a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sta. Cruz, Zambales Weekend

Last weekend, I was set to go on another mini backpacking trip to the farthest point in Zambales – with one of my oldest friends – Bitchay. It’s been a while since we went out on a trip and I was really excited. Everything was set. I had already booked a resort – actually I practically begged the girl from the resort to give us a room. They only had 5 rooms and were fully booked that weekend but she told me she’ll call me again when they have a cancellation. I told her we can sleep in a tent. Me and Bitchay even prayed together so that we can have a room. Thursday morning, I received a text from the resort and they told me they had a cancellation! Yay! Answered prayer!



I even bought sunblock and chips in advance. Friday morning, I received a text message from Bitchay saying she couldn’t make it because she had to bring her mom to the doctor. I cannot argue with that. Family comes first right? So there I was, set to go on a summer adventure with no company just when I was not in the mood to go solo. I frantically coordinated with other friends to check if they were available. Most of those I talked with had already made plans.


Around 9PM, I had already accepted my fate to be alone that weekend. I went to the mall to buy an easy read book. Around 10 PM, while browsing the selection in Powerbooks (there was a midnight sale so Megamall was still open), I received a text from another close friend – Anne. She told me that she can go! Wohooo! I had company! Another answered prayer! Anne is a friend of the family. We went to the same high school and we met because both our parents were members of the Couples for Christ. We became closer because we liked the same guy – another friend of the family who we both saw at the church and we would both freeze every time we see him. Hahaha! Back then, we were both thinking that that guy was the right one for us and we even talked that if one of us gets that guy, we would be happy for each other. That mad crush went on for 5 years I think. It was infatuation. None of us could barely talk to that guy with a straight face because we were both shy around him. Just last year, Anne told me that the guy had already tied the knot. Aw, our love story had ended before it even began. Anyway, me and Anne had both moved on and now we have new crushes! Hahaha!


I haven’t actually seen Anne in months. The last time I saw her was in the debut party of her cousin. I was really excited. It would be the first time Anne and I went backpacking together. Actually, me, her brother Abbie and I are really close and the three of us are always together back when our family still lived in the south. Me and Abbie were jogging buddies and we used to do our morning run every weekends either in SM Southmall or in BF.

Okay I talk too much. On with the trip story…

Anne and I met at Victory Liner in Pasay at 3:30 AM Saturday morning. We boarded the Olongapo bound bus and it left around 4:10 AM. The ticket was around 191 pesos – one way. We could have met in Caloocan for a direct trip to Sta. Cruz but Pasay is near where we lived.


Before 8:30 AM, our bus finally made it to Olongapo. There, we had a quick breakfast at KFC, near the terminal. We also bought some last minute supplies in the grocery near Chowking.


From Olongapo, we rode in one of the mini buses fronting Mercury Drugstore headed for Sta. Cruz (if you're in a hurry, don't take this one!).  I haven’t tried the mini bus going to Zambales and I thought it was really cute so we tried it out. It turned out to be a learning experience for us because the mini bus moves so slow! You can’t really trust it when you’re in a hurry.


We sat in the back for bigger leg room and space for our huge bags but we didn’t get any sleep because even if the mini bus moved slower than Victory liner it felt like we were going to get thrown out of the window whenever we pass by some curves. What was great about riding an ordinary bus is we get to appreciate the view more and the wind – even if it made me look like a witch. Before last weekend, the farthest point I’ve reached in Zambales was in Palauig – where Mt. Tapulao was. We climbed it last year. The view after Olongapo was refreshing. We saw lots of mountains, fields, rivers, some mangroves and we also past by several interesting bridges.



We arrived at our jumpoff - Bayto waiting shed a little after 12pm and we had lunch at a local eatery. Food was good but I didn’t enjoy it that much because it was pork. We tried the lechon paksiw. They didn’t serve fish so we bought tuna and ate it as a sidedish straight from the can.



