Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cape Santiago Lighthouse: Calatagán's heritage gem

Whenever my family goes on a trip, there is always a touch of history provided by my hubby Pepe. Whether we are inside a moving vehicle, walking in an old town, inside a Spanish-era church, or just about everywhere, he never fails to give us interesting historical background of the place we're visiting.

That's why our recent beach excursion to Calatagán, Batangas was not complete without visiting a historical site: the Spanish-era lighthouse of Cape Santiago! Family trips are really cool and great and awesome if you have a "Young Historian" husband. Naks! I'm your number one fan, my hubby Pepe! Don't you ever forget that! 😁

Actually, it was our second time to go there. The first time which was three years ago was not successful because nobody was around to guide us. We weren't even able to enter through the gate because it was locked with aroma vines! That's why we vowed to return!

Unsuccessful visit three years ago (April 30, 2013).

We reached Cape Santiago after a twenty-minute drive from Burot Beach. In Barrio Bagong Silang, we turned right to a small dirt road upon seeing a sign which leads to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is also visible from the highway. The dirt road goes through a forest of prickly aroma trees. It took us another five minutes to reach the lighthouse which stands on a hill a few meters from the beach. We had to park our ride and walk up the hill towards the gate leading to the the lighthouse.

We drove through a forest of prickly aroma trees. The place was a bit creepy, but then we saw a group of young people having a photography session.

From what my hubby Pepe had gathered, the lighthouse of Cape Santiago is the oldest structure in Calatagán that was built in on December 15, 1890 during the Spanish colonial period. It is made of brick and lime. The round structure is 51 ft in height and was modeled after medieval castles in Europe. Its original light source is gone and has since been replaced by an automatic light bulb donated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, perhaps as payment for what the Imperial Japanese Army did to the town of Calatagán (they turned it into a garrison during World War II). But even that donation is no longer in use due to lack of funds.

Cousins Kate and Krystal are very excited to climb up the antique steel steps of the lighthouse!

The moment you step inside, you will start to feel the antique aura of the building. Me, I'm actually delighted whenever I see old structures or even walls. I especially got fond of its red-bricked structure, so just imagine my excitement! I have become like my hubby Pepe, by the way. I have learned to love heritage structures. Some of my profile pictures in my Facebook account show me with old walls and other heritage structures. I love touching them because they make me feel as if I have lived during the time they were constructed. The feeling is so electrifyingly classic. =)

The view from up here is breathtaking!

 I can't explain my excitement!

 La Familia Viajera on top of the Faro de Cabo Santiago!

Yeah! Now our relatives have first-hand experience on how it is to travel like La Familia Viajera!

Attention, heritage activists and advocates!

Zoomed from below!

What a romantic field to behold!

Endless Love! ❤️‍ ❤️‍ ❤️‍

I just love classic bricks!

Bougainvillea lovin'!

Classic view! 

Junífera Clarita with her Abuela Mommy!

A 112-year-old mango tree right below the lighthouse! It's so old its branches are already touching the ground!

Pictures here, pictures there, pictures everywhere! That is what you'll see me doing during our trips! And that's exactly what I was doing even while on our way to the top of the lighthouse (click here for more of our Cape Santiago Lighthouse photos)! The spiral steel stairway is very tall. Remember that the structure is 51 ft high, and there is not much ventilation on your way up. So if you plan to go up, bring a fan (abanico) along with you as well as bottled water. But when you reach the top of the lighthouse, you will forget all that climbing because of the awesome view! It's simply romantic, as if you're in a movie scene!

Always remember that when you're at the top of the lighthouse, you really, really have to be very careful moving about because the catwalk is very narrow. We also noticed a crack on the flooring, so try to restrain your excitement by not jumping. The government should allocate funds for this place because it is historic. Every piece of brick, the look and feel of it, it's historic. We are calling the attention of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the Heritage Conservation Society to please help preserve the Cape Santiago Lighthouse. It may still be standing, but it still requires careful management. It is an important part of Calatagán's history. It is a pride of Batangas Province that should be promoted not only throughout the entire country but throughout the whole world.


Burot Beach again and again!

Who would have thought that we would go back to faraway Burot Beach for a third time? Yes, you heard that right! Actually, the first time was just me and my hubby Pepe three years ago, on April 16, 2013.

The second time was a two weeks later, April 29, this time with the whole family (Junífera Clarita was not born yet). We even camped there through the night.

Then third was just this summer of 2016, last May 22. It was Junífera Clarita's first time. We also tagged along my immediate family members (mother side). It was also their first time in Burot. It was thrilling for their part because they have not visited a beach for such a long time! 

It was raining hard in many places for about a week or so, that's why prior to our Burot escapade, I was always praying that may it not rain on our planned visit to the beach. I prayed to all the angels and the saints, especially to Santa Clara de Asís, the saint you have to call if you do not want to rain on an important event in your life. I also asked Mama Mary's help, that they may all pray to Almighty GOD that it might not rain on our beach escapade, that may the sun shine completely so that my family would enjoy the last days of summer.

