I have vague memory of the last time I stayed in this seaside town of Atimonan, Quezon province. There was a time from my grade school to high school days where the family would have an annual holy week vacation in Atimonan then in Bicol since both are my dad and mom’s province respectively. We were always looking forward to this each year since it was a really fun place to be. Our cousin’s simple house of four concrete walls and iron sheet roofs at Baranggay Buhangin was close to the sea. It was an enjoyable simple life just being there as a kid.
My Uncle who came back to the Philippines recently for vacation after several years of living in San Diego, USA had a scheduled trip back to Atimonan to visit his late wife’s family there. I tagged along for the ride, curious as to how the place looks like after more than a decade. The drive from Manila to Atimonan Quezon took about 4-5 hours south, the same route going to Bicol. We passed by the famous zig-zag road known also as the Bitukang Manok (Chicken Intestines) due to the dangerous sharp road curves up the mountains of Quezon National Park.
The town after the zig-zag road is already Atimonan proper and Barangay Buhangin is along the national road going to Bicol. It feels nostalgic to be in this place again seeing the land, the sea on the horizon which is part of Lamon Bay and the nearby coconut trees. And what is amazing, everything seems to be the same, almost nothing has changed except for a new hut on one corner. The water well, chicken cages and piggery corners are just a lot more organized. Honestly it gave me a mixed feeling whether it was good or not.
The beach is the strongest memory I have of this place. I used to just walk here by myself and bring in some music and just watch the sea for hours. Now I walk back to this same beach and saw how the landscape has changed. I learned the recent major storms have devastated the place and brought some floods. The shoreline seems to be eating up portions of the upper land.
Looking at it now, after having traveled to a number of places, seeing a lot of beautiful beaches, Buhangin Beach is just ordinary. The sand is brown-gray, large grains with several pebbles and corals. The waves are awfully strong at that time and the water isn’t crystal clear as I imagined. But why is this place so special? It’s a far cry from being in the top ten best beaches I’ve seen, but I guess the memories attached to this place defies ranking. So I placed my scarf on the sand, lay on the beach, listened music blaring from my portable speakers yet dampened by the strong winds and watched my folks enjoying the beach. Yeah. It’s time to just chill.
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.