Bolinao in Pangasinan is becoming a new popular destination in Luzon. It offers fine sand beaches, waterfalls, private pool caves and a lighthouse. We stayed at Patar beach and found the Wonderful Cave to be more than wonderful (wink, wink).
*This is day 5 of my two-week cheap backpacking post series.
After an hour long of searching and negotiating, we’ve agreed to stay at a small, front-beach bungalow for 600 pesos (US$12) a night – thanks to that petite lady who was considerably kind. A room for rent is usually 1,500 pesos per night but my friend was persistently asking for a lower price, almost convinced he’s that natural talent. I added arguing that we’re able to get a 700-peso room in Pagudpud, which is even a more popular destination than anywhere in Bolinao (no pun intended). Imagine my relief when we finally settled in as it’s been a very long two days travelling around the Blue Lagoon, the Kabigan falls, and the Hundred Islands without sleep.
Patar beach is gradually becoming a hot spot “nearby Manila”. Ironically, it is quite far-flung situating northwest of Pangasinan. Specifically located in Bolinao, which is almost 22 miles away from Alaminos, take a jeepney or bus and you’d get there in forty to forty-five minutes depending on how fast the ride is. We started the route past five in the afternoon and it was the last bus of the day I think. There were plenty of stops because a lot of the passengers seemed to be going home from either work or school. Upon reaching the proper town*, we called a tricycle and was charged 150 pesos ($3), it’s normally 200 pesos ($4). Although it took longer than expected, we’re able to catch the magnificent sunset.
*Patar beach is 8.26 miles away from the Bolinao market/municipal hall.
I was surprised to see a crowded beach. I thought I’d only see locals. Some of the people, mostly as a family, were having a good time swimming and others doing an easily translated vacation habit (Guess? Yes, a selfie).
“They’re lesbians, aren’t they?” My friend noticed two teenage girls closely hugging each other as they’re taking selfie photos by the beach water in front of us.
“Nah, they’re just best friends, that’s very common here,” I argued.
“No, look at them,” he insisted as they continued fondly fooling around in the water. I think he found pleasure watching them.
When the sun vanished below the horizon, we went and looked for a place to stay in so we could finally get some good night sleep.
We washed our clothes used within the first four days the following morning. I wasn’t really looking forward to anything fun today. The idea of visiting this destination didn’t excite me in the first place – don’t ask me, I don’t know why.
We started the day finding a nice place to have breakfast until our feet lead us to Treasures of Bolinao Beach Resort and Hotel where we ordered two glasses of milkshake. My friend opted for mango and I chose watermelon. It tasted good and refreshing. The platter of sliced fruits wasn’t available so we only had drinks as everything in the menu is quite expensive.
The resort is very close to the main Patar beach. It’s only separated by block walls and steel gates. We exited through one of the gates by the corner. Although it’s nothing close to the turquoise water and pure white sand of Kalanggaman Island, this place offers a natural charm. I just wish there were fewer people. Regardless, the view is something you can add to your travel photo collage.
A young girl carrying a wooden box of “Bolinao” printed keychains was offering me to buy some. I asked if I could get one piece as she was selling six keychains for one price. I don’t need more than one for my memorabilia.
After I paid, a boy also approached us holding a few “suman sa kawayan” (rice cake in bamboo). Locals call it “binungey” (I just Googled, ha). It was soft and remarkably delicious, especially if mixed with some caramel sauce.
We hung out at the beach for another ten minutes. A couple of the locals offered us a tour of the island and lighthouse nearby, but we declined. My friend thought neither were worth seeing.
It’s still early but it was getting hotter. We wanted to see one or both of the caves – Enchanted Cave and/or Wonderful Cave – so went back to the road to hire a tricycle but there wasn’t one available. After patiently waiting for about twenty minutes, a store owner by the curve side of the road called his tricycle driver so we could reach our desired destination. They were kind enough to charge us 50 pesos only – a result of our “please lower the price” persistence, of course.
The road is long and empty – only two or three vehicles passed by. We stopped somewhere I wasn’t sure of, except the fact that there are many resorts here and surprisingly not empty. My friend could only rely on Google map, whilst I count on his judgment and follow his steps.
He decided to see the beach of that area before heading to the cave. He went in the water and snorkel as I sat down on the beach-view stairway of one of the resorts.
It didn’t take long before he came back out of the water. There was nothing to see under I bet. I asked how it went and he said “nah” looking displeased. Well, the beach here isn’t as good as the Patar beach.
It was between ten-thirty and eleven when we began our walk toward the Wonderful Cave. Entering the cave that features a pool of water costs you 100 pesos ($2) without time limit. I had no idea that it’s privately owned. I tried asking for a discount from the old lady, who seemed to be alone at that time. No luck, but I understood her status.
The fact that there was nobody else except the two of us made me feel kind of stoked. We had the cave all to ourselves! From the top, the cave looked deep but you only have to endure twenty steps, or maybe less. It was dark at first but when the old woman turned the lights on, my eyes lit bright with more excitement. She went back to her house and gave us the privacy we needed.
Feeling the cool water through my skin was very refreshing. The water isn’t shallow but there’s a rope in the middle for support, which isn’t necessary as it ruins the view too. Regardless, it was a beautiful moment staying afloat in the water. Somehow, my thoughts gave me abstract flashes and magical feelings of what I’ve always wanted to do – just be away, experience new things and live in the moment. What I felt at that time was purely liberating.
For the next minutes, the place was totally quiet except for the ripples of water my friend and I were creating as we kept swimming in the shallow, cold water of the cave. It’s definitely a relaxing state to be in. If we weren’t hungry, we could have stayed longer.
There’s also a similar cave, the Enchanted Cave, but it’s bigger and more expensive (150 pesos). We thought there’d be more people so we decided to skip it. Plus, I don’t think I could redo what I just experienced at the Wonderful Cave.
We took another hour just exploring the beach nearby. We strolled here and there, then sat down on the sand every time we needed some break. There’s nothing much we could do than splurging on the priceless moment feeling the wind and heat brushing our skin at the same time. I can say that it wasn’t a bad day in Bolinao after all.
Our next stop? Trekking in Mount Pinatubo. See you there!