Ask anyone what they know about Pangasinan and almost always they will say three things: Bangus, Bagoong and Hundred Islands. There’s more to Pangasinan than that though but first and foremost, I would guess are its beaches.
Pangasinan is blessed with having a rather significantly large expanse of sea coast and beaches – providing travelers with different kinds of sand depending on where you are. In Lingayen, the sand is fine but is grayish-black; in San Fabian, the sand is closer to white but is quite coarse and in Patar in Bolinao, it’s peach – bordering on pink when the light hits it just right. One can say that it could be a photographers dream to be taking photos from these different beaches. I personally think it’s more of a lesson in appreciation.
Hundred Islands, Alaminos
Legend has it that the islands are actually the slain bodies of a hundred soldiers who were asked to fight each other by two datus who were fighting for the hand of a Princess and a rather large pearl that only she knew the location of. The Princess, seeing that it was greed that made these two datus fight each other and sacrifice lives, asked Bathala to stop the fighting and make the datus see the evil in their hearts. The soldiers were then turned into islands – all 100 of them – as a reminder of what these datus tried to do.
A lot has changed and still a lot more can be done to improve the tourism in Alaminos, specifically at the Hundred Islands National Park. The jump off point is located in Lucap, Alaminos. From the center of town, you can take a tricycle going to Lucap and from there, you can talk to the boatmen and arrange for your trip. Sadly, the pier is a bit of a mess, especially during peak seasons such as summer and holy week. The good news is that it’s being renovated so we can definitely see some improvement real soon.
The larger islands are very populated especially Quezon island. Governor’s island is still a must-visit island because of the view it gives you from the top and Children’s island is still a good picnic ground albeit the number of people. You can opt to find a smaller island to stay in and just ask your boat man to come back for you at a agreed upon time. It also pays to ask the boat man when the tides go up.
Patar Beach, Bolinao
Not a lot of people know this but Bolinao used to be submerged in water. This is why there is (technically) one stretch of beach in Bolinao which is Patar beach. What Bolinao has a lot of is the breathtaking tide pools that appear during low tide.
It’s a great place to teach kids about marine ecosystems and let them have close encounters with the fishes and other marine life that get stuck in the tide pools. Just make sure you are wearing water shoes as there is a mighty big population of sea urchins. Better to be protected!
Aside from the peach sand beach and the tide pools, you can also visit the lighthouse for photo opportunities and the Enchanted Cave. Although I would say that only the brave and those with strong immune systems should take a dip in the cave’s waters. If you’re a bit of a claustrophobe like me, it’s best to just have someone take photos for you.
When in Pangasinan, you MUST eat seafood (unless you’re allergic)! The fishermen at Patar beach come in at the early hours of the morning and sell their catch to the tourists there. We had our fill of the freshest fish and it was not just tummy filling but soul filling as well. I guess that’s because I’m from the region so I do have a rather strong affinity for anything seafood. (Seriously, I sometimes look at aquariums and wonder how I could cook the fish swimming in it.)
Bolinao also has this special suman that they cook in bamboo called Binungey (Bee-noo-nguhy). Talk about amazingly creative and biodegradable packaging! Initially we were trying to scoop the suman with a spoon. Then we were schooled by the seller and took the suman from us and gave it a good whack on the wall. The bamboo came apart and we then just used our fingers and hands.
Pangasinan is the biggest province region in the Philippines – with 44 towns in total. There’s still a lot more that we haven’t discovered yet and I intend to do that.