[Subic Beach, Sorsogon] ~ Not Your Place for Typical Versions of Sand and Sky

Beaches are all sand and sky, but each with secrets that surprise.  – 05.17-19.14

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20140517_175810After weeks of sharing of online reads on secluded beaches to go to, our gut pointed us to this campsite beach in Sorsogon. A place of (good and not-so-good) surprises, that beach was.

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Having only three days to spare, option to fly was considered and taken as it could save us the typical half-day bus or ship ride. It was not the most budget-friendly option but to assuage some guilt, we have decided to take the long bus tour on our way home. 

Day kicked off with early morning travel to airport to catch 11AM flight. Cebu Pacific has earlier flights (5AM and 8AM) but our schedule did not allow so we went for the earliest we could. I was usually more relaxed with pre-departure waiting hours at the airport on domestic flights but for some reason, thought it would be best to be on the more cautious side for this particular trip. (A cheesy side story how this is actually the first ‘official’ trip with my boyfriend).

And just to stretch a bit of tone along that line – this also happened to be our first plane ride together. Quite unfortunately though, airline’s odd check-in procedure left us unknowingly be assigned on separate seats – I on the 17th row while he on faraway 26th.

Plane touched down a few minutes before 12 and to me, there was this fun memory when the person on the window seat beside me was taking photos of Mayon Volcano while I sat there in envy because I was on the middle seat. I almost asked him to take a picture of the volcano for me. But well, I didn’t.

Everything was a breeze as we had no check-in baggage. Friends we talked to prior to trip advised us to not take the airport tricycles so we went outside to hail one. Impatience, however, kicked in and I ended up asking a police officer how much a ride to the terminal would be. He then pointed us to group of airport tricycles which charge Php50. The “kuripot” (stingy) little person in me seemed to be whispering to not take that because I was expecting an amount that is 20 bucks less. We ended up hailing one from the airport compound gate – for that funny amount of, well – Php 40. I was silently chuckling (if there is such a thing).

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Is it just me or provincial airports kind of look the same?

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We were also told that terminal but walkable but a part of me then high-fived myself for choosing to unwalk this time as it was not so walkable after all. That heat helped with that quick decision-making.

At the terminal, we took a commuter van to Sorsogon – such trip filled with failed attempts to take a decent picture of Mayon Volcano. Manong driver was kind enough to remove the sunshield when he saw me eagerly trying to capture that perfect cone volcano with minimal barriers possible –which I by the way failed multiple times.

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Many transport options at the terminal

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Luckily got the front seats.

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Unluckily still could not take decent photo of Mayon

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After about an hour of road-watching, we were dropped off at this place where jeepneys bound to Matnog are parked. My random craving for siomai made us had this quick lunch at this fastfood chain before heading out to what we did not expect to be quite a long ride. To myself, I was then like – “hey, it took us less than 2 hours to change provinces. An inter-town ride should be faster”.

I was initially happy when the jeepney started its trip with us and only one other person as passengers but it turned out that bulk of its passengers are locals we encountered along the way. It was nonetheless perfect time for people-watching and there were instances when my boyfriend and I would just find ourselves suddenly eye-connecting of some sort as interesting people had their come-and-gos.

We were warned by other fellow passengers that trip could take 2 hours but it was painfully longer at about almost 3 hours. It was a thankyou nonetheless that boat ride to the island could be as late as 6 in the evening. Still, I was jittery the entire time because I wanted to be at the beach during sunset – my favorite time of day.

Matnog turned out to be one of those farmost towns from center, not to mention the many stops to pick up and drop off passengers. To find some relief during the entire trip, I kept on telling myself that I was spending my cheapest Php 19 for such a long in-between town ride. Funnily though, it was only when we were about to leave when the ‘conductor’ asked us to pay. It turned out it was ninety pesos, not nineteen.

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Some bangus (milkfish) fellow passengers inside.

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Oh come on. What is up, you tree.

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Jeep now empty, left by many.

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At the Tourism Office where we were dropped off, we had to register and waited for a boat to be assigned to us. Initially noticed the laidback and easily distracted attitude of people assisting us that I was getting quite annoyed because all I wanted was to beach then. And so, I was bitching (quite controllably though).

