The Korean Thanksgiving, Chuseok, holiday is something that I always look forward to. I get to have 5 days off from work while almost everyone else is working their asses off or going to school. *insert evil laugh* So it’s always the best time for me to travel coz it’s not the ‘peak season’ and the travel spots are not too crowded. Last year, I joined my high school friend/ travel buddy’s family on their trip to Dumaguete and Siquijor. This Chuseok, my travel buddy, Ayen and another friend of mine, Au, decided to explore the majestic and untraveled city of Bolinao, Pangasinan. Ayen lives in Quezon City, while Au and I hail from Baguio City. So we decided to meet up at the Alaminos bus station and go to Bolinao from there. We found out that going there by bus was not a walk in the park. We had to transfer thrice because there was no bus trip going straight to Bolinao from Baguio City. Actually, there is a Baguio-Bolinao bus BUT the first trip is at 11 AM. We wanted to arrive there early so we just took the 4 AM bus to Dagupan. From Dagupan, we had to take the Alaminos bound bus and from there, we took the Bolinao bound bus.
When you reach Bolinao, you don’t need to worry about finding a tour guide; a flock of tricycle drivers will appear before you the minute you get off the bus. All you need to do is take your pick and start haggling. Since Ayen already did her research, she was able to get the best tour guide/tricycle driver for us. Kuya Jhom was actually recommended by the owner of Benjie’s Cottages, where we stayed on our first night. Since it wasn’t the peak season, he gave us a good discount. We were supposed to stay at Rock Garden Resort but we decided that it’s better to stay somewhere in Patar so we can enjoy the famous ‘white beach’ more. Since we arrived there past 2 PM already, we just had a quick lunch at much-talked-about “Adoras”, which, IMO, was not that special. I mean, I’ve read so much about it in different blogs but it was just… ordinary. I guess it was overrated. Maybe I should’ve tried their special bulalo or something. Anyway, my friend was not kidding when she told me that Patar Beach was VERY far from the other tourist spots. After an hour of a bumpy and rocky tricycle ride, we finally arrived at Benjie’s Cottages which overlooks the ‘creamy’ beach of Patar. Yep. It was not a white beach; it was more like coffee with cream. Haha. We decided to stay at the tree house coz it’s way cooler than a normal cottage room.
^View from the tree house
FIRST STOP: Cape Bolinao Lighthouse
This was just 10 minutes away from Benjie’s so we decided to check it out and probably see the sunset from there. The sun was too bright while we were there so it was extremely difficult to take pictures. I couldn’t even see my phone’s screen. Haha! The lighthouse was locked and I’ve heard that not all tourists can enter it. Just when we were about to leave, though, someone opened the gate for a small group of tourists. Kuya Jhom immediately signaled us to go inside too. At first, the ‘gate keeper’ blocked our way but Kuya Jhom told him to let us come and he did! It was one of the best experiences ever despite the dizzying and exhausting climb. It was my first time to enter a lighthouse and I enjoyed every minute of it. When we reached the top, we couldn’t take proper selfies coz the wind was blowing too hard. The view, however, was simply breath-taking. If there was a zombie apocalypse, I figured I could just stay on top of that lighthouse since the zombies would be too tired or too weak to reach the top. Haha!
SECOND STOP: Patar “Creamy” Beach
The best thing about our stay at the beach was the fact that, save for a couple of ladies taking a rest a few meters away, we had it all to ourselves. It wasn’t awkward to take pictures and act silly. I even took my topper off despite the fact that I wasn’t too confident about my fat belly. But then again, who freakin’ cares? Haha! It was peaceful, relaxing and quiet. It was like we reserved the place. 🙂
The weather was not really good so we weren’t able to capture the sunset. The sun sort of hid behind the clouds. T_T We decided to take a shower and prepare for dinner. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a real cowboy and I’m not fastidious or anything. I can stay in cheap accommodations. But I can only tolerate too much mess and dirt. Especially in the toilet. A dirty toilet is one of my pet peeves. I just don’t get why people wouldn’t take a few seconds of their time to flush the freakin’ toilet bowl. ANYWAY, my friends and I figured out later that we paid for the beautiful, creamy beach, not for the accommodations. Haha! A very frustrating and annoying thing happened to Au and me. Ayen was lucky coz she already finished taking a shower before it happened. There were other guests, a group of guys, who were lined up at the nearest toilet so we had to use the one farther from our cottage. Just when we were about to go inside, the lights went out. There was a blackout. The generator could only power the nearest cottages and toilet. So Au and I just took a shower together –in total darkness. Haha! We couldn’t wait any longer because we were cold. That was another first for me – taking a shower in complete darkness. LOL.
