August 25, 2017

Dingalan, Aurora

Longing for a delicious solitude?

I know a lovely, serene place where the rugged mountains meet the raging sea. It is an almost-secret paradise of Aurora province, a mere five hours away by bus or car from Manila. It is dubbed as “Batanes of the East”, for it resembles some of the famous landscapes and seascapes of Batanes. It is the picturesque coastal town of Dingalan, a former barrio and district of the province’s capital Baler.

Most of the local tourists visiting Dingalan usually sign up for a group tour. It’s cheaper and more convenient. Since I’m often impulsive on my travels, I just commuted following my own DIY itinerary.

I left Manila an hour past midnight, taking Cabanatuan- bound bus. I arrived at Cabanatuan Grand Terminal by 4 am; rode a van bound for Dingalan, which left the terminal at 6 am. Two hours later I was greeted with the life-size landmark signage “I Heart Dingalan”.

The town proper is covered with green, lush vegetation; and the pink church is the most conspicuous structure from afar.

There is a handful of natural attractions in Dingalan; the best ones mostly require hiking.

Tanawan has an amazing mountainous backdrop from the highway up to the hiking trail leading to Tanawan Falls. Tanawan may be inspired from the Filipino word tanawin; and the view or tanawin at every vantage is simply breathtaking.

From the jump-off point, it took me 30 minutes to reach Tanawan Falls. I didn’t dare swim. But I was already contented dipping my feet in its almost freezing waters. It was as if the cascading waters have this therapeutic effect on my body.   

Beach resorts and picnic day huts abound in Butas na Bato and Matawe, which can be reached via 30-minute bumpy, tricycle-ride from the town center. The popular attractions in the area are the Sea Ranch and Matawe Bay Ocean Front Resort.

White Beach is a well-known beach among the locals, and often jampacked on weekends since it is the jump-off point going to the Lighthouse and the Mountain View. I rented a boat and hired a guide at the Feeder Port going to the beach. Para sa mga nagtitipid, it could also be reached by almost an hour of walking on a rocky shoreline.

It usually takes 30 minutes to hike both the viewing decks from the beach. Mountain View offers a more gorgeous scenery than the lighthouse. Closed na kasi ang lighthouse to the public thanks to this pasaway tourist who stepped on the solar panels (and broke them) while attempting to (perhaps selfie and) find a good shot of the surroundings. Pasaway ampota. Because of the unfortunate incident, the LGU drastically decided na ipagbawal na ang pag-akyat ng lighthouse. Ayan tuloy hindi na nasilayan ng mga sumunod na turista ang incredible 360-degree view from the tower. Unless ipa-open uli ni Mayor.

Anyway, I was in awe with the extraordinary beauty of verdant mountains and rolling hills, jagged rock formations and the deep blue sea from the Mountain View. I sat on the long bamboo chair and quietly savoured the moment. It was like heaven on earth. And hell is the absence of people you love and long for.

Lamao is another equally stunning destination, just a boat-ride away from White Beach. It is a series of caves along seaside cliffs, eroded and carved thru time by the mighty swells of the Pacific Ocean. My hired boatman maneuvered the boat into one of the caves and let me experience swimming under the clear, turquoise blue waters. 

I had the time of my life; another unforgettable pre-birthday celebration. 

My gift for myself aside from this adventure - enjoy every free time I have. Because time is the only luxury in the world. It is the only thing you can never ever get back.

From Manila, take a Cabanatuan-bound bus (Five Star, Baliwag or Genesis in Cubao). Better take the 2 or 3 am trip. From Cabanatuan Grand Terminal, take a van bound for Dingalan. In Dingalan town proper, take a tricycle going to Feeder Port. At the port, hire a guide and rent a boat going to White Beach, Lighthouse, Mountain View and Lamao. There’s an option to walk going to White Beach. To visit other sites, rent a tricycle. Take note that the last trip of bus/van from Dingalan going back to Cabanatuan is 3 pm. There are several resorts and inns in Dingalan. Perhaps the most convenient would be the Shalom Guest House which is just across Feeder Port.
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