It’s a common practice in the Philippines to celebrate the Holy Week by going somewhere else – out of town or even out of the country, or at least do something special with family and friends.
This year, I never became interested with my family’s getaway, simply because I was expecting myself to be in New York during the Holy Week doing some work-related stuff. Add the fact that my work schedule is based on the US Calendar, and Holy Week isn’t a holiday in the United States. Well, unfortunately, my application for the US VISA as a Business Traveler got denied so I had to consider what my family has planned for this long Philippine holiday.
My family’s not the type who plans months before the gathering; they’re the type who just decide immediately and set off a day or two days after. Thankfully enough, we’re lucky to be living in Pangasinan which is just a mile-drive away to some of the country’s best hidden (by hidden, I mean “not so commercialized”) beaches. This year, they decided to explore the beach of Potipot Island in Candelaria, Zambales.
Since I was the only one who was not on “holiday mode” during the Holy Week, I got myself traveling alone to follow them to the island resort. Traveling alone was easy though – it was just 6 long hours with two bus rides away. I took the Victory Liner bus trip to Olongapo (Php207.00), where they dropped me off at their terminal; then transferred to another Victory Liner bus trip bound to Sta. Cruz. The bus driver and the conductor certainly knew and were familiar with Potipot Island and the resorts there, so I just told them to drop me off at Dawal Beach Resort in Candelaria. Transportation from Olongapo to Candelaria costs Php250-ish. (By the way, if you’re not comfortable with the 2 bus rides, Victory Liner also has a Sta. Cruz-bound trip but it’s available only in their Caloocan terminal. I went to their Cubao terminal.)
I didn’t have a hard time finding my family and relatives, because I arrived exactly the minute they arrived at the resort area. They were about to enter the resort and look for a parking spot when I dropped off from the bus. Whew! Excellent timing!! =)
Since we were only on a daytrip, the resort didn’t charge us for anything except the boat fare which costed Php400, good for 6 people. We paid for 4 boats since there were 23 of us (our Shih Tzu, Ozzie, being the 24th), then my disappointments with the island beach started counting.
|The Potipot Island|
The resort only had 2 available boats for that day. Meaning, we had to join the queue and wait for our turn. This was not the only issue. Another was that nobody from the resort was in the queuing area to manage, organize, and assist the boat passengers in the queue.
After roughly 45 minutes of waiting, it was finally our turn to take the boat ride to the island. That’s when I realized they were not that into their passengers’ safety. We were with 10-12 year old kids and they didn’t even bother to assist these kids to get to the boat! I was glad to see the kids took the boat on their own out of excitement, and the boatmen just watched them do it! Then as we got on the boat, we looked for life jackets, and we were surprised that it wasn’t actually a requirement for them. It’s like they have their “wear-your-life-jacket-if-you-want” policy. The boat driver even said, “10 minutes lang naman yung byahe papunta dun” so in awe, I answered them back with “Kahit na 5 minutes lang po yan Manong, ‘pag tumaob po tayo sa gitna, di ko pa rin po kayang tawirin ‘yan.” So they looked for life jackets enough for us and we were off to the island.
|Kids, where are your life jackets?|
As we arrived, a lady with an ID approached us to get our “entrance fee” worth PHp100 per head. We didn’t question this; maybe this was for their tourism fund, island development fund or something. What I didn’t expect is that after collecting our payment, she left us hanging in there. Thought she went to look for some spot where we could stay, but she was suddenly gone. I looked for her and asked what we were gonna do next, if there’s something she was going to give us, but she just said, “Okay na, Sir. Hanap na kayo ng pwesto nyo kahit saan dyan.” So I was like “Oh, okay. Meron po ba kayong mai-offer na cottages man lang or tables na paglalagyan ng gamit namin?” She said “Ay, hanap na lang po kayo dyan kung may bakante pang table, first come, first serve po kasi dito eh.” I said, “Ah, kanya-kanyang hanap po pala talaga. Akala ko po tulungan po ninyo kami.” And she quickly said, “Ay, hindi po eh. Hindi namin alam kung saan pa may bakante. Hanap na lang kayo.”
|We initially stayed under this tree.|
|...Then transferred here. We have tables now!|
|With my siblings, Jaruh and Gaile. Had to show this because this rarely happens. :))|
The resort’s comfort rooms were obviously not well-maintained. Some of the doors didn’t have their locks, and some water pipes didn’t work, too.
Well, I had read some articles about Potipot Island so I knew what to expect. I knew that the island had tables and that it only had few cottages. I believe the writers of the articles seemed to have enjoyed and were all positive on their Potipot experience. I have friends also who have been to the island and they had expressed that the beach was wonderful, and that they had a great time in Potipot. Then I realized, my friends went there not during the summer time, not during the peak season of the beaches. This made me got into a conclusion that maybe the locals near the islands were not yet used to accommodating lots of tourists. They were still fresh and young when it came to taking care of their visitors. The beach was not as amazing as I expected, but it still is wonderful. The island had not-so-white sands, and there were unexpected rocks and grasses (mosses, whatever you may call it) under the water! We even caught a seahorse!
Anyway, despite all these disappointments, I still enjoyed and I still had a good day at the beach with my family and relatives. I belong to a cheerful and loud family, and we certainly know how to have fun and enjoy wherever we go. This is what actually mattered to me, a joyful moment with the people that truly matter to me. At the end of the day, it’s not the place, not how beautiful the resort is, but it’s the precious time that you have spared with your loved ones that will forever be treasured. Pictures may show the beauty of the beaches and wonderful scenery, but undeniably, it’s still the captured genuine smiles on the faces of the people you love that will bring you contentment and happiness.
|Even our dog enjoyed the sun!|