Nagsasa cove is one of those places in the Philippines that I will never forget. Whenever there’s a surge of emotions raging in me, it’s one of the many places ( I have few, by the way!) that I could think of to calm my nerves.
In 2016 just before my trip to the US, two of my best friends Lalaine and Jeanette, and I went on an unplanned 2-Days/1 Night trip to Nagsasa Cove in Zambales. During this time, I only heard of Anawangin but not Nagsasa, feedback of being overcrowded referring to Anawangin made us choose Nagsasa instead. So we went on a “joiners” tour which cost us Php only 1,500 pesos per head at that time thru buying a voucher from Metrodeal. Arrangements were done via email. We were told that pick-up time will be at SM North, by 2am. We left our respective homes by 9pm, we watched a movie which was utterly disappointing that to this day we can’t recall the title. After watching a movie, we killed time at Starbucks in Quezon Ave., while waiting for our time to be picked up at 2am en route to Zambales.
After too many mundane topics and grande sizes coffees, off we went to SM North EDSA at exactly 2am on our way to Zambales.
A little backgrounder… “Nagsasa Cove in San Antonio, Zambales, used to be rocky until the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, which dumped tons of volcanic ash in many parts of the region. Nagsasa Cove is endowed with the same features as Anawangin: a beach of ash that absorbs heat faster than the usual sand; a blanket of Agoho trees, a type of casuarina tree, often mistaken for pine trees; the azure sea teeming with life and color; and gently sloping hills framing the view.” https://www.philippinebeaches.org/nagsasa-cove-travel-guide-rates-attractions/
To get there we were picked up by the van along with other joiners, albeit cramped inside out of exhaustion my two friends fell asleep easily, while I the ever sleep-challenged one managed to doze in and out during the entire trip, who wouldn’t when the van driver where I was seated beside with seemed like taking the van for a car racing stunt. We have reached San Antonio Market where all joiners will be dropped off to buy fresh seafood, veggies, and whatnot that they can bring to Nagsasa by 6am. Since we already brought some canned goods with us, we only bought Tilapia (St. Patrick fish) that we can grill during our stay. We then head off to Pundaquit Port, it’s where all the boats hailing tourists go for both Anawangin and Nagsasa. It was about a 30-40 minutes boat ride going to our first destination… Capones Island.
Originally named “Isla Gran de Capon” during the Spanish era, Capones Island does not have commercial resorts and facilities. The island is a big rock formation with high cliffs and little soil and is joined by a sand bar (which disappears during high tide) to two smaller islands called Camara, which are only two kilometers away from the mainland.
Since the surrounding waters of the South China Sea are described to be rough, it is advisable to take a boat ride early in the morning when the sea is still calm.
Visitors may opt to camp in a tent along the beaches if there is no typhoon or stay in the small fishing village of Pundaquit where they can hire a boat to get to Capones.https://en.wikipilipinas.org/view/Capones_Island
We were greeted by its beauty upon reaching Capones. It’s not an easy climb for those with acrophobia. My friend Jeanette had a hard time following us as we climbed up wherein a trip to the lighthouse is definitely a MUST.
After that Capones trip, it was Nagsasa cove’s turn. At the Nagsasa we were ushered into the campsite. Yes, the three of us would be sleeping at a campsite, where there’s no electricity, no internet, and mobile phone signals… just the chirping of the birds, waves of the sea rushing to the shore, and the blinking of stars as they played with mother moon. As it’s a campsite, we were not the only tourist there, it could get pretty crowded really but we were just lucky that time because the crowd wasn’t overwhelming in numbers and it was a crowd that wanted to just get away from the hustle and bustle of Manila. I could tell we were all there to take a break, whether it be soul searching, resting, or just plain enjoying nature. Right at that moment, we were able to achieve it.
Nagsasa cove is home to the “Kulot” or Aetas of Zambales. To earn, they are the ones cooking food for those who want to avail of the “paluto” (you buy the ingredients, they’ll cook it for you…yes, right there on the campsite!), they are the ones responsible for keeping the place clean and they act as tourist guides as well for a minimal amount.
With its ash-colored fine sand, calm and pristine waters surrounded by “Marlboro” like ad mountains. One can’t help but be amazed by its wonders. To say that it is beautiful is underrated. Especially seeing that part of the afternoon when the sun glows its orange rays on the surrounding mountain, who on earth would think that it is possible, to see that orange, pinkish, peachy hues enveloping the entire mountain surrounding you, we were taking a dip on that warm, clear and calm sea when I happened to gaze at that magical moment. The hair on my arms raised, and I felt salty tears streaming down my face. I look behind me and my friends were also caught at that moment… we all said how beautiful God’s creation was and how lucky we were to witness that. Not every day you will surprise yourself with such gratefulness and that was one of them.
When the sun sets in and the entire place was slowly replaced by the sparkling multitude numbers of stars and you just smile in your sleep because there’s a certain peace (yes, despite hearing the loud snoring from the entire campsite! ) only that place will give you maybe even for just that moment, it recharged you, physically, emotionally and mentally as if you’re a new person when you leave!
To this day, I often look back to that trip I took with my friends in Nagsasa, one of the many trips I took that I have compartmentalized in my memory, and I found myself unearthing it each time I am deluded with so many issues my mind can’t handle all at once. I closed my eyes and take myself back to that place, to give my mind a rest, to calm the turmoil inside of me, and to be one again, go back to being that grateful child, that person so small nothing but a speck of dust amaze at the vastness of God’s creation. When I am so full of myself and can’t help but expect so much of what I am capable of, I am humbled by this God, bigger and mightier than the universe, embracing me to turn around and show me that it is ok to slow down… enjoy His peace, His work of majesty… I felt His overwhelming presence that burns inside my being and I found it at Nagsasa cove.
Forever grateful and humbled by your majesty, Lord!
I haven’t been back to Nagsasa after that trip, but I pray that tourists will preserve its beauty and take time to help the “Kulots” residing in Zambales, that’s their heaven on earth; and when you’re there, please make sure that when you bring memories back to your respective places, think of contributing to the cleanliness of Nagsasa by not polluting and trashing the place, leave Nagsasa as how it’s always been…untarnished, serene, always welcoming … beautiful just like the setting sun.
To know more about the Aetas or “Kulots” of Zambales and how to help them, click the links below:
Traveling to Nagsasa soon? click this link for some helpful tips https://www.takethetravel.com/destination-guide-zambales/