A Weekend in A Zambales Paradise

Based from my camping experience in Anawangin Cove - December 1-2, 2007

Last weekend I got the opportunity to camp in one of the most beautiful place in the Philippines – Anawangin Cove. It’s tucked between two mountains along the shores of Iba, Zambales. The only sign of modern times are the people who camp along the area, the water pump and the toilets inside the caretaker's version of a restroom . There are no faucets, electricity, telephones and cellphone signal. You can go here for a weekend and literally disappear from the face of the planet. The island is accessible in two ways. The first and most common method is by hiring a boat from Pundakit Beach and asking the boat to pick you up at a designated time. Don’t worry because they really keep their commitment and they do come on time. The second one is by trekking your way to the cove from Pundakit beach, which would take you a minimum of three hours (that is if everyone in the group had enough exercise). Since our group comprised of three virgin campers, we opted to ride a boat.

Saturday morning

We left Olongapo at 4:30 AM via an ordinary bus bound for Sta. Cruz, Iba. The ride took about 45 minutes. Our group got off at the town of San Antonio and boarded two trikes for Pundakit beach. From the bayan, the trike ride is around 30-45 minutes.

The trike driver also offered to arrange a boat to take us to Anawangin Cove. We gratefully agreed and it turned out to be the worst decision, we took in the trip.

Based from my experience, I recommend that you make the boat arrangements with the people along the shore area. If a tricycle driver offers to organize it for you, it’s best not to take the offer. It’s easy to negotiate with the boatmen along the area anyway. It’s because the trike driver usually earns money from what you pay, therefore the price tends to be a little higher. I was only expecting to pay 700 pesos for 4 people based from the research I’ve done. I saw that boats are only around that price as of September 2007 but since we made a mistake of taking the trike driver’s offer – the price went up to 1000 pesos for 3 people. Since we were 6 in the group, we paid 2,000 pesos for 6 people – that’s for two small boats. We managed to negotiate a visit to Capones island with the 2000 peso fare so I guess it wasn’t so bad. The downside was waiting for the boat to get ready. Geez, we waited for 45 minutes before we boarded the boat. They even asked us to give a down payment of 300 pesos for gas. While waiting for the boat, Fernan tested his professional camera on us. We settled along the shore and admired the view. The waves along Pundakit were raging. It wasn’t that big but it looked strong enough for surfing.

After 45 minutes

When we boarded the boat, the fierce waves had not subsided. It was a bumpy boat ride which none of us mind because the view was amazing! It was unbelievable. All the negative vibes I had incurred because of the trike driver and having to wait for the boat slowly crept its way out of my system. Sitting in front, the ocean water kept splashing on me but I didn’t care. I loved it. We saw several islands and rock formations along the way. Everything looked so serene.

After another 45 minutes

As our boat approached Anawangin Cove, everyone had smiles up to their ears. The place is breathtakingly beautiful and unspoiled by capitalism. There were a lot of campers around, as in a lot, but the place is big enough for everyone. It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t have it for ourselves. Most of the people are quiet but occasionally, you would feel like throwing some people back to where they belong because they get rowdy.

We saw another group from work – Vince’ group. They invited us to set camp near their area. The previous spot we took had neighbor tents which were a bit too close for comfort so we gratefully accepted the offer. Our group composed of my close friends from work - Tina, Fernan and Olay (virgin campers) ; Glee (also from work but I’ve climbed with her in Manalmon) and Laurence non-work friend. He’s Glee’s SO –significant other, ndi pala sex object as I originally thought what SO meant, hahahaha). We were supposed to be 14 but batch two couldn’t make it (We missed you Paris).

After setting camp, we ate brunch. None of us had cook sets so we ate everything straight off the can. We had tuna, corned beef and sardines. There are no stores in Anawangin so it’s a good thing we brought ample supplies.

After a nap, we went swimming by the beach. We were told that there are baby sharks in the area but so far, there hadn’t been any attacks on humans. I love sharks but I’m also afraid of them so I didn’t dare swim far. There seemed to be a lot of sand in the area where we swam so the visibility isn’t so good.

After swimming, we decided to trek on the left side of the island. The mountaineer in me couldn’t resist climbing the mountain on the other side so me, Laurence, Glee, Fernan and Olay went up the unbeaten path. Since there was no trail, we created our own. I went first. The first part of the climb consisted of bouldering 15 feet from the ocean. There was no room for error because the mountain was quite

steep and our jump-off was filled with sand and pointed boulders. After we got through the rocks, there was a small area where you can view the cove and the vast area of ocean near it. Amazing! After taking some pictures, we proceeded to climbed higher. This time, Fernan went down to join his girlfriend Tina.