After series of suppressed annoying comments inside my head, we were finally done and off we were get our supply of food and beverage (and yes, that included a case of 1-liter Red Horse Beer bottles). The office is located in a busy area (which I would later on realize to be the market area) so we did not have any trouble getting everything we need. It was just that buying took quite some more time and patience. I let Allen take the blow then – do all these transactions with the sari-sari store woman. But well, all things end and by sunset, we were onboard to the island.

Boat Ride

There’s Kuya Jay Ann (or was that the name of the boat?) with our supply of, well, mostly intoxicating drinks

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Inaminate us.

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Hmm, I wonder what these two were talking about?

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Captured unfaithfully but here was best replica of sunset for us.

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 Apparently, we had to choose between Subic Beach Maliit (small) and Malaki (big). I was initially leaning toward the small one because I wanted a less people place. However, for some reason then, our bangkeros (boatmen) seem to be selling the big one more. We ended up choosing Malaki for our first day and should should we not love the vibe there, we could transfer to Maliit the following day.

20140517_175810Subic Beach turned out not that much of a secluded beach as the online articles we have read sold it to be so there was a bit of disappointment at the start. Nonetheless, the beach would always be the beach – and when there is anything that tends to ruin it – one could always trust on space-out skills, right?

Anyway – we immediately set tent as soon as we arrived as Allen was avoiding the difficult in pitching our tent in the dark. After about 2 minutes of set-up (whew, we were fast!) and some funny “kuyog” (horde) by locals who seem perplexed at the idea of us two people setting camp on the beach (later on, we realized why such wonder), we immediately had our ‘taste’ of water. It was surprisingly cold – a degree I could tolerate while boyfriend spent literally just a minute and went back to sitting by the tent to drink beer.

Tent

Another ‘spot-the-different’ photo

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An added point that led to our decision to choose this beach is its promise of pink sand. Little did we know that it was just not the sand that is pink, the sky at sunset also was! What is not to love with sky and water’s hues of calm blue and purple / pink instead of the usual intense orange? Allen even blurted out “ano ba ang pink dito? Sand o langit” (which really colored pink here – sand or sky?)

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 Busier resort to our left

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IMG_2172People ants in the middle

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And happy campers on the right. 

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So where does one draw the line between sky and sea?

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Of course, there is always something lovely as the end of day reaches its peak the moment it gets dark. Apart from those little sparkly suns (which, by the way I just learned that night from Allen), there was this beautiful surprise of what I personally call a ‘reverse sunset’. Technically though, it was the moon un-setting, but let’s tolerate some play here.

The reveal was just really lovely because we were in the heat of our usual conversation when I noticed this half-bulb orange-glowing face breaking in from the horizon between water and sky. A quick few minutes passed by and I ended up realizing that it was actually the moon! That personally to me was the night’s highlight – on top of the star-gazing that never ceases to give me romantic thrill (with the North Star as Allen’s personal favorite), not to mention those nerve-racking thunder clouds (okay, adjective was too much. We were just worried that it would rain). And oh, I almost forgot about those fireflies carelessly circling a tree beside our tent (which none of our night-unfriendly gadgets could capture).

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Pseudo-sun. Where are thou, lunar craters?

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We were up all night, chatting (with some fighting even – yes, we are a bipolar couple like that) while drinking beer. There was also this strange encounter with that dog who approached me, sat down and lied down there for who-knows-how-long. This was a funny moment because we have this inside joke that I am animal-repellent (yep, there was this instance when even the most people-friendly animal actually barked at my face). Well, maybe the moon did have its strange pull on people, and well, animal perceptions.

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You strange beach dog.

As night went deeper, moon started losing its orange and started to function more as a natural fluorescent light. I was busy with my pee breaks while Allen busied himself with the hermit crabs which we realized were doing their home shell-hunting on that area of the beach.

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Moon lighting.

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We waited until sunrise, praising North Star for being the ‘strongest’ star in the no longer dark sky. It may be the alcohol talking and to Allen, creativity, that he kept on seeing things in clouds – some of which I get, most I didn’t.

