Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hidden Jewels of Zambales

Zambales is the second largest province in Central Luzon. It is known because of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone that hosts various attractions which include casinos, beach resorts, recreational parks, and other historical sites. Not known to many, the province of Zambales keeps secrets of timeless beauty reflected on its stunning islands, beaches, and coves.

These hidden jewels of Zambales are long stretches of off-white sand beaches enclosed by the towering mountains of the province. They are characterized by aquamarine waters, crystal-clear lagoons, symmetrical pine trees that line up by the shores, and rocky islets that offer refreshing and spectacular view. If you want to relax and take a break on a majestic place, but do not want to go far from Metro Manila, these are the best places to be.

Anawangin beachfront captured by Jobert Abiva
This place is a long stretch of off-white sand beach that offers breath-taking views of rolling mountains, azure sky, and aquamarine vast water of the West Philippine Sea. The pine trees that frame the beautiful beach is an amazing sight to behold. There is a lagoon perfectly situated at the back of the sandy beach that separates a cluster of pine trees forming a forest. Anawangin has become a favorite camping ground for locals and tourists alike because of its luscious surrounding and very relaxing atmosphere.

The long stretch of powdery off-white sand beach of Nagsasa Cove. Photo by: Jim Byran Ilarde 
This cove is twice the size of Anawangin, but a little farther from San Antonio, the jump-off point. It has a wide shaded area which is excellent for camping, off-white sand beach, impressive line of symmetrical pine trees behind the banks, and clear lagoon where anyone can take a refreshing dip. The clear water that reflects the color of the sky also shows off a number of fishes swimming freely on both ends of the cove. The labyrinth of waterfalls in the area can be a great alternative for a refreshing bath. Like Anawangin, Nagsasa also attracts more and more visitors each year.

Talisayin Cove
The laid-back nature of Talisayen Cove. Photo by: Jobert Abiva 
Also nestled along the coastline of Zambales is this pristine cove where one can be treated to a very relaxing vacation. Talisayin is situated between Anawangin and Nagsasa, but compared to the two coves, it has a more relaxed and quiet environment. Pine trees cover the greater dimension of the off-white sand beach and at the back is a picturesque lake embraced by pine trees. At the edge of the mountain range that secure the cove is a concrete steps that leads to the grotto. If you want to further appreciate the alluring panoramic view of the cove from above, go up the grotto as it also serves as a view deck. There are no resorts in the area, but there are nipa huts which are used as vacation havens. I think this cove is privately owned as there is a big house built just near the shore of whom the locals say belong to “someone.”

Silanguin Cove

The rustic beauty of Silanguin Cove 
Silanguin is the farthest and the least known among the coves, but it is the largest. It has an overwhelmingly exquisite beauty that bloomed further because of the serene environment. If you want a beautiful rustic place with an air of natural tranquillity, this place is the best alternative. Beyond the lagoon and series of pine trees, you will see a river that is meticulously framed by hills and mountains.

The century-old lighthouse. Photo by: Jobert Abiva

This island with big rock formations and boulders is just a twenty minute boat ride from Anawangin cove. It does not have the picturesque line of pine trees and lagoons, but it has a magical beauty of its own. In this island you will find the century old Spanish lighthouse known as Faro de Punta Capones or the Capones Lighthouse. The view from the lighthouse is really spectacular. Going to Capones Island and climbing the lighthouse should be part of your bucket list when visiting Zambales as it offers a 360-degree amazing view of the island.  At the eastern side of the island you will see a crescent-shaped beach where you can enjoy swimming and snorkelling.  

Camara Island

The beautiful blue sky and the white sand of Camara Island. Photo by: Jobert Abiva
Adjacent to Capones Island are two large rock islets connected by a white sand bar that disappears during high tide. This place is called Camara, a small island where rocks are scattered far and wide.

The jump-off point of all these beautiful locations is the fishing village in Brgy. Pundaquit, San Antonio, Zambales. From there you can charter a boat that can bring you to any or all of the places provided. If you are adventurous enough, you can hike and traverse the mountains to reach the cove that you prefer and breathe in the splendid view from above.

With the string of options, you can definitely find in Zambales the most relaxing and perfect getaway near Metro Manila. One request I have for the readers is to keep these places clean so their beauty remains for generations to come.


