Oh so spontaneous, we were. It took me less than five days to build an itinerary, make necessary reservations and complete our party of five, with the last two slots being filled a day before departure, but everything happened so smoothly that by the time we boarded the last bus headed for Alaminos, I have left all of my control issues behind. I was excited to return to Pangasinan!
Our outrigger boat was the first to leave the docks of Lucap Wharf at 7:00 in the morning. The coast guard warned us of strong amihan winds so we had to pay a little extra more to rent a service boat that will accompany us through the Hundred Islands National Park for safety precautions.
Still groggy from the lack of sleep en route to Pangasinan, I decided to position my ass on the bow for an early dose of sun and sea breeze. I could taste the salt in the air as I recollected memories of my first time seeing these scattered islands five years ago. Back then, I questioned whether they actually had a hundred islets dotting this side of Lingayen Gulf or just a product of a province’s overestimation for tourism. I don’t know why I doubted in the first place because, hello, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to someone who lives in a country known for having more than 7,000 amazing islands.
The boatman maneuvered his vessel between several islets until it docked on the one known for having the best panoramic view. The sight from the view deck of Governor’s Island is what most of us have seen on countless postcards since it’s the only place where one can get a great vantage point of the island clusters unless, of course, you can afford a helicopter ride that’ll give you an advantage over us, regular people. We settled for the view-deck since it was free.
We then breezed through both Monkey and Bat Islands, which were named after the respective animals that it sheltered. The one with bats were kind of cool because, even though we weren’t able to go near it, we could see hundreds of bats hanging from the trees that populated the small floating land.
The sun was gaining momentum on its ascent and, with a little help from the wind caressing my face, my sleeplessness caught up before we even got near the most developed island in the national park. As my friends began to wrap snorkels around their faces, I told them I would rather stay behind and take a nap inside the boat. They swam for giant clams as I lazily snoozed on one of the thwarts. Morning well spent for me!
Quezon Island offers plenty of activities for energy-packed people which I found, on that day, quite troublesome for a sleep-deprived me. So once we docked, I slept under the comforts of the boat’s shade again. People always seem surprised at how much I sleep during trips. But that’s just how I prefer to roll. Under the covers that is. I remember back when I was in Maldives, I was asleep 70% of the time and it was all worth it.
I was barely recovering from my morning slumber when the boat man took us to another island with a small cave that leads to a short jumping spot. Cuenco Island, they called it. I let the girls take the lead with an instruction to come back for me in case they spot a hottie, which is the only thing that could get me up from my sleep. They were gone for no more than 5 minutes when my instincts told me to follow suit, and sure enough, when I reached the opposite side of the cave an eye candy was waiting for me. Brunch na po!
This is also where I encouraged the ladies to muster enough courage and take a leap into the refreshing water below while I volunteered to stay behind to document their moments of reckless abandon. It took a few minutes of coaching but I assured them that this could be one of the highlights of the trip for them. So they did. Twice!
It was almost noon when we told our boatman to take us back to Governor’s Island since the girls wanted to try the zipline that would allow them to soar over the shore across a separate island. Again, I stayed behind to take photos since i’m not a big fan of ziplines. It looked hella fun, yes, but I was not in the mood for it. Besides, I wasn’t willing to shell out P200 for a few minutes of adrenaline rush. Instead, I found my peace sketching the cluster of islands before me.
On my way down the paved stairs to the dock where our boat was patiently waiting, I smiled, sat down on a ledge overlooking the small harbor and started to trace the scenery on my notebook. Tamang emote lang ulit.
My friends knew little of what Pangasinan had to offer but I was able to share it with them, and from the looks of it, they were having a blast. And we were only five hours in to our trip! This could be my thing, I thought. Taking people to different places. I enjoyed crafting itineraries where my friends don’t have to worry about anything but to pack their bags and leave everything to me.
Even though it seems impossible to visit all one hundred of them in a single day, I have always wanted to come back for these islands. But nobody else I knew wanted to. Memories from five years ago have become vague but all I know is this was the trip that started it all for me. Pangasinan was my first. And it cuts the deepest. So it felt necessary that I begin the year with the waters that first took me in.