It is the reason you would want to go to Capones Island, off Pundaquit, in San Antonio, Zambales. Capones? The island of the castrated?
The boat ride will cost visitors P1,300 if coming from the high-end resort called Punta de Uian. But boatmen in Pundaquit proper will charge only P800 for the trip.
The boat took off from Patio Royal Resort, steered by boatman Joven Orcino. We first went around the nearby Camara Island, and then circumnavigated (feeling like Magellan?) the island of Capones, deciding where we could get off to explore the island. We went to the back, which happens to be the front view of the light house, facing the China Sea. We couldn’t land there – – the water was rough. We went around again and decided to approach the island from the other side. No wharf, we just steered the boat to a small clearing amidst rocks. The boat was so unsteady I had to hand over my belt bag and camera to the more agile boatman, lest I trip and get the camera wet.
From that clearing, we ascended a path that is sometimes rocky, sometimes muddy, covered with trees and shrubs. I had to be careful, we could fall off the ravine. At some point, we had to pass thru a fallen tree. It wasn’t a very long hike, but it was a rather difficult one for those not used to walking in the bush.
The reward for the “hardship” was well worth it. The light house stood proud, but the caretaker’s place, and what probably were “offices” in the old days were nothing but ruins. Eerie. And yet, one can imagine how it must have looked like in its glory days. Today, it would make a good setting for a horror movie.
Yet, the view is magnificent. A clear view of the ocean, accented by foliage from the island. Climbing the tower is another eerie experience. The spiral staircase, while looking sturdy, seemed to dance and gives one a feeling it could collapse anytime. I just thought that if it did, its very shape will prevent it from falling, it will just lie on the small space where it stands.
After the spiral staircase came two ladders that seemed to be in perfect vertical angle. This gets visitors to the viewing deck level. But the gate was closed, and the only way to view the horizon was to go up a third, and more difficult-to-manage vertical ladder. From there, one will feel like he owns the oceans.
There are no facilities in the island. I would not even encourage camping overnight, unless you bring everything, including water to drink. I am not even sure if it is allowed. No matter, just being there for a few hours is worth the cost and the effort. I wouldn’t mind visiting again.
Visitors can choose to stay overnight in the various resorts in Pundaquit, or in Anawangin Cove. I have covered these possible accommodations in a previous blog on Anawangin.
Anawangin Beach Cove
I went to Zambales primarily to go to Anawangin , not wanting to be the last to see this beach which some have labeled as one of the top 5 in Luzon. To nature lovers, it just might be the number 1 beach destination. A friend who saw my post on facebook, after reading my description, commented that it seems like Bora in the 70s. My guess is that it will stay the same for many more years. But get there fast, before commerce sets in.
Anawangin is back-to-basics. Isolated. No electricity.No cell phone signal. No room accommodations, no restaurants, no bars, no shops. Bring your tents, food, water, and other provisions.
For an entrance fee of P100 per person, campers can stay overnight, pitch their tents, use the picnic tables around, use the improvised showers (water from artesian well), and the toilet facilities. Other things you might forget may be available in the sari-sari store, the owner of which can even cook the meat and fish you bring to the cove, for a small fee.
Anawangin is unique. It is the only beach area I ever went to with a thick cover of tall pine trees. Imagine a beach cove on top of the mountains in Benguet. The powdery off-white sand is said to be lahar, from the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. The pine trees (like the agujo in Baguio) are said to have grown in the area directly as a result of volcanic waste flowing into the cove, bringing with it fallen pine trees and pine tree seeds.
The cliffs are gentle enough and seem to be calling trekkers. The hill at the back also offers trekking opportunities, but locals never fail to caution adventure travelers about wild animals that roam the mountains. The lagoon is refreshing, shaded by the pine trees.
The water is fine, but there have been reports of strong undercurrents. Best to stay near the shore, and always swim in groups or with a buddy.
To truly enjoy the natural beauty of Anawangin, avoid the months of April and may when campers fill up every little space. I went there with no other visitors on the island, and felt like I owned the place.
Pundaquit, San Antonio, Zambales
Yes, Anawangin is THE destination in Pundaquit, which now seems to be THE destination in all of Zambales. Travel time from Manila is approximately 5 hours, passing thru NLEX-SCTEX and SBMA. San Antonio is just past San Marcelino. Victory Liner goes to Iba, so you can ask to be dropped off in San Antonio. Tricycles can take visitors from the town proper to Pundaquit. Those traveling with their own vehicles can park in Pundaquit, and arrangements can be made by the boatman.
Boat hire is P1,000 to the cove, including being fetched the next day for your return trip to Pundaquit proper. You may also do a tour of Capones Island, pass by Camara Island on the way to Anawangin for only P1,000. Passenger load is 4 to a boat. I personally recommend Joven Orcino who can be contacted thru his mobile numbers 09193215252, and 09159599595 or thru Royal Patio Beach Resort (see details below)
For those who want to visit Anawangin but not camp there, accommodations can be booked in Pundaquit.
The top hotel is Punta de Uian, a huge resort-hotel complex done in a Balinese theme.Room rates start at P4,160, with the penthouse at P15,000, with huge discounts during off-peak months. The resort has a spa, a swimming pool, a restaurant, and offers recreation facilities like ATVs, kayaks, jet skis, and snorkeling. Island hopping can be arranged, although the prices of boat rides from Pundaquit proper are much cheaper.
Contact Punta de Uian at 0918 8008426. Website: http://www.puntadeuian.net
A more simple accommodation can be booked at Royal Patio Beach Resort. Airconditioned rooms start at P2,400 with a family room (3 queen sized beds) at p7,000. There is a bar and restaurant, pool table, videoke, kayaks, and boats for island hopping.
Contact Patio Inn at 0916 4271561 or 0917 5101488. Website: http://www.patioinnhotels.com
There are other inexpensive accommodations, like native bamboo cottages by the beach, like those at Sun & Surf.
The place is like an informal resort, with the owners operating a sari-sari store at the corner. No toilet facilities in the bamboo hut, but a common facility is located at the end of the property. Each bamboo hut costs P1,000 for an overnight stay. Contact Oliver Padua at 09217696663.
Right beside Punta de Uian are two inexpensive accommodations. One is called Aplaya Inn, accessed from a road at the dead-end of Punta de Uian. You will think the road stops at the far end of Punta de Uian, but there is a small perpendicular road that is not visible to the driver unless you know that that small road exists. Rooms are from P1,000 to P2,000.
In front of Aplaya Inn, also accessed from the same “invisible” dead-end road is a private property where 2 aircon rooms can be rented. This is a better option because the property is on a beach front, and is run by an amiable caretaker named Joel “Awing” Reolizo (phone: 09194432915),
He says that when a group rents the 2 rooms, they don’t mind how many people actually occupy the place, making the place virtually exclusive. Other members of the group can also pitch tents. Food can be arranged, with Joel’s wife doing the cooking at a P150 cooking charge. Guests need only to buy from their store what they want cooked: half a kilo of pork is P100, half a kilo of bangus is P65. Nice place for a bonfire at night.
Boat trips can be arranged for a tour of Capones Island, with its magnificent light house, and the nearby Camara Island. I am writing about Capones separately.