Zambales has many beaches and coves to offer. One of the increasingly popular spots here is the Pundaquit beach, where you can swim, snorkel, island hop and sip a glass of fresh honey-lemon-cucumber drink. Cheers!
Two years ago, I’ve started seeing photos of the coves in Zambales as they became increasingly popular to local travellers.
“I hope to see it one day,” I thought.
And so I did during my cheap backpacking trip, but first a lazy beach day at Pundaquit.
We stink. I feel dirty from head to toe. Literally we are as our driver had been racing with the other 4×4 off-road vehicle drivers when they drove us back to the base in Santa Juliana in Tarlac from our short but sweet Mount Pinatubo trek. They didn’t care about their passengers getting showered by sulfur ashes anymore since our tour was over and they could get their share of the deal (or maybe they received it earlier).
As I prepare my new clothes before getting into the bathroom, I text my cousin and his wife if we could crash into their house for the night since they just live a few miles away from where we are. My friend and I are still not decided where to go next. We thought a day of full rest free of charge while scouting for a new destination would be nice. Well, not basically free for my friend as he cooks for us later on. We end up spending the night and the next day (seventh day of our backpacking trip around Luzon) in Capas, Tarlac.
After our sumptuous dinner with my cousins in Tarlac, my friend is looking for potential destinations. He thinks Zambales is a better choice over Bataan. I was really hoping the latter because there are more waterfalls there. On this trip, somehow he’s the boss.
Note: A special “thank you” shout-out to my cousins for accommodating us.
We’ve just taken our seats on the bus when I suddenly feel sad…really down, tears almost dropping down my cheek that Sunday afternoon. The whole bus ride from Tarlac to Pampanga then to Zambales feels like a slow, long, almost painful escort to the cemetery. I realise we only have a week left – I’m not ready to go home yet. 🙁 There’s a strange yet exciting feeling of being around new places without seeing familiar people or anyone who’ve known you for years. There’s just total freedom in travelling. I’ve learnt that you’re not only finding places and new things but also discovering more about yourself. Also, admittingly, I’m gonna miss this tall, white monkey sitting next beside me.
We arrive on the proper town of San Antonio around past six. Surprisingly, there are some tourists, including foreigners about to leave the area. I can tell for the obvious fact that backpacks are the new travel IDs these days.
“Hmm, maybe Zambales is not that bad after all,” I assumed, hoping for a more exciting adventure.
It only takes a quick glance before we find a small restaurant that offers good combo meals (veggie, meat & rice plus a glass of soda) for only 50 PhP ($1). Since our destination is on the beach, it may be hard to find a good dining place.
After our dinner, we hire a tricycle to take us to Pundaquit beach, which is around 20 minutes away from the proper town. It’s already dark. As we go further there aren’t many vehicles passing through. In the middle of the road is a checkpoint where you have to pay for an environmental fee (supposedly for the maintenance of the beach) and sign in.
We have a small dispute with the tricycle driver as he over charged us but quickly resolve when we arrive at the parking lot of one of the beach resorts. Sigh. Some people just abuse it whenever the customer is a foreigner.
Looking for a room to rent is what we need to do next. We never went to a hotel or resort throughout our backpacking trip. Why should we opt now?
We exit through the beach and start searching for a cheaper option. It’s past eight already and we’re still searching. My friend, being picky of course, wants the lowest, until we find one that’s only 500 PhP ($10) a room per night.
The next morning, our itchy feet cannot handle the thrill anymore. Right after breakfast, we stroll around the beach. It’s a very beautiful, sunny day. The sun glazes in the blue sky despite the scorching heat I feel on my skin. I would not mind stretching my legs and walk over a mile along the sandy area of the beach.
“This is a dirty beach,” my friend is apparently annoyed seeing those thick heaps of seaweeds.
“They should hire and pay people (locals) to clean up. It’s messy,” he continues.
I agree, after all we paid for an environmental fee.
We continue walking up the beach. We pass by a group of family who are playing around, having fun. There are more beach resorts here but people swimming at the beach are nowhere in sight. I kinda like it that it’s becoming empty and quiet as we go further.
Back to where we are staying is totally the opposite. It’s loaded with parked pumpboats in various sizes and colours. Some are only good for 5 to 8 passengers, others can accommodate up to 15 or even more. I think there are too many boats, both for tourists and for fishing. But like most beach areas in the Philippines and considering Pundaquit is now a new must-see destination, boat rental is a great avenue for my fellow Filipinos to generate extra income, or to some it’s probably the only means of sources so they can feed and support their family.
