Monday, February 3, 2014

Playa La Caleta: the Undiscovered Paradise

Bagac & Morong, BATAAN
Date: FEB 01-02, 2014

World War II, Death March, Valor – these words describe the province that harmoniously combine nature and history. Just a hundred-and-sixty kilometer away from Manila, Bataan’s proximity makes it a popular tourist destination for those who wanted to escape the busy city life and enjoy an unforgettable weekend of surprises. This time, I will be visiting Bataan to survive at an isolated cove – a secret paradise called Playa La Caleta.



Photo shoot before leaving the office
DAY 1

Friday shift is over, and the whole RCM department is excited for their first ever team building this year. We left the office early, and went to Genesis Bus Station in Cubao to ride a bus en route to Balanga. We managed to fill up half of the bus, and at exactly 7:00 AM, the bus left for Bataan. The fare was around P200, and after 2 hours of travel, we reached the city of Balanga. This was the first time that I set foot on the provincial capital, and the first thing that we did was to locate the jeepneys bound for Bagac.

Bagac Public Market

It took us another hour to reach the town proper, and it cost us P47 for the ride. We also had a stopover at the market, and we took that time to purchase extra snacks, drinks, and toiletries. After the visit to the marketplace, we went straight ahead to the beach, and waited for the boats that will take us to the hidden cove.

After a few minutes, the boats arrived, and then we started our journey. While traversing the clear waters of the West Philippine Sea, we managed to have a glimpse of the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar – a resort with numerous collections of colonial and antique houses from the Spanish era lining up the beach front.

The boat ride was around 30 minutes from the shores of Bagac, and we saw natural rock formations and coastal caves along the way. Then suddenly, our boat stopped, and we were awestruck to see this isolated cove with fine white sand and clear blue waters – all ours to enjoy for the rest of the weekend. The name of the place was Playa La Caleta, and I initially thought that it was still in Bagac, but when I checked Google Earth after our trip, I confirmed that it was really in the municipality of Morong.


Welcome to Playa La Caleta!
The three golden rules
The cove’s tour guide/caretaker/sales person, Kuya Kel, was very nice and accommodating. He even gave us individual survival kits for our first day on the beach, and invited us for an island-themed lunch. The place is calm and relaxing; and because we are the only ones on the beach, we had a great time exploring every bit of this paradise. The beach also has 3 important rules to follow – RELAX, UNWIND and ENJOY.

The first thing that we did on the beach was to take countless photos and videos, and enjoyed the sumptuous buffet that was prepared for us. We ate like kings, since there was an unlimited supply of food that we can eat. After we had ourselves satiated, we rested for a little bit and took a quick nap. On the other hand, our team leader, Sly, is preparing the first activity for our team building.

We were given three pieces of paper, and directed us to write three secrets that our team mates do not know about us. I changed my penmanship while writing the secret, so that it’ll be too difficult for them to find out who wrote it!

It was already 2:00 PM, and the next activity that we had was team sports. We played 2 different games – volleyball and dodge ball. I didn’t join the first game since I was too busy taking videos around the beach. Everyone’s enjoying their time, and after 3 complete sets, the game came to an end. The next game will be dodge ball, and I decided to join this time. The game finished after 2 sets, because everyone seems to be too tired to play. Good thing Kuya Kel prepared our merienda – turon with ice cream ala banana split.

The food that we ate during our stay
Everyone's having a good time
Swimming was the next thing that we did. The beach at Playa La Caleta is like a giant swimming pool – it’s just 4 feet deep several meters from the shore. You can enjoy swimming into the center of the sea that is being enclosed by the cove without the fear of drowning. We even used the bamboo raft we saw on the shore, and started to row over the sea. I don’t know how to swim, but even though the raft tumbled upon us numerous times, we didn’t drown because the sea was not that deep.


Jellyfishing!
We spent the rest of the day swimming, rafting and taking photos. Everything’s perfect, but one thing surprised me the most – jellyfish. I didn’t know that there were some jellyfish swimming among us. I developed this fear of being stung by a jellyfish because I’ve already experienced it once. Back in 2012, when we were on a summer trip in La Union, a clear jellyfish stung my arm, causing irritations and rashes to come out, and it was very painful. I took the raft’s paddle, and tried to catch the jellyfish. When we got it, we placed it in a clear container, and observed how it looked like. It was colored green, with a few white spots on its head. They said that it was not poisonous, so we just decided to put it back into the sea.

