Pine Trees, white sands and rich mountainscapes in Anawangin
May is already here and we only have a month left to enjoy the summer. Let’s go local this time as I want to share another destination perfect for sun worshipers raring for a natural tan. I have been hearing about this place quite a lot lately especially from the mountaineering community. And when a fellow mountaineer from MFPI Ruby, suggested to go to this place I immediately cleared the date a month ahead. Just a few weeks before the actual date, I was already excited since I haven’t been to a beach for quite a while. And last weekend, we finally got to explore the Cove of Anawangin in Zambales. Was it worth the hype?
Lagoon and the Sea
I heard my phone ringing Saturday morning, and thought it was my phone alarm. I looked around and saw it was bright already. Oh $#!%! I’m late! I quickly answered the phone. “Nasan ka na? (Where are you?)”, it was my friend Eds on the other line. We were supposed to meet in Makati at 5:30 am with the rest of the group where our Van was waiting and it was already 45 minutes pass 5am. I told him I’m still at the house and apologized for the slip up. I thought I activated my phone alarm, I guess I didn’t. They said they’ll wait for me in Shaw Crossing instead. I tried to juggle my brains hard to wake it up and thought I couldn’t make it there in a short time. And my damn phone’s network is busted. It was Smart’s 3G acting causing my network connection to fail. I decided to switch to GSM only and called them up again and told them to go ahead and I’ll just follow by taking the Bus. I thought that they’ll be able to do more things in San Antonio, like buy supplies and eat lunch while they wait for me to arrive. Sheesh, as one of the organizers, being late like that is shameful. My Bad!
The beach has nice powdery off-white sands
With that out of the way, I quickly prepared myself and my stuff and headed to Victory Liner in Caloocan where there are buses going to Iba, Zambales, leaving every hour. I paid Php 207 for my one-way fare going to San Antonio and had a quick snack while waiting for my 9:30 am bus. The bus did leave on time so I was expecting to arrive in San Antonio around past noon before 1pm, or so I thought. There was a major traffic in NLEX due to roadwork, then at Lubao Pampanga, there was a fiesta and street dancing where a ridiculous re-routing made more delays since they routed vehicles on a single lane dusty road. So imagine huge buses and cars navigating through this. Fortunately we managed to squeeze out of it fast. So I arrived in San Antonio around 3:30pm, 6 hours later and took a tryke there going to Pundakit beach which cost around Php 40. When I arrived in Pundakit Tricycle station, Ruby, Eds and our Driver Deng were already waiting for me. The other group, Benjie and the rest of the guys from Accenture already went ahead. Fortunately I’m quite familiar with the place since it was the same jump-off point going to Capones Island, which I have been to before, so I manged to go around a lot quicker.
The beach seabed has a gentle slope ideal for kids to swim in
We headed off to the beach where our boat was waiting. A boat here going to Anawangin cost around Php 800 going to and fro. A boat can carry 3-4 pax. So off we go on a 30 minute boat ride to Anawangin. The waves were already a bit strong but our boatman seem to navigate through it very well. He knows how to stop and slow down the engines and when to throttle forward. We also passed by the islands Capones and Camara on our right. Then from a cliff, we made a left turn, when I noticed the water suddenly calmed down. We were already at the cove mouth and was headed towards the shore. Wow was all I could say as the afternoon light made the cove landscape look really amazing. And what I immediately noticed aside from it’s white sand beach are the pine trees! How about that! It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a beach with pine trees along the shore.
Wide camping areas among the pine trees
I noticed there were a lot of other campers in the area. But despite having several people aside from us, the whole cove is big enough to accommodate all of us without feeling crowded. The place is undeveloped so you have to bring your own camping gears here. There is one small Aeta family here living on a kubo who seems to be watching over the place. The only facility you could find here is a basic restroom and a poso (Water pump). We looked for our other companions and set up our tents under the pine trees which still amazes me at that time. I mean, I thought these trees only grow in cool climates so it’s a bit of surprise to find them here. And what more, they are growing on sands near the shore. I wonder what kind of Pine trees are they to grow in an environment like this.
Dusk by the tree
When I made our itinerary here, everything is all about relaxation and exploration. Everyone is free to do what they want when they get here, so after setting up our tents, Benjie’s group decided to trek up the nearby hills where they said you can have a nice overlooking view of the cove, but be wary of wild tamaraws in the area. I thought that wild tamaraws are native in Mindoro, but it seems they can also be found here as well. Since I didn’t want to do some climbing at that time, I thought I explore the beach before sundown.
