Monday, August 17, 2009

No Reservations

Words by Maria Alina Co

What were three true-blooded Manilenas without any camping skills thinking when they decided to go to an island called Anawangin?

By word of mouth, the small, uninhabited island is fast becoming a camping Mecca for mountaineers. But for most city dwellers, they just could not resist Anawangin’s mystery. With no hotels, no electricity, no air-conditioning, no bars, no internet, novelty for them is the greatest adventure. Not knowing what to expect, three girls headed out to Zambales one Friday morning, with luggage fit for an airport’s. Will handsome Leonardo di Caprio appear and hand over a secret map to “The Beach”? Will they befriend a volleyball with eyes and mouth just like in “Castaway”? I assure you it was nothing like that. I should know, because I was one of them.

No Reservations

After four hours of dreamless sleep aboard an Iba Zambales bus, we were finally roused by the conductor’s yelling “San Antonio!” From there, we were to get a tricycle to Pundaquit, where we could rent a boat to Anawangin. Being the Boracay-going gals that we were, we felt excited, curious and nervous all at the same time. And then it hit us—all these were just improvisations. Just some instructions we got online from a blogger we don’t even know. Waves of doubt splashed our minds—come to think of it, we didn’t even have reservations!

But off we went to meet the waves and explore the sea. We were island hopping! For anyone who has taken a vacation in Pundaquit, Zambales, the locals offer island hopping in a small boat that can accommodate at least four people for only P800. The route covers three islands— Camara, Capones and Anawangin and is inclusive of a ride back to Pundaquit.

Camara, the nearest island from Pundaquit shores, is a very small isle with a rocky shore and white sand. There’s nothing much to do there but just lay down on a mattress and bask in the sun. It’s also perfect for picnic with friends and family. The next stop is Capones, where you can trek to the Spanish lighthouse. The walk is worth the sweat as the lighthouse is breathtaking. Try talking to the construction guys there and they’d lead you to the best and safest place to take pictures of the lighthouse. Plus they’d give you a healthy dose of travel tips and trivia.

The last stop, Anawangin was the biggest finale. When we arrived there at noon, the sun was high, the sand powdery white and the beach crystal clear blue. Around us were not coconut trees as was the usual, but pine trees! Lots and lots of them! The beauty of it all was too overwhelming that we didn’t notice right away that we were the only tourists there, aside from the caretakers who lived at the nearby nipa hut. After setting up our tent and stove, we ran around, explored and swam to our heart’s content! It was the most peaceful I’ve felt over the last few years. Dipping my head in the water, I told myself—this is the place to be, this island is ours.

That is, until the next day.

Anawangin Tips and Must- Haves

Mornings are pure paradisiacal, but evenings at Anawangin can be quite harsh. Especially when you’re amateur campers like us.

When the sun went down, the island was literally black, with just a speck of stars above. Our large heavy–duty flashlight might have come in handy, except that my friend found out it was on the whole time. It blinked for a second and then the charge was out. So we had to resort to scented candles my other friend brought.

Needless to say, bring lots of flashlights and batteries. Also, the mountain mosquitoes consider us a delicacy, so at nighttime, it’s a must to use a mosquito repellant.

The best about the island is the sense of peace and isolation. But Saturday morning, we woke up to the sound of around fifty people setting up their tents, some very close to ours. So I would recommend a weekday trip, instead of weekends to have the island all for your selves. You can choose between two sides of the island. They only charge entrance fees per day of your stay: on the left is P100 per head and on your right is P50 per head. All I know is that the on the P100 side, there are fewer campers and the restroom’s better.

To survive an over night stay or more in Anawangin, make sure you load up on all the essentials: food and water. For food, it’s best to bring a mini stove, a pot for rice and a pan for the dishes. The key word is canned goods: tuna, corned beef, spam, sardines, all kinds for more variety. For snacks, bring bread and spreads, biscuits and chips. In San Antonio, there are convenience stores where you can buy gallons of water and all the other needs you forgot to buy from the city.

Once you’re in the island, forget your cell phones. There’s not even half of a single signal there. So before you say goodbye to your boatman, tell him the exact date and time you plan to go home.

For you sanitary needs, water is pumped from a nearby poso. You can bring buckets of water to take a bath in a restroom made of bamboo sticks. There’s also a toilet and you can use the rooms to change clothes, if not your tent.

I’m a Survivor!

An adventure in Anawangin is not for the faint-hearted. If you plan to go there, be ready to get down and dirty.

Manilenas that we are, we’re proud to say we survived three days and two nights in a mysterious island, far away from civilization. And besides the island’s beauty, it’s the uncertainty, the journey to the unknown that made all the difference. Reservations are no good in Anawangin. Just pure guts and adventurism.

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