SIGHTSEEING by boat in the Hundred Islands in Pangasinan is not enough. If you want to feel nature in this place, it's best to try trekking and kayaking. You can do both in this national park found in Alaminos, Pangasinan.
Our trip to this beautiful place started early in the morning. Didi Camara of Sun and Sea Sports Systems, Inc. gathered people for an eco-tour of the Hundred Islands.
From the sands of Bolo Beach, we passed by a laidback community: I saw a mother bathing her toddler daughter while other kids played with the water pump. We then walked on a narrow bridge made of soil in between fishponds. Good thing the weather was good at that time. It was nice to see the reflection of the blue skies on the water.
We started trekking on a rocky slope. I must admit wearing slippers was not a good idea especially if what you have is not meant for trekking. Fortunately, it survived. But then again, I have to endure minor scratches caused by the sharp rocky floor.
As our team arrived at Camantiles Island, which is two kilometers away from Bolo Beach and located at the Southern side of Alaminos, Camara told us that the area, which could accommodate 50 people, served as a camping site for kayaking enthusiasts and for team building activities.
Val Camara of the Philippine Kayaking Association gave us instructions. Then we put on life vests, hopped into the colorful kayaks and began our nature trip.
Paddling under the summer sun was tiring but the sight of the greenish water, white sands and the blue skies was worth the sweat. As we paddled along, Mae from the Hundred Islands Eco-Tour Association (HIETA) named each island we passed by. The Hundred Islands National Park has actually 123 islands and she memorized all names after eight months of training. She admitted though that there are more unnamed islands.
They usually charged P250 per hour for tourists who wanted to rent a kayak and got members of HIETA to assist them, according to Mae. The most visited islands were the Quezon Island, Governor's Island and Children's Island. Quezon Island, she said, was the most beautiful island.
While we were on our way to the mangrove area, we saw flocks of wild brown ducks. We then paddled through to a century-old cave called Quirino Cave. It has a 27-meter underground stream. As we entered the cave, we saw bats flying around. Under the stream is a rock formation similar to a table top. But no one dared to jump into the water after we were told that sea snakes also live in the water.
As our team got out of the cave, rain began to pour. The rain brought worries to some. Some thought that it might cause strong waves. But our fears were literally doused when we found that it was such as joy kayaking through the rain. Eventually, the rain stopped when we arrived at Shell Island, where our team took a dip into the shallow yet rocky lagoon.
Kayaking a 7-kilometer stretch for almost three hours is an achievement for beginners like me. It might have caused sunburn and aching arms but it was worth communing with nature, especially if you're surrounded by it, literally.