Exploring Hundred Islands

Exploring Hundred Islands
by Danny Tariman

It was a sunny summer day. My family is on for another adventure in one of the Philippine’s most famous group of islands in Luzon – the Hundred Islands National Park.

A commanding view of the islands: family on top of Governor's Island.
A commanding view of the islands: family on top of Governor’s Island.

These islands commonly called Hundred Islands are in Lingayen Gulf, north of the province of Pangasinan. With so many small islands dotting the seas, I am not really sure if it is up to its name – 100 islands. A hundred or not, the islands are worth exploring.

My family had been to this place some 20 years ago when our kids were still toddlers. What I can recall is that the islands at that time had not much tourists. There were no permanent structures, we had to sleep in native nipa hut for an overnight stay.

We arrived the City of Alaminos – the jump-off point, at about 9 o’clock in the morning. We headed straight to the wharf at the end of Lucap Road where plenty of cars were already filling the free parking lots. Yes, parking are for free!

A swimming area in one of the islands: really clear and clean waters.
A swimming area in one of the islands: really clear and clean waters.

After finding a good parking slot, I immediately went to the Tourism Office just across the street. It was very organized: register your names, have the fees assessed (which include environmental, and insurance), pay, and wait for the assigned boatman. I was truly impressed as I did not experience vendors/boatmen out-doing each other to offer their services and haggling for a good price. Nothing of that sort.

Since we had no packed lunch prepared, we scouted for some food at a nearby fastfood covered court. There are many food stalls offering various dishes. You can find some good home-made dishes and have it packed for your picnic!

With our boatman guiding us, my family went to the wharf where the boats were waiting. The boats are coded; numbers are prefixed with boat classification: “S” for small, “M” medium, and “L” for large. We got the medium which can accommodate up to 8 persons, but we were only 4.

Governor's Island: the place we stayed many years ago. My family at the entrance of a cave.
Governor’s Island: the place we stayed many years ago. My family at the entrance of a cave.

We traveled through the seas for about an hour until we reached Governor’s Island. This was the island we visited before and where we stayed overnight. This time, I find it just too crowded. Perhaps it was summer time and lots of people are really going out to the beaches. Maybe.

We had some photo-ops here inside a shallow cave. I hadn’t notice this cave during our first visit. It was a good background for picture taking. In as much as it was about 11:30am, we took our lunch in this island, so we will be ready to explore the islands.

It was noon, and the sun was its hottest. We climbed the top of the island to get a commanding view of the group of islands. After ascending over 100 steps with the summer heat, it was really a grueling experience just to get to the top. But it was nice! The view was great.

The family enjoying the clear waters, creamy fine sands of the beaches
The family enjoying the clear waters, creamy fine sands of the beaches

We took our boats once again, and started our island hopping. We passed by the nearby Children’s Island where we had our picnic many years ago. This is so far the most kid-friendly island as the seabed is almost flat for a good distance from the beach. Again, the beach was so crowded, we didn’t stop.

I directed the boatmen to carry us to a snorkeling area – which is between the Quezon Island and Marcos Island. Both these islands have nice looking cabanas. It seems they are all air-conditioned. But wait – we are in the middle of the sea, do you need aircon? Haha! It has also LED lights on its beaches powered by solar panels.

At the snorkeling area, there are platforms for swimmers. Out boat sailed near the floating platform where we disembarked. My kids and I were not disappointed. Within the area, we found a number of giant clams under the sea! Yes, they were big – about 12-15 inches wide! Mostly were brown-colored but there were few blue or purple-colored clams.

Giant clams along the snorkeling area between Quezon & Marcos Islands.
An underwater shot: giant clams along the snorkeling area between Quezon & Marcos Islands.

We capped the tour by passing by other islands in the group. We just passed, as we were timing our arrival at the wharf early enough to travel back to Manila.

We reached the wharf at about 3:30pm. We had fresh water shower near the Tourism Office. The shower rooms were good enough for a decent shower. We had to pay a very minimal amount to cover maintenance and water.

Tourists coming and going in the island.
Tourists coming and going.

Heading back to Manila, we passed by Alaminos to buy some local goods. We bought the native sausage (longanisa), and boneless bangus. Wow, the price of the bangus is really very low! On the way, we had a short stop at Sual town for more fresh seafood! We got a medium-sized 2 ½ kilo tuna and another quite big 2-kilo salmon. It was really a bargain!

Don’t forget to taste the native delicacy famous in Pangasinan – the tupig. It is made of glutinous rice with young coconut and sugar wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over charcoal embers.

We thank the good Lord for all these blessings that He continue to pour upon us! Another wonderful time with my family!

Me and our children at the snorkeling area.
Me and our children at the snorkeling area.
A quite nook in one of the islands.
A quite nook in one of the islands.
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