We found our white sand beach! After being here for several months and being disappointed in many of the beaches recommended to us, we finally found an area we LOVE!
We had the day off of work, so we decided to take a road trip, having always gone south on past trips we decided to go north to Zambales. The night before, I made sure I found all the beaches people recommended in the area and a bunch of historical sites to see—plan B—since we did not have much luck in the past with other beaches.
It took us awhile to get out of Manila, but when we did, the toll roads were great and in about an hour and a half, we were at Subic Bay. The drive was beautiful. Large spacious fields stretched into the distance and met majestic mountains that tickled the underside of the clouds. Small huts, houses and workers dotted the landscape as we drove. Every once in a while one of us would blurt out some version of, ‘this is gorgeous!’ The toll road between Angeles City and Subic Bay is well kept and there was NOBODY on it. I had to keep reminding myself we were in the same country as Manila! HA!
Subic Bay has several hotels and restaurants—one of which we ate at in the evening and would love going back—but neither of us were impressed with the beach. Due to its past with American military there are several white people walking around. All day Hiva would suddenly point and yell, “LOOK! A white person!” Like we were on some safari trying to spot unusual things! (Does she forget she lives with one? Haha). When I would laugh—because her unexpected outburst gave me an infusion of adrenaline—she would say innocently, “What? It’s been a while since I’ve seen so many in one place!”
We decided to go north. Beach after beach we would get our hopes up, yet we were continually let down. One resort had a full water park next to the beach, that actually looked pretty fun, but the beach was rocky and the water a bit brown. As we were walking to check it out, there was nobody else around (should have been our first hint) so the concierge walked over to us and kindly informed us that it cost 600Php ($15) a person to use the beach—YIKES. We pretended to look interested as we walked but really we were hunting down a way around the cement wall of the resort so we did not have to pass back through the lobby as we got in the car! One of the workers came out the front doors as we walked by I hissed to Hiva, “Hurry…they are coming!” We started to run/walk to the parking lot and jumped in as fast as we could as if we were going to be attacked. Smooth…I know.
We kept driving north into more rural area; passing several churches including some LDS chapels and many, many fields. These towns were so much fun to drive through. In many ways they all look the same: Tire shops with big tractor tires out front spray painted to say “Vulcanizing Shop;” Internet and karaoke bars; small food vendor and sari-sari stores out in front of their homes; and people come out of their brightly painted homes and loiter on the roadside to watch the traffic go by. Yet, they are all unique in so many ways. Cemeteries, especially, are different depending on where you are. One cemetery had a beautiful cliff side view of Subic Bay and was covered in cement grave tombs nicer than some people’s houses.
We arrived at the small town of San Antonio, which is well off the beaten path, but it has a beach so we looked for it. After asking for directions and driving through the maze of housing on the side streets we arrived at a fork, signs both ways for beach resorts. I chose the right and just around the corner our paved road ended and we were greeted by a dirt road with HUGE mud holes. This is why we drive an SUV! I went ‘mudding’ through them and about the fourth hole—big enough to swallow a sedan whole—I realized if we get stuck, there is really nothing I can do about it. Hmm…not really time for indecisiveness now; I am committed and reversing is not an option. We finally arrived at the beach, but we were at the privately owned beaches it was so beautiful we made our way back through the mud holes and took the left road. It was paved the whole way, so that was great however, a few rickety looking single-car bridges over rivers made the experience a bit unnerving. Boeing did so well, he never gave up!
We arrived at a small seaside village and were instantly greeted by a little boy that was 10 years old who told us he would guard our car and be our guide. He found us a guy with a banka to rent and we booked a trip to the islands about 4 miles off the coast into the South China Sea. ($20 So much better than the rocky beach and brown water) We helped them push the banka down the beach to the water and got it. It was just big enough for the three of us—about the size of a medium canoe, which made going over the breaking waves thrilling.
A small diesel engine propelled us forward over the rolling navy blue waves. It was bliss. I could not help but close my eyes (because spray off the front of the boat was hitting me in the face!) and raise my hands to feel the breeze and the sun and the fresh air.
The view from the ocean was breathtaking. The lush green mountainous region that nestles the small village has several water falls that tumble into the clear ocean. It hurts to think how naturally beautiful it was. About halfway to the islands I realized we were sitting in nothing more than a plywood tub that is held stable with two bamboo logs fastened to the boat with what appeared to be clear fishing line…hmm. The rest of the trip I continuously gaged the distance between the shore and the island to see which way was closer if we happened to capsize. Most of all I thought how crazy we were to bring the camera out here! Nightmares—or day/sea mares rather—of it floating to the bottom of the ocean haunted me.
But as we neared the island I forgot the “seamare” and was thankful we had the camera. It was…well you can see how it was.
We explored, swam, played in the black sand, skipped rocks, shells and anything else we could find, and just enjoyed ourselves. If we were on Gilligan’s boat hopefully we would land here. And have the camera be not be lost, of course.
When we returned to the village and all the men came out to help us pull the banka back up the bank. Our little guard motioned for us to follow him to the “boomba”, a hand pump used to pump water to the village, for us to shower in. (Of course he wanted money for doing it, but it was a nice gesture) I knew all the villagers were watching us through the cracks in their bamboo huts so I did not turn down the chance to shower. All I could think, as the sulfur smelling water cascaded over my head and down my body is, ‘I hope this well is clean…’ As the day ended we rolled down the windows and drove home. It was amazing the smell the fresh air and fragrance of green plants as we drove. The night animals and bugs chirping loudly as we drove and we were satisfied we found our white sandy beach at last.