by: Allan Leandro Merin
Several days after PAGASA declared that summer was officially over, me and some of my former workmates embarked on a two-day trip to Pangasinan. This west-central province is home to some of the country’s finest beaches and the world’s famous Hundred Islands National Park.
We left Manila at around 12 midnight. After a gruelling five-hour bus ride, we finally arrived in the municipality of Bolinao. We decided to stay at the Treasures of Bolinao Beach Resort and Hotel. The place, which claims that it is among the best vacation homes in the province, did not live up to our expectations. Poor service, coupled with the bad weather, ruined our first day in Pangasinan. But that did not dampen our spirits and we were optimistic that the next day would be bright and sunny.
Our prayers were answered in the morning. We woke up with the sun filling our hotel rooms with new hope and energy. After packing our bags, we left the hotel and headed for the good old Hundred Islands National Park in Alaminos City.
After feasting on burgers and fried chicken at a famous fast-food chain, we traveled five kilometers to the Lucap Wharf, the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon arriving, we were greeted by hordes of vendors selling various souvenir items and trinkets.
Before we started island hopping, we registered at the municipal tourism office. The office arranged the boat ride en route to the iconic natural wonder. We all suited up in our adventure outfit and the life vests provided by the boat owner. Our excitement was turbo charged the minute we stepped into the boat! The adventure has finally begun!
Our first stop was Governor’s Island. This is where Big Brother’s House is located. Sadly, we were not able to explore “Kuya’s” house. But then again, there were LOTS of other things to do in that island! We took more than one hundred steps to reach the island’s highest point. The view was breathtaking! We had a good look at the rest of the islands while taking pictures and poking fun at each other. After more than 30 minutes, we decided to return to the boat and explore the other islands.
The second stop, Marcos Island, was equally amazing. Covering an area of 18.916
square meters, the island is perfect for adventure-seeking people. Aside from its shallow water that is ideal for swimming, this is also where the Imelda Cave can be found. Our tour guide said that our stay at the island will not be complete unless we dive from the wooden tip of the cave into the water below. Initially, we were hesitant to take a dip from the cathedral-shaped cave. But the beauty and the serenity of water enticed us to finally take the plunge. The experience was electric!
After getting wet and wild at the Marcos Island, off we went to Quezon Island. This island is named after the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth. It is our last stop at the national park. The island was crowded by people, local and tourists, laughing, talking, and doing their own thing without a care in the world. Since we were quite full and still exhilarated by the Marcos Island experience, we opted to rest and just enjoy the view. But to make the most of the moment, we went on to explore the seaside and took pictures of each other near a Virgin Mary icon in a grotto situated just in front of the beach. My companions also took pictures of the Manuel Quezon monument and the mermaid statues.
It was already getting dark so we decided to head back to the wharf and call it a day. As we savored the beauty of the Hundred Islands on our way back to the port, I promised myself that this will not be my last visit there. I’m coming back, Hundred Islands!
I assure you that roaming around the 124 islands (low tide) is a fabulous and unforgettable experience. This is one adventure that is worth remembering over and over again…Now I know why many local and international tourists visit and keep coming back to this world-class travel destination.
Photos courtesy of Marc Mondala
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