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About Me

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This blog is an amateur photographer's attempt to show how beautiful the world really is. He is drawn to the colors of nature like a moth to a candle light. What are showcased here are nature's grand display of colors at sunrise and sunset, beautiful beaches and off-the-beaten track locations in his beloved Philippines, waterfalls and some of nature's great sculptures, architectural gems, and other views from around SE Asia that he was fortunate to see at one point.

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May 24, 2009

nagsasa cove: taking a second look

Its 3 in the morning and I'm standing on the shore in Pundaquit, waiting for our boats. The sky is clear and the stars are shining brightly - signs for a great weather. A strong typhoon recently ravaged the coasts of Zambales and Pangasinan and I feared I'm going to see a different Nagsasa Cove than the one I visited a couple of weeks ago.

The boat ride was as surreal as the previous one. The glow of the bioluminescent phyto-planktons was masked by the bright moon, but this time the surf glowed an eerie neon green. As we entered the cove the wind picked up a bit, making the last few minutes of the boat ride bumpy. It was weird looking up at the so peaceful sky, not a cloud in sight, then returning your gaze to the scornful sea.

We were the first group to arrive there, but more will be coming soon. Another large group of 18 photographers, inspired by photos of our previous trip, will be in Nagsasa by noon. Our boatman is going to Pundaquit to fetch yet another group. Nagsasa is indeed getting more popular.

After pitching my tent I hurried to the backwoods. Dawn is breaking and I have yet to scout my POV.

enduring sunrise

I went back to the beach after having my fill. I reckoned the mosquitoes also had their fill of my legs. A friend and his two kids were already enjoying the cool morning waters. The beach is littered with debris but nothing much has changed. The cove is as beautiful as ever.

Nagsasa Morning Canvas
morning canvas

After breakfast we hiked to the falls on the southern end of the cove. I took some IR photos on the way.

Nagsasa Cove:  Witness
infrared: seeing the unseen light

The waterfalls has swollen this time. The smaller cascades are more defined. I ended up trekking 3 times to the falls that weekend, acting as guide for different groups. A fellow photographer mentioned its "punny" to call the falls "H2O falls" - a name that would simply translate to "water" falls.

Early morning at HO2/H20 Falls
H2O Falls (or simpy "water" falls)

By mid-afternoon, while most were snoozing in their hammocks, I went around Wild Horse Creek. It was surprising that with all the photographers now in the cove (there were 45 of us there that weekend, the largest so far according to the campsite caretaker) I had the Wild Horse Creek practically to myself.

Nagsasa Cove: When Everything Stood Still
quiet afternoon

The warm sun seemed to make the grasses on the nearby hills glow. The scenery transported me to another place, far from the tropical Philippines I am very accustomed to.

Nagsasa Cove:  Painted Landscape
light painted landscape

At dusk the display of colors was subtle yet impressive. Everything went still as darkness gained upon the fading colors of the day.

Nagsasa Cove: Holding On
stillness of Nagsasa's dusk

I went back to the campsite after dusk, tired but happy that I was able to get several keepers. I was planning to do some night shots later, the clear star studded sky would produce very nice star trails during long exposure. But lying in a hammock with the gentle evening breeze caressing my face proved too soothing. Soon I was on my way to dreamland.

Click here for more of Nagsasa Cove

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May 18, 2009

lure of Nagsasa Cove

lure of Nagsasa Cove
lazy afternoon in Nagsasa

I was back there again last weekend, just two weeks after my previous trip. The place still amazes me like it did the first time I was there. I will be sharing more photos and stories in the coming days.

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May 14, 2009

nagsasa cove: colors and moods

Nagsasa Cove: Late Afternoon at the Rocks
late afternoon at the rocks

In my short stay there in Nagsasa Cove (2 days), I was able to see much of the cove's colors and moods. It was mostly sunny the whole day (on our first day) but fast moving rain clouds invaded the cove when sunset was nearing. The light was so dynamic that the 15 pictures I took of the same scene (above photo) all looked different.

Nagsasa Cove: Gateway Sunset
gateway sunset

I was already back in the camp, resigned that the clouds have ruined any chances of getting sunset colors, when the sky opened up for a moment. My photo buddy and I ran to our pre-selected locations and set up our gears.

