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Til next summer

It’s the first day of June. Time sure flies so fast. Summer vacation for most students ends today as classes open tomorrow. Summer, my most favorite time of the year, will soon be over. 😦

This year’s summer had been a very memorable one. I got to meet my adorable niece Emma for the first time! I made it a point to take some time off from work to spend quality time with my family, especially because my cousins from Canada came home for a vacation.

I love going home to the province, even on short vacations, because I get the chance to watch the sun go down everyday at the beach near our house. I could just sit there on the shore or take a dip in the inviting water to cool down the sweltering heat of the summer sun until it had finally set. But mostly, I love going home because I miss home cooked meals and the comfort of being with my family.

Even at work, the past two months had been quite busy. I was mostly out on fieldwork gathering stories, capturing photos, facilitating workshops, meeting people, organizing events. I rode motorbikes, walked in the sugarcane farms under the scorching heat of the sun, and traveled from one island to the next. I’m not complaining. I love my work, actually. Because at the end of the day, in the few hours before I head home to Manila, I get to see the beautiful sights in the area.

As I was browsing through my summer photos, trying to relish the fun memories, I realized I had on this one top in a lot of photos! Yikes, I need some serious wardrobe change! I badly need to buy some pretty beach dresses online. And new swim wear, too (maybe something that could hide my growing curves).  Besides, summer may be over but it’s always good to be ready with the outfit. There’s so much picture perfect places waiting to be explored all year round.

Anyway, check out these pictures to see what kept me busy this summer:

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Thank you, summer, for the great memories and the darkened skin! Til next year.

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Revisiting Anawangin

Almost 4 years ago, my friend Jessica and I, along with her two older siblings, decided to go on a weekend trip to Anawangin Cove, Zambales. It was not part of the trips that we planned but we got excited to go there ASAP when we saw the pictures of this hidden treasure on the internet. So,after a few days preparation, we set off to discover the place. And it turned out to be a great weekend getaway.

Some time in April, some of my office mates saw a deal from CASHCASHPINOY.COM for a group package tour to Anawangin and I got invited. It had been four years since I last went there, so I said yes. There were about 30 of us who went to Anawangin that weekend.

This blog post is not about how to get there or what to do or see in Anawangin. The place has been quite famous for the past few years and it has earned a great number of blog posts. My post, on the other hand, is about how different Anawangin has become after 4 long years.

These are some of the shots that Jes and I took in Capones and Camara Islands and in Anawangin Cove when I first went there in 2008:

Pundaquit – the gateway to Anawangin, Camara and Capones Islands

On the boat heading to Camara Island

Camara Island during low tide

Tide’s down at Camara Island

Capones Island (without the white sand shoreline that it has now)

Huge rocks at Capones Island

Behold, Anawangin Cove!

The clean, clear waters (Photo by Jes)

No stores, no fences, no trash (Photo by Jes)

A few campers spending the night at Anawangin (Photo by Jes)

The river, pine trees and mountains of Anawangin (Photo by Jes)

Cooling down at noontime

So, what’s different about Anawangin today?

1. Campers. Lots of them. Especially on weekends.

Hundreds of people flock the place on weekends, especially during summer. Since it’s just a few hours away from Manila, it means its cheaper to go there. I think the group deals on the internet also contributed to this increasing influx of local tourists, thanks to online marketing and selling.

I’ve always thought Anawangin to be a recluse to those who want to retreat from the busy life in the city. There’s no phone signal. No electricity. No hotels. No comfort rooms. It’s just you, the sea, the pine trees and the river – the perfect place for a retreat.

I’m not sure if you could still do that there, unless you go there on weekdays.

2. Garbage. Plastic. Everywhere.

The moment I stepped out of the boat in Anawangin, I wanted to dip in the water. I remembered the clear blue waters from four years ago. Sadly, I got disappointed when I saw plastic trash, along with oil coming from boats, floating on the water. The water at the center of the cove was murky and dirty and filled with trash. We tried to swim, but we ended up doing a clean-up drive instead. The waters were cleaner and clearer at the sides of the cove.

The comfort and bath rooms could clearly not accommodate all the campers. The queues were long, and some campers were insensitive with it as if they’re using their bathrooms at home. Shampoo sachets were all over the ground. Good luck with caring for the environment. 😦

On a lighter note, I love that Capones Island has “grown” a new white sandy shore where it was rocky before. It was there that I enjoyed swimming. The water was clear and there were corals and fish near the shore. I just hope that people and capitalism would not rob the place of its beauty.

Donsol Getaway Day 2: My Encounter with the Gentle Giant

After the lovely night with the fireflies of Ogod River during our Day 1 in Donsol, my travel buddies and I were all so excited to see the famous Butandings (Whale Sharks) of Donsol, Sorsogon. I was pretty hyped up because this day marked the fulfillment of one of my travel goals – swim with a Butanding.

