Bolinao: a Family Discovery Tour

Bolinao: a Family Discovery Tour
by Danny Tariman

One of my family’s most favorite bonding time is discovering places together. This time, we are headed for Bolinao, a coastal town facing the West Philippine Sea, in Pangasinan province.

The stunning sunset at Patar white sand beach, in Bolinao.
The stunning sunset at Patar white sand beach, in Bolinao.

We left Manila in the middle of the night – about 1 o’clock in the morning – to be in Bolinao early in the morning. We passed through the North Luzon Expressway, turning left to SCTEX (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway), and headed further passing through the newly opened TPLEX (the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway). We were really at cruising speed all throughout the trip until we exited at Urdaneta City.

We further drove past Dagupan City. At this time, I was so sleepy and my wife took over the wheels, until we reached the Bolinao town at about 5:30 in the morning.

As the town was still sleeping, we decided to park and take a nap in front of St James the Great Parish Church. It was quite safe; my family was indeed able to take a short sleep. By 6am, the church opened, and we entered and offered our thanksgiving and prayers.

The centuries-old St John the Great Parish Church,
The centuries-old St John the Great Parish Church.

According to history, the church was first built in 1609 by Augustinians. It is reportedly made from corals taken from the nearby sea. It used to be the tallest church in Pangasinan until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1788. Today, it still stands with the beauty of an old architecture – which I hope can be maintained in the years to come.

We took an early morning breakfast at a popular fastfood restaurant at the back of the church. To my surprise, a lot of travelers and tourists are common customers of this small eatery. The food is simple and affordable, a good eat to start a hectic day of touring the town.

Do not forget to try to eat binuguey, a native delicacy made of sticky rice with grated coconut and a bit of salt, cooked in bamboo. This is a must food-to -taste as the usual “suman” we know are usually wrapped in either banana or coconut leaves. This is available in front of the church.

Local merchants selling "binuguey" early in the morning at the church gate.
Local merchants selling “binuguey” early in the morning at the church gate.

Our first stop were the two Bolinao falls which were just a few hundred meters apart. I can’t exactly tell which one is “1” or “2” as the billboards are quite confusing. But after talking to some locals, we understood that the first stop we had was falls #1.

Bolinao Falls-1 has a wide and deep swimming area. The falls are quite high compared to the second. However, since it is summer, the water gushing from the top was not so ‘dramatic’. But still, the view was nice and refreshing. Only few people were having their picnic in this falls, and only few huts were available for rent.

The Bolinao Falls 1: a calm and refreshing experience after a long drive from the city.
The Bolinao Falls 1: a calm and refreshing experience after a long drive from the city.

After some photo shoots, we drove to Bolinao Falls-2. Wow, this place has a lot of people – maybe 5 times more than the crowd in the first falls. It is surrounded by many huts where people were having fun. The water falls here is stronger but, there were plenty of people swimming in the river.

Our next stop was the Bolinao lighthouse. We did not use the highway, and instead drove through a dirt road going to the Patar Cape where the lighthouse is. It was a rough and difficult drive. I wouldn’t recommend this road, but it was an experience for my family passing through bumpy and dusty road! Thank God for our SUV which very capably rolled through the tough roads!

We reached the lighthouse after about an-hour-and-a-half drive. Our car was so dusty and dirty! Haha! But yes, the view of the lighthouse and the ocean was so refreshing, I forgot the hassles of the tough roads we passed.

The Patar Cape: a lighthouse hill facing the West Philippine Sea

It was about 11 in the morning, and still early for hotel check-in. So we decided to just peek at the hotel, and went to Sungayan Grill, the town’s famous floating restaurant. We were not disappointed. The food was good – we had a nice serving of crabs, shrimps, grilled fish (sungayan, hence the name), and other Filipino dishes. A folk singer was serenading us while we were having our lunch afloat the river. We finished our lunch with a delicious serving of special halo-halo!

Our next stop was the “Enchanted Cave”. Wow, it was indeed an experience to swim down-under. We have to go down the cave about 40-50 feet below the surface. It has a natural pool in the middle of the cave where tourists may dip and swim. I and our children did! It was not so cold, after all. The cave surroundings are developed, there a good number of spots you may take pictures.

An enchanting experience swimming under the earth at the "Enchanted Cave"
An enchanting experience swimming under the earth at the “Enchanted Cave”

The Patar Beach is an awesome sight! Huge waves at the fringes of the reef, with the backdrop of an afternoon sun! Sunset is a truly good photo shot in the beach. While we were here, our children explored the nearby rock formation. I followed, and wow! Big waves were splashing and pounding the big rocks!

My daughter on top of the rock formation with constant battering of big waves.
My daughter on top of the rock formation with constant battering of big waves.

So much good places to go! So much fun exploring the places with family! Thank you Lord for this wonderful gift!

Tips:
*  Use Mangatarem route if driving your own vehicle – shorter trip, less traffic
*  Places with fees: the 2 falls, the enchanted cave
*  Most of the places have parking fees ranging from 30 to 50 pesos
*  Sunset at Patar White Beach is fantastic; you may end your day’s tour in this spot
*  Fresh seafood at very good price is available at Sual, a coastal town along the road.

The Patar Lighthouse towering above the Cape
The Patar Lighthouse towering above the Cape
Bolinao Falls 2: a top destination for local/neighborhood tourists
Bolinao Falls 2: a top destination for local/neighborhood tourists
Enjoying a floating experience at Sungayan Grill with really good serving of Filipino dishes.
Enjoying a floating experience at Sungayan Grill with really good serving of Filipino dishes.

 

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