The Philippine Getaway: A Hundred Islands in a Day

or so we tried.

THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT SEAS! Being a fullbred filipino with Level 99 #PinoyPride it brings me much excitement to showcase one of the National Geological Monuments of my home country. The Hundred Islands is a place I hold dear to my heart, not because of the undeniably great instagram-fodder, but because a loved one most dear to me who had now passed had always pointed a finger at this place whenever a travel itinerary was being made, and finally we’ve made it here. So Auntie Mimay, this one’s for you. 

A three to four hour drive away from Manila to Alaminos, whether it’s by car or by horse (I ain’t picky), should take you by the Lucap Wharf pier, unmistakeble with the green lighthouse, age written all over it, and an abundance of glass boats of every colour in the spectrum known to man.

The 9 AM provincial weather was pleasant, sunny skies, slight breeze, and humidity decent enough so I don’t end up profusely being the stickiest man in Alaminos. We board the boat, coordinated by our ever so trustworthy tour guide, Ms. Nineta (pronounced Nin-ee-ta), and proceed to make our way into the 123 limestone islands, 124 at low-tide apparently.

Scattered somewhere deep in the Lingayen Gulf, we pass through a couple islands, sounds none else but camera clicks and a struggling speedboat engine (the hotel continental breakfast wasn’t merciful on the pounds) fill the the silence of the of the 6.47 square mile national park. The first island, known for its panoramic viewdeck, belly-busting hike-worthy stairs, and a connecting footbridge was the first to be docked.

Greeted with a bottle of water and a hand by the local harbourmaster to step on much awaited land, a wonderful blend of the tropical green and the untouched aqua blue wraps around the crescent-shaped island. After a couple impromptu and obligatory family photos, we are urged to cross the footbridge made of seemingly strategically structured pieces of floatation cots, which seems to be all that stands between my beloved camera equipment, and their watery demise. Such thrill.

Virgin Island, appropriately named considering the unspoilt and untouched condition of the beach, and the effort it takes to climb over a 150-step hill just to reach it, was the other end of the fluorescent footbridge. Connected by zipline, one can avoid the downhill climb and in superman-panoramic fashion, sweep through the beachfront and skyrocket your snapchat story straight to fame. Unfortunately the zipline crew were not present then, but for sure not all was lost in these postcard-quality views.

After a back-breaking session of rock-skipping with the beloved brother we have decided to get a move on to this rumoured viewdeck before civilisation catches up and disturbs the solace of our tour (privacy issues; not really).  A trip past the footbridge and onto this 220+ step hike up was of necessity before one is worthy to bask in the beauty of the islands apparently. Worth it? For sure.

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Ever so trustworthy tour guide (and strong legged she climbed that hill with zero complaints to be heard) then directs us to a different route back down, composed of 190+ fairly steep steps that made me question the integrity of my cross-country trained stamina. Where’s all those gains from them 7 AM running sessions, I ask myself. Clearly the Hershey bars have been catching up faster than my breath. Anyway, enjoy some views of the pickup point at Governor’s.

The next island’s hub to the adrenaline junkies, Marcos Island, aptly called probably to reflect an extremist regime upon quite the height-instilled cave of which people cliff-dive from. Probably not. Either way, Ms. Nineta mentioned that Marcos had to be docked before lunch. Selective listening picked up “Cliffdive” and “lunch”, a unanimous agreement was settled to visit this killer of a view.

Following a strict “No Lifevest, No Diving Rule”, we were escorted to the very top of Marcos Island, greeted by a cave larger than life, natural habitat to the bats that reside within the area. First sign of fauna I thought, and never have I been so tempted to yell at the top of my lungs and provoke the docile creatures, if only the bladder wasn’t so weak in fear and humiliation of baptising the water below with a yellow blessing.

Do watch in 1080p HD, and jump a couple cliffs yourself while you’re at it. The GoPro Hero 4, proving as reliable as the microwave oven on a home-alone weekend, stood through the rigour Dad and I put it in the Marcos Island cave. The cave stretches far out into the island but the lack of a flashlight and proper spelunking equipment was red flag saying “quit being an idiot and leave.”A quick swim back to the beachfront proved to be the way out of the batcave.

