After Pinatubo, I headed farther north into the western peninsula of Luzon. Hundred Islands National Park was next on the agenda.
As I rolled into Alaminos, on the long bus, I hadn’t realized how much time had gone by. But that last leg took me almost six hours. I just spent most of the time snapping photos at passers by and trying to scribble a few words into my journal as the bus bounced roadward.
Getting into Alaminos doesn’t mean you’ve made it to the park, however. Once there, you still have to pay a tricycle to drive you the rest of the 7km distance to the coast. The price isn’t that bad (only about $2), because the driver probably will have a brother or cousin who owns a hotel, restaurant or boat. Good people to know.
Hundred Islands National Park:
Probably the thing I liked the most about the Hundred Islands National park was area surrounding it. Staying in Alaminos and Lucap was sort of what I was hoping to see since I got to the Philippines. The slower pace of life, the small town feel and the quiet streets that, once you wake up, you’re happy to have had the night before.
The place I stayed at was a reasonably large place that had recently been built by a small family. I couldn’t tell if the husband was a perpetual drunk, because it was Christmas Eve when I arrived. To be fair, both towns were equally stocked with drunkards, I suppose. So perhaps I was being a bit harsh on the old man. But it was his reliability as a boat captain what I was more unsure of. Because the next day I’d signed up to have him drive me out into the park.
I approached to set up a time to leave to the park the next day and it felt like he’d thrown up an entire bottle of malt liqueur within five minutes of our meeting. But as I had begun to find out, there were many people who could captain the rickety little vessels passing as the latest influence for the aquatic tourist conveyor belt out to the islands. So if he fell through, I was pretty sure I’d be okay.
And that turned out to be the case as I wound up snatching up a younger, more sober looking driver at the entry to the pier.
Being as it was the morning time and I had arrived to the crumbling docks in time for the sunrise, I thought I’d snap a few photos. They became some of the best shots I’d made yet on this trip. So I was happy that I went out early.
Being the first national park that resided in the ocean that I have ever seen, I thought that this was one was particularly special. The islands themselves were interesting. But they weren’t mindblowing – as played out in the advertising all along the coast.
Shaped like the average blooming mushroom, these islands display a headdress of green foliage under a short canopy of failing coastline. They are also very close to one another in proximity. So there are lots of shallow pools, swimming areas, neat beaches and what is left of the coral that was swept nearly away from the latest wave of seasonal typhoons and covered by annual sediment brought in by lahar flows.
I don’t want to give the impression that I wasn’t impressed and didn’t enjoy the trip. But if they were a little less dramaticized before you got there, they might seek less awe and find more of it in the people that gaze upon these eroding structures. Nevertheless, among the two packages (a half day [3 hours] and a full day [can include an novernight stay on Governor’s Island]), I opted for the short tour.
But I was no less excited about the day in the islands. The driver took us out to little coves and swimmable spots. There was this great little island that had all sorts of little pagoda-looking huts that appeared to have lived through many a noisy party echoing through the inlet. And probably my favorite part of the trip was… well, the trip. I guess I mean that literally.
When we arrived at the last island, there were lots of people swimming in the crystal clear waters at the south-facing beach. And I was happily prancing along watching them when I stubbed my toe on this enormous shell jutting up through the sand. I definitely broke my toe and I was down for a ten-count. But once I was back up and snapping away, I found this great little oyster bed that had been “salvaged” by the last heavy weather that had come through and torn up the coral bottoms.
I crept out into the sectioned off nursery and snapped a few photos of these giant oysters. They must have been two feet across. They were bright blue and green and seemed to change color under the shifting light of the cloud-strewn sky. It was a great additive to the trip. But after that, I headed back for the trenches.
Today, it was off for Banahue and Bontoc on my way to seek out the home of the native headhunters of Ifugao. That trip would prove to be exciting and full of great views. I would spend the first half on top of one vehicle and the other half hanging out the rear door of another. But you’ll have to wait for the next journal to see photos and read about that.
And speaking of photos, be sure to stop by cyleodonnell.com for the photos from the whole Philippines trip.
Below is a part two of the six-part documentary film, Travel Geek: Documentary Philippines (be sure to subscribe to my channel). It covers much more than this journal. But since I’ve already made the video, I might as well put part one of the six-part series in here to add some reference:
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