Thank GOD! On the day of our excusrion, He granted my prayers! I thank all the angels and the saints, especially Santa Clara de Asís and Mama Mary, for interceding. So now, you know what to do if you don't want to rain on your important events.

Flame trees on the dirt road to Burot. These trees start to bloom during summer.

It was my second time to have experienced this miracle. The first time was during my wedding with Pepe three years ago. It was raining for a week prior to our wedding. So off we went to the monastery of Santa Clara de Asís to offer some eggs (it's a Catholic tradition) and asked her to pray to GOD that it might not rain on our wedding day. And Thank GOD (and also thanks to Santa Clara de Asís' intercession) because it really did not rain on our wedding day! It drizzled for a few minutes, but there were lots of sunshine. The drizzle did not even damage my make-up, as if it never drizzled at all! I really believe in the power of prayers...

Going back to Burot Beach. We were enjoying the sands and the sea as if it was just the first week of April, LOL! We also hired a canoe to go to Burot Beach's sandbar near Pandac Island. It is quite popular among beachgoers because of its unique quality: it is shallow despite its distance from the shore! It's just knee-deep even during high tide! And the waters are so clear you could see the fine white sand on your feet. We all had fun swimming, especially the kids because it's something new to them! We found starfishes, small crabs, and even sea urchins! You can check out our fun sandbar video here!

 It's my third time here!

Summer pose!

My handsome nephew Allen and my pretty nieces Kate and Krishna! 
Mommy and her two gems: me and Kathleen!

From stolen moments...

...to fun moments!



My sister Kathleen enjoying her first canoe ride!

Something rare: a six-armed starfish!

Handle starfishes with care. Our children do!

There are much bigger starfishes at the sandbar off Burot Beach.

Why do we keep on coming back to this place? Because of its white sands and its clear water plus the exciting beach recreation it offers to people of all ages. We also love the privacy. However, during our last visit last May 22, we saw more people than ever before. It's either Burot has become more popular than ever, or maybe because of the El Niño phenomenon. We didn't get to have much privacy unlike before. Back then, we could even take a selfie with no people behind us, even at the sandbar near Pandac Island. Check out my video with my hubby Pepe recorded during our first time in Burot. We were the only ones swimming there. Another thing me and my hubby had observed was the amount of trash left behind by irresponsible beach goers. You can also check out our first Burot photo album to see how clean the place was when only a few people knew the place. So please, if you plan to go to Burot Beach, please make sure that you bring plastic bags for your trash to keep the place clean and beautiful. Or the management could also install garbage bins and have people check their guests to maintain the cleanliness of the beach. I also noticed that the waters now have dried wood floating. They were obviously from the bonfire of campers. I do hope that guests who will use bonfire would clean dispose their leftover wood on a safe place, or maybe the management should implement their guidelines on cleanliness more strictly. The people administering Burot Beach now charge ₱65.00 per person, much higher than before. And now more people are visiting it. That means more money for them. With that amount of money, we expect a more cleaner Burot Beach.

Peace, everyone. Don't get mad. What I'm telling you is for the love of nature. so that all of us will get to experience the unspoiled beauty of Burot Beach for a long time. <3 =)

Aroma thorns. These plants are plentiful by the beach. So be very careful.

Selfie! Want more of our recent Burot Beach adventure? Then click here!

We Love Burot Beach!

All in all, my last visit there was more fun and enjoyable than the first two. I do hope that the people who are taking care of the place will be more strict in implementing rules on littering. Burot Beach will always have a great place to my heart. I once saw the beauty of it and I want to go back there and see the beauty of it again.

Till next time, Burot Beach!


Monday, May 30, 2016

Agbalala: falls on a beach!

I've been hearing about Agbalala Falls, one of my hometown's many waterfalls, since I was in college. This waterfall is unique because its cold waters flow directly towards a nearby beach. But all these years, I've never been there because it's very far from our place at the town proper. Besides, the serene river which flows through Tagbong and Amazona Beach were enough to keep me relaxed, so why should I ask for more?

Last month was totally awesome because we had our Abra de Ilog vacation for six days. On our first day (April 1), we went to Amazona Beach to celebrate Juanito's seventh birthday. The next day, we swam and picnicked in Tagbong, On the third day, we experienced walking through a forest on our way to Swim Falls. On the fourth day, we just relaxed at my ancestral home while my hubby, Krystal, Mómay, and my cousin John-John went on a mountain hike.

Our fifth day, for me, was the most exciting of them all! It was the day we visited Agbalala Falls and its beach!

On our way to Agbalala Falls.

We have to cross Puente Apiás to get to Agbalala. There's a waterfall bearing the same name just a few minutes walk from this bridge. We have already visited it twice, but it's not as high as the one in Agbalala.

Agbalala Falls and Beach are situated in Barrio Uauà. We had to travel for almost half an hour by tricycle from the town proper to reach the farthest end of the road which leads to the site. My mom's brother, Tito Raf, drove us there using his tricycle. Upon reaching the place, we had to walk some more because Tito Raf's tricycle cannot go up on that kind of road anymore, unless you have a motorbike. On the rough trail towards the falls and beach proper, we saw lots of big rock formations to our left. To our right far below, the beautiful view of Agbalala's coastline and its crystal clear waters sparkle in the sunshine.