The sun sets down
Time flies so fast when we you are enjoying. We didn’t notice that the sun was already setting down. Dusk came, and we rinse ourselves and prepared for dinner. The cove was totally dark (since electricity is not available), so we had to use our flashlights when eating our dinner. The food was great, and we even have free Crispy Pata because it was Kuya Kel’s birthday.

After eating our dinner, Kuya Kel lit up the sticks he picked up, and we gathered around the bonfire. And then, TL Sly started reading out the secrets that we wrote earlier, learning something new about the different characters of my officemates. Kuya Kel then approached us, and gave us barbecued meat for snacks and this braso de Mercedes cupcake which was very sweet and tasty! And then, after sharing campfire stories and life experiences, we decided to end our first day on the cove and went to bed past 11:00 PM.

DAY 2

Red dawn
It’s now our second day on paradise. My back sores after sleeping inside the tent. Good thing that breakfast is ready, and so I went outside, walked up straight into the dining area and grabbed my bread and coffee.

Almost everyone has already woken up, and we were all enjoying early morning conversations, talking about what happened the day before. Some were taking pictures, and some where just lying by the beach. After eating our first breakfast meal for the day, TL Sly asked us to go to the beachfront. She asked who wanted to join another volleyball matched, and so I volunteered myself since I never had the chance to play yesterday.

The match started, and everyone is eager to win! You can feel the pressure every time the score goes into a tie, or if the opposite team only needs a single point to win. In the end, our team lost. Both teams had their friendly handshakes, and we went back to the dining area to eat our second breakfast meal – the real one.

We love to eat
Kuya Kel prepared another feast, and this time, the table offered sumptuous Filipino buffet breakfast that everyone would enjoy. You’ll see tuyo, itlog na pula, hotdogs, eggs, sardines, fried rice and longganisa all lined up the table, arranged in an orderly manner. There were also fresh fruits for dessert and green tea juice. We soon formed a line and get what we wanted, and ate until we were full.

We just rested for a few minutes after eating that much. And then, Kuya Kel approached us, and he announced that the next activity for today would be island trekking. I was so excited to hear this, since I love extreme activities. He pointed out that we’ll be walking through the rocky cliffs, and then we’ll be climbing up the nearby island that we could see from the distance, and finally do cliff diving and other stuff. I can’t wait to start the trek, so I went back to our tent and got myself ready.

Trekking starts!
We took group photos first before starting the trek, and then the real thing began. The first obstacle on our way would be the rocky shore, and we have to pass through all those boulders that block our way. Good thing that I wear shoes with strong grip, because it would be too difficult if you’re just wearing plain slippers.

After passing through the boulders, we had to climb up this rocky cliff, and we did wall climbing without any safety gears! However, the rocky cliff was not that high, it was just about 3 meters tall. And then, while my officemates were continuing their grueling trek, I decided to take some pictures of the beach. The cove itself, looking from the place where we were currently at, was stunning. The sun’s light was perfect. It showed how beautiful the place really was. You can see its bright turquoise waters, and lush mountain background.


Just the perfect location for a Survivor game
It seemed like my officemates have already reached half of their journey, so I decided to go back to the group and continue the trek. While doing the trek, I took some photos of the landscape and the marine life that I saw. There were starfish, small sized invertebrates and schools of sea water fish too.

The power plant can be seen from the cove
I was so tired, but I still continued to walk. Kuya Kel told us that the place where we will be doing cliff diving is very near, so we should never give up. I got a little excited when he mentioned that we’re near the place where someone can go cliff diving, so I hurried up and continue the trek. We passed by rock pools filled with sea urchins, and then this rocky coast covered with barnacles that overlook the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. There were also fishermen who were casting their rods into the sea, waiting for fishes to be hooked up.

Let's go cliff diving!
And then, after walking for nearly an hour, we reached the cliff that Kuya Kel was talking about. I grabbed one of his life vests (since I cannot swim) and hurried straight into the cliff. One of my officemates, Annika, already did the jump earlier, and it was Beau who would be jumping next. However, it seems like she’s a little bit nervous so I asked her if I can do the jump first. I closed my eyes, and remembered how my first cliff diving experience in Pangasinan feels like. I stepped back, concentrated, and started dashing through the cliff. My adrenalin soared high, and gave me this feeling that was too difficult to explain. It felt like I was free flying, and then time suddenly stopped, and this pleasure from falling was the only thing that I can feel, until I finally hit the bottom of the sea. My landing was better than it was back in Pangasinan, and I told myself that I wanted to do it one more time.

