For the recent five-day weekend, I got a spontaneous invite from Jackie Yap, co-founder of FlipTrip.ph, to join them in Zambales. Having no plans for the weekend, I let them handle everything and ended up staying the entire five days there.
First stop on the way up was lunch at the beautiful bed and breakfast of Casa San Miguel in San Antonio, Zambales. Casa San Miguel began in 1993 as “an artist-run initiative established by violinist Coke Bolipata… to integrate culture and community development in his native Zambales.” Today it serves as a school for gifted artists from the local community. Aside from the bed and breakfast, it has an art gallery, a museum, a theatre, and the one of the most Instagrammable bookstores I’ve ever seen.
Entrance is P100, giving you access to the galleries and unlimited Starbucks brewed coffee.
From there, we drove about half an hour further until we arrived in sleepy Liw-liwa, San Felipe, home of The Circle Hostel, where I would be staying. I love the rustic, artsy, and open vibe here, and for those accustomed to resort and hotel-type accommodations, this is a wonderful place to have a “comfort zone-expanding” experience, as my friends called it.
If you’re looking to get into backpacking, you may want to test your mettle by sleeping in one of the triple-decker bunk beds in the shared dorm, or in these outdoor hammocks that handily zip up all the way. For less than $10/night either way, it's cheap! Apart from not knowing where to securely dump my camera gear, it suited me perfectly. (It’s worth mentioning that I would just leave my phone charging in the common area and come back for it some time later, all good.)
The main draw in Liw-liwa is of course the surfing. You can rent a board and hire an instructor from the hostel and pick up a hobby where you're bound to meet attractive people. ;)
Another thing I love about Liw-liwa is that everything is on the same short stretch of road. With cellphone reception spotty at best, you could just as easily walk around until you find your friends. The main eatery and one-stop shop for everything is Mama Phoebe’s, which serves delicious food. You can also have them cook food you buy in the market, and they have a rather impressive selection of beach and surf supplies and snacks. I’m a fan of their tapsilog and choco-banana shake, though I’m sorry I missed out on their famous pancakes!
We also had the good fortune of being able to participate in a sunset release of olive ridley turtle hatchlings at Pawicare in La Paz, San Narciso, a short drive from Liw-liwa. It was a treat and our big group had fun cheering on our frisky little turtlets as they took their 10% chance of survival into the big blue sea. It’s worth mentioning that the center is 100% volunteer-run by local fisherfolk and they don’t feel it’s right to charge people for the experience. Everyone is instead encouraged to donate whatever amount they can or buy a Pawicare t-shirt.
In the evening, we all hung out at Board Culture Liw-liwa, another simple resort just off the start of the central road. Whereas The Circle is at the center of all the “action,” ( if you can even call it that) BCL is tucked away in its own spot. It’s the perfect place to hang out in the evenings with a group as big as ours, as it has lots of space, a pool table, and even an outdoor basketball court (though don’t try dribbling, the surface is sand). Probably the first and only time I’ve ever shot a jump shot while looking up at the stars!
On Sunday morning, my fourth day, I was unceremoniously woken by Jackie who told me I had to be ready to leave for island-hopping in three minutes. I had nothing better to do, so I rolled out of bed, changed into board shorts, and hopped into her friend’s car. I thought to myself, “When you’re dragged out of bed to go with people you don’t know to some indeterminate location, that’s either an adventure… or kidnapping.“ I told Jackie that FlipTrip.ph must be the only travel company that kidnaps you! :P
We rendezvoused with the rest of the group and had a lovely sari-sari store breakfast of instant mami, Skyflakes, Century Tuna, and instant coffee. 5-star stuff. :-) From there, we boarded the boat and made our way to our first stop, Capones Island.
We spent about half an hour there before taking the hour-long boat ride to Nagsasa Cove. It was worth it: when you enter the cove, the choppy water turns glassy, and you’re surrounded by dramatic green mountains on either side, with the quiet beach awaiting ahead. I loved it. A day trip here is P50 per head, a cottage is P100, and overnight camping is P100. I was already sure I’d come back to camp in the future and to get some better photos —- there had been no time to grab my camera that morning!
We spent a relaxed afternoon there and had another memorable 5-star meal of two big bowls of spicy pancit canton, topped off with the leftover canned tuna from breakfast. I had two servings of pancit, three or four beers, and promptly fell asleep on the beach.
We were back in Liw-liwa by mid-afternoon. That evening, we had our own bonfire arranged by the beach and just jammed by the fire. Good viiibes, bro.
Monday was a lazy day (though the girls were out surfing all morning) and soon it was time to go home. It was a huge relief to be out of the city for the first time in over a month and it was every bit as good as I expected. What I especially appreciated was the backpacker-surfer vibe of the little town of Liw-liwa that made it easy to just hang around, make new friends, and go on spontaneous mini-adventures.
Thanks to the good folk of Fliptrip.ph for making it a worry-free weekend and for introducing me to a whole bunch of cool new folks. ’Til the next trip!
For more information on the itinerary, prices, and other things to do, feel free to head over to FlipTrip.ph! They know way more than I do. :)