Tales From The Hundred Islands
Self-Portraits by Tom Dalisay
I was born to love the seas, and my home is brimming with hidden beauty in its every nook and cranny.
The Philippines is an absolute gem and no matter what, I would always come back to it, wherever the Universe may take me on my next journey.
I'm proud to have spent my childhood in and out of the ocean, and to have been raised in the tropics made up of thousands and thousands of majestic islands. Even though I have yet to travel and see its magnificence in full light, I'm delighted to have a glimpse of what my home is made out of; more so to experience and create memories with the loveliest souls that made these unforgettable moments a million times more special.
A weekend in paradise — creating memories, sharing stories, spreading love, surrendering to laughters and experiencing life — is the perfect getaway before we part ways and continue on to start a new chapter.
It's been an epic getaway that consisted of spontaneous adventures, surrounded by amazing beings I consider as my second family: swimming from island to island, cliff diving in a cave full of bats, getting threatened by sea creatures from crabs to sea snakes to jumping fishes (okay the last one is not threatening at all but I'm still including it in the category), walking barefoot on rocky shores, exploring pitch black caves, hanging out in alcoves, picnicking on an island that we had all to ourselves, and basically spending our entire day in and out of the waters. It was magical, gorgeous and filled with laughter, sunshine, and incredible energy.
From Bolinao Falls to The Hundred Islands, it's been a remarkable moment for all of us. All these things published in the virtual Universe will never compare to the wonderful sensations and the reality of the memories we weaved together over the last three days. It was unbelievably phenomenal.
Under the headlines, I recounted the stories and moments we experienced in the first two days. Moreover, inside the cut, I also listed some notes that we personally encountered during our trip that could give you an insight or a rough guide, if you ever wake up one morning and decide to travel to Bolinao! Without further ado, here are our crazy island tales (click on the headline):
Just as dawn broke, we hit the road to Pangasinan. When we reached the province, the first thing to cross on our bucket list was Bolinao Waterfalls. Our first agenda was to refuel and rest in the resort, but since the clock was ticking, we had to set aside our hunger if we were to push through with our plans. Since we wanted to make the most out of our stay, sacrifices were in order and our grumbling stomach was shoved aside to wait.
Even though we got a little lost driving to the waterfalls, it was all worth it in the end. The negative energy that was building up from the trip immediately got washed away once we got there. It was truly a sight to behold. We spent quite some time there swimming, replenishing and gathering the energy of the water to fuel our lacking ones after enduring half a day of traveling and being cramped in the car. One of our friends even braved to cliff dive on top of the falls which was estimated to be 30 feet high. I only wish I was half as brave as him that day.
Nonetheless, it was a refreshing afternoon that hyped us up for our second adventure the next day. Our first night was a mellow one that ended with most of the girls hitting the sack and the boys playing out in the rain. Jazz and I had an unpleasant encounter with the storm that left us stranded in one of the places in the resort so we had to run back to the pouring rain and go through some flooded areas to get back to our room. When we got there, it was almost midnight; the lights were out in the room and we were greeted with the guys, half-naked, running around in the grass and playing chase. Seeing them in such a carefree state, playing under the downpour, brings back the nostalgia of childhood where worry never festered in our minds and the only thing we desired was to live presently, at the moment, and have fun — which is the essence of life.
Jazz and I ended up conversing until the wee hours of the morning with another one of our friend, Koji. We ended up having little to no rest before the sun rose up again and we had to prepare for the day.
The next morning Gino cooked breakfast for everyone except me (I normally don't eat breakfast and when I do it's usually just fruits or a glass of smoothie), and I helped him prepare the sandwiches and woke up everyone since we were the first two to be awake.
Notes On Bolinao Falls
- We were staying at Villa Soledad and it was a good 30-minute ride going to the falls.
- We went to Bolinao Falls I and there's a second one too, but we didn't bother checking it out anymore.
- You will be traversing on a dirt road and it's really bumpy, so if you're planning to bring a car make sure it's one that can handle being roughed up.
- There are signs that point you to the right direction but they are evenly spread out so it's best to still ask locals for directions just to be sure, although it's mainly just a straight narrow road.
- There's an environmental fee of about PHP20.
- You won't be 'hiking' going to the waterfalls. You would only be traversing a flight of concrete stairs to get there. Initially, we thought we were still going to hike since most of the blogs I read mentioned something about it, and it was completely misleading for this particular place.
- The rocks are sharp in the lagoon so it's best to wear beach shoes (although not necessary but most of my friends got scratches on their feet because of it). There are shallow, rocky areas and deep spots in the water where the locals can show you where to cliff dive if you're brave enough to face the 30 feet height of the falls.
Self-Portraits by Jazz Surema
Our second day was a more eventful exploration of The Hundred Islands. It was nestled in a town called Alaminos where we had to drive an hour to get there from our resort. The boat ride consisted of hopping on and off on the islands, some of which we visited was Governor's Island, Virgin Island, Scout Island, Marcos Island, and Romulo Island to name a few. Our group went on two separate boats since the biggest could only accommodate a maximum of 15 people and we had a plus one, so we decided to split in half instead.
During the boat ride, me and two other friends stayed on the front edge to have a better glimpse of the looming islands. It was the perfect spot to witness the view: the waters were crystal blue and the islands themselves were magnificent. The closer we got to the islands, the more stunning they became. The next thing we knew, we were surrounded by these incredible landforms left and right.
The first island we docked on was filled with an epic adventure that we would never forget.