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Monday, February 3, 2014

10 Reasons Why You Should Climb Mountains

It's fun up there! 
I have been climbing mountains for 3 years now and have more than 30 summits under my sleeves. When I meet people who do not share the same interest the only question they bother asking me is “Why I climb.” This, ironically, is the last question I feel like answering primarily because I don’t feel like explaining myself and secondarily because according to George Mallory, “if you have to ask the reason why (I climb)... You won't understand the answer (anyway).” This given, I forbid you to know the reason behind my climbing mountains. However, I provided below the top 10 reasons why YOU should climb mountains.

(Read at your own risk)

10.) Find beauty in simplicity.

Climbing is a meek activity that has to be done by people with recognizable tenacity. There is a tangible and measurable goal in mountaineering and that is to reach the summit. Even before you set your foot for the first step up, you already know that the rewards are pure. Through climbing, the clamour that we have to deal with every single day is reduced to a focused act; needs are so simple and most of these are earned.

I can't describe to someone who has never made camp at 2,922 MASL (meters above sea level) what the view is like during sunrise or sunset and you are standing above the clouds. They certainly would not understand what it meant to walk hours and days just to stay several minutes at the summit.  Up there, even the silliest of jokes are funnier. In mountaineering, the camaraderie is unparalleled; teamwork and trust are realized and appreciated.

When you climb, nothing else matters. Hours fly swiftly. The accrued disorder of daily existence such as the towering paper works, the busted porch light, the unpaid bills, the failed opportunities, the heavy traffic, and so on and so forth, will be temporarily forgotten. Up there, the water tastes sweeter when you have to fetch it from rivers, falls, or streams; the food is best because you make the effort to contribute to the meal; unexpected boy bawang from the bottom of a pack paired with canned sardines is already considered a feast. When you climb mountains, life's simple pleasures are magnified and all other trivia of life melts away. Climbing contrasts with the synthetic fabricated existence of the modern society.

09.) Nice break from busy civilization.

Are you tired of the noisy city, endless traffic, and too much pollution that come with so-called civilization? Do you want to relax and enjoy a beautiful view whilst inhaling the freshest air? Head your way to the mountain ranges of Batangas and find solitude with Mother Nature. There is no need to venture far above the treeline, all you have to do is to simply find your way on its already established trail and the calmness and unobtrusive mountain will embrace you. Enjoy the fresh scent of the wind as it touches your face and feel the energy of the storm as it comforts your ragged soul. The weariness will be gone; the worries brought by civilization will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn. Climbing brings us to places where we can find our own peace.

08.) Climb to uplift your spirit.

Luke 9:28 – “Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.”

There is something in the silence of the mountains that is soothing to our being. At the summit, after the entire ordeal you went through in climbing, the peace in nature will flow into your very soul, just like how the sun flows its light into the canopies.  

Great sages, saints, and spiritual leaders believe that high places are spirit centers. When I reached my first summit, I know I am closer to the sky; closer than the majority of the world’s population. It led me to think that if I pray right there and then, God will hear me first as my whisper will travel faster than those who are in the level ground. From up there I felt the renewal of my spirit; my heart was recharged.  From the vantage of the lofty summits, I have seen my past and with the unusual sensitivity I experienced on my first peak, I dreamed of the future.

07.) Find thy inner peace.

The breeze from mountains brings fresh energy to the urban life below. Their beauty enriches you and all others who live beneath them. On the mountaintop, the thick fog has the ability to bring unexpected clarity. Have you tried searching through the layer of clouds? Do so and you will be amazed on how inner peace stirs within you.

Mountains are amazingly beautiful places. You do not have to be a biologist, environmentalist, or a spiritual person to know that. You will feel complete just to be around such a soothing, refined beauty. When you climb, you will know that there is unambiguity to landscapes. You will understand how the branches of the trees are twisted by the winds and how rocks have been battered by time. You will be impressed on how volcanoes show their fiery past through the kaleidoscopic layers of ashes and stones.

Go ahead. Climb your first mountain and experience one of your most-treasured moments, where you will fall in love more with life.

06.) Climb for amazing and unforgettable memories.

Climbing mountains is exhausting, but rest assured that the rewards it brings are beyond extent. When you stand at the summit and look down on the earth below, you will feel proud and satisfied. Knowing that you are able to go through all challenges along the trail makes the moment extra special. The climb may not be enjoyable and you may not like the effort that you need to exert in ascending and descending rugged terrains, but once you reach the peak you will feel utmost pride about your feat. Mountains can challenge us physically, mentally, and emotionally and that is what makes it more exciting. Climbing will provide you with great tales to tell.

