Imagine getting off a rickety mini bus in the middle of the road at a place called “kabayo” (accent on the last syllable). Then following a trail from the side of the waiting shed, you go past rice fields, a couple of dusty vegetable plots, and 30 minutes later, you emerge on a cove with the deep blue sea beckoning you to cool the sweat that has gathered on your back. Following the coastline, you come upon a cliff of rocks. You wade in the thigh-deep water to traverse to the other side and you come upon another cove with a few ramshackle nipa huts, 2 outhouses, and a hose with running water. The locals call this magical place “pinaitan.” Our camp organizer and Balangan, Bataan native, romantically calls it “Lhasa Cove.”
I woke-up past 6am last Saturday. The others were already at the 5-Star bus station in Cubao. I hurriedly packed, boarded a shitty taxi that brought me to the station in Pasay which turned out, contrary to what the driver had claimed, not to have any Bataan trips. Another taxi brought me to the Cubao station where I finally got on a bus to Balanga. About 3 hours later and a tricycle ride to town from the terminal, I was at Jollibee (in any Phil provincial city, there’s bound to be a Jollibee which is Km O for most trvallers) where I was to meet the rest– Rowel, Noey, Omar, Stan, Bench, Hilda, and Moy.
We met Kel and his assistant at the terminal for the 45-minute ride to Bagac. It was a hot day and it was sweltering in the bus which was almost full. The road took us past Mt. Samat, atop of which was a huge white cross overlooking the province. With a lone waiting shed as the marker, we got off the bus and headed to the trailhead. Rowel, with his usual antics, pretended he was a senyora checking-out his vast plantation.
“Stan, di ba sinabi ko na sa iyong diligan ang mga lupain?”
“Sensyora, nadiligan ko po yun mga tanim sa kaliwa.”
“Eh yun bonsai dun. Tignan, lumaki na ng husto.”
The sun was bearing down on us so it was a relief to finally enter a leafy area where the trail ended at the beach. A small boat, together with Hilda, ferried our stuff across while we walked to the other side. The place was perfect for simply lazing around. Since our payment includes full board, we just bummed around till lunch. It was pure enjoyment not to set-up a tent, prepare meals, and make camp. Lunch did not disappoint — grilled pork, fresh oysters, fresh vegetable spring rolls, and 2 salads. I looked forward to the rest of the meals.
Being a cove, the waves were small. The water was clear and the shoreline long. I read Umberto Eco’s “The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana” under the afternoon sun while getting a tan. A nap at one of the hammocks was broken only with the arrival of the mid-day snack– turron with ube. Mmmmm. ..
Another group occupied the huts near us. The others played beach volleyball with them.
With the distant sound of off-tune karaoke coming from the other side, we drank the night through. There wasn’t any electricity so we had our headlamps on. Cocktails was fruit fondue, grilled hotdogs, and Tequila Rose and Red Horse. We were dry by midnight but I managed to convince the manong to cross to the other side, text one of the stores to open, and come back with 3 liters of Red Horse. I got my shut-eye around 5 am.
It was cloudy the next day but the sun managed to peep through later in the afternoon. I didn’t trust the little boat enough to join Omar and Bench who went paddling to the other side. I still wanted to tann.
We hiked back to the highway around 3pm. We didn’t take the mini-bus this time as we hitched at the back of the pick-up of one of the locals who was in the cove.
Lhasa Cove, as Kel has called it, is a little secret that you wouldn’t really want to share with anyone. It may not be as gorgeous as the others but it has a rustic charm which makes one jealous of any further intrusions.