Grass was growing all over the place, so I carefully placed my foot on the ground before I put my full weight in to ensure that we don’t fall. The higher we went up, the better the view. We went as far as 15 feet away from the small summit but since the grass was very dense, we decided to head our way down. That is, after drinking strawberry daiquiri and eating potato chips. It was quite hot and I’m not sure which one was causing me slight dizziness – the wine or the heat, but I tried to ignore it and focus on our huge ordeal - how to get down. It would have been easier though very challenging to go down the same way we climbed up but none of us felt like going through the cliffs again so we tried to find a less steeper way. We were warned that there are wild tamaraws in the area that attack people so we were on the lookout for feces or any signs of them. At some point, I felt like giving up because I felt scared. We were creating our own trail and grass was everywhere. I was afraid of encountering snakes too but since there was no option to quit, I tried to forget my fears and focus – that and saying a prayer. I regained my composure soon and slowly, we were able to find our way down. Honestly, most of the time, I was on my butt because it was easier for me to feel the ground and remain balanced.

We saw a river where we got off and we congratulated ourselves for a great job. It was also Olay’s first climbing experience. We capped off our first climb with carabao dipping in the shallow river. It was so refreshing! After that, we ate again, took a nap and chilled.

The Second Climb

Our first climb lasted for just an hour so feeling unsatisfied, Me, Olay, Glee and Laurence decided to climb the right side of the cove. We discovered a little cave with some bats. Thank God bats are nocturnal! I saw some rocks near the cave which looked steady enough to climb and these served as our jump-off. It was steeper than the one we climbed on the left side of the cove. I was extra careful to watch my step because this time, I will get surely get killed for any mistake. Death and accident was not an option. I set my mind to cling for dear life (kinda irresponsible I know). Our jump-off was this rocky part of the ocean with aggressive waves. If I do get lucky and fell of the water, I will still get killed because my body will slam on the rocks.

Olay decided not to go and opted to trek along the rocky shore line. We agreed to meet on the other side. The first ten 20 feet consisted of bouldering. It was really more challenging than what we did earlier that day. I was scared but I love climbing more than I dwell on fear.

The trek was also scarier because the grass is taller and there are also some weird looking trees. The ground were we stepped on was unsteady and filled with more rocks. There was no sign of other animals which was good. We didn’t dare climb the summit because of the density of the grass. None of us brought any gear except our light packs which contained water, food and flashlight. Laurence led us on our way down. At one point, we ended up on a cliff because we couldn’t see anything due to the thick vegetation. Thank God we were pretty careful. When I noticed my legs hanging parallel to the ground, I quickly backed off on my butt. After trekking a few more minutes, we were finally able to descend the mountain.

We met with Olay on the other side. She told us that some locals who saw us trekking on the mountain (wearing a bright red shirt does pay off..hehehe) commented that not a lot of people venture on that part because it was too steep. Damn right it is! This side of the beach had a small shore and water filled with huge rocks so I guess this must be the spot where you can see corals and fishes.

We stayed in the area for 30 minutes then we headed down to the river to take a bath. Mother nature claimed my favorite goggles and I went back to camp feeling a little down.

A Mardi Gras Affair

The idea of having a Mardi Gras affair in Anawangin Cove came up when me and the rest of our so-called mountaineering org called ECOF (I’m too shy to tell you what it means) climbed Mt. Manalmon about two weeks ago. Me, Gay, Julienne and Glee agreed that we will have a themed socials night when we go to Anawangin Cove. It started as a joke which we ended up taking seriously. Unfortunately, our girlfriends Gay and Julienne couldn’t make it but we proceeded with the plan anyway. Me and Glee invited our friends from work and fortunately, they were up for a camping trip. We instructed them to wear colorful attires for the night and they agreed.

After dinner preparation, we started dressing up. Olay played some European music which we sang with – spewing words the way we hear it. We were sitted on a huge mat for our cold feast – tuna with skyflakes , Cadburry chocettes, tuna sisig, sardines, some wine, corned beef, canap├ęs. We were all in a relaxed, drunken mood (although none of us were really drunk), enjoying each other’s company.