We rode a tricycle from the Bayto waiting shed. From there, the resort was around 3 KM. We were very eager to see what was in store for us. The stuff we heard from people in the area weren’t encouraging. Whenever we tell them where we’re going, they   gave  us a strange looks that seemed to say – “why the heck would you go here, there’s nothing special in here.”… Well, I chose this destination because I was particularly intrigued with Sta. Cruz  for three reasons a. my officemate Jo Annie told me how pretty the shore of  Sta. Cruz was. Back when she was in HS..the shore had white sand and there were plenty of starfishes. b. There isn’t a lot of resources in the net about Sta. Cruz which got me more interested c. I enjoy going to remote places . With those valid and sane reasons, how can I resist myself from going to to Sta. Cruz?!


The tricycle drove deeper into a remote barrio – Barangay Sabang. We past by huge fields with lots of trees. The area was a bit remote. We didn’t see a lot of people or houses – just some signs pointing to the direction of Sea Sun.


I wasn’t really expecting much from the resort. I was informed by Ate Nelly that the resort is still under construction. The room we got was only for 600 pesos – a fan room which good for two and a common bathroom. I was definitely not expecting first class.


The tricycle entered a huge lot and I knew we had finally reached our destination. There was a construction going on the right side of the lot. We saw several small nipa huts. I told Anne that we might be sleeping in those since ours is a fan room. On the left side were rows of adorable concrete rooms. The place did look a little unfinished. Still a little dizzy from the 8 hours travel, I felt confused where to go. A girl emerges from a store and the flashpacker in me asked – “San po ang reception? (Where is the reception). She looked slightly surprised at my query. Then after several seconds, she politely said “Kayo po si Christine? Kanina pa po kayo hinihintay.” The  girl led us to our room. She was really warm and I instantly felt at home with the place. Even if it still needed some finishing touches, I knew it was a place where I can feel safe and peaceful.



She led us to a room with a small balcony and concrete walls. It was clean and smelled clean too. There was a sofa bed against a wall which looked soft and comfy. There was a table to place our bags and other stuffs, a table for kikay stuffs and another wooden table for whatever we want to place on it.


There also two monobloc chairs for hanging out in the balcony. The room was bigger than what I was expecting which was a huge relief because I have space issues. It was a humble setting. Cozy, clean and their staff are super nice. Yay!




Since the sun was high when we got there, we didn’t bother to check out the beach. We were so intent on getting a good sleep to recuperate from the long, bumpy but fascinating ride.



Well..me and Anne tried to sleep but I was having difficulty trying because the people next door left their music player on and it was really loud. The good thing about it was that they played okay music so it was tolerable. I dozed off for a couple of minutes.



We woke up around 3pm. It started to feel humid in the room. There was no tv to entertain us so we decided to go check out the beach.



I was excited. I had no idea what the beach looked like. The shore was less than 50 meters from our room so we only walked for a minute or so to get there. There was a beach entrance from the resort and we made our way outside the wooden gate.


A view of a quiet rural life welcomed us. Amazingly, there were some pine trees growing along with the coconut trees around the shore. There was also a mountain on the left side of the ocean. What I love most about the scene is the fact that there were only two groups of people in the water. I finally got my remote serenity.



The sand was black but surprisingly super soft! It felt like powder, I’m serious! We delightedly stomped our foot as we made our way to the water. There were several waves crashing against the shore and we wondered momentarily if it was safe to swim in there. The kids in the water were all playing happily by and after several seconds, we jumped in with them and it felt amazing! Though the water is not clear because of the dark sand, it felt really clean and not so salty. It felt like fresh water actually. We didn’t step on any stones either. The sand was really soft – not muddy soft. It was like stepping on powder.



The water really low too. We were already 20 feet from the shore and water hasn’t gone over my head.


We swam and jumped with the waves for around 3 hours. We also did some catching up. We were famished after our swim and we ate at the resort restaurant. We were the only ones who ate there since all the guests with private transpo had brought their own food.
We ordered pancit bihon, ham sandwich and calamansi juice. The pancit bihon serving was huge and we almost didn’t finish it. It was good. Price was similar to what they charge in hostels and I wished it was cheaper. Anyway, service was good as usual. I think there were only about two people in their staff but they’re both warm and friendly I couldn’t ask for more.