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North Star up north.

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Don’t go into the light.

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Godzilla and an ally face the enemy’s tank

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Zoom-out and there were Dragon Lady (as it was pink?) with Dragon Baby.

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Moon’s version of noon.

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Aha! So that is where you would rise from

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Light as sharp. 

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Early morning calm of blues and yellows

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There you are pink sand.

After that bet on where the sun would rise (I won by the way), we cleaned ourselves up, downed more beer, disassembled tent and finding comfort from shade of that caterpillar-hangout tree, had this ‘what-if-I’m gay’ interesting conversation. It was only a few minutes before our scheduled pick-up time at around 9 did we realize that we haven’t slept a wink. Sleepiness then started kicking in that we ended up pulling a bench from a by-then-deserted neighbor camper place and took a quick nap. He succeeded while I failed and ended up feeling groggier.

Included in the boat fee are visits to the fish sanctuary, cave and another island called Tikling. We decided (or it was manong who decided, actually) to do first two on our second day. First stop was at the Juag Fish Sanctuary. My protective slash ridiculing person made me wear life vest. It was strange because when I looked around, only small kids were wearing that. But well, I (not without shame) gave in and obliged.

It was a distant fish meet-and greet as guests were no longer allowed to swim with the fishes due to massive deaths that happened due to poisoning from guests’ sunblock creams. Still, there is always something relaxing with fishes. To me though,  nothing still beats the koi-feeding I got to do in Nuvali last year. Upon further processing, feeling, however, was different because this was calm while that was more evil – aha! – evil in seeing fishes tackle one another  over food.

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Alive. Alive. Alive

Fish 1

I forgot what those blackies were called.

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Fish 2

And these too! Hmm so I suck not only with people’s names, but also with fishes.

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First picture together on this trip. 😀

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Stomach in, Kuyang Bangkero Virgilio

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 Temple beyond sea and woods

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Next stop was at this cave (which upon Googling just now) is called Calintaan. I did not imagine myself having the courage to actually go inside because although I have been told many times that it works for those with zero swimming skills, I never really trusted a life vest. I cannot swim. Period. And I never actually had faith in a floating device. I guess that was me being an overbeliever of my self and its capacities or in this case, lack of.  But on that day, I actually did try. Too bad there was no documentation of that brief act of surrender.

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Why the glow?

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Sugod

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What a face.

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And — what a stance.

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It was a pretty quick cave swim as our boatmen were worried that tide may set high, leaving us trapped inside. We shortly reached Subic Maliit which was planned to be our next evening spot. Realized, however, that Malaki was still the best option so we ended up re-setting camp there. It was about noontime and though we were feeling hungry and felt like hunting for food, we agreed on a quick nap for some recharge. Because sleep seemed really that easy for him, as expected, he slept first and way longer while I took time reading, just lying down and occasionally sipping summer beer. Reading oftentimes makes me feel sleepy that after a few pages, I dozed off for less than an hour, I suppose. I just woke up when the then hungry Allen was poking me.

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Strike anywhere

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Technology and memory recharge

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Midday bright.

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CLOUD.

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View from my sleep time spot

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I, at my sleep spot.

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We aimed for some fish “paluto” but it turned out fish was usually no longer available by that time of day so we ended up having Ate (older sister) cook our canned tuna and two more corned beef cans we bought from her sari-sari store. Cooking would take about 15 so we decided to burn more calories by doing some exploring, or really more walking, because the stretch was not that big really.

We then sat down on a table near the store and had time to people-watch. By then,  Allen had this realization that while there were many people with us, we were actually at the heart of a local ‘one-knows-everyone’ community who are having their simple weekend get-away. In Allen’s words, “hindi siya Wow na beach talaga pero Wow siya” (referring to how beach is unknown to most tourists yet but a destination loved by locals). There is some kind of admiration, and maybe up to a point even envy at how laid-back and simple the people there were.

