Years ago, Anawangin is a secret place, a paradise known and frequented by mountaineers, a very serene cove hidden from the tourists' eyes, behind the grassy mountains and fenced by the sometime powerful waves of the South China Sea. And the beach is basically free.
2008. The place is no longer secret, mountaineers now shared the still serene but now very fragile cove to throng of tourists, behind the burnt grassy mountains and fenced not just by waves but also by barbed wire. And it's no longer free.
Before the place gets commercialized (hopefully not! hopefully not!), it would be nice if you can experience a slice of one of the Philippines unexpected beach sceneries. Here's how to go to Anawangin, in San Antonio, Zambales (based on my third time in Anawangin):
Take an early morning Iba, Zambales-bound Victory Liner bus either in Pasay or better yet in Caloocan (bus leaves every 30 minutes starting at 4:20 am). It will pass on the San Antonio town proper. Ask the bus conductor to drop you off near the public market. Travel time is normally three to three-and-a-half hours of bus ride. Fare (Caloocan-San Antonio) P227.00 (including P5.00 for insurance).
Once in San Antonio, you have the option to get your provisions (foods, water) in the public market. The market usually opens at 7 in the morning, so to get the freshest catch of the day, going there early is better. You can also have your breakfast there and your lunch as take out. :)
After doing the market rounds, look for a tricycle (they're everywhere) to take you to Brgy. Pundaquit. It can load a maximum of four passengers plus baggages, and the 10-15 minute bumpy ride will cost you P20.00 per head, but it would nice if you can give the driver P100.00 for four passengers and your baggages (diesel is expensive and most of the time, he will be going back to the town proper without a passenger, so consider the excess P20.00 as a tip).
In Brgy. Pundaquit, looking for a boat is next, and it's not going to be very hard as there are a lot of them who'll offer their service once you've alighted from the tricycle (don't worry, boat operators here are much, much, much nicer as they won't harass you like those in Batangas pier). The standard price for a small banca that can sit a maximum of four is P800.00, two-way (Pundaquit-Anawangin-Pundaquit). Just specify to the boatman the time that you need to be fetch the next day (if you are staying overnight in anawangin). There are also bigger boats that can sit six (P900.00) but there's very few. The biggest boat that can bring up to 15 persons is on the P2000-3000 price range, but i think it needs a prior arrangement.
The boat ride will be 20-30 minutes depending on how calm the sea is. If you can secure a lifevest, that would be better. A little warning though, not all boats can provide a lifevest. And make sure that your things are properly sealed/waterproofed as the water can sometimes be rough. You won't really feel the 20-30 minute boat ride as the view offers a very relaxing mood, it actually readies you for a change of sceneries.
As your boat pass the second hat-like islet (it's actuall a rock), Anawangin cove is now visible to your left and you will be welcomed by the pine tree-lined shore and the clear water will call you like how a flower attracts a bee.
Anawangin now has a conservation fee (glamorous term for entrance fee) of P150.00 and P50.00 depending on where you want to camp. Except for the price, the two campsites actually are the same, they're just separated with a barbed wire (i don't want to dig deeper into those wire, let us just put it as a "boundary" to one's property). The more expensive campsite is the "wholesome side" as it do not allow drinking and smoking in the area, but it doesn't mean that the less expensive is not wholesome. :)
Ask your boatman where is the P150 and where is the P50, and set your tent to where you want to camp. Whichever, a caretaker will welcome you and remind you of the conservation fee that you will settle before you leave the cove. Again, arrange with your boatman the time that you will be picked up (don't pay them yet).
When you already settled your things and camping gears, you can now roam and explore the area and have an endless (and i mean, eeeendless!) photo-ops. TIP: facing the sea, walk towards the left side of the shore, you will see a swamp with poetically lined pine trees ala-New Zealand, and if you walk farther until the you reach the foot of the rocky mountain (and sometimes where fresh and saltwater meet), you can climb that mountain (just follow the trail) and have a better view of the sandbar. believe me, the view there is awesome!
The best sunset spot in Anawangin is near that mountain/swamp as you can clearly see the sun setting.
In the morning, in time for sunrise, go back to the swamp and have another round of picture taking as the view's different with the swamp water completely still and the reflections of trees and mountains are so perfect you'll forget you're still in the Philippines.
You can also bring a hammock and a book. Or take a nap. Or explore the right side of the cove and discover a little cave (and another round of photo-ops). It is also the better site for snorkeling as this is where the fishes are.
When you go to Anawangin, don't forget to bring garbage bag. The garbage/waste that you bring is not the caretakers responsibility, it's yours. Be courteous and responsible enough to clean the area where you camp. There are other people who also need to see the place in it's serenity.
When the boatman arrived to pick you up, pay the caretaker the conservation fee. Although you can clean and take a bath in Anawangin, it would be better if you'll that in Pundaquit (just ask your boatman where) as you can get wet from the boat ride.
In Pundaquit, there are a lot of tricycles that can bring you to the highway, same price. You just have to wait for a Manila-bound bus which is normally full. The best option is for you to ride an ordinary bus going to Olongapo (which is usually half-full) and then in Olongapo, go to the Victory Liner terminal and fall in line to get your bus ticket going to Manila.
There. Next time, I'll post about things to bring.
Happy weekend everyone! kanpai!