Calaguas Through The Years

I must admit I'm not an inborn traveler, I do not go outdoors nor do adventures. But as time passed by, things has changed and here I am now, wanting to set foot on all of the best destinations we have. And if given the chance soon, not just the best but the entire Philippines :)

The beauty of the island is not a question why it was tattooed in my memories. Calaguas is more than just a place, more than just a must-see destination - it is a life everyone must experience. My first travel to Calaguas gave birth to the wanderer in me. And from then on, I keep on coming back to the island, this time not anymore a tourist but a traveler who wanted to share the dose of adventure it gives.

Through the years of several come backs, I have seen the developments in the island, how it was transformed to what it is now. 

I just had my recent trip last April. Of course, Calaguas is still as amazing as before, the clear water, the fresh air, the white sand. But I'm slowly missing the old Calaguas -- a few campers, a couple of tents, a silent sanctuary, an unspoiled beauty, a virgin island. Today, Calaguas is a mini-Boracay -- jam-packed with visitors, tents setup everywhere, new resort, electricity, loud music that you can hardly hear the waves crashing on the shore! 

I am not against development, I am okay with changes, I have no problem with innovation. But these should not change why we named it unspoiled Calaguas. 

May 2011

Sep 2011

May 2012 [photo credit: AndyMedrano]

Apr 2013

May 2013

SIARGAO: Surfing Paradise

Siargao is every surfer's dream. From the time I started my life on board, I promised one day I'm gonna surf Siargao. 

Dreams really do come true :).. And so this is it.. The wish I had before is now just a paddle away.

I am just a beginner surfer. I have surfed many times but I don''t surf all the time (if only I could...). I have read many travel mags featuring how waves are going in Siargao, I have watched many videos and seen a lot of pictures as well. But there is a big difference between how they describe it vs you yourself doing it. 

The moment I touched down Siargao, I was more than excited to surf Cloud 9 at last. But as they say, you cannot have both worlds at the same time. Because of some wave analysis by our surf partners, we had no chance to surf Cloud 9 and diverted to Daku instead. 

Daku is one of the surf breaks in Siargao. Surfers line up in the middle of the water unlike other surf spots I've been to where the waves break near the shore. At first I was really hesitant to jump off our boat and paddle to the line up. I am not a good swimmer and even if I am already used to surfing, I'm still afraid especially if the waves are too big for me. 

One by one the surfboards were thrown into the water and my surfmates dived too, paddled into the line up and started to play. My instructor was already waiting for me in his board, giving a lot of encouragement for me to jump in. I put my leash on but still my knees were trembling in fear and cannot push my body to dive into the 50-meter deep (or more I think). Yes, I swim. Yes, I surf. But that moment, I doubted I can. That was my first time to surf in the middle of the sea, that was my first time to ride a wave bigger than me. 

Those already in the water waiting for me kept on saying I can and I should jump now because the waves are so good to play with. They said no surfer is afraid of deep water, no surfer is feared of big waves. And so I had this make or break, my deep breath made me realize I wont know unless I try. My first fear of drowning is gone. We paddled into the line up and my second doubt came in - the waves of Daku are really "daku". I saw a lot being wiped out and their board rolled up with the waves as if they were clothes inside a washing machine. But I had no choice, I had to try this or else I'm gonna miss half of my being a surfer. 

While waiting the wave for me, my instructor had these words to boost my confidence: "Ang gaganda ng alon ngayon, tamang tama pang beginner". I know he's kidding because the waves are breaking horribly! But I kept that in mind to drive my fear away, forget the panic and get a perfect ride. 

And I did...

The instance I was riding those waves at first I doubted I can was the moment I felt as if my life turned slo-mo, the moment I had more than being stoked.

I had bruises, I had cuts, I had several wipe outs. But those pains kept me want for more. Surfing is not just about riding waves. It is more of a fun-filled experience, the kind of happiness it gives no matter how big or small the waves are or even if there are no waves at all and just sitting on your board having the intimate moment with nature.

Baler = Stoked

Surfing is not a new word to me. I remember when I was a kid where I always scan TV channels and stop a while in ESPN if there was a surfing competition. I was amazed of how they do tricks in the air as they dance with the waves. But that's all. I never thought of wanting to be one of them or even just trying to ride a board someday.

Time changes anything, everything. I can't even remember why I was addicted to surfing. All I know is this is what I want now, contrary to what I thought of before. 

Why Baler? 

It is where I first defined stoked.

The moment I had the first glance at Baler, I got the answer why surfers flock to this spot. Since the Philippines is surrounded by water, it is not anymore a question why we have a number of beautiful beaches. And Baler, being at the east coast, is endowed with a perfect blend of terrains and currents producing waves suitable from starter to professional surfers.

