Friday, January 30, 2015

TRAVEL: Where the Hundreds of Islands Seem to Kiss Each Other

Long weekend holiday meant road trips and family adventure.  So this was what happened to us during the Pope's visit.  We bought Island tour packages for a day of adventure at Hundred Islands, Alaminos, Pangasinan.  This was really not in the plan yet, but sometimes, it pays to not plan your tour and see whatever it brings to you for the sake of excitement.  Yes, sometimes.  But planning your tours months ahead is still essential.

The product of some spur of the moment back-packing with the kids!  Rewarding and no amount of money can buy.  However, it was a long five-hour drive from Pasay City to this part of Pangasinan.

Hundred Islands National Park is located at Alaminos, Pangasinan which  used to be a part of Bolinao.  Bolinao on the other hand was one of the nine towns in the northern most part of Zambales.  Alaminos became a town independent of its mother town in 1747.   The town got its name in 1872 in honor of Lieutenant Governor General Alaminos, the then Governor General of the Philippines, then became a city in 2001 by virtue of Republic Act 9025, An Act Converting the Municipality of Alaminos, Province of Pangasinan into a Component City to be known as the City of Alaminos.

Had we known that it is the very first national park in the Philippines, we could have visited the tourist site early on before we began going out of Luzon.

Alaminos is a small city and can still be likened to old rural towns, thus it is categorized as a fifth class component city.  We walked the whole town to see where to stay for the night, eat dinner and breakfast on the following day before we go island hopping.  It only took as barely an hour to go around.

Looking for a hotel and Bnb's online was a bit daunting since there are few, so we just checked out the town and see where we could get a good hot shower and comfy, clean rooms to rest.  Before parking our car, we first went directly to the jump off, Lucap Wharf, to meet PAC the representative which had organized our island hopping adventure.  The guy suggested some inns and hotels around the area, but he said the budget for the family as big as ours would be P 4,000 to P 5,000. It was a bit expensive for us, concerning we would only check in at 6 pm and be out by 6 am the next day.  We were trying to squeeze in at the most P 3000 since we paid P 700 each for the tour with helmet diving.

It took us visiting and asking a few accommodations around but we didn't get quite what we were expecting so we drove back to the town proper to inspect Asia Novotel which we saw as we were driving around town.

I will tell you more of that in a while, but to cut it short, we decided to stay there and finally parked the car for good for the day.

Let me share you some snaps of our wandering at the capitol area.

Park in front of the municipal hall, where you can find the Food Court.

Alaminos City municipal hall

All over the town, you can still spot some antique houses as old as from the Spanish colonial era.

Parish of St. Joseph Church (1766)
After going around we sure could use a cold glass of tea or coffee, or even get a heavy early dinner.  Since this trip was spontaneous, we didn't know where to go, except there were franchises but of course we would love to savor on their local specialties.  So we looked for a tourism center where we could get suggestions, good enough that it was easy to locate as it was at the corner of the plaza where there was basketball court.

The staff was courteous as we were approached and gave us a brochure of some hotels that we could check in to. He also told us to try Papa Tok's as it happens to be the famous food house in the area that serve good Pangasinan cooking.  He taught us how to get there so even though we saw some restos along the way, we headed to Papa Tok's Kitchen instead.

It's actually a carinderia cum resto and a drinking place at the same time.  Can be somehow good for a family with kids if there weren't noisy drunkards inside.

I like some part of it whit painted walls though.

The menu boasts of Filipino cuisine with a Pangasinense's touch.

For appetizer, the kids ordered cheese sticks with thousand islands' dressing.

Darren, our eldest had this Tokwa't Baboy, which we also had and raved for.  We love the freshness and clean taste of their fried tofu which wasn't too fried at all.  the pork bits were also savor enough and heightened with the soy sauce and vinegar dip.

Then our Sinugba platter came, a 12-inch diameter bilao with grilled  eggplants, prawns, pork liempo, boneless bangus and fresh veggies, cucumber, onion, tomato.                          

After dinner, we walked back to Novotel which was only 15 minutes away.

Here are some photos inside the hotel, we got the VIP Family room for only P 1,200 for 12 hours.

It has 35 inch cable LED TV, AC'ed, WIFI and three double sized beds.

Clean towels hygiene kits are a plenty.  Bed sheets are white and clean and the smell good too.  The rooms are livable and with simple interior designs, because they are new.

Since we are six, each bed had accommodated two of us.

Next day...

The tour was scheduled for 8 am in the morning and we were instructed to be there at least 15 minutes before the time.  We checked out at 6:30 and went to McDonald's, a few streets away, for breakfast.

We drove to Lucap Wharf after and came there earlier than 7:30 am.

After confirming with PAC team, they had our life vests, snorkeling gears ready and had us registered at the manifesto.   The tour would be until 4 pm so we were told to buy packed lunch at the resto a few stores away from their office.  Lunch can vary from P50 to P100.

Here are the things you may need to take note at when you have kids with you.

1.  Seafaring may vary depending on the season, this was in January with no reported storms or rains, though you will definitely be advised for such natural nuances.

2.  Make sure the life vests of the kids fit them snugly, most of the boatmen may not have kid-sized vests, but you can rent one from other stores around.  Don't hesitate to demand one for our kid.   Same with the snorkeling gears.

3.  The local tourism have made sure that each trip is safe but always see to it that the boatmen had their carriers well-inspected.

4.  Pack light, and wear your swimming outfits already.  There are no good comfort rooms or changing rooms in the islands though there are some islands with make-shift comfort rooms.

5.  The trip can be windy and cold so bring enough towels for everyone.

6.  Of course you will be bringing your cameras and smart phones, make sure you keep them in a waterproof case, the tides can be sometimes rough and the boats aren't that wide, so expect some sea water splashing at you at times.

7.  If your kids aren't fond of travelling by water, have them gobble a Bonamine before travelling, or why not bring a mini medicine kit, that has bonamine, aspirin, and meds for the wounds.

8.  Bring plenty of snacks and bottled water, but never leave them on the islands please.  However, you can buy some in certain islands.

9.  Make sure you visit the highest peak of Governor's Island or what the locals call Pinoy big brother.

10. There are Wifi connections for Globe and Smart connections, so please, by all means post our photos on FB and Instagram and tweet about your wondeful experience.

Can you feel the coldness of the air around us, we traveled on cloudy and gloomy day.

Our first stop was at the snorkeling area.  We were transferred on a floating hut for the helmet diving.  A briefing by the PAC guides was conducted.  And you need to sign a consent sheet.

The only way to the hidden pool is to jump in it!  Way out can be unpredictable...

Hayyy!  Kakapagod ba umakyat?  More than 2 hundred steps lang naman!

We went to six different islands and had lunch on the beach on a huge flat rock as our table, since there weren't enough cottage to accommodate tourists at Quezon Island.

The journey was tiresome with kids but it was fun as they were all game to explore the caves, the and sandy beaches.  The boat ride was spectacular and from a far you can notice the uniqueness of each the islands.   My daughter told me as we were halfway the tour, "Mommy, the islands seem to swim together and some look like they are kissing each other."

God is truly amazing to have thought of these little islands.  Indeed, 7,101 island to explore may have us chasing for them for a lifetime,but for us, that's minus a hundred and others crossed out on our bucket list.


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