Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hey! It’s Her Birthday Again. – A Backpacking Weekend in Pangasinan

Birthdays always warrant a trip.  At least for my family it does specially when it’s the little girl (who’s not so little anymore) who’s celebrating.  For June 2014, we took a trip to Bolinao with my husband’s family.  They had originally thought of going to a beach at Batangas.  However, I didn’t quite like the idea of having to bring our own water to use for bathing and not having at least a fan because there wasn’t any electricity to reckon with.  So, of course I had to look for an althernative and Pattar in Bolinao was my choice. 

 As always, we left the house at 4 am.  It was going to be our first time to go to Bolinao as a family and Googlemaps said  it would take about  5 to 6 hours to get there.  We didn’t have much time to spend as we were only staying 24 hours at most and getting to our destination early would give us a few more hours to play or laze at the beach or go elsewhere around the area. 
While the trip was scenic and the lighting in the blue and golden hours was perfect for a photo shoot, the travel time was not as we expected.  We reached Bolinao at almost 1 pm – almost 9 hours after.  Of course we stopped a few times - Once to have breakfast for 1 hour at Lakeshore along NLEX before proceeding to SCTEX, 15 minutes to have the tire checked, and about 3 times at 10 minutes give or take at each stop to take a leak. Bolinao  is a  municipality of the province of Pangasinan.   It is located in the northern western  coast  of  Luzon at the opposite direction of Baguio. With that distance, we had anticipated to get there by noon.

True enough, it was lunchtime when we got there so first stop was at the Bolinao Seafood Grill ATBP.  I had originally planned to have our lunch at the Bolinao waterfalls because we brought food anyway.  However, it was really cloudy with the rain about to fall and hubbydubby was already hungry that I didn’t think it was good to trek anymore.  The resto turned out to be a very good choice.  A plate of medium sized succulent and freshly cooked shrimps cost 160 to 190, mussels cost about 120 pesos per serving of about 2 to 3 persons, etc.  We had pinakbet (it would be a sin not to have it being in the Ilocos region), some grilled pork, 2 plates of shrimps, mussels,  and rice of course.  That cost only 700 pesos more or less.  Not bad conidering there were 7 of us.  What made it a great meal was that everything really tasted very delicious. 
After lunch we headed to Coco’s beach resort where we were booked for the night.  It turned out that not only was Bolinao Seafood Grill a good place to dine, it was also along the road we would have to take to go to Ilog Malino where Cocos was.  It only took about 10 minutes to get to the resort.  It had a few rows of rooms along the shore and towering coconut trees by the entrance and within the compound.  They had some grocery items being sold at the information hut and they had common grilling stands near the rooms for guests to use.  I didn’t know that they had coal, and rice and all other sort of stuff that you’d need to cook.  Had I known, I wouldn’t have brought so many.  LOL

The room we stayed at was enough for 6 by HK standards if you know what I mean.  LOL.  That just says there’s enough room on the bed but not enough room to walk by.  It had 3 twin beds and a shower  inside.  It had a table and some chairs outside and visitors were allowed to pitch a tent.  We brought ours as we had expected some of my hubby’s aunts to join us. That was just in case there were more of us and there weren’t any more rooms at the resort.  The advantage though is that the rooms at Cocos were cheap.  Some had airconditioning while others just had fans in them.  Ours was airconditioned and cost 2500 pesos which fit 6 not-so-picky adults.  Basic but it served its purpose.  The room for 4 was only 2 Grand. 

After we had brought our stuff inside the room,  I and my sister-in-law with her husband went to the talipapa nearby where be bought some yellow fin tuna and porkchops for dinner.  After we stashed our goods inside the cooler, they went out for a ride to Pattar which is 15 minutes away.  I, on the other hand, went out to the beach to take some pictures while I waited for my husband who took a nap.
My hubby and I went out to join them after about an hour.  Most of the tourist spots in Bolinao were in one area – Pattar.  We dropped by the Enchanted cave where they had an underground pool.  I didn’t go with them as I was told it was very small anyway and there wasn’t anything else to see.  Fortunately, it was the lean season already so there weren’t too many people.  Next we went to the lighthouse.  It is not as big as Cape Bojeador in Ilocos but it was also a sight to behold.  Situated on top of a hill, there was a fantastic view of the sea from the deck.   
Next stop was at Pattar beach.  I was thrilled to see it as the reviews I found on the net said it was very beautiful.  It wasn’t as I had expected.  The beach was not white but was just light brown, fine but not powder as Boracay, and the waves were strong because it was on the China Sea.  Pattar is a public beach on the coast of Pangasinan.  There were vendors about 50 meters from the shore and there were cottages built by some individuals.  While it is true that we could have brought a tent there, it wasn’t the time for camping as a downpour was expected in the afternoon during the rainy season in the Philippines.  We didn’t stay long, only a few minutes to take some pictures and we were off to meet up with the rest of our group. 
We headed back to Cocos after meeting them.  There, we found the water to be calm and clear unlike in Pattar where the the waves were threatening to devour you.  Ilog Malino, as I observed is a cove and thus the area was protected from the waves from the sea.  They had found several rafts which they used to frolic in the water.  I had originally planned for us to stay at Pattar but the rooms there were at some expensive resort.  There were cottages but the toilets and showers were communal.  So, as fortune would have it, I chose for us to stay at the adjacent Ilog Malino and would just rent a small hut at Pattar had we stayed long there. But we didn’t.  Less expense. Great for the budget. LOL
For dinner we had yellow fin tuna and pork that I had cooked on the grill along with some fruits that we had brought in.  Quite nice. 
As it had always been, I woke up early to see the sun rise.  With my cam, I took some shots.  The pictures I had were among the best ones I have taken so far.  We  had breakfast there, took some time in the water, and by 12 noon, we set off to go around the town on our way home.  Lunch was still at Bolinao Seafood Grill ATBP as we really enjoyed our lunch the day before.  We ordered food and reserved a table but went to the see the church while we waited. 
The St. James Parish is a 400 year old church.  Like the other old places in the Philippines, it is located at the heart of the town just beside the market and walking distance to the municipal hall, bus terminals , etc.  It is comparatively smaller than the ones I’ve seen but is well maintained considering that Bolinao is a third class municipality and the people are mostly fisherfolks and farmers.  There was a stall just outside the gate of the church where they sold Binungey.  It is a delicacy of steamed rice and coconut milk cooked inside a bamboo.  A suman as we would call it here in the Tagalog region only that the suman is wrapped in banana leaves. The Binungey has banana leaves as lining for the bamboo. 
After our visit to the church, we headed back to have lunch at the resto.  After the meal, we headed straight to Alaminos to see the Hundred Islands.  We had wanted to see the waterfalls because it was along the highway anyway but it rained so hard that the path to the falls would be too slippery.  And while most of us were adults, we had brought my mother in law along.  Of course she’d probably try to keep up but we didn’t want to risk a fall or any accident.
The downpour continued all the way from Bolinao to Camiling Tarlac.  While we actually went down for a quick stop at the Hundred Islands, the view was so hazy we could hardly see the islands that were nearest the port.  Anyway, looking at the bright side, there’s reason to go back that part of Luzon. 

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