Imagine a place where the mountains meet the sea; a place where the water is as calm as a baby (well, except when there’s poop in its diapers) and as clear as a crystal, and; a place where the sun sets in a perfect dark orange color across the horizon and when you look up at the sky at night, you can clearly see the stars shining down on you.
Now, imagine waking up to this scenery every morning. Every. Single. Day. Wouldn’t that be paradise? Of course it would.
Three months ago, Maan and I decided to crush out one of the items in our travel bucket list: the International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Clark, Pampanga. At that time, we didn’t have much idea about the event nor did we make prior research before booking our flights. All we knew was that it’s a weekend-long event so we decided to book our round trip Cebu – Manila flights on Feb 11 (Thu) and Feb 15 (Mon). Anyone who have been to HAB festival would know right away that this is too much time just for the festival alone. Realizing this mistake, we looked at the map to see our side trip options. We initially chose Hundred Islands in Pangasinan but concluded this was way too far from Clark and our time would be wasted on riding the bus. Another is Calaguas since we’ve seen and heard a lot of beautiful things about it, but we couldn’t surely make this a side trip since it’s way down south of Luzon. Taking a closer look at Pampanga, we both realized that the province of Zambales is just around the corner and when we remembered what’s in Zambales, almost in unison, we exalted: “Nagsasa!”
Our ETA in Manila from Cebu was 9:45AM and upon arriving, we immediately headed to Victory Liner bus terminal in Pasay. It was 10:30AM at this time and we just missed the bus headed to Iba, Zambales. We had to wait another hour for the next bus, which departed at around 12nn. We arrived in San Antonio, Zambales at around past 4 o’clock and bought our food in the wet market. By the time we arrived in Pundaquit, the sun was already setting down and we just barely missed the show. It was really beautiful and I felt bad we weren’t able to catch it.
It was already starting to get dark (around 6PM) when we left Pundaquit and it was exactly 7PM when we arrived in Nagsasa. We immediately set up camp and asked the locals/caretakers to cook the food we brought for us. We could have cooked it ourselves but we were both exhausted and hungry. Besides, it only costs P100.00 per meal and this helps them with the upkeep of the camp site.
THERE IS NO CELLPHONE COVERAGE IN THE AREA and so, while waiting for the food to be ready, although it’s a bit dark in some areas, Maan and I explored the camp site. At the rear side of the camp site are three or four shower rooms with fresh water. There are around 8-10 cottages but since it was a weekday (Thursday), there was almost no other campers in site except for us and a group of call center agents having their team building activity.
After we finished our dinner, we had some extra time to relax before turning off the lights. Maan decided to lie down inside the tent while I on the other hand spread my towel in the sand, lied down, looked up at the stars and thought to myself, “ahhh, this is indeed paradise.” At around 10PM I decided to go inside the tent and sleep. The other guys were still drinking and enjoying the bonfire.
I woke up around 5:00AM but it was still too dark to take pictures of anything so I decided to lie back down. By 6:00AM we decided to get up and some of the guys from the other group were already up and about, playing in the water. By the time we were outside taking pictures, they already starting trekking up the hill.
Weeks before this trip, we kept searching and looking at photos of Nagsasa online. We knew there’s a specific view from a hill where the entire cove can be seen. Looking around, we figured out it was the hill on the left side of the cove (if you’re facing towards the sea). So, after Maan got her outfit ready, we started trekking.
It was a somewhat easy trek, except for the tall bushes on the way up. Once you get to the clearing however, you’ll realize that the trek is worth it. In order to get a more majestic view, we even trekked higher. By this time, the other group were already on their way down so it was only me and Maan up on the hill and another couple who were doing some photoshoot. The view was…indescribable. I should probably let the photos speak for themselves.
After an hour or so, we decided we’ve had enough fun and it was starting to get scary because the wind howled so strong. When we got back to the camp site, we asked the caretaker to cook breakfast for us. While waiting, Maan and I enjoyed the waters. By this time, there was really only the two of us since the other group already left for their island hopping tour. We had the whole place for ourselves!
As you can see, the water is so-damn-crystal clear. It was like swimming in a pool, except that it’s salty. 10-15 meters from the shore, the water is still only waist deep and this makes it perfect for swimming around without the fear of drowning or unfriendly sea creatures. We didn’t mind that the sand wasn’t white, so long that the water is clear.
Before noon time, we wrapped up and headed back to Pundaquit. We initially planned on dropping by Anawangin Cove but decided to call it off since the locals say Nagsasa is way better. Upon arriving in Pundaquit, we took a shower and by around 2PM, rode a tricycle back to the municipality proper and get on a bus headed to Clark for the Hot Air Balloon festival.
How to get there
Getting to Nagsasa Cove is as easy as 1-2-3 and if you’re a die-hard Weekend Warrior, you won’t have a hard time at all getting to this paradise even just by looking at the map.
Four hours by bus from the city of Manila is the small and quiet town of San Antonio, Zambales. At the edge of this town is the village (barangay) of Pundaquit. This is your jump off area going to Nagsasa Cove.
Step 1. From Manila, get on a Victory Liner bus in Pasay heading to Iba, Zambales. Simply tell the ticketing officer that you’ll be getting off at San Antonio so as not to incur extra charges. Fare from Pasay to San Antonio is P307.00/head. The trip should take around 4-5 hours depending on traffic.
Step 2. The bus will pass by Olongapo City and pick passengers up at the terminal. DO NOT GET OFF AT THIS STATION. Get off at San Antonio municipal hall which is just 30-40 minutes away. Just beside the municipal hall is the wet market where you can (and should) buy all the food that you intend to cook once you get to the cove. Take note that this is the last stop where you can buy EVERYTHING you need.
Step 3. After purchasing all your needs in the wet market, get on a tricycle and ask the driver to drive you to River Crossing, Pundaquit. If the driver is not familiar of the name “river crossing,” simply tell him to get you to where the boats for Nagsasa Cove are. This should take around 15-20 minutes and should cost you around P30/head.
Step 4. Ask any of the boat men around to take you to Nagsasa Cove. I suggest that you tell him/them whatever your plans and/or intentions are, i.e. if you plan to do island hopping, or have him/them pick you up in the morning, etc. They are easy to talk to and you and your crew should get a reasonable fair price if you know how to haggle. However, if you plan to have everything easy-breezy, you may contact our friend Jesus (+63977-321-7900) and he can arrange everything for you (boat ride, tent, utensils, etc.) for a minimum fee.
NOTE: If you are from Mindanao or Visayas and intend to go to Nagsasa/Anawangin, you should book your flights early, like really early so as to arrive in Nagsasa before sun down.
All in all, Nagsasa is, and will probably be for some time, the best beach/nature adventure I have had. It’s a place that I probably wouldn’t mind going back to over and over again. If you have the chance to visit this paradise, make sure to allot plenty of time and bring your close friends/special someone with you.
- Bus from Pasay to San Anotonio – P307.00/head
- Tour package with Jesus – contact him as prices may vary
- Round trip tricycle from San Antonio to Pundaquit – P60.00/head
- Food for dinner and breakfast – P294.00
- Entrance in camp site – P100.00
- Cooking – P100.00 x 3 = P300.00
Things to bring:
- Cooking utensils
- Ice chest/cooler
- Drinking water (lots of it)
- Sleeping bag (optional)
- Hammock (optional)
- Flash light
- Sun block