It was more than 13 years ago when I first set foot in Aurora. It was an exciting road trip with friends. From Manila, we drove through the Sierra Madre mountains down to Baler. Though I am fully aware of the surfing scene boom and the growing development of the province, I only got the chance to go back this early September when I chanced upon a good getaway deal at Deal Grocer for a three days and two nights stay at L’Sirene Boutique Resort in Baler. The resort looked hip and stylish, and the remote location made it even more appealing to me. It would make an ideal base for exploration and relaxation.
I have no problems planning on independent trips. But when it comes to family travel, I’m so poor in planning those kind of logistics. I had to get a little help from friends in the travel industry. My requirement was it should be near Manila, have good accessibility for seniors, convenient and relaxing. Friends from Explore8 gave me options (other resorts Batangas, Cavite, Tagaytay, Vigan) but somehow my siblings and I were leaning into Stilts Calatagan in Batangas. Their cottages looks attractive and they have in-resort transport for our senior relatives. Much more, the beach in this part of Batangas looks gorgeous.
The American Dream, as the Filipinos fondly call it. There was a time when a lot of Filipinos dream of a better life by migrating to the USA. I remember teens getting into college were coerced to enter nursing or get a course on caregiving just to have a better chance of getting into America. Our family was supposed to migrate to USA when I was still in grade school but the plan fell through due to an obstacle. I never bothered to think about it growing up, thinking it will still be a dream. The closest I got to USA was Guam. By a twist of fortunate events, August 2015, I found myself standing on of the longest wooden pier in America, the Oceanside Pier. Finally, I could feel the cool crisp air, see the surfing culture with my own eyes, walk the steps of the pier where some Hollywood movie actors walked (cue in Top Gun, Iwo Jima and American Sniper) and have a taste of the local eats. Yes, I’m in California and its just the beginning of my journey in the land of dollars. Fulfilling my own American Dream.
“Where is Tañon Strait?” I asked when I received an offer to do a photography coverage of a week-long expedition for Oceana Philippines. Prior to this, I have no clear knowledge of this protected seascape sandwiched between two major islands, Cebu and Negros. The itinerary was enticing enough. We’ll start our journey in Cebu, going up to Sta Fe Bantayan island, then making our way down parallel the narrow strait, crossing it from Moalboal to Negros Oriental then sail all the way down to Dumaguete. Just the thought of the trip excites me as I had never been to most of the places, along and within Tañon Strait.
The guard seemed puzzled that a guest would be heading to the beach as early as four a.m. “Mag sho-shoot lang po sir! (I’m gonna shoot some photos sir!)” I said. “Ah cge sir! (Go ahead sir!” he replied with a smile as he unlocks the side door. It was the main gate from El Puerto Marina Beach Resort and its a few meters walk to the beach walking, by the resort fence on a dirt path. The nocturnal salty air got stronger as I near the shore. I seemed to have stirred the attention of a resident dog who doesn’t stop barking seeing (or was it smelling) my presence there. Another guard doing his round saw me and I sent a quick wave to let him know I saw him there and start setting up my tripod for a shoot. The landscape was well-lit by the waning crescent moon. I wanted to shoot stars but this dreamy and solemn landscape will do. Lingayen beach in all its vast morning-glory unseen in slumber.
A 4–5 hours drive in a private van from Manila to western part of Lingayen, in North Pangasinan led us to El Puerto Marina Beach Resort. A resort that seemed to be at its lonesome on the western end of Lingayen Beach. Secluded and far-flung. Within its gate and fenced property is a fairly large area. There’s enough parking space for at least 5 vehicles. There’s a fishing pond, a pavilion for dining and if you look closely by the reception counter, a small pond with an arapaima.
Staying for the fourth time in a hotel means I like the establishment a lot. That I trust in the quality of the rooms and also the service they provide. That I could say for Microtel by Wyndham Puerto Princesa Palawan. If I ever wanted to stay in a beachfront property in Puerto Princesa, this is a top choice in mind. It has been five years since I first came here and I have to commend how well they have maintained the place. Yes a few little changes here but it’s the same old Microtel I liked.