Apart from the presence of a surprisingly big crowd from pupils to vendors to local residents to tourists, you can hear constant music and off-key singings via the “karaoke” machine. Welcome to the Philippines everybody.
I know it’s still early but it’s too hot. I’m feeling exhausted. We decide to take an hour or so to rest. My friend wants us to swim but I don’t fancy it at all. Probably because I realise how dark I am now. This has been my most tanned skin as far as I can remember. He goes to the beach by himself.
I’m left alone (or at least I feel that way because I see no one else around although I hear a bit of noise somewhere close by) but I have an idea of what to do to indulge myself.
I spread my blue beach blacket on the sand. I lie down placing my head and back as comfortable as I can. Take the pocket wifi and phone out of my pink tote bag. A minute later I find enjoyment hearing the voice of Jeff Probst and watching how the castaways continue to deceive and lie through the screen of my phone under the shade of a pine-looking tree. There’s no way I’d miss Survivor this week. With the Capones Island and Camara Island in the background, Pundaquit beach instantly becomes the perfect location for my favourite TV show viewing party. Too bad, Malcolm is voted off the island on this episode of the Game Changers. 🙁
My friend comes up out of the water. We chill for a moment before going further and see more of the seaside.
There are still no people around. Just resorts and houses that seem empty. My eyes zoom in the nylon mesh hammocks. There’s two of them. Great!
Without hesitation, we lie on the hammocks and laze around. I have no idea what time is it, but one thing I know – I love a quiet moment like this.
Since there’s nothing much to do, staying here for as long as we want is the plan for the meantime. I get up to set my camera and record a time-lapse video of the beach.
It’s going well and too quiet, until we hear the sound of motorbikes.
Slightly startled as soon as I see two women, a man and a little girl coming our way since we’re technically trespassing, we immediately get up and sit on the big and thick concrete fence. It was empty earlier and seemed abandoned. Other than the hammocks, the place has tables, benches and an enclosed storage room where you can buy some snacks. They unlock the door and open windows. I go to check out what they have as I start feeling thirsty. I want some cold soda but only packed orange and apple juices are available. I buy one for myself and another for my friend.
It’s lunch time so we head back. We can have the rest of the afternoon just chilling.
It doesn’t feel romantic or crazy looking at the sun sets out of the horizon. But it’s still a beautiful view. With the boats in silhouette, somehow this picture reminds me of Vietnam, which I still have to see.
The Ohana Art Cafe intrigued us since last night. Seashells, flowers and throw pillows on display, who wouldn’t want to check it out? We passed by this place this morning looking for some good breakfast. Read their menu. It’s crazy expensive for a small place like that so we skipped. However, I knew I wouldn’t leave Pundaquit without a taste of their smoothie. And tonight is the night that’s gonna happen. We decide to go there for some drinks after dinner before we call it a day.
The honey-lemon-cucumber smoothie is heaven! As we sip our drinks, my friend and I are beating each other playing the Connect 4 game (they have chess boards too). We are trying to relax as the evening goes on. Tomorrow’s a big day – go hiking and hopefully reach the Anawangin Cove in one piece.
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When commuting from Manila, take a bus that goes to Iba or Santa Cruz, Zambales (both usually pass by Subic, Zambales). Stop on the proper town of San Antonio, Zambales. It takes around 3.5 to 4 hours to reach San Antonio.
If commuting from northern provinces, take a bus en route to Manila (such as Partas, Dominion, Florida, Fariñas) that stops by at the terminal in Dau, Mabalacat. Take another bus that goes to Iba or Santa Cruz from that same terminal. There are also buses that head to Subic as the main destination, but you should get to another bus again or jeepney that passes by San Antonio.
For private vehicles, take Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway or SCTEX whether you’re coming from Manila or norther provinces. Head straight to Angeles City or San Fernando (shorter) in Pampanga, and then follow the highway going to Subic and then San Antonio.
Travel Apps: Google Maps/Navigation, Waze
For more information on how to get there, click here.
Other than clothes of your choice, a phone and a DSLR/action camera, these items come in handy:
- sunscreen protection
- snacks & water
- first aid kit
- life vest/jacket
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