When we were scouting the area of our first island, I asked the group if it was possible for us to swim to the neighboring island to simply check out what was there. It was a spontaneous decision that became one of the pinnacles of our day.
For us to get to the other island, we had to leave all our belongings on the island that we docked on, so we had nothing with us; no phones to record the moment or call for help (if anything happened at all), no slippers to wear over the rocky shores (which was a really painful event for all of us). We had absolutely nothing but our enthusiasm and our lively souls on the little island. Once we got there, we spotted a cave at the other end and we all verbally agreed to check it out.
At first, it was only around ten of us who decided to go there and then some of the others decided to follow us after a while, while some decided to stay in the first island to watch over our things. We were sitting by the shore when we suddenly heard a couple of our friends come down and join us in our spot.
When we all got together, we started heading towards the cave and the moment we got there, we spotted a statue and thought that was it. Not one to give up easily, three of us girls (Abi, Jazz and I) decided to go in and see if there's an opening to a pathway. True enough, Abi saw that there was one that lead to a small lagoon. We were thrilled at the prospect but our problem darkness. We had nothing to light the place up and we had scarce lighting coming from the entrance of the cave. This made it difficult for us to find our footing.
The scary thing is a snake already called dibs on the cave and the small lagoon (much to our dismay), and if it weren't for our friend's nocturnal vision we would have been bitten by the snake or worse. We were really lucky that Abi noticed it on one of the rocks near the waters. She was about to step on it and noticed there was a darker silhouette that started to hiss loudly; claiming its rightful territory I suppose. Of course, we screamed bloody murder and rushed out of the cave at once, and ended up laughing at the whole incident.
In spite of everything, we had a pleasant time on the island and basked in the incredible view. The swim back to the island where we docked was a challenging and longer one since we were coming from the other side of the island. We had to rest and float every few minutes or so, but at the same couldn't stay too long under the sun because it was too hot. Needless to say, it was the highlight of our day.
Our next stop was to scout for another uninhabited island (no more snakes this time) to rest and have a picnic since it was near lunch time. We brought homemade dishes, a bunch of bananas (mostly for me) and liters of water with us. The market was our holy grail during our entire stay since it was mainly where we bought our vegetables, fruits, and other food.
During the trip, my diet consisted of potatoes and bananas since I was too lazy to prepare or cook anything (except on our last night when Aki and I made curry). I was the odd one out whenever we were having dinner or lunch since I couldn't eat what my friends would prepare for themselves, seeing as I'm the only vegan in our group. But in the end, I managed and it was all rainbows and sunshine.
It's funny and sweet how my friends would always worry about what I would eat and I found it comforting as well that they're curious and open as to what a vegan lifestyle entails. Whenever I would share with them the notable changes I went through, the things I would usually prepare at home, and seeing that it would enlighten them is a heartwarming moment. I love the fact that they're very open to the notion and that they're actually curious and excited to know this kind of lifestyle. I would always tell them how eye opening and incredible it is to be vegan. Someday, I hope I could make an impact and a difference on others through this.
After our little stopover, we went to a couple more islands to explore: one where we hung around a small alcove and a crab nearly tried to chop off my finger after accidentally thinking it was a rock under the sand, and lastly cliff dived in a cave full of bats. We ended the day with one of the most glorious sunsets we've ever witnessed, which I'll be sharing in the second part of this post series.
Notes On Island Hopping
- It's best to call beforehand and speak with a coordinator on the tourism center to direct you to the area and at the same time ask any inquiries and information you would want to gather. Here are the contact details for your reference: Lucap Wharf Tourism (Here's a contactnmber for you too: 0928-244-9011).
- There's a range of activities on each island that you can do like snorkeling, helmet diving, zip lining, rappelling, and kayaking, parachuting to list a few aside from the usual exploring and swimming.
- The costs for each activity varies from PHP250 - P2,000. Upon registering, they will give you a pamphlet of the list and costs to guide you. There's also a registration fee which you will need to pay up front along with the boat, snorkel, life vests and other extra for rental.
- The boat day tour costs PHP1,800 for a regular boat which is good for 6-10 people (and it's also spacious). You can also opt for an overnight tour, where you can camp out in one of the islands, but would cost extra. If I remember correctly, they offer 3 types of boat sizes: the small one which has the capacity of 1-5 people; the regular one, which we took and a big one with the capacity of 11-15 people; and each one costs differently from one another.
- Each island would also charge for tables, cottages and gazebos that ranges around PHP300 - PHP1,000 depending on what you would be getting.
- There are convenience stores selling food, slippers and other knick-knacks on the major islands namely: Governor's Island, Children's Island and Quezon Island. Some islands have nothing at all, but there are locals who go around to make sure that the area is always clean and free of trash. They take cleanliness to the next level around here which is a wonderful thing.
- There is no fresh water to clean off after swimming in the sea; and again, most islands don't have any wash area, just the major ones where most of the activities are offered.
- You can coordinate with the boatman which islands you would like to hop on and off, there's no set itinerary for each tour, but they will most definitely show you around the major islands. Again, if you don't want to dock off a certain place, you can simply tell them not to. A few islands get overcrowded and others are deserted if you're lucky enough, the latter which is what we look for and prefer even though there aren't any activities offered on these minor islands. (There was an incident where our last stop was one of the major islands and we saw that there were a lot of boats docked and folks were milling around the place. We decided that it was too much for us, so we simply turned around and hopped off on a much less populated island to hang around.)
Tune in for the next stories where I'll share the spectacular sunset we witnessed, as well as a travel guide that includes our itinerary from this trip with a video diary that I'm currently stitching together.
Stay curious and keep creating magic!