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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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January 28, 2018

dasol : a tambobong homecoming

Seaweed Line

For over a decade I have been going back to the beautiful beaches of Dasol in Pangasinan's western coast. Tambobong, one of the barangays of Dasol, was a rustic fishing village when I first saw it. It has remained hidden for some time, thanks to the rough road and the absence of reliable public transportation to the village.  Mention the province of Pangasinan and immediately people would associate it with Alaminos (and its "Hundred Islands"), or Bolinao.

I made sure I visit Tambobong every year (there were times when I would be there several times in a year) up until a couple of years ago when commitments and work got in the way. When a group of friends mentioned they are interested in checking out Dasol, I jumped into the opportunity of seeing the place that has inspired me to take photos.

Coincidentally I have was in a rut and has not been updating this blog for almost a year. I took it as a sign to jump start my blogging again.

a salt farm sunrise

Dasol Salt Farm
sunrise at a road side salt farm

Travel to northern provinces from Manila is now more convenient that ever, thanks to the new expressways (SCTEX and TPLEX). What used to take at least 6 hours is now down to an easy 4 hours.

Our group was already in Dasol well before dawn and we took our sweet time checking out salt farms by the road side. The larger ones along Dasol river are the best ones to shoot at sunrise, but it was too early to get a boat to bring us there.

Salt of the Earth
a basket of salt

Dasol is considered to be one of Pangasinan's leading producer of quality salt. In fact majority of the town's income comes from salt making.  A thin later of sea water is evaporated over a brick floor all day, leaving a thin layer of salt that is scraped in the afternoon. Baskets of salt are left to drip all night and then collected early in the morning before the sun rises.

an easy drive to tambobong

kakawate flowers

Gone was the 22km rough road through Bobonot and in its place is a scenic cemented highway lined with flowering kakawate trees, resembling the famous cherry blossoms of Japan.

Tree of Light
tree of light

We passed by the Malacapas viewing deck: an open field with a overlooking view of the Dasol river.  It is Dasol's highest point and is thus nicknamed "Dasol's Veranda" according to a very good friend. Along the way I noticed that bamboo huts are now replaced with concrete houses.


Tambobong Beach
tambobong beach

By the time we have reached Tambobong I must have muttered "things have changed" nearly a dozen times. I was only gone for a couple of years but I could barely recognize the sleepy fishing village with its new resorts, stores, and new houses. In fact we nearly got lost.

The family I have always stayed with (it all started when we camped in front of their house on our very first visit) now has a new house. They have a guest house with an air-conditioned room that they rent out to tourists.

bangka repair

Most folks do not go out fishing now as the main livelihood is ferrying tourists to nearby coves and beaches. Small coves with nothing but coconut trees are now full-fledge resorts.
What did not change though was the warm welcome.  I was glad to see old friends who asked where I have been or remarked that they thought I have forgotten about Tambobong.  It felt like home.

We need nothing that day except sit by the beach and watch the crystal waters (and drink ice cold beer!).  Later that evening we were invited to dinner by friends celebrating their college reunion. I was home indeed.

sunset at cabongaoan

Cabongaoan Sunset
sunset by the edge

I decided to skip my usual sunset spot in Cabacungan Cove and instead decided to check out Cabongaoan Beach in nearby Burgos.  I wondered why I have not heard about this before from the locals.

The beach started gaining popularity recently due to the natural pools, nicknamed "death pools" by the locals, at its northern end. (You may want to search Youtube for it).

Sunset at Cabongaoan
Cabongaoan sunset

What caught my eye while we were there was the beautiful seaweed covered ledge that run towards a limestone rock tower. The death pools are on the other side of the rock tower, but I decided to stay on the side without the tourists.

It was a short but sweet visit to Cabongaoan. I planned to be back soon and explore more of it.

bustria salt farm

Salt Line
dawn breaks at the salt farm

We woke up at 4AM the next day. It was just a weekend trip, too short if you ask me, so there was no time to spare.  Its a 45-minute boat ride from where we are staying in Tambobong to the river delta where Dasol's largest salt farms are.

My friend who owns the boat was hesitant to leave that early because it may still be too dark by the time we reach the mouth of Dasol river and we could run into some of the fish traps. To make matters complicated, its lowtide and there are shallow parts. Good thing he understands about landscape photographers' idiosyncrasies  and our special relationship with sunrises and sunsets :).

We entered the river slowly, got beached once, but made it just in time before the colors appeared. After a quick exchange of "good mornings", we got down to setting up our gear. I got the familiar "where have you been" question, and by this time I had a default answer: "work got in the way".

Heavy Load
heavy load

Salt making is a labour intensive enterprise and there are only a few months in a year where yield is really good. Each basket weighs about 20 kilos and they have to be carried each morning into storage huts. Some of the baskets are a couple hundred meters away from the huts.

Ready for Harvest

During the rainy season, the field is filled with several feet of water and seeded with bangus fry.

Salt Farm Worker
salt farm hand

My weekend visit was too short, but it reminded me of why I love the place.  I don't know how long Dasol (and Tambobong in particular) can hold on to its rustic beauty in this age where every hidden spot is just one social media post away from attracting hordes.

I promise to be back more often.
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