Surreal landscape at moonlight
The long beach stretch of Anawangin surprisingly has very fine sands. It’s not as white and powdery as Boracay but comparing it to other beaches like in Batangas or Bataan, the sand quality here is very good. Aside from the pine trees and white sands, there’s also a scenic lagoon nearby which you could explore. Anawangin Cove is not a place though to view the sunrise or sunset as they are obstructed by the surrounding mountainscapes on both sides. Still you can enjoy the changing colors over the horizon.
Moonlight over Anawangin stretch of beach
By night time, before, during and after dinner it was an exchange of stories while chilling out. It wasn’t a full moon but the illumination that night was perfect. Some other camps were jamming with their guitars and I saw some just lying around looking at the starry sky. My friend and I decided to hang out by the beach and listen to some tunes, then I experimented on taking photos of the landscape by the moonlight. I had amusing results using long exposures. And while taking photos I was approached by some guys who seem to be interested in my photography. The group also came from Manila and have been going back here more often to explore the place. Since we’re at a relaxed pace, we joined the others by the seashore and went on a night dip at the ocean waters. The water was crystal clear and calm and the sand at the sea bed was soft. It was amazing. I think for some reason, the cove somehow moderated the waves in this beach. With the moon illuminating brightly, you could see strands of light under the sea as you walk. It was just so relaxing there and just talking about anything under the moon. I think I went out of the water past midnight since hunger struck.
Light of Dawn
Even with our tents, my friend and I decided to sleep outside with our feet just inside our tents. The cool wind was blowing that night and a slight howl from the passing winds within the pine tree forest could be heard. The sight of the leaves and the trees when looking up lying from my earth pad was a soothing lullaby to my senses as I fall asleep. It was already 5:30 am when I woke up and everything was already blue-bright. I looked at the sea and saw an unusual beam of pink light spreading out of the horizon. I was wondering how this pink light came to be as the sun isn’t up yet and it would rise on the opposite side. Interesting light show nonetheless. Must be one of the wonders of nature, like a rainbow.
Visiting the Capones Lighthouse
After breakfast we packed up our things and prepared ourselves for another boat ride side trip to Capones Island where we’ll visit the Faro de Punta Capones, commonly known as the Capones Island Lighthouse. I was looking forward to visiting this island again since last time we had trouble finding the lighthouse. It was a really splashy 15-20 minutes ride to the island. At first, the boatmen led us to the middle of the island. They said we had to hike more than an hour to get to the lighthouse. We couldn’t afford that time so we asked if there is a shorter way. They said there was a rocky shoreline at the back where there’s a stair going to the lighthouse but we would get wet to our waist going down. Like, Duh? Aren’t we already wet from the boat ride? So we headed to the rocky shoreline and went down the boat. The boats stayed by the water since they couldn’t dock. We had a short climb and quickly found our way to the lighthouse.
The castaways posing by the lighthouse
The lighthouse is very similar to the Cape Bojeador in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, which is one of the reason I also wanted to see it. This lighthouse was built in 1886 and was operational by 1890. Despite its old condition, the lighthouse is still operational and are powered and charged by solar panels attached to the lighthouse. It is being maintained by the Philippine Coast Guards.
Striking similarity in design with Cape Bojeador
Having seen the lighthouse finally, you can’t help notice the striking similarity between its brother structure at the north. From the tiles, windows and the whole design. The only difference is that the Capones Lighthouse is smaller in scale. The winding staircase up the lighthouse is very fragile so we went up in groups. When we got up it was steamy hot at the upper portion. It was different from Burgos as we have to open a hatch at the top that leads to the light bulb itself. It was so hot and the air was thin, I immediately looked for another door going out the view deck. I finally found the small door and figured out how to open it. It was a breath of relief once outside as we enjoyed the view of the sea and the island.
The author, all tanned and sweaty at the Capones Lighthouse
Our visit to the lighthouse capped of our adventure here in Zambales. It was another splashy boat ride back to Pundaquit, but fun nonetheless. It was an amazing weekend and was glad that despite the slip ups of the trip at the start we managed to enjoy what Anawangin has to offer. A personal note here. If you plan to visit Anawangin after reading this, please be responsible and take care of your trash. The place is still unspoilt and I heard rumors that there are plans of building a resort here. I love Anawangin and until that time comes, we can enjoy it for free. The place is one of a kind weekender destination and I do plan to come back here someday to explore the mountain ranges. So keep it clean people!
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.