We reached the entrance to the falls after walking for about half an hour. A nipa hut is set up to cater to tourists where they had to register. The rate is just ₱10.00 each, but we could stay there for as long as we want, no time limit! Just non-stop fun! We chose to go to Agbalala Falls first before visiting the beach. It was there where we stayed the whole morning. The trek up to Agbalala Falls is just less than five minutes.

Cascada de Agbalala

When I saw Agbalala Falls for the first time, I was astounded by its full beauty and the clarity of its waters. It looked REALLY AWESOME as I imagined it to be. I remembered how my family members and fellow townsmen of Abra De Ilog were right about Agbalala Falls: it really is astounding!

Agbalala Falls is truly Abra De Ilog's main gem!

Just arrived!

Turquoise-colored waters are what will come to mind when you see Agbalala Falls for the first time. In excitement, you will want to swim right away upon seeing this beautiful falls. The coldness of its waters is not as comparable to that of Taytay Falls in Majayjay, La Laguna which is über cold. But the coldness Agbalala Falls is just right to one's body, so relaxing, cool, and soothing. Ah... I want to go back there again...

The waters of this natural pool is so clear you could easily see the rocks underneath!
Family Picture!

While swimming, we could clearly see the somewhat colored and beautiful stones and rock formations underneath the pool where the waterfall drops. The falls itself is exciting to watch, Small stalactites and stalagmites were already forming beside the waterfall. You couldn't help but smile while taking pictures of the natural beauty of Agbalala Falls!

¡Buen provecho!
Floating time! =)

After eating our packed lunch and swimming in the cold, fresh waters of Agbalala Falls, we went for the warm, salty waters of Agbalala Beach nearby. The stream flowing down from the pool of Agbalala Falls go all the way to the nearby beach. When we got down to Agbalala Beach, there was not much sunshine because rain clouds were already forming from afar. But when I see a beach, I just couldn't be stopped whether if it's about to rain or not! We just had to go there especially since I always boast in social media that I am a beach person, hehehe!

Playa Agbalala

The cold stream coming from Agbalala Falls meets the warm waters of Agbalala Beach.

While swimming in Agbalala Beach, we immediately noticed the clarity of its waters. We already saw that on our way to the falls that morning. You can check out our complete photo album to believe. There was not enough sunshine when we swam there because of the rain clouds. How much more when there was sunshine? That's how clear the waters of Agbalala Beach are.

Of all the beaches we've been to, it was here where Junífera Clarita enjoyed walking by herself the most. I even left her alone on the seashore, looking at her from a safe distance, and instead of looking for us, she was busy collecting pebbles and shells!

Pebbles, shells, and stones!

Mommy Mermaid!

With Juanito and our family reflexiologist, Ate Cora. =)

Another family photo, this time at the beach!

Junífera Clarita is really enjoying this beach's assorted pebbles, shells, and stones!

Agbalala Beach is just a few steps away from Agbalala Falls. The water from Agbalala Falls drains towards this beach. It was our second time to swim on a waterfall that drains very near to a beach; the first was more than a decade ago in nearby Apiás (Krystal was our only child back then). It was also our second time to swim on a very pebbled beach; the first was in Kamantigue in Batangas City. WOW is the word that just came to my mind right after experiencing the thrills of Agbalala. The waters are so refreshing, replenishing, and relaxing!

You will not get tired of swimming here. Unlike the crazy waves of Amazona Beach, those in Agbalala are gentle, as if they're dancing with your body. The view of the sea shore is overwhelming, and the rocks and mountains surrounding the beachfront is spectacular. There are a few Mañguián houses in Agbalala Beach. But don't worry because they are a friendly but shy people. You may ignore them or mingle with them. But they won't mind you at all. You will see only their children on the beach. We had our picture taken with them.

With the Mañguián kids of Agbalala. They're more privileged than us because they live in paradise.

When I checked what Junífera Clarita was up to, I noticed that she was very busy playing with pebbles all around her. I sat down beside her and didn't notice that I was already picking a few precious-looking stones myself, getting a bit addicted in the process, LOL! I once read in a magazine article that every stone is unique and that it has no duplicate anywhere else. That article is correct. The pebbles surrounding me and Junífera Clarita are of various beautiful shapes, sizes, and colors... wow, those are the exact words I have for Agbalala Beach!

Tito Raf fetched us late in the afternoon. I saw the sunset on the other side of Cabignayan mountain. I thanked GOD that it did not rain on that day. When we got back home, I said to myself, "I will definitely go back to Agbalala Falls and its beach!" Not just me but all of us in the family! Yes, we will definitely go back! We enjoyed the place twice as we expected. Double the fun, double the wonders, double the relaxation, and everything beautiful you could ever think of! ❤ 😄

Junífera Clarita: ¡Volvamos a este lugar, Mamá!Yo: ¡Sí, señorita!