We were engrossed in our talk that we were no longer conscious of time and only when feeling of hunger came back did we realize it has been over 15 minutes. It turned out that Ate did not know we were just waiting at that table. She expected us to go get food from her. Our bad. We just there not letting her know we were waiting there. But anyway, food was served and we were so hungry that it felt like that was the best corned beef and tuna meal we had. I am not even such a fan of rice but I ended up eating a lot. Hunger hits, really. (Forgot to take picture. Boo)

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Eat and sleep. (“Ugaling baboy”, that is)

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Successful couple selfie!

By late afternoon, people started thinning until the 24/7 videoke (singing machine) operation in the island was put in a halt. Inevitably then, our second night was a lot quieter. We set camp a few steps from previous night’s spot but we decided to transfer (and we did this by literally carrying the tent) to a spot nearer the water and in front of that tree where those fireflies fly (the butterfly. engk. What a lame joke :D). With only us and probably two more groups of people, it was quiet night of star-gazing, beer, again that reverse sunset and well, again those endless arguments that led us to finding sleep in our respective comfort zones.

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Deja vu

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 20140517_175810Thanks to a funny corned beef incident in the morning though, ‘stuff’ got better in the morning. Oddly hungry still, we could still not let go of the “paluto” that we missed the previous day. However, if we were too late the previous day, we were too early that day. It turned out that at such time in the morning (between 6-7), locals from who we could buy fish from are still getting their supply from the fishermen. Sardines time then! Still yummy (looking back now, I am wondering why all kinds of canned goods tasted good there).

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That very low swing ride while waiting for food

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Before heading back to town, we were brought to this privately-owned island where we finished our beer over what we invented to be pink sand therapy. It came as a surprise how therapeutic it was to feel someone let sand slip between his/her finger then to let it slide on your back.

Realizing how we have few photos, we took our shot at selfies and as expected, ended up with only one or two not-so-bad ones. Then there was this another fun animal encounter when he spotted this quite an artist of a hermit crab – with its find of a unique green shell.

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Oh that calm.

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‘Cause we cannot take our own photo

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Hermit

You crab of a beach!

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We were in town about an hour before noon. We took a bath in one of the locals’ houses, reserved our bus seat (Allen was supposed to just stand or sit on the floor) because there was only one left and spent our waiting time walking around town. Aimless walking that was and for a while, we were munching on those chicken pieces oddly called “ chicken skin”, until our feet led us to this sari-sari store. That was where had our last bottle of beer over some chat with this lady who confirmed to us our theory that many of visitors to Subic Beach are indeed ‘tourists’ from nearby provinces / towns.

It was another loooong ride from then on. Back to the city at around 4 in the morning, just in time for an early morning meeting I had on that day.

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Your market Monday morning.

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Our rest spot / stop

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Everything neatly stacked / stocked.

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Personally had many thoughts the moment we left off – how it was quick but a trip laden with many firsts — such as travelling in various modes of transport all in a day, witnessing not the usual sunrise and sunset and moon rise of course, fireflies on the beach, being one of few tourists in a local get-away. Morever, around a day or two back at the city that we realized our precious souvenir and another first – sand flea bites. It was a source of panic at the start and definitely brings discomfort but it was something we eventually learned to laugh at (and for Allen, geekily learn about). But for those unwilling to give this first its chance, bring a repellent and when you can, try as much direct contact with the sand! (And I cannot believe I am wrapping up this entry with a travel tip. Must be the sand flea bites.)

How to get there:

Flight from Manila to Legazpi (one-way): Php 1,900; 40 minutes

Commuter Van from Legazpi Transport Terminal to Sorsogon (driver to drop one off at Chowking if need to ride jeepneys bound to Matnog) : Php 90; 1.1.5 hours

Jeepney from Sorsogon center to Matnog (Tourism Office) : Php 90; 2-3 hours

Matnog Tourism Office : Registration at Php 70; Php2,000 for 20- to 30-minutes boat ride (includes quick visits to Juag Fish Sanctuary, Calintaan Cave and Tikling Island). May opt to go to Lighthouse but need to pay extra

How to leave : 

Bus from Matnog to Cubao : DTLB, Php 1050; 16 hours. If can get earlier reservation, do so. We reserved an hour before departure and almost did not get a seat.

 
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