[PH Travel] The aquamarine waters of WestNuk

Randolf Delos Reyes

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A backpacker happily takes his skepticism back

A SECRET UNRAVELED. WestNuk beach hides beneath the 'layer' of NAPOCOR Resort Village, but it's worth discovering. Photo by Randolf delos Reyes

MANILA, Philippines – The great thing about backpacking is that it allows you to discover places that are not yet in travelogues and maps. Like an explorer out to conquer a new frontier, one learns to follow the primordial sense of instinct to chase modern-day Shangri-Las and El Dorados. 

It was instinct that drew me to join a crew of 11 to validate news of aquamarine waters and fine sandy beaches 4 to 5 hours from the metro. (This is) a fair enough sacrifice since I won’t have to suffer the arduous rituals involved in sea and air transit; slow and stress-free is the best way to travel, I say.

My logic was going against my instinct. Since I spent my childhood in Subic, I grew up with the idea that the Olongapo-Zambales-Bataan area had its share, yes, of beaches — so-so beaches. Beaches I really loved as a kid became the subject of inside jokes in my family as we explored and experienced other beaches in the country.

My definition of a “so-so beach” is this: rough sand, itchy water, and over-rated coastline.

What’s in a name?

There was something unsettling about the name of the resort — NAPOCOR Resort Village — and the fact that it is owned by NAPOCOR. So, snorkeling gears and backpacks piled at the back of our van, we set out for Morong, Bataan. We departed from Alabang, Muntinlupa City at around 4:45 AM, hopeful but devoid of any expectations. 

Our van driver knew the quickest way to Bataan; without even realizing it, we were past NLEX and approaching the famous WWII memorial, the “Dambana ng Kagitingan.” We spent a few minutes at the memorial, remembering fallen heroes. It was then that we realized the reason for the traffic we were experiencing: it was April 9, “Araw ng Kagitingan.”

Conversations about the Death March filled the first part of our journey as we headed to our first stopover, a quick pit stop at the Balanga City Market to shop for our overnight stay provisions.

The Balanga City Market is highly notable for one thing: it is a very clean and dry public market, an oddity I am both thankful for and envious of. As with almost all provincial public markets, the produce and meat are fresh, the people are friendly, and haggling is an accepted sport. 

THE WATER BECKONS. WestNuk's waters can mesmerize — if not hypnotize. Photo by Randolf delos Reyes

Energy conservation

Most of our road time from then on was spent in silence, due to hunger and the great Holy Week heat that was slowly defeating our AC. We were scheduled to stay at the NRV or the NAPOCOR Resort Village. We found it to be a very quiet, relaxing place that had a laid-back ’70s feel to it. The guesthouse we stayed in, Unit C21, had 3 large bedrooms, 2 baths (one had a tub), a spacious living area, and a large kitchen.

Did I forget to tell you about the creepy maid’s quarters? So much for the Death March ghost stories.

As the hungrier half of the group started for the kitchen, I took the time to walk around NRV and look for the facilities mentioned in their website. I found them neatly clumped together in a recreational center of sorts.

Knowing that the cooking won’t be done in another hour and a half, I changed into my swimming clothes (which means I took off my shirt), took a shower, and applied sunblock. Ten minutes after, I jumped into NRV’s “Olmypic-sized” swimming pool and immediately fell in love with the not-so-highly-medicated water and the early noon sun.

Discovering WestNuk

It was the sort of love that got betrayed because of something prettier.

The 20-minute drive after lunch to the bejewelled beach of lore involved a face-to-face meeting with Bataan’s Nuclear Reactor, and a glimpse of WestNuk (West of the Nuclear Plant) beach. 

WestNuk is a beach spanning two or 3 kilometers of a U-shaped coastline flanked by volcanic boulders on the seaward-jutting portions of the cove. There were just 3 other groups that day and not a lot of visitors were expected to arrive, so we had the whole cove to ourselves. 

The beach was clean and well-maintained. The sand, off-white to yellowish with a fine powdery feel. There were cabanas, cottages, and huts; sections for tents were set up. WestNuk was clearly a beach with everyone in mind.

What really drew me in was the clear blue-green seawater. Postcard-worthy beach rumors now verified, I wasted no time trying out the water myself. Swimming until I was chest-deep, I could still see the beach floor. I got inspired, headed back to our cottage, and grabbed my snorkeling gear.

MUCH TO DO. Quiet beach, clean water, privacy. All you'll ever need to enjoy a beach. Photo by Randolf delos Reyes

I was not disappointed. I saw schools of fish, burrowers, a long goby, bleached soft corals, and one three-tentacled clear-bodied organism I assumed was a jellyfish.

We ended the night with rounds of drinks and Poi, giving our overnight stay the festive climax our instincts told us to.

Lesson learned from this trip: undiscovered places yield treasures to worthy seekers, to those who still know the language of instinct. – Rappler.com 

(RAPPLER wants to hear about your travels and adventures around the Philippines. Email your story and photos with subject heading PH Travel to desk@rappler.com.)

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