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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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June 30, 2009

mt. romelo: buruwisan, batya-batya, and lanzones falls

I've always been fascinated with Mt. Romelo (also mistakenly known as Mt. Famy). Folks call it the "land of the falls" because of the countless waterfalls you can find there: all within short hiking distance from the camp site. Its a favorite weekend getaway for mountaineers who seek a Shangrila-like respite without the need for an arduous climb.

Early Morning at Buruwisan Falls
Buruwisan Falls after sunrise

I was able to make my yearly pilgrimage there a couple of weeks ago. It was still (officially) summer but we had this crazy and weird weather: it was raining most of the time. So I figured it was the best time to hike up to Mt. Romelo and revisit the falls.

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June 22, 2009

tondol beach: anda's low tide beauty

Tondol Morning Boats II
Tondol beach after Typhoon Emong

The area was still recovering from the havoc brought by Typhoon Emong when I visited Brgy. Tondol in Anda, Pangasinan. There was no electricity at that time and most of the beach were strewn with debris. Nevertheless I find Tondol beach's rustic charm irresistible.

I stayed mostly at Tanduyong island but had the chance to visit the beach area after sunrise one morning. True to the blogs I read about Tondol beach, the low tide scene is amazing.

Tondol Morning Boats
early morning at Tondol Beach

There is a large expanse of flat powdery white sand beach. During low tide you would be able to walk from Tondol beach to Tanduyong island (just about 800m offshore). Even at high tide there are sections between Tanduyong and Tondol where the water is just about 4 feet deep.

Tondol Lowtide
boats stuck in lowtide

Most of Tondol's beach front are private resorts but there is a public beach area at the western end. Entrance fee is just 5 pesos and you can rent open cottages for 250.00 pesos a day. There is no camping fee if you prefer to pitch a tent.

Accommodations in Tondol

There are lots of homestay accommodations in Tondol beach, most with air conditioned rooms that range from Php 1,000 to Php 1,500 / night.

However if you want a beeline to Tanduyong island, the best place would be the eastern end of the beach. The eastern part has the shallowest beach and provides a "direct" route to Tanduyong island.

There is a large two bedroom bungalow there that you can rent for Php 4,000 pesos (for the 2 rooms) a day. Each room is air-conditioned and has its own CR.

Contact: Amiz/Ampong +639202972305

There are also smaller bungalows and rooms that you can rent for Php 1,500 - Php 2,000 per day.

Its best to check the tide information when going to Tondol as the beach is best enjoyed during low tide (lowtide was from 3am - 7am when I was there).

Contact: Ate Medy +639207002122 or +639282786118

During March-April the water is crystal clear. The lowtide area "expands" during December when it reaches some parts beyond Tanduyong Island.
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June 8, 2009

tanduyong island: living with the torinos

Survived the Strong Winds
dawn breaks in Tanduyong island

My day started early in Tanduyong Island. I was awoke as the first light of the day broke through the clouds. Strong winds buffeted my tent the whole night and I am glad I'm still in one piece; amazed that the tent is still where I pitched it the day before. I was half expecting to wake up somewhere near the water. My hosts, the Torinos, invited me to stay in their house for the night but I insisted on staying one end of the island and rough it out.

It was another cloudy sunrise and I resigned to the fact that blast of colors I was praying for was not there. But things suddenly got interesting when Mang Boyet invited me to "fetch" our breakfast - collect the nets they cast earlier. I helped them prepare the nets the night before but was still in dreamland when they went out to sea at 2 in the morning.

To the Buoy
to the buoy

The three of us, Mang Boyet, his brother Nonong, and I, boarded a small outrigger boat and headed to the buoy marking one end of the nets. The nets are a contiguous stretch of attached segments. A segment can be up to a hundred meters in length when fully stretched.

Morning Catch
catching breakfast

Mang Boyet and Nonong started pulling the nets while I did what I do best (I think): taking photos. I saw a variety of fish got stuck on the nets, mostly we got mackerels and scads. It did not take long for the 7-segment net to be pulled in. We did not even break sweat :). Soon we where on our way back to the island.

Morning Bounty
"processing" the catch

Hot coffee and loaf bread greeted us when we reached the shore, perfect timing as my stomach is already grumbling. The first few segments of the net yielded a good number of fish but we got slim pickings with the rest. The catch was not enough to be sold in nearby Tondol, but it was enough for a few meals. Nonong reckoned they should have cast the net somewhere more out sea as the schools of fish must be in deeper waters.

taking it easy after breakfast

Mang Boyet fondly remembers the days after Typhoon Emong when bangus (milkfish) swamped the small channel between Tanduyong island and Tondol. The nearby towns of Bolinao and Dagupan are heavily into bangus rearing industry and the typhoon trashed most (if not all) of the fish pens. Each fish pen can contain up to 100,000 milkfish, so just imagine if 50 fish pens got opened up.

Its was bangus catching frenzy for a couple of days. The bangus even reached the nearby province of Zambales. I was in Nagsasa Cove right after the typhoon and the folks there had a blast catching bangus day and night for 3 straight days.