It wasn’t enough, we wanted more, and as the number of people increased in the excitement-filled island, so did our eagerness to leave it. Quezon Island for lunch, was apparently the next destination, and although our stomach’s screamed yes, the thirst for more adventure began to exhibit itself through fits of shaky withdrawal. We had to find Nemo, cook with Spongebob, and disturb what lies beneath with some helmet diving, all before a hearty meal. We boat to one of the diving stations between Marcos and Quezon.

25kg Metal of pure badassery, we were to be mounted with these helmets that was supposedly gonna keep us alive through between the meso-epipelagic layers of the sea. While the kids snorkelled up top, Dad and I were warriors, and so we braved down with two of the professional divers and licensed bioconservationists. Ofcourse, we had to get footage of clams n’ clownfish!

Independently priced from the main package, the diving set us back 1000 Php for the both of us, inclusive of all equipment for 15 minutes intimate immersion with the wildlife. Quite a bit before then I gave the ‘thumbs up’ hand signal, which in dive language was the sign of “hey my lungs don’t like it anymore can we leave”. We gave our thanks in form of cash, and made our way to pass by two islands before lunch.

Poorly taken shot of ‘The Chapel’ on the left (Apologies, I was drenched and refused to use the 750D) shows an altar with Mother Mary in white, eerily placed in a cave splitting the two faces of the island. Holy Ground (or waters), in this case, the catholic sign of the cross was made upon its passing. The ‘Bat Island’ on the right, not so nicely taken either, houses to over a thousand bats. While it may not be obvious, every leaf black in colour is apparently a bat taking a snooze. We were outnumbered, a hundred to one, but apparently thousands more lived in the island before a windstorm hit recently.

After what supposedly was the most gut-wrenching and wit-testing part of the island hop, lunch was finally in order at Quezon Island half a mile away. The presence of those in our same species, and that Bat Island was nowhere to be seen bathed me with some sort of reassurance.

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Quezon Island Pier; Most populated island among the hundreds.

Seemingly eager to cross stuff off a bucketlist I suggested a round of Banana-boating, worthy test to the loving bonds of what holds a family together (“A family overboard at sea together, stays together” – Zachary 2016).  1500 Php for 15 minutes? Sold.

Nothing better than to watch the catastrophe at 0:23 and 2:34 in 720P @ 60FPS! We all came out of it in one piece. Well, mostly, Naomi (a cousin, the lovely sister of Nadine Lustre, you missed out Nadz!) tapped out and boarded the speedboat on the way back, but champions, we all were nonetheless!

At this point the human body I call home was beginning yell “stop”, and I did have to sit down at some point unfortunately. Ms. Nineta comes to the rescue at the rendezvous point within Quezon and suggests a non-physically taxing island to relax in. Children’s Island, they call it. Water shallow enough for an infant to snorkel, and oddly enough it sounded like a most appealing ending to a fun-filled day. We board a boat, but you know me, every ride’s an adventure. To the roof Zoie and I go!

Alas we dock at the Children’s Island, and a child I feel like indeed. Zo and I get off the roof, me typically struggling with my camera equipment, and we spot a cozy roofed spot by the edge of the beach, our people-phobia kicking in and solitude sounded best. Candid moments and camera clicks, everyone was in their own moment, reflecting on the blast of a day we all had.

Well, so we weren’t able to hit the hundred, but the views we’ve seen and the action we’ve experienced, it felt like a hundred. Add family to the equation and it becomes a myriad of memories one will never forget. It’s wonders of home like these that make proud of my country, and whether you and I are thousands of miles away from it, The Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan, gets two massive thumbs up of recommendation and appreciation, keeping up the reputation that indeed, #itsmorefuninthephilippines.

 

references:

  • All photos and videos are shot by me, and is property of VoyagerZulu
  • Cameras used: Canon EOS 750D; and GoPro Hero 4
  • Massive thanks to the big and happy family
  • Ms. Nineta, Jason and Genesis for being fantastic tour guides and boatmen
  • the local government of Alaminos for maintaining the Hundred
  • MetroDeal for the smashing deal we’ve landed to tour the place
  • Big Man Upstairs for having such a place exist
  • Email: zacharykeithsantos@hotmail.com
  • Instagram / Twitter: voyagerzulu

 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. ladyflor says:

    Just wow! The banana boat ride video was exciting….

    Like

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