I have suffered from hypothermia, depression, hunger, and exhaustion the entire time I have been a climber. Several times on occasions, I went home with a skin tore, ripped knees and ankles, insect bites, rashes, ugly bruises, etc., but I am not stopping. While there have been occasions that have restricted me from reaching summits, I still believe that mountaineering can be a positive part of everybody’s life.

When you climb, you will see that the world was made real. Give yourself the best “hurrah of life” at a higher pitch on higher grounds.

05.) For physical fitness.

Improved cardiovascular health, weight loss, and increased muscle tone are just some of the healthy benefits of climbing. When you climb even on the smallest mountain, you have to exert considerable effort. Make mountaineering a part of your lifestyle and be surprised with the changes. In the beginning, it will take time for you to lumber up and reach the summit.  However, if you continue climbing, time will come that you can nearly run up mountains.

Today, while you are still physically capable of summiting peaks, climb. Do not try to know why, do not give so much thought about it, and do not focus on the difficulties, just climb. Because someday, the things that you will regret are the things that you didn’t do when you were able to. J

04.) For better perspective of life.

When all you see and experience are failures in life, if you think you are a loser, if you have no set of friends, if you think you are ugly and stupid – climb!

Reaching the summit is like achieving success, teaching you to continue and develop determination. Use mountaineering to know your worth.  As you ascend and descend from one mountain to another, you will learn various lessons. Apply those lessons to your life. Overcome the obstacles of failures and death. Drive yourself to rise above your limitations and conquer all challenges. The world is full of harsh outback and only those who are strong thrive; the unfit are weeded out. Climbing is personal. The only barrier is within you. When you climb, going through the obstacles along the trail is just one of the tests a climber must undergo in order to deserve the joy of rising above. Same with life, you have to know how much farther you can go in order to determine where you are heading to.

03.) You can become a teacher and a mentor.

This can take time, but the wait is worth it. Like in all other fields, you have to start as a newbie and learn your way through experiences. Once you have gained the knowledge and skills of being a leader, you can then teach others. In mountaineering, you do not have to have a diploma in order to be a teacher or a mentor. You can pass on the legacy to others by helping them to develop their abilities. When you become a mountaineering mentor, you can make immeasurable impact to others. The self-esteem and confidence that people draw from climbing can have a huge influence on the development of their lives. You as a teacher and mentor who teach them to overcome challenges will be a big part of their success.

02.) Look at the world from above.

You cannot stay on the summit forever. When you reach the top, you have to come down and go through the discomfort of trekking again. So why bother to go up in the first place? The answer is simple. You cannot see below the things that you see when you are up there. When you stay on level ground, you will not learn what lies above, but when you go up, you will know both worlds.

Mountains expose their best grandeurs only to those who sweat and make effort. They have so much to give and they lavishly reward those who will wrestle with them.  The best gifts of mountains are reserved only for those who find their way up and stand upon their mighty summits.

01.) Quest for renewal.

When someone is one with nature, he can test all his powers or find himself whole.

In the mountains, the character of a man comes out. The hurts and pains acquired in climbing can provide healthier viewpoint in life. All the challenges that you will encounter during the climb will renew your strength and clear your vision. The challenging moments of getting to the top, taking the risks, and testing the limit of physical and mental endurance gives a sense of renewal that goes beyond the accomplishment. Climbing can help you to refresh and renew your spirit and gain better perspective on what is really important in life. From the summits you can strive for perfection, both physically and spiritually.  You will reach the pinnacle from where you can celebrate creation. For every climb, you are reborn.
Through mountains, you will see God’s splendor, you will hear the song that the earth renders, you will reach the naked soul of your being, you will know what to value in life and what your priorities are, you will understand what ties are, and ultimately, you will know that Mother Nature can help in bringing you peace of mind and showing you the world from an entirely different perspective.

"The mountains are calling and you must go." – Anonymous

Note: Reasons provided above are not purely of the author's thinking, some were provided by like-minded individuals. 

This article has been published in MANILA BULLETIN's Travel and Lifestyle Magazine - Cruising Going Places (September Issue)
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