Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stopping by the Beach on a Warm Summer's Day (Bolinao, Pangasinan)

Date visited: April 2008

Like Howard Wolowitz, this entry is going to be short and sweet. At least, I hope so. (Frost+Shakespeare+Big Bang Theory-ing).  

The 400-year old Bolinao Church. 

My idea of Bolinao had been limited to Jeff’s stories and a couple of photos of the place I caught in the newspaper when I was in high school (Jeff doesn’t know this, but when we were exchanging letters back in high school, I’d actively look for pictures of Bolinao in the papers. Understand that back in ’99, the internet wasn’t that popular in my hometown yet. Jeff didn't even have access to the net back then. ;) This was about the time when eudoramail, mIRC, and netscape were lords of the web). 

This changed in 2008 (Okay, yes, both the images of Bolinao in my head and the internet bit. But I will talk about the Bolinao bit right about now). 

The gang outside Bolinao Church. 

That year, I went on my first and only trip, so far, to Jeff's hometown. My roommates and I thought it’d be nice, for once, for us to go on an out-of-town trip together (our trips had been limited to a Kowloon somewhere near Kalayaan Avenue for beer).  It was the perfect time too because Kim was on school vacation. 

By the Tara Falls. They're in a forest about 20 minutes away by tricycle from the town proper. You'll have to do a bit of trekking from the main road to get to the falls. It's a very easy trek though. 

And so we boarded a midnight Five Star bus in Cubao. The trip took five hours with a stopover in Tarlac. From the bus terminal in Bolinao, we took a tricycle to Villa Soledad Beach Resort which is about 10 minutes away from the town proper.

Cape Bolinao Lighthouse.

By the lighthouse. 

Our first day in Bolinao, we had lunch at a rip-off place somewhere near the pier, we checked out the Bolinao church, then took a tricycle to Tara Falls. I don't know if it's always the case, but the water was muddy when we got there. It was probably because it had been raining that day. I wasn't really impressed with the falls, but I wasn't disappointed either since it wasn't hard to get to.

Abrak Beach. Bolinao is also known for its awesome rock formations.

The tricycle driver who took us to Tara Falls offered to take us to Abrak Beach in Patar the next day. It's a shame I don't remember his name now, but we were very pleased with him because the P500 he asked from us covered the transportation costs, fish, rice, and the supplies we needed for grilling at the beach. He even helped us prepare the food.

Getting a tan. More fun in Pangasinan. 

Abrak Beach is by far the best beach I've been to in  Luzon. The sand is yellowish but fine, and the water is turquoise blue. You also won't have to rough it out because there are cottages and stores in the area. The place must have been popular to tourists even then because it was crowded by people who obviously weren't from the area. We even saw Ramon Bautista shooting for his show on the beach. 

Cottages for rent at Abrak Beach. 

Lois trying out Binuguey (suman cooked in Bamboo). We bought them from the vendors outside the Bolinao Church. 

Sheer awesomeness. Lois trying out Bolinao rain. We didn't have to buy anything for this.

The morning of our third and last day in Bolinao was spent lounging around in Villa Soledad and swimming on the beach across the resort. It didn't compare to the Abrak experience, but it's still a decent beach with clear waters. 

The view at the beach right across Villa Soledad. I'm not sure if this is part of the resort, but only the road separates it from Villa Soledad. 

The Bolinao trip made me realise that Jeff has always underplayed his hometown. He's never really talked about the tourist spots in the area, or how picturesque the place is in general. He's just always said that the town is coastal and rural (maybe partly because I always cut in with my jests about how the name of his hometown means anchovy in Waray). 

I have to say though, considering that we stayed in a not-so-nice resort, and we didn't really get to do a whole lot in Bolinao, the town still impressed me. Abrak Beach might not have sands as white or as fine as Boracay, but Bolinao is not as commercialized or as crowded as Boracay (Jeff had the right of it when he said the town's rural feel creates a tranquil setting). Also, it's just a five-hour from Manila. The only setback, from a tourist's POV, that I can think of is the distance between the town proper and the tourist spots. 

Villa Soledad is not for those who are finicky with accommodations. Our room, which resembled a Philippine government-owned hospital ward complete with six hospital beds, cost us P3000 a night. We couldn't complain though because we had a dining area in the room, and the resort allowed us to use their kitchen and bring in our own food without additional charges. Also, we had the pool to ourselves on our first night. We rocked beverages by the pool, and no one complained. 

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