The next day, we packed up after breakfast and started our tour. Benjie’s was a great place, if they fix it up a bit more. Our plan was to take the tour and then transfer to Rock Garden Resort for our second night. We just wanted to stay somewhere with a proper and decent toilet. ^^
THIRD STOP: ROCK FORMATION
I’ve heard that this was supposed to be a haven for most photographers. It was quite interesting but I didn’t enjoy it that much coz it was so freakin’ hot and the sun was shining TOO brightly. Kuya Jhom told us that a 16-year-old girl tried cliff jumping in there before. She survived. I almost wanted to try it too coz it wasn’t that high. But the waves were too strong and I felt like I might hit a rock or something. Plus, I needed a life vest coz I cannot swim. T_T
FOURTH STOP: Wonderful Cave
Now this is where things got more interesting and way more fun. We thought Kuya Jhom was joking when he said that ‘Wonderful Cave’ belongs to his family. Apparently, it was true. When we reached the cave, he started telling us the ‘history’ of the cave. His late father was just walking around and shooting rocks (with a slingshot) at random rocks. That’s when he discovered the cave underneath some huge pile of rocks. There was actually a bit of a family feud over the ownership of the Wonderful Cave and the Enchanted Cave. The latter was owned by Kuya Jhom’s grandmother and from what I understood; they were claiming that the former was also their property.
Once again, we had the cave all to ourselves so we swam for a quite a while. I didn’t want to get out of the water. The water was so clear, bluish-greenish, cool and almost magical. You could see the rocks at the bottom. Since none of us could swim, we decided to just stay by the roped area because it was only 3-4 feet. The middle part, past the roped area, was 8 feet deep. After waddling, and attempting to float, around the water for almost 30 minutes, we decided to leave… with a heavy heart. I really didn’t want to go because it was so relaxing. I wanted to have my own cave too. Haha! There was another cave nearby but there was no water. It was more like the kind of cave where you could go spelunking… and probably get eaten by a horde of deformed cannibals. LOL. We were told that a variety of birds lived inside that cave.
FIFTH STOP: Enchanted Cave
Unlike the Wonderful Cave, this one is bigger and more developed. There were lots of areas that you could take pictures of before reaching the majestic cave. I found it interesting that most if the huge rocks around the place were actually giant corals. They were proof that Bolinao used to be underwater thousands of years ago. While we were walking around with our tour guide, a cute kitten kept on following us and photobombing in our pictures. Haha! The cave was bigger and more developed than the Wonderful Cave, albeit the lights were dimmer. It was difficult to take proper pictures even with our cam’s flash.
OH YEAH. We had the place to ourselves again. It felt like our own, private underground pool. Haha! This one was much deeper so we had to hold on to the ropes on the side to be able to go around. You don’t need to worry coz there’s a lifeguard standing by in case of emergency. I wanted to see the other side but it was a bit difficult to get through the huge coral rock so we just stayed there and took lots of selfie. Haha. The best part of this was taking pictures underwater. Haha! I thought it wasn’t that hard but I was dead wrong. We had to smile while holding our breath and I realized that I couldn’t hold my breath without making the ridiculous puffer fish face. LOL.
While I was struggling to keep my eyes open, hold my breath and smile at the same time, Ayen was calmly and perfectly smiling beside me – with her freakin’ dimples showing! WTF. After many attempts, wherein I swallowed half a liter of water, we finally stopped. Some tourists arrived and our lunch was ready so we decided, with a heavy heart, to get out of the water.
Although the food was quite delicious, we thought the serving didn’t justify the price. We thought it was kinda overpriced.
SIXTH STOP: Balingasay River
There was nothing much to see here, unless you’re going to take the ‘boat tour’. It was known as the cleanest river in the province and one of the cleanest in the Philippines. The serene green waters and the line of mangroves by the riverbank were a bit enticing. I wanted to lie down on a boat and give in to my stupor. Haha! We were told that the water from the river flows through the waterfalls. Our tour guide told us that during summer, there is a floating restaurant here and we could take a boat tour while waiting for our order.
