go in the Philippines? (Part 1 of 2) « thoughts of an overthinker

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