I swam through the raft, and pulled myself back into the rocky coast, and wounded myself when I accidentally grabbed a rock filled with sharp barnacles. Nevertheless, I still headed back to the cliff, and had my second jump. I really enjoyed doing cliff diving, and wanted to try it for the third time, however, our time on the beach is running out, and we have to go back to the shore.




The next thing that we did was to do extreme island hiking. In order for us to get back into the cove, we have to hike the island top. There were stairs at first, and Kuya Kel gave us water to drink. There was also an option if we wanted to take the boat back into the cove, but it was suggested that we try doing island hiking.


The island trail that we have to take
I chose doing island hiking, because it sounds fun. After having my drink, I went back to the group, and saw how difficult the trail going down was. The slope was too steep, and it was very dangerous to do things fast. I can’t even stand, and the soil was somewhat slippery, so all of us sat down, and slid down the island. We also grabbed the vines hanging around, just to be secure. It was very exhausting once we reached ground, and our shorts were covered in dirt.

Survivor: Bataan castaways
Our misery did not end with us reaching the ground, because we have to take the same route that we took earlier today. As a result, we had to do another wall climbing, taking cautious steps through the cliffs, and walking through the boulders. I think I was too unlucky that day, because after removing my shoe, thinking that it was better, I slipped off a rock, and then a sharp shell cut my feet, giving me shallow wounds, and I fell into the sea, and soaked up my camera.

I went back into the cove asking for first aid, and dried my gadget under the sun. That was really awful. Good thing that our lunch was ready, so I went to the dining area and joined my officemates for our final meal on the beach.

I got myself full one more time, and I rested for a while. After a few minutes, I decided to take a shower because we have to leave the cove before 2 PM, and everyone has to be prepared before our time runs out.

Batch 299-M rocks!
After taking the shower, I already changed my clothes and packed my things. We also had our final photo shoot around the beach, and thanked Kuya Kel for his hospitality. He gave us a giant scrapbook for us to fill out, and asked for some remembrance that we can give. We searched for things that we can give out, and we ended up giving him company cards and other stuff. He thanked us for the remembrance, and we waved goodbye as we went to the boats that would take us back to Bagac.


The boats started their motors, and we slowly sailed away from the shores of the hidden cove. While on the sea, something scary happened. Our officemates who were on the second boat started to give us signals. They were yelling, and trying to say something. We cannot understand a single word since the engine was too loud. The boatman who was operating our boat suddenly told us to move to the back of the boat, and we just found out that our weight distribution was imbalanced, causing the boat’s bow to go deeper than it should be.


One final shot before leaving the cove
I, along with Van and Micah, went to the boat’s stern, and the boatman started to pump out the water that made it inside the boat. We held our breath for the entire voyage back to Bagac. Thankfully, we managed to reach the shores alive, but we were all wet because the waves were too high that time.

Still taking photos while danger lurks out somewhere
Everyone seems to be relieved after reaching the shores safely. What we did next was to walk around the town to find the jeepney that will take us back to the terminal, where we can ride another jeepney that will take us back to Balanga. We managed to find one, and when we reached the terminal, the team has to split into two groups because there were too many of us that we cannot fit inside a single jeepney.

Travel time lasted for about an hour, and we waited for our officemates back at the bus station before riding the bus back to Manila.

Everyone looks tired, but memories about the trip made us all happy. We slept through the ride, and we reached Cubao at around 9:30 PM (we were stuck in a traffic jam back in Pampanga that made the 2.5-hour journey a 5-hour journey).

This trip was one hell of a ride. I never imagined that Bataan still has lots of hidden paradise, waiting to be discovered, just like Playa La Caleta. Hopefully, they will stay hidden forever, so that their beauty won’t be exploited.


Go RCM Posting team!

Total Expenses (as of February 2014):



For inquiries (current rates and other details) about Playa La Caleta, kindly check their Facebook Page here: BATAAN NATURE ADVENTURES

6 comments:

  1. Hi! May I know how did you contact Playa de caleta of Bataan? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi! May I know how did you contact Playa de caleta of Bataan? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi juesels! You can reach out to them through their Facebook account named BATAAN NATURE ADVENTURES! Here's the link:

      https://www.facebook.com/pages/BATAAN-NATURE-ADVENTURES/149928045395?sk=info&tab=page_info

      Delete
  3. mag iiinquire po sana sa playa la . can u please give us the details ty

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Daniel! Sorry for the late response... I was on a month long back packing adventure... Regarding your inquiry, check mo nalang itong facebook page na ito: https://www.facebook.com/BATAAN-NATURE-ADVENTURES-149928045395
      Sila yung mga namamahala ngayon sa Playa La Caleta. :)

      Delete

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