Nagsasa Cove: Twilight's Fading Colors
twilight's fading colors

Since I was taking long exposure shots, I wasn't able to take many before the colors faded and the sea and sky turned a moody steel blue in color. The challenge in outdoor photography is that often times the light changes so fast that you only have one shot - one chance to capture the scene.

Second Chance
a second chance

I woke up early dawn the next day. Headed to the river at the back of the camp to see the day's first display of light.

sunrise shapes

The sun rose above the mountains at the back of the cove. There was not much color but the river bank bathed in warm sunlight looked surreal. The golden light seem to make the patterns on the sand pop out. I decided to take another photo that emphasizes the shapes of the mountains, and monochrome treatment seemed to best suit the mood.

Nagsasa Cove: Lake Panorama
serene lake

By midday, the cove evoked another mood: that of absolute serenity. One could sit all morning by the lake side and watch the clouds pass by, or snooze under the pine trees by the banks.

Heavenly Hand
heavenly hands

I cannot get enough of Nagsasa Cove, everywhere you look it always has something special to show you. I think the magic of Nagsasa lies in the fact that its still not as popular as the nearby cove of Anawangin, thus you can experience and enjoy the cove without the (huge) crowd. Hopefully it'll stay that way for many more months to come. Yes, I give it months only.

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May 10, 2009

nagsasa cove: exploring the south side

Aeta Community
Aeta community

On the southern of the cove lies a small community with about a dozen houses sheltered under neatly lined pine trees. There used to be about 28 families there but that number dwindled to less than half. Some of the families have moved to Pundaquit (nearest barangay) to find work and for their children to have access to schools.

Day at the Office
off to work (to the charcoal pits)

Those who remained in the cove earn a living by small scale fishing. On good days they can catch enough to sell to the town folks of Subic (or exchange for supplies like ice) - a good 4 hours away by outrigger boat. If the weather is good they would gather dead and fallen trees on the mountainsides to make charcoal. A week's worth of work produces just several sacks which they then sell for about 75.00 pesos per sack.

Mang Jun
Mang Jun

Regardless of what their living conditions are, the folks there (especially the kids) maintain a sunny disposition. Mang Jun, one of the Aetas we befriended, enthusiastically showed us some of their tribal dances. He offered to lead us to their hunting trails the next time we camp there. He told us there are still plenty of wild fowls (labuyo) up in the mountains.

Nagsasa Kids: Joan
Nagsasa kid: Joan

They also did not hesitate to show us a trail to the falls at the back of the village. I noticed from a distance a crevice lined with trees and boulders on the mountain side (very characteristic of a river system) while I was exploring the area near our camp. My hunch was confirmed when I casually asked if there is a falls somewhere in the cove.

Nagsasa Hike to Falls
hike to the falls

We passed by some of local womenfolk doing their laundry on the hike to the falls. Unlike the camp site on the south side where there is a water pump, the series of small falls here are their source of fresh water. There is a plan to lay some pipes from the falls to the village. But that has been on hold for the longest time due to lack of resources.

Nagsasa HO2 Falls
Nagsasa H2O falls

When asked what they call the falls, our guide answered: "HO2 falls", named so because of some markings they saw on a rock. The name finally made sense (and it made me smile) when I saw the markings myself. He meant "H2O"! (can you spot the marks in the picture above?). These markings (probably etched painstakingly by some surveyors) have already been there since they first settled the cove in the early 1960s.

Nagsasa Cascades
Nagsasa cascades

During the rainy season the water can get bigger. I could just imagine how (much more) beautiful these cascades become with an increase in the volume of water flow.

Living in a peaceful paradise such as Nagsasa is not without woes. Land ownership problem is one of them. There was also a time when there was a move to put up commercial fish pens in the cove. The locals stood their ground. Typhoons and storms they have learned to weather out, but "legal maneuvers" may soon drive them out of Nagsasa cove.

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May 6, 2009

nagsasa cove: zambales' hidden gem, for now

The loud chugging sound of the outrigger boat's engine reverberates in my head. I tried to tune it out by watching the bioluminescent phytoplankton lit up like Christmas lights as boat's hull cut through the dark sea. It's 4 in the morning and we are en route to Nagsasa, one of the coves along Zambales' rugged coast in western Luzon. I could barely make out the silhouettes of the huge cliffs as we traced the coast going south from Pundaquit.