Years back, Aurora's surftown is an extremely tiring 9-hour drive from Manila. Today, surfing Baler is just a step away, cutting the travel time to an easy 5 hours drive. Baler is now transforming its name from once an unknown community to a popular surfing mecca in the country.

Sabang Beach is the town's most visited spot. I call it the beginners' haven. Along the seaside, there are many stalls offering surf lessons. For a cost of P350 per hour, you can have a surfboard and an instructor to teach you the basics of surfing. By the end of the session, you can cross out 'ride a wave' or 'stand on a surfboard' in your bucket list. I'm sure you would want another one despite those aching shoulders, bruises and cuts. And before you know it, that is what surfers call stoked :)


Being a traveler, I always desire for something new in my bucket list - explore places I've never been, taste their local food, do adventure. Driven by my passion for surfing, I want to try waves from different spots in the Philippines. This led me to Real, Quezon in July 2013.

Real is only 115km from Manila, average of 3 hours drive. I haven't read so much about the place before going there, it is a surf spot - that's all I know. The owner of the place we stayed suggested activities other than surfing. And to my surprise, rafting is one them! No need to fly to Cagayan de Oro to experience white-water rafting.

So here is the story...

Rafting in Real is not yet so popular, it still needs a lot of promotions as well as improvements. First thing I noticed, the rafts are improvised, they are not the real one used for whitewater rafting. They use big black "salbabida" (life buoy), combine around 3 to 4 pieces to form a raft that can load 3 passengers plus the 2 guides. They also tie pieces of wood to serve as the seats. The ride along the river is so risky especially when the water pushes so fast where you can slip from your seat and fall out of the raft. Second, there are no paddles. The guides use their hands and feet to control the direction of the raft. One guide sits in front, he kicks on rocks to turn the raft left or right. If the force of the water is too strong, he might loose control and break his leg. The other guide stays at the back, he pushes the raft to help it move with the water.

This kind of extreme adventure requires the right facilities in order not to risk the life of both the tourists and the guides. So if I have a chance to wish one thing for the Philippines, I want to give a complete rafting equipment to Real. Having the proper tools, Real's rafting adventure will now be put in everyone's to-do list.

Philippines has a lot of beautiful places for different adventures. Let us do our part to make our place a wonderful Philippines.

I now pass the question to you. If there is one thing you can give to the Philippines, what is that gift? Let me know your thoughts and post your answer in the comment field below. An iPad Mini 2 is waiting for you :)


Zamba: Where The West Coast Solitude Is

Why I keep on coming back to Zambales? I got plenty of reasons but here are my top three...

(1) Nearest surf spot from Manila. Zamba is the nearest surf beach I know before I found out Km.115. Though not the nearest now, I still consider it accessible from the metro because of the 3-hour average drive for an approximate round trip distance of 362km (based from our most recent road trip on Dec 28). I tried two ways of getting to the town of San Narciso but
I prefer taking the San Fernando-Bataan-Olongapo route instead of passing by the SCTEX. Why? Read further below...

(2) Budget friendly. If you are looking for a "tipid-mode" adventure, Zamba is the right destination.
  • TipidTip #1: Gas and toll. If you will bring a car, continue reading, if not jump to #2. One way toll is P157 for San Fernando route and P408 for SCTEX. If taking San Fernando exit, make sure you leave Manila as early as possible so as not to get stuck in traffic, this is the advantage of taking SCTEX on the other hand. Fuel cost is around 800 (again, based from our last trip), enough for round trip and some around-the-town drive. For an adventure like this, I suggest you use a fuel that will give your car the quality performance on the road. Since day 1, I am a Petron fan, the brand I can trust. I have no fear on the road even with a fuel alert coz there is a lot of filling stations along the way. My TipidTip #1.1, I use XCS, not just a TipidTip but a SuperTipidTip. That's the gas behind the 800 worth of fuel. Almost forgot my #1.2 - call your barkada to fill up your car seats. Remember, the more the merrier lesser share on the cost :) 
  • TipidTip #2: Accomodation. For the nth time that I've been to Zamba, I always find my home at Crystal Beach. We (with my travel buddies) spend nights in a tent or hammock. They charge P150/pax/night if you have your own tent, if none you can rent for P300. 
  • TipidTip #3: Food. Though the resort has a resto serving really good food, I find more adventure in a camping trip - sleeping in a tent, siesta on a hammock, cooking your own food. There is a public market near Crystal Beach where you can buy variety of seafood at an affordable price. From our last week's trip, we got bangus for P60, tilapia for P50, liempo for P100, shrimps for P110, ripe mango for P50 - all enough to create an eat-til-you-give-up lunch and dinner and a few left over for breakfast next day. 
(3) Where the solitude is. Even just a few hours away from the busy life, I always find my silent sanctuary in Zamba. It is where I feel the nature so close to me, lying in my hammock letting the wind sway me to sleep, hearing the waves touch the shore. It is during this moment that I realize what I really want - to be a beach bum.