Socials Night – After Dinner

It was a cold night and we were lying on the sand innocently stargazing by the beach when Vince came to us and invited us to join their gathering. We knew they were armed with hard alcoholic drinks and none of us were really up for it but when he mentioned they had lots of food and hot soup, we were all like “screw stargazing!”. They had a huge bamboo table set up on the sand and their foods looked yummy. There were 7 of them in the group. Aside from Vince, I knew Parky (Vince’ gf) and Ian because I climbed with them in Mt. Tapulao. The four others were people I met for the first time – Celia, Ron, Earl and Kim. All of them are experienced mountaineers and we were astounded with their gears. They were able to cook pasta, sinigang na baboy, sisig, rice, spiced salami. We were actually full but we ate some anyway. The drinking started. Ron was the tanggero. He also mixed the drinks. Honestly, I don’t enjoy drinking gin but just for the heck of it, we drank some. Their group was quite nice. They do tease us though for our novice camping equipment but we even find it funny ourselves. Actually, our tents are really novice but I’m proud of it. Me and Glee’s tent endured a 5 hour heavy rain but I know I couldn’t bring it on major climbs.

After what seemed like two hours, a lot of people were getting tipsy and tired so we called it a night. It was only 10:00 pm. Damn Ron.

Waking Up to A Beautiful Sunday Morning

I woke up during the middle of the night with a disturbing headache. Feeling a little hot due to the alcohol, I slept with my head near the opening of the tent flap so I took in some cold air up my head. I tried to dig my medicine kit for Decolgen but I realized, I wasn’t able to buy any. I tried to sleep again, trying to drown my headache by listening to ocean waves. After two more hours, I woke up again and I knew I couldn’t sleep anymore. I fixed myself and I headed straight to the beach and set up my sarong. OMG! The place is really amazing! The water is calm at this time. Not a lot of people were up. I saw around 4 people doing the same thing – staring admiringly at nature’s beauty.

I saw a fisherman pulling a rope by the shore. I decided to mingle with him. We talked, he’s quite nice. He told me how difficult their life is. I told him he’s still lucky because he can catch fish. Back in Manila, if you’re hungry, you can’t just go fish for food. I had fun talking to him and his wife. I learned a lot. I ended up helping him pull the rope tied to a net which contained fish they caught. It was very heavy and very difficult. The rope was very coarse and if you don’t pull carefully, it will rip your skin. I couldn’t imagine doing it every single day. My hands were red and hurting already but I didn’t want to give up. I only had to do it for several minutes anyway. These people do this for a living.

After pulling the rope, Manong (I forgot his name!) invited me to ride on their boat to see the fishes they caught. I agreed right away because it will be my first time to actually see how fishermen pull up a net from the water which has fish in it.

He was considerate enough to let his boat dock on the shore to pick me up since I was still wearing my jacket and Capri. We headed to farther part of the water to pick up the net. Geez, it took so long to pull it up. After a few minutes, they were able to get the entire net from the water. Sadly, they were only able to catch a few pieces and they were all small fishes.

A Shark Experience

When the fishermen placed the net on the floor of the boat, I saw several species of fish – sting ray, squid, swordfish, another fish, butete, and guess what – a baby shark! I’ve wanted to see a shark in real life and I got so excited when I finally saw one. I wasn’t really sure what type of shark it was. I’m not crazy about their anatomy, I’m more interested with their behavior, how they attack, how they prey, etc. The baby shark was around 14 inches long. I got the chance to hold it when it was weak already. Its skin felt really smooth and not scaly at all. Sorry, I know you’re supposed to return it to shore but I couldn’t knowing that there are people swimming in the area – and of course, I was also concerned of my personal safety.

Stop-Over to Capones Island

Our boat picked us up at 10:00 am to take us to Capones Island. Despite ghost stories we were all adamant to visit this place because it was just near Anawangin. The boat ride to Capones was very rough. If you’re not gutsy enough, you will really freak out. Not before long, all of us in the boat were already soaked to the bone. It was that rough! We were practically galloping in the boat. It was fine though because we were planning to swim anyway.

From Anawangin, the boat ride to Capones only took around 20 minutes. As we approach the island, we were welcomed with views of crystal clear ocean water filled with corals and colorful fishes. As soon as we docked, I immediately removed my shirt and took a dip. I had to borrow Olay’s goggles since I had lost mine back in Anawangin. I saw lots of ocean creatures. It was amazing!

We stayed for less than an hou
r and went back to Pundakit to take a bath. Our boatman led us a public pump inside a barangay and we all took a group bath. Hahaha! What a perfect way to cap off a great weekend.

The Mad Dash to KFC

Greatly missing cooked food, we headed off to Olongapo to take our lunch in KFC. You should have seen the food we ordered. It was enough to feed a small army.

The Gang

To the rest of the ECOF who weren’t there – Gay, Julienne, Erwin, MJ….and our yet to be inducted recruits – NK peeps….hahahahaha , it would have been perfect if you were there to share this great experience with us. We missed you! See ya next climb.

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