There isn’t much to do on the resort. There’s no tv either which was also a good thing because we went there to get a feel of the reclusive life even for just a day. We inquired about the snorkeling site which was advertised in their website. It’s supposed to be 50 meters from the shore. I learned from the caretaker that we’ll have to take a boat to get there. Boat rental is at 800 pesos. It could accommodate 4 people. It would have been better if we can share it with other people but since there were only two of us and we didn’t want to spend that much on a boat, we decided to wait for other groups we can join so we can split the expenses. The problem was, there aren’t a lot of people in the resort. Well, we weren’t going to pay that much for a boat either.



We turned in early after doing a little reading. The people in the next room were quite considerate and didn’t make a lot of noise.



Me and Anne woke up at around 5AM. Sun was beginning to rise and decided to gear up for another swim. I went outside to brush my teeth. The group who was beside our room were also up and they were talking about going to another island. Hmm..interesting. After brushing my teeth and fixing myself, I went out and asked them nonchalantly where else can we go. Luckily, they mentioned about the island again and I jumped it at the chance of joining their group. They were very accommodating and friendly and the best thing was that they agreed to let us on the boat with them. Yipee!



We’re off to Hermana Mayor! Me and Anne quickly ordered breakfast and packed our stuff. Before 8am, we joined the group on the shore at Sea Sun. We boarded with 3 other people and 4 other people were on a separate boat.





After 45 minutes, our boat docked on a pristine private island owned by the Hernandez family. Luckily, the person managing the island wasn’t there, else, we were told that we wouldn’t be allowed to go there. We were told that the manager is really a nice guy but he’s security conscious. Well, I would be too if my clan is that wealthy.




For about three hours, me, Anne and our new acquaintances, a barkada from Rizal, swam happily in the ocean. The boatman informed us that we were near Potipot island which is also nice. I’ve heard of the place but Hermana Island sounds more interesting. They also call it the Ms Universe island because the 1979 Ms Universe pageant candidates had their pictorials here. I didn’t know that, I just read it from the internet. Hehehe!




The sand is almost white, similar to the sand you see in aquariums but not as rocky.








Water is so clear, it’s like swimming in a pool. We saw tons of small fishes – like dilis in the water and some corals. Well, on the way to the island, we also passed by a coral reef and it looked really interesting but we didn’t get to stop because me and Anne were the only ones with goggles.



We got back around lunch time and after bathing and eating, we prepared to leave for Bo. Barretto in Olongapo. I told Anne about the jumbo tacos in The Coffee Shop along the national highway and she was so intrigued because she loves tacos. I severely missed their frozen iced tea too so I wanted to go back there.

We arrived in Bo. Barretto after 2pm. Surprisingly, I saw some people from work! Hehehe!We ate the tacos. It’s really not that good but it’s so huge, it’s just something you need to try. I was happy with the frozen iced tea. Thank God they still serve it.

After that, we headed straight to Olongapo for another 3 ½ bus ride back to Manila. The line was quite long and we waited for 30 minutes for the ticket. It would have been faster if Victory Liner had a machine for ticketing or something. Their staff has to write on each ticket for the bus details. I feel for them. It’s so difficult to write all day! What I love most is that, their conductors and ticket people are friendly, what sucks though is the ticketing which makes it hard to purchase tickets on holidays and peak seasons. Anyway, aside from my angst on the ticketing system, I can say it was a successful weekend. I got what I want. Serenity, freedom from noisy tourists, finally reached Sta. Cruz, swam in the beach, saw some fishes, ate lots of food, did a lot of catching up with Anne, experienced a bit of culture and most of all, I got the recharge I needed to face another hectic work week.
Oh, here's the contact information of Sea Sun. Ate Nelly told me the resort would be finished by September or something so I would defintely go back there.
0921 641 8783 - Nelly
Sea Sun Resort
Brgy. Sabang, Sta. Cruz, Zambales
*you can also request her to get you a boat to take you to Hermana Island or Potipot.
Boat Rental is at 800 pesos - good for 4 people - Half Day
Whole Day - 1200 per boat

Sea Sun Rates:

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