The plan to visit Nagsasa was not until the end of May but circumstances beyond my control forced me to reschedule. My friends willingly joined me, "anywhere but here in rainy Manila" was everybody's sentiment.

Nagsasa Cove: Sunrise over the Mountains
sunrise at the back of the cove

We arrived there just in time for sunrise. From Pundaquit its just a 40 minute boat ride passing the coves of Anawangin and Talisayin. Anawangin is not what it used to be - its now too crowded.

There is a camp site on the northern end of the beach (and yes with a well maintained bathroom and CR). Our group was met by Mang Ador, the friendly caretaker of the place. There were only a couple of tents there that morning. I couldn't help but smile when I imagine the "tent city" in Anawangin.

Wildflowers, Rocks, Sea
Nagsasa beach

After setting up our tents and preparing breakfast, I began exploring the place as the rest of the group caught up with their sleep. I can see that its similar to Anawangin, but everything is bigger and wider, and more scenic.

The Wild Horse Creek at the back of the cove looked like its in the Alaskan wilderness.

Wild Horse Creek
wide open spaces

Pine trees lined the river and dot the mountain sides. The local Aetas said that the pine trees began appearing after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.

untouched shores

I found myself a quiet spot under one of the pine trees and wondered how long this place can stay as it is.

Slanted Pine
picturesque Nagsasa river

By midday we began exploring the beach. The sand is greyish white with patches of black sand.

Long Bangka
Nagsasa bangka

According to the locals, the shoreline was near the mountains before Mt. Pinatubo erupted. After the eruption, tons and tons of volcanic sand were deposited here, making the flat beach that is there today.

Watch Men (Flickr colors)
long stretch of beach

The emerald green waters of the cove will most probably catch your attention once you explore the beach. I could not believe how perfect the weather was that day.

Nagsasa's Crystal Cove
perfect for a midday dip

I am still dazed by the sights I saw there in Nagsasa. I feel lucky to enjoy the place before the hordes of tourists come to this place. I feel sad too, knowing this place will someday go the way of Anawangin. Some folks in other forums already half jokingly remarked that I should share the blame once it happens.

The water pump is about 150 meters from the back of the camp site. But the caretakers make sure there is always water in the bath and CR areas. You may camp on the southern end of the beach in the Aeta community, but potable water is difficult. They are quite friendly, they showed us a trail going to a beautiful cascade (story later). You may buy fresh catch if you go to the village early.

View more recent Nagsasa posts here.
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May 3, 2009

Nagsasa Cove: a place to get lost in

We were lost last weekend, figuratively speaking. We got ourselves marooned in one of Zambales' (still) best kept secrets - a grand cove much larger than Anawangin, and still peaceful and uncrowded. No electricity, no cellphone signal.

My plan was to go to Daet in Camarines Norte (south eastern part of Luzon) with a group of photographer friends for a 3 day weekend. On the day that we were set to go, a typhoon formed on the south western part of Luzon and a low pressure area brought heavy rains on the Bicol peninsula. So headed up northwest to Zambales and bumped up the plan to visit Nagsasa Cove.

Nagsasa Cove: Nagsasariling Indios
on the huge rocks on the northern end of the cove

While Anawangin is now the party zone or "Boracay" of the Zambales coves (its practically a tent city during the weekends), Nagsasa remains largely untouched. It is 3 times bigger than Anawangin and its more scenic. But the best part is that we can still enjoy what we used to enjoy in Anawangin: read a good book under a pine tree in relative solitude or being lulled to sleep in a hammock with the rustling of the pine needles.

Here's my initial offering - a deserted beach on a 3-day weekend (usually popular spots are packed on long holiday weekends) :

Nagsasa Cove: Midday Bangka
Nagsasa midday bangka

I'll be featuring more of Nagsasa in the coming days. There is a beautiful shallow river called Wild Horse Creek (named by the Americans who used the mountains at the back of the cove as bombing range when they still had a naval and air force base in Subic and Clark), a small Aeta village, and small waterfalls and cascades.

Click for more photos and stories on Nagsasa 

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