SEVENTH STOP: Bolinao Waterfalls
I’ve visited about 4 waterfalls before and they were all fantastic. This one was probably the cleanest and biggest. The water was very cool and clear. It was like the water from the cave. We couldn’t take a dip into the first waterfalls because it was 20-feet deep. Even if I could swim, it would still be scary because of the rush of water. We went to the second waterfalls. This time, there were more than a dozen people swimming so we didn’t have the place to ourselves. They all seemed like locals, though. We spent a bit of time walking around the area, trying to find a spot with a shade. It was just too hot for us. It was a bit difficult to waddle around even though it was not too deep because there were slippery coral rocks underneath and one wrong step could hurt us.
After a while, we transferred near the falls coz that spot seemed cozy. Hehe. I saw some guys jumping off the falls and I wanted badly to jump off too. One of the guys was talking us into jumping, saying that it was okay since we rented a floating tube. I was almost convinced to do it and I wanted to tell him to wait for me down there and hand the tube once I emerge from the water. But Ayen was a bit uncertain coz we might hit some rocks down there. I was also scared but I thought this was a once in a lifetime chance. I won’t be able to do it again. In the end, I didn’t jump coz the guy already left and nobody was there to save me. T_T
Hiking towards the waterfalls and climbing up and down those caves drained our energy. After another long and bumpy ride back into town, we stopped by Bolinao Grill for an early dinner. Something on the menu instantly caught our eyes.
P500 for ALL of that? Hell yeah~ Haha! It was the most satisfying meal we’ve had since we arrived here. And it wasn’t overrated OR overpriced. LOL.
After a long day, we went back to Rock Garden Resort to shower and get some rest. There was actually something creepy about the place at night. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that aside from our next door neighbors, we were the only guests there. And there were some unidentified drunk guys loitering around and attempting to strike a conversation with us. We were a bit wary and uncomfortable before going to bed.
The next day we got up early and looked around the mini-zoo while waiting for our breakfast. The only problem here was the beach was not ‘swimmable’. It was too rocky and seaweed-y. Haha! So we paid for the accommodations here, not the beach. Hehe. We ate breakfast by the beach and then went kayaking! Yep. We were supposed to check out by noon but the fun was not yet over for us. 🙂
It was, yet, another first for me. I’ve always wanted to go kayaking and I finally did it. Albeit, the water was not wild and running, it was calm. Actually, the water didn’t seem like ocean water. There were no waves. It was just like a calm river. Luckily, Ayen was ‘well-trained’ in kayaking so we had a bit of training before going into the water.
It was easier than I thought and the paddle wasn’t that heavy. After doing it for a while, though, my arms started to hurt. Haha. I kinda thought it was a great upper arm exercise. Hehe. We didn’t stray far away from the beach coz we were both scaredy cats. Haha. Au tried it next and Ayen had to go with her coz she was also a first timer. After taking a shower and packing up, we got ready to leave.
The only thing left to do was to buy pasalubongs. I honestly didn’t know what to buy. I’ve always thought that traveling is the only me time that I have – the only time that I can be selfish – so I don’t buy that much pasalubong whenever I travel. I just bought the famous dried and salted fish – danggit and the rice cake cooked in bamboo—binunguey.
^ I’m just fascinated with turtles. 🙂
I’m not gonna talk about the trip back home coz it was too exhausting and extremely infuriating. I thought it would be smoother and shorter since it was a Monday and not many people are going to Baguio. I was wrong. We waited for more than an hour for a van but it didn’t come so we had to take the bus. The traffic jam in Dagupan was just terrible. I fell asleep and woke up so many times but we were not yet there. It made me wish we had a car and that I could drive. Haha.
Visiting all those phenomenal places in Bolinao made me realize one thing. I should either get swimming lessons or invest in a life vest or a life buoy. Or maybe bring my own life guard. Haha! I really really wanted to take the plunge in the waterfalls or dive in the clear waters of the cave. But I couldn’t. T_T This trip also opened my eyes to the natural and breathtaking beauty of nature. I wonder why people feel the need to destroy and vandalize such wonders. I’m lucky that I was able to see them before they become too commercialized and sullied by inconsiderate tourists.