ANAWANGIN, Zambales – The bus ride to San Antonio, Zambales took 3 hours. We had expected it to last 2 more as advised by the travel organization, but the roads must have been empty after midnight.
In San Antonio, we bought ingredients for our meals from the public market. Only a few stalls were open at 3:30 AM, but fresh fish and meat were already available. We carried our stuff to the front of the municipal hall, where numerous groups of tourists were waiting. My heart started to sink as I never liked traveling to crowded places. I resolved to have a good time anyway and enjoy the company of friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.
Our tricycle arrived and we made the Php 120, 30-minute trip to Barangay Pundaquit, the jump-off point to Anawangin and to Zambales’s other coves and islands. We had a good laugh when we saw that our ride was a small boat used by local fishermen.
I wondered if we would all fit in. There were the 4 of us, 2 boatmen, the wife and son of our Anawangin contact, plus our backpacks and food. By the time we all got in, half of the boat was submerged in the water. Exciting!
It felt good to be at sea again, and to watch our boat cut through the calm waters. Since the sky was just beginning to wake, the sea hadn’t quite picked up on the colors yet and appeared to be black.
We passed by parts of Mt. Pundaquit, gently rolling hills that looked like they could be scaled in less than an hour. Jagged clumps of rocks littered the sea, just beyond the mountainous shores. It was a landscape unlike any that I’ve seen in the country.
Tourists already occupied half of the campsite by the time we arrived in Anawangin, but there was still plenty of space inland. I marveled at the unusual sight of pine trees, whose seeds were brought here by the volcanic ash from Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption. I soaked in our almost deserted surroundings as I knew this would change in a few hours.
We set up camp. Our 50-gallon drinking water, leaking tents, cooking utensils, and round-trip boat ride (including Capones Island) were part of the travel outfit’s P750-per-person deal. Not bad.
Our friend, whom we christened “Chef Papa,” began to prepare our big brunch of adobo, grilled fish and eggplant, mango-and-tomato dip, and rice. After gobbling up our delicious meal and helping wash our plates, I checked out the beach.
The beach and the rain
There were already quite a number of people enjoying the cool waters. Jet skis and motorboats could be found on the north side of the cove.
As the morning wore on, the sand became warmer. Aside from the pine trees, Anawangin’s shore sets it apart from other Philippine beaches. It is made of white sand and volcanic ash and easily shifts with the strong currents.
I made my way back to our camp when it started to rain. Close to a hundred campers had already settled beneath the trees.
What began as a drizzle developed into a downpour. I snuck into one of our tents, intending to take a nap like the others. But the chance to relive a childhood memory had me going out again and standing in the rain. A silly smile tugged at my lips as I watched the tops of the pine trees welcome the cool shower. A large group of campers began to cheer.
I walked towards the beach, sat on the sand, and watched the raindrops hit the sea. All was right with the world!
When my friends woke up, we took a dip in the beach. I didn’t dare try the strong currents alone as my swimming skills were close to none. The water felt absolutely refreshing. In all my orange-life-vest glory, I floated worry-free amid the restless currents.
Just before sunset, we decided to climb the hill on Anawangin’s south side. I thoroughly enjoyed the easy trek going up. The views were fantastic.
No quiet camp
In the evening, we feasted by candlelight on Chef Papa’s tasty nilagang bangus and grilled pork chops. We sucked on the yellow mangoes that my friends called tsup-tsup as we swapped funny stories triggered by the way the campers around us behaved. One group kept a chorus of, “Happy birthday to you!” every time the celebrant squealed, “Birthday ko!” Other campers kept a chorus of English swear words that my friend wondered if they even knew what they were saying.
The campers became rowdier as the night deepened. People played loud music and, later, someone started videoke. Some flashed disco lights across the trees that we at first thought to be fireflies.
Bad, bad campers
I used one of the 4 (bucket) shower rooms and discovered that the campers didn’t know how to dispose of their trash properly. The toilets were strewn with tissue paper, shampoo sachets, and sanitary napkins. There were no garbage bins inside the toilets, but there were two right outside.
It was the same in the beach the next morning. I took a stroll at dawn and felt horrified at all the plastic cups on the shore. I snatched a plastic bag from the sand and filled it with all the cups and wrappers I saw while walking. It reminded me of another trip in the Cordilleras, when a fellow volunteer and I found our hands full of plastic trash as we hiked up from a vegetable farm. Could we really be this careless and uncaring?
Back at our camp, the rumbling sound of the wind as it hit the treetops brightened my mood. The sound had awakened me before dawn, and I had groggily concluded that there was a tsunami crashing through the campsite. Thankfully, I was wrong.
My friends’ attitude also cheered me up. It’s heartening to be with conscientious travelers who were mindful about preserving the environment.
Anawangin is an idyllic getaway. But whether future travelers will get to enjoy this cove depends on how much those that came before them respect its natural beauty. – Rappler.com
(If you’re planning an overnight stay in Anawangin, Rico of Zambales can arrange the boat, drinking water, cooking utensils, and tents for P650 per person. Contact him at 0928-9308980. Come on weekdays if you want to avoid the crowd. RAPPLER wants to hear about your summer adventures. Email us your story with photos with subject heading SUMMER ADVENTURE at email@example.com. Join us in RAPPLER tomorrow at 4pm for a live tweet discussion at #SaveTheTrees. Let’s make every day Earth Day!)
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