Part 4 – Candelaria/Zambales…
A Swim in the South China Sea
Seashells, Snorkels and Potipot Island
No trip to the Philippines would be complete without a visit to the sea. With white sands, turquoise water, hot sun and seashells, is there any other place you would like to learn to snorkel? In this case, it was the South China Sea. Candelaria, a coastal village on the west side of the Zambales Mountains is home to Jimmy’s two daughters during the school year.
They stay with their maternal grandparents in this house. At first, all the homes seem small but that is due to the fact that the kitchens are in a separate building and the dining areas are usually under cover outside the main house.
Our choice of accommodation was “Dawal” a resort situated on the sea-shore. This gave the family that brought us the opportunity to enjoy their evening together. It was dark when we checked in so we didn’t realize how beautiful the resort was until the next morning.
Off in the distance Potipot Island, or Gilligan’s Island to me, looked like a great place to spend the day.
While we prepared to bring the family to Potipot Island, we dreamed of building ourselves a home that looks like this on the plantation in Batiawan… the other side of the mountains. We all need dreams…
As we rode the banca that took two trips to get all ten of us to the island, I looked back to see the Dawal Resort at the foot of the Zambales Mountains. And as I learn of the struggle that the majority of the locals have to survive in what seems to me to be a paradisaic setting, it occurred to me that those born and raised here think we in America live in a paradise. If they only knew…
Potipot … meaning ”small white island” is literally that. It would take you 30 minutes to walk around the island, if you can resist the urge to bend down and pickup a seashell or watch hermit crab drag themselves along the beach, stare into the turquoise water, marvel at the lush coconut and mango trees or jump into the sea to be refreshed from the hot sun.
Ok, ok, so where’s the people!! Let’s not forget that July could be considered the Philippine ‘off-season’ for tourists. GREAT! Although monsoon rains happen year long, it seems that in July they increase in frequency and intensity reaching typhoon status. However, looking back at the weather stats for that month, many areas received less than 50% the normal amount of precipitation. We lucked out, as they say, since we had the place to ourselves.
Being a privately owned island, arrangements need to be made and paid for to enjoy it. Dawal Resort charged us 400 pesos for a return banca ride. It took us two trips to get everyone there (max 6 per boat) and an entrance fee paid on arrival of 50 pesos per head. At a price of 100 pesos each we could get the use of one of these nepa huts to enjoy an overnighter. Tell the banca driver what time you want to leave and he’ll be there.
Our trip was made at high tide. No problem, but I understand one of the unique features of the island is the effect of rose-colored coral that sheds a tint of rose along the shoreline… but not at high tide.
Creature from the… no, no, it’s me. Being that my hair has been orange and my complexion white all my life, it wouldn’t take much to burn and blister so a hat and shirt are a must even with sunscreen. As for the rest of my paraphernalia, it only added to the experience of meeting their crazy Canadian kuya for the first time. (Kuya: Filipino word used to address an older male with respect even if not related)
I hadn’t realized it at the time, none of the family, even the ones living here in Candelaria, had ever been to Potipot. Let’s see… two bancas @ 400 pesos plus 10 people at 50 pesos each totals 1300 pesos, far out of reach of locals. Yet the equivalent of about $25 Canadian dollars for one of the most satisfying days of the adventure. No wonder we all had fun.
With over 7,100 islands in this archipelago that stretches for 1600 km (1000 miles) from north to south and with over 36,000 km (22,500 miles) of coastline for the beachcomber to explore, it would take a lifetime for one to scratch the surface of what the Philippine Islands have in store for anyone with an explorers mindset and the common sense to treat the Islands and her people with respect.
My adventure didn’t even take me off the largest of the islands, Luzon. With an ethno diversity within the country that includes over 2000 dialects, visiting outside the larger cities may call for patience and a sense of humor to get connected with the locals, but believe me… it is well worth it!
I will return to the Philippines. Hopefully it will be for an extended visit. Perhaps I’ll see you there!
Map of Candelaria, Zambales, Philippines