A few of the Hundred Islands
By Walter Ang
April 25, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer
In every out-of-town trip I've joined, someone always forgets to bring something. It's usually a toothbrush or a pair of nifty sunglasses especially bought for the trip.
You knew things were off to a funny start when 2bU! went to the Hundred Islands and realized each and every single person in the group forgot to bring a camera. Thus, no single picture to show of the trip. Lack of visual proof notwithstanding, we still had loads of great fun.
We had to call and wake each other up in the dead of night so we could get to the bus station by 2 a.m. Of course, with a relatively big group of eight people, delays were inevitable and we got to the station at 4 a.m. instead. The 4 a.m. bus was already full and the next one wouldn't be leaving until 6 a.m. Groan.
Plans were hatched and it was decided we would use Lavinia's van and wake up her driver to bring us to the promised (Is)lands. Waking someone up to tell him to drive eight people to Pangasinan would surely rattle a few nerves, which was probably why our hardy driver Guado made a wrong turn somewhere along the way.
This turned a supposedly quick four-hour trip into an almost eight- hour trip as we took the long way instead of the shortest route possible. Thank goodness for conversations about television shows and cartoons from the '80s and my highly effective sleep-while-in-a- moving-vehicle genes!
Since we got to Alaminos, Pangasinan late in the day, we first looked for a place to sleep. I just love the Pinoy penchant for giving creative names to establishments like Elizabeth Tailoring and Kina Rogers Grill. We finally picked a place with the most hilarious name: The Last Resort. It was recommended by a friend and we had visions of a dark and scary resort that was literally at the end of the line. As it turned out, it was a brightly lit, clean and spacious place near the port.
Before turning in for the night, we decided to get temporary tattoos to show off at the beach. Rica bought a bottle of Bigen hair color and, after preparing a mixture in a bowl, started giving each of us an appropriate design with only a trusty toothpick. For less than P100 and a little imagination, we had fantastic tattoos ready to go. So much for expensive henna preparations! Rica made a great Chinese design on my back. I didn't want to wash it off so it could set overnight. I slept on my stomach but still woke up to find my tattoo design imprinted all over the sheets. Sorry, Last Resort!
While everyone was preparing his/her personal stuff to bring to the beach, we discovered each one of us had brought some kind of medicine. It was amusing and interesting to see all sorts of medications in our bags. I brought a bottle of Tylenol, and Tish, Seirrogan pills. Seirrogan pills are the ultimate Chinese remedy for all kinds of stomachaches. They're round and smell awful, but ask anyone who grew up with a bottle of the stuff at home and they'll swear by its curative properties. Further investigation yielded even a small vial of Chinese eye drops. We could've opened our own pharmacy. It was just too funny for words!
We found a boat to take us to an island, with each of us paying P15 to some guy wearing a barong and claiming to be from the Department of Tourism. To make things easier, we made Emma our treasurer and she gamely held on to the group funds every time we had to pay for something. We later found out that you only had to pay if you were planning to spend the day at one of the developed beaches with electricity like Quezon Island. We had no such plans but we had to pay anyway. P15 is not a big deal, but the DOT might want to look into this.
We boarded the boat with our tote bags, sun block and fresh seafood we bought at the market and cooked at a nearby stall. About 20 minutes later, we set foot on Kagaw Island. It was fantastic: the sun, the wind, the sea, the sand. We even found a great little nook with a pond and tunnel leading to another side of the island. So aside from just swimming and lying around the sand, we did our own eco-tour! It wasn't as rigorous as what you see on the TV show "Survivor," but it was certainly an exciting and fun activity.
By the time we got back to the resort, we realized the medicines we brought would be serving us well. The little cuts and bruises we got from the sharp rocks we bumped into while swimming were largely ignored. But the people in our group who were sunburnt took some Tylenol while I had to use the Chinese eye drops because my right eye had swollen up. I think some evil insect must've bitten it or something. Groan again.
An ounce of SPF is better than a pound of sunburn, so with sun block and another batch of cooked food (fried chicken this time), we set out for Quezon Island so we could use our P15 per head fees. We were told to show our receipt to anyone who would check. The sheer number of people spread out on that island made us change our minds in two seconds flat. Our boat operator couldn't even find a spot to dock the boat. We had him turn around pronto.
As we set out to look for another island, we bemoaned our cameraless state as we took in the picturesque scenery. The imposing islands reminded me of that giant turtle in the movie "The Never Ending Story." The turtle's shell looked like an island, complete with trees, and he would emerge from the water, scaring the daylights out of the protagonist. The little kid in me secretly wished that one of the islands would actually rise up and reveal itself to be a giant turtle. Wouldn't that be fun?
We quickly found another island. The sun beat down on us mercilessly so we tried to be resourceful and used everyone's sarongs to make an awning. While other families and groups rented canvas awnings to give them some shade, we had the most colorful, creative, tie-dyed awning on the little stretch of beach that day. We swam and relaxed and felt all of the city's tension and stress melting away.
Lavinia announced a change of plans. Instead of spending another day in Pangasinan, we were going to Baguio. The last time I went to Baguio was when I was 7, so I readily agreed. I knew we weren't going to visit the tourist places and go horseback riding, but I didn't mind. The chance to go was reason enough for me.
We got there around 3 p.m. and we went straight to the ukay-ukay where we spent a good two hours, well, making ukay. The ukay-ukay building is this great bargain center for used clothes. I got myself a great purple long-sleeved polo for only P100, apart from a few other things. Everyone found some great buys. We even bumped into 2bU! columnist Tim Yap going through the merchandise.
After a hot meal, we walked around the city to pass the time, soak up the cool temperature, and let the traffic ease so we wouldn't have to suffer too much on our way back to Manila. Of course, we also had to pass by the market to buy the de rigueur pasalubong of strawberries and peanut brittle. The cool weather was the best part of the whole trip. It felt perfect and we were all a little sad leaving since we'd have to go back to the hot and humid concrete jungle that is Manila.