Monday, December 23, 2013

Climbing Capones Island and Lighthouse - Zambales

I've heard of this magnificent island and lighthouse a lot of times before. But of course, anything of historical value grabs my attention and deep curiosity.

I have learned also from a friend that there are two ways to reach the lighthouse: the eastern side - an hour of trekking and the western side - the shortcut route, but a bit perilous because of slippery rocks, angry waves and was almost impossible to dock.

What do you guess? We chose the dangerous side, while the violent waves pushed our boat farther into the middle of West Philippine Sea.

I tumbled at least seven times just to reach the shore, my ever reliable trekking sandals also failed, to the visual might of my friends capturing my numerous falls. The rocks were damn VERY SLIPPERY!

The sight of the Capones Lighthouse from the shore relieved my stressed feet. I would be seeing and experiencing one of the The 27 Major Lighthouses (No. 7 in the order listed by Faros EspaƱoles de Ultramar) built in the Spanish times. To quote Faros EspaƱoles de Ultramar...

7. Punta Capones. This light station is on Capones Island, off the west coast of Luzon north of Manila. The lighthouse, built off the same plans as Isla de Cabra, is a 56 ft (17 m) square brick tower completed in 1890. The lantern and lens have been replaced with modern equipment. Noche found the tower to be in fairly good condition, but the keeper's house is in bad shape. In March 2004 the Environmental Protection of Asia Foundation signed an agreement to restore the light station as the Capones Island Marine Conservation Research and Development Center.

I saw a discrepancy regarding the exact height of the lighthouse, some website claim it at 65 ft. (19.8 m). If only I knew, I could have brought with us some measuring device.

The view from Capones Island was breathtaking, I took pictures of the island inch by inch. Climbing the lighthouse was also scary, since the steel spiral staircase is rusted and I could say wont stand for a few more decades. The original lamp and lantern were replaced with modern solar-powered lighthouse light as part of the Maritime Safety Improvement of the Philippine Coast Guard. Only the tower though was renovated and the keeper's house and the other buildings in the station were left deteriorating. Surprisingly, the cellphone signals are very strong in the island, because it is very near the international port of Subic.

It was at least a 30 minute boat ride from Pundaquit, Zambales. We paid PHP 4,000.00 for the boat, but that brought as to explore the numerous beautiful coves of Zambales as well, that I will write sometime next year.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Breathtaking Sambawan Island, Biliran

I was still in Manila when I learned about Biliran Island and Agta as a resort. My cousin who is a dive master gave me his business card and when I reached home, I started googling Biliran and checked their website.

Looking at the marvelous photos of the island made me drool and vowed to see and reach it at once. When I reached Agta, I asked my cousin... When do I get to see that beautiful chain of islands, the one with land bridges and more, that I saw in the magazine? He replied... You are going to see it on the last day of your trek (but of course, my last day is a flight back to Manila).

And so the day to see the beautiful island finally arrived. I woke up and it was raining! Good heavens! I thought the plan to see the island is aborted. My cousins started preparing things, they plan to scuba dive despite the rain. We left at 10:00 in the morning and we still need to travel by land to reach the nearest port. I started to pray. I gotta see the island in a very fine weather with sunlight.

My cousins started to unload their scuba paraphernalia from our SUV. I started taking pictures. The rain wont stop, and so my prayer. I wasn't thinking of our safety while sailing on the boat, it was the change of weather that I want for some miracle to happen. We can't sail that fast since the waves were also strong, so it took us 2 hours to reach Sambawan. The medium to heavy rain blocked the awesome view of Sambawan from afar. I only saw silhouettes of hills. Five minutes before reaching the shore of the island, the sun came out! What an answered prayer of mine.

I know for a fact that my point and shoot digicam has limited capabilities if the weather is not sunny.

My cousins rested for a few minutes then off they sailed behind the island and started to dive. Me? I started taking photos, breath taking photos, awesome photos! Do I still need to describe the island? My pictures here can speak more than a thousand words.

If you have been to Coron and El Nido of Palawan  or even Batanes in the north of the Philippines. Sambawan Island deserve to be in the top five of the most breath taking islands in this archipelago. Talk about string of stony islets, white-coral beach, crystal waters, rich marine life, coral gardens and dolphins wading from a far.

I took 300 pictures of this island and you know that I can't put them all here. Simply stunning and I would definitely come back.

If you want to experience Sambawan Island at its best? Contact dive master Melo at for scuba diving or snorkeling.

I am also extending my thanks to Charmaine and Santi for their underwater photos, Aunt Darling and Uncle Edgar for being awesome hosts and mostly to my Dad for making this trip possible.