We got up early since the staff at the Donsol Tourist Center told us to be there at 7am so we can join the first batch of boats heading out to sea. We arrived earlier than that but when we got there, the place was teeming with tourists – mostly foreigners – all waiting for that chance to get a glimpse of the Butandings (dubbed as the Gentle Giants). According to the locals, a lot of these foreigners keep coming back for days just to swim with these giant but gentle sharks. Good thing we already registered the day before so we didn’t have to go through the orientation anymore. When our BIO (Butanding Information Officer) arrived, we got our gears ready. Life jacket – check! Snorkeling gear – check! Flippers – check!

Boat used for Butanding interactions

Kuya Egong, our BIO, told us as we headed out to the Donsol bay that there’s a 50/50 chance of seeing and interacting with a Butanding. I know that when we heard him say that, we all prayed in our hearts that we would. I silently prayed to be given that special opportunity to see and swim with an awesome creation. Finally, Kuya Egong briefed us on what we needed to do once the Spotter signaled the presence of a Butanding.

It took a while for the SPOTTER to spot a Butanding. By that time, there were already a lot of boats filled with excited tourists. We had to race from one place to another just to get close to a Butanding. But when we got really close, they would dive deeper into the sea. I prayed, “Lord, just give us one chance to see your precious Butanding.” My prayers were immediately answered as our Spotter finally called the attention of the BIO.

Mr. Spotter

“Ready, set, jump!” shouted the BIO. The small area in between the boats was crowded with swimmers. I jumped and looked down in search of the Butanding. Lo and behold, before me was the biggest fish I have ever seen live making its way across the Donsol sea, its mouth wide open ready to take in its food. Sadly, it was my first time to use flippers and the one I rented was so big that I had a hard time catching up with the Butanding. Even so, I was happy that I was finally able to swim with a whale shark.

When we got back to the boat, I silently hoped for another chance to see another Butanding. And yes, my wish was granted! I got to swim with these sea creatures for two more times. During the 2nd time, I still tried to wear those huge flippers hoping I’d be better at it this time around. However, it only slowed me down. I watched as the Butanding swam past me, while I continued to struggle with the flippers. I didn’t even see where my friends were anymore. All I saw in front of me was a tangle of legs and bubbles. All of a sudden, an angel in yellow and black diving suit came to my rescue. He must have noticed that I was struggling so he grabbed my arm and pulled me forward. When I realized what was happening, I looked down and saw that the Butanding was right in front of us. The guy kept pulling me forward and guiding me where the Butanding was. That was the best 1 minute of my Donsol trip. Whoever he was, I never got the chance to thank him, but I’m pretty sure I will always remember him whenever I see a Butanding.

The BIO

Though tired, I was very grateful to God for allowing us to see and swim with the Butanding. Other tourists seemed to not  get tired as they went back into the water again and again just to see a whale shark. Once was enough for me. It was a bonus that I got to see it thrice. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of it but it is enough that it will forever be etched in my memory.

The sunset that day was exceptionally beautiful – one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life. Again, I was reminded of the great love God has not just for me but for His entire creation. Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful life and world you’ve given me.

Tips before you go swimming with the butandings in Donsol:

1. Make sure it’s the season for whale sharks in the area.

2. Don’t use flippers if you’re not used to it. Or better yet, practice first.

3. Check that your snorkeling gear is in great condition. Make sure it doesn’t have leaks or anything, especially if you’re just renting one from the resort or tourist center.

4. If you’re not a good swimmer or if you don’t know how to swim at all, stay close to the BIO or ask him to hold you.

5. Always be ready once you’re on the boat. When the BIO says JUMP, don’t hesitate and just jump!

6. Don’t be too greedy. Let others have their chance, especially if there are a lot of tourists wanting to see the Butandings, too.

7. Please, please, please follow the guidelines and code of conduct when swimming with the Butanding..

There you go! If you’re planning on heading to Donsol or any other place with Butanding sightings, I hope you will have a great time interacting with them. Have fun!

Yes, I Love Sunsets!

As I was browsing through the photos in my laptop, I noticed that I’ve taken quite a lot of photos of sunsets in the past two years. Yes, I love watching the sun go down especially if I’m at the beach.  I love how vibrant the sky and sea becomes at that moment when the sun kisses the sea.

Check out some of my favorite sunset photos and the reasons why sunset is my favorite time of the day:

Sunsets take my breath away. (Anilao, Batangas)

Sunsets are dramatically beautiful. (Anawangin Cove, Zambales)

 Sunsets bring serenity and peace.  (Boracay)

Sunsets always remind me of the greatness and  awesomeness of God. (Bolinao, Pangasinan)

After a day’s busy work, sunsets can help calm you down.  (Sentosa, Singapore)

Sunsets can soothe and relax a troubled heart. (Saud Beach, Pagudpud)

Special thanks to my friend Jennifer for being a willing subject.

Sunsets bring back childhood memories. (Pob. 1, Pagudpud)
This particular beach was my childhood playground. Since we lived nearby, my cousins and I would usually come here to play. Whenever I go home, I still go back to this beach to watch the sun set.

Finally, sunsets remind me that endings always usher new beginnings. The sun may go down on us tonight, but rest assured that it will rise again tomorrow. So, cheers to sunsets!

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