It has been a challenge for many to find a different kind of beach weekend away from Manila. Having known and experienced only the beach paradises in Visayas or in Mindanao, my friends and I decided to take a shot at a Luzon adventure. The destination was Zambales and it involved a mountain hike to a cove before camping by the beach.
Mount Anawangin hike
The starting point was Pundaquit, Zambales, a three-and-a-half-hour van ride away from Manila. There was an option to take a banca straight to the cove, but we decided to take on the challenge of hiking two hours up to the peak of Mount Anawangin and another two-hour descent down to the campsite around the cove. Locals highly suggest to hike very early in the morning and avoid the punishing heat of the sun.
It was our luck that the morning was overcast and clouds occasionally shaded us from the sun. The total distance of the hike itself to the cove was short, but the way up and down made it difficult for nonhikers because of the steep and rocky path.
Every chance to rest and hydrate allowed us to appreciate the natural surroundings and the raw beauty of the Philippines. The scenery along the trail made every break worth the pause if only to take in the panorama of mountain ranges. But it was the view from the top—that of the beautiful Anawangin’s cove—that highlighted our adventure. Instantly, the effort to wake up for an early-morning hike became worth it. The closer we got to the cove, the more excited we were for what it had in store for us.
We were welcomed by the sight of hundreds of huge pine trees surrounding the cove. The sight of the sea visible through all those trees was enchanting. The trees were spaced apart in such order, as if every single one was strategically planted to provide the exact amount of cover.
Prior arrangements had been made so food was waiting in one of the huts available for rent. Lunch was the best way to recuperate from the strenuous trek and the dip in the cool seawater was exactly what our fatigued bodies needed. We got our energy and momentum back to be able to move to the campsite in Nagsasa Cove, which was a 30-minute boat ride away.
We arrived in our final destination ready to pitch our tents and settle down in time to watch the sunset. The place was similar to Anawangin except that Nagsasa was two times bigger, which meant more choices for campsites. There were even many more pine trees all around. The kind guides helped relocate us to a more secluded beach front and a camping area which we had all to ourselves.
Food was prepared by a local from Pundaquit, who joined us on the boat and cooked everything we brought.
There was no electricity, no bathroom as we know it in the city, and no mobile signal. We had only tents, two tables, a few chairs and our coolers. Our camping experience was in full throttle.
The following day, everyone was actually surprised on how well we all slept. The breeze was cool and clean. There were no mosquitos biting in the middle of the night and sleeping bags placed on the soft sand were comfortable enough to give us a good quality rest.
For beach and nature lovers like us, nothing beats the experience of waking up early in the morning beside the water, sand between our toes under the shade of hundreds of pine trees.
Chilling on the sand with ‘halo-halo’
Taking advantage of the full, bright sun, we immediately started blowing up the inflatables, dove into the waters while waiting for breakfast to be served.
Added to the charm of the cove was the breathtaking view of the campsite from the sea. We were surrounded by mountain ranges. The picturesque backdrop would have made a beautiful painting.
There were many other activities one could enjoy, aside from swimming, such as playing volleyball or frisbee. We had halo-halo and grilled barbecue, which we ordered from the locals.
There was also an option to go cliff diving near the area but we all chose to find our own spot in the campsite, grab our drinks, lay on mats or inflatables, sunbathe and chill before traveling back to Manila.
This, to my mind, was an ideal and relaxing way to spend what remained of our Sunday.
Around four in the afternoon, the rented banca arrived in Nagsasa to bring us back to Pundaquit. The ride was bittersweet as we reluctantly left a place where we had just spent a magical weekend.
The sun was setting as we journeyed back, a fitting way to cap a memorable trip.
The Philippines has little-known gems such as these islands. It’s an adventure to discover Anawangin and Nagsasa.
Invite a friend or get a group together to explore and appreciate our country’s treasures. It will be a worthwhile experience. —CONTRIBUTED