In Tondol there was an oversupply (to put it mildly) of milkfish that they are selling the catch at 10 pesos a kilo. The typhoon took away their homes but dropped on their lap a bounty so large even kids earned several thousands pesos within a few days of fishing. For the Torinos, it translated to a second hand television and a generator set. They now enjoy watching telenovelas in the evenings.

Tanduyong Oliver
laid back existence

What I am missing now is the laid back environment in the island. Time exist there but is simply ignored. It was the perfect place (small enough) to spend the day doing absolutely nothing.

Constructing a mode fish cage
kids constructing a model fish cage

I miss the kids poking about my stuff. But what I'll miss the most are the meals I shared with the Torinos. Each meal is always a family activity and they never failed to invite me to each one. It was always a feast however simple the fare was.

The Torinos
the hospitable Torinos

I went to the island as a lone traveller and left it as part of a family. I'm going to be a godfather to one of the kids there soon.

If you want to camp on the island, you may contact Mang Boyet (+639125487872) or Nonong (+639099851316) to arrange your transportation from Tondol beach to Tanduyong. If your timing is perfect with the low tide you may simply walk from Tondol beach to Tanduyong.
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June 2, 2009

tondol: tanduyong island sojourn

The printed satellite map I am holding shows heavy cloud cover over my destination. This is probably the reason why some of my friends hesitated in joining me on this trip. But here I am on a 4am bus bound for the town of Anda, an island in Lingayen gulf in northern Pangasinan some 260 kilometers from Metro Manila. My destination is the barangay of Tondol in the north-eastern shores of Anda, popular for its (very) shallow beach and a nearby sand cay called Tanduyong island.

It began to rain as we passed by the town of Bani. I could clearly see the wreckage left by the recent Typhoon Emong: houses completely torn down as if a huge wrecking ball was dropped on them; and roofs crumpled like paper. Electricity had been restored in some areas, but others like Tondol will have to wait for a few more weeks. I saw some enterprising locals (who can afford generators) put up cell phone charging stations in front of their homes.

The sun was struggling against the clouds when I reached the small pier in Tondol. I could make out the silhoutte of Tanduyong on the horizon. On good days you can easily walk from Tondol beach to Tanduyong. Even at high tide, the deepest (if you know the proper route) is just about 4 feet. But with the gears I have, I decided to take a boat to the island.

Early Morning at the Pier
Tanduyong on the horizon

I was met by the Torino family - the caretakers of the island. Their house was completely destroyed by the typhoon. The rest house (built by the owner) that survived the strong winds served as their temporary quarters.

Tanduyong after Typhoon Emong
storm ravaged

The once well maintained beach front is still littered by debris. Grasses were left unchecked and have started to spread. With the damage the typhoon has brought to the island, clearing the weeds would probably be the last item on one's to-do list.

Tanduyong western side

I picked the southern tip of the island as my camp site. Its near the shallow beach and it has the lone hut. Its also the narrowest part of the island, with one shore just a few meters away from the other. The island itself is quite small, it would take just 5 minutes (or less) to walk from one end to the other.

First Class Accomodation
first class accommodation: 360-degree view

The battered roof of the hut provided a welcome shade (I was surprised to hear that its raining in Manila while its a fine beach weather out here). Most of the trees (save for the coconut trees on the northern end), were either completely uprooted or had their top parts cut off.

Storm Battered
battered roof

Soon the ad hoc welcoming committee paid me a visit and offered me a quick tour around the island.

Sanchai Smile
Sanchai, Jennalyn, Lawrence, and Simon

They are the island's happy bunch: 3 siblings and 1 cousin. Everywhere I go I notice that kids always have that sunny disposition regardless of whatever situation they are in, and these kids are no different.

Tanduyong Kids
the welcoming committee

I saw the area where their houses used to stand. Its now a huge pile of rubble. Sanchai, the youngest, frowned for a while when she mentioned she can't find her dolls after the storm. A smile quickly returned on her face when Simon (the eldest) suggested we go to the other end of the island.

Storm Ravaged
typhoon aftermath

Its amazing how bountiful the island is. The surrounding waters is still teeming with marine life. You can pick shells under the rocks on the eastern shore, or dig for small crabs on the northern end.

Digging for Crabs
Kiko digging for crabs

Kiko, the island's resident crab digger, would smell the holes in the sand and earnestly dig out the crustaceans.

Grab a Crab
grab a crab

A few of these small shore crabs and some coconut milk and you have yourself a succulent meal.

The western shore of the island (the one facing Brgy Tondol) has fine sand. Dig small holes with a stick during low tide and you'll see plenty of small clams. Within an hour I (with the kids' sporadic help, they quickly got bored) was able to collect a sizeable pile enough for a big bowl of clam soup.


I dozed off in "my" hut the rest of the afternoon, interrupted by quick swims when it got too hot or by the kids clowning and poking about my tent pitched nearby.

Cloudy Sunset
Tanduyong cloudy sunset

For the first time I felt really relaxed in a trip. No group to lead, no plans, no nooks and POVs to explore, no pressure to take photos. I was glad to be "stuck" there, effectively "alone". I did not bring any books to read or an MP3 player to listen to. I am glad I didn't.

Up next:
  • Tondol beach low tide scenes and places to stay if you want a bee line to Tanduyong island
  • Torinos' hospitality
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