I had been to Anawangin Cove only once and had a great time despite never having gone camping before. Of course the last time I was there, I was also with experienced campers, a car, a cooler, and had answers to questions like, “What’s for dinner?” and “How are we going to keep the beer cold?” I was more than excited when I found out that the Hohobags, the Hohofags, plus Anne and Helga would be heading to Anawangin for the weekend. We all needed the beach but more than that, we all needed a vacation.
You’d think that the conflict of a camping story would be the man-vs-nature type but really, the problems we encountered were more like man-vs-man. Dealing with no cellphone signal and no electricity was the easy part. It was dealing with everyone else that was roughing it that took away the vacation-like quality of our vacation.
So maybe none of us have ever really gone camping before. So maybe we were only going to take a bus, and we weren’t entirely sure how we were going to make dinner or keep our drinks cold. So maybe we got ditched by the very person who planned the trip. So what? How hard can it be? What kind of trouble can eight girls, two guys, and one missing mountaineer get themselves into on an isolated in the middle of nowhere?
Summertime, and the livin’s easy. NOT.
Deserted Island Paradise
The river behind our camp site
Besides the natural beauty of the island, part of what makes Anawangin Cove a very attractive summer destination is that it doesn’t cost much to get there. Here’s an estimate of how much I spent over the weekend:
Bus fare to San Antonio, Zambales (one way): 220 pesos
Trike fare to Pundaquit: 20 pesos
Boat ride to and back from Anawangin Cove: 240
Rate for each overnight camper: 50 pesos
Food: 110 pesos (3 kilos of rice) and 85 pesos (can of ma-ling and corned beef)
Trike fare to San Antonio from Pundaquit: 20 pesos
Bus fare to Olongapo: 30 pesos
Bus fare to Manila: 170 pesos
Total spent: 945 pesos
I’ve been hyping up the place to my friends and telling them about how gorgeous and beautiful and how quiet it was the last time there. I figured that even though Anawangin Cove is a public beach, people would rather party at “Bora” or Puerto Galera than spend the weekend camping on an island. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Anawangin Cove, July 2007
When our boat pulled up at Anawangin Cove, we were greeted by throngs of people swimming in the ocean and hundreds of tents pitched underneath the pine trees.
“Tropical island paradise, huh?” Jomel muttered.
Gee, I didn’t think that every three-children family and hip call center barkada in the country would be here this weekend.
Anawangin Cove, April 2008. And that’s not even half of it.
Somebody Set Us Up The Campsite
Being eight girls and two guys with little or no experience in camping, we were first at a loss as to how to set up our campsite. Except for Paula, who apparently was a girl scout during her high school years. Camping makes you discover little things about your friends you otherwise wouldn’t have known.
She taught us all how to pitch a tent, and in less than twenty minutes our campsite was up.
Our tent-pitching penises are THIIIIIS LONG!
The Most Awkward Piss and Shower
Although I’m the type of girl who’s very fussy about bathrooms, the toilet facilities of Anawangin Cove posed no problem for me the first time around. That was because I was there in July and there were only four other groups sharing the island with us, compared to the scores of women, children, and yuppies sharing the two toilet bowls on our side of the campsite.
Toilets this way please
Around dinnertime I announced that I needed to pee. But before I could make off to the toilets, someone called me back and said that somebody pooped onto one of the toilet bowls. Five bucks said it was some little kid who didn’t make it in time. Children suck.
Seeing that the line for the other toilet was damn impossible, I walked over to the bushes and peed in the darkness. I have never done that in my life.
Makeshift toilets this way please.
Also, instead of showers, they had a manual pump (poso) to serve everyone’s running water needs. Using the poso to shower wouldn’t have been a problem if there wasn’t a crowd of people waiting impatiently and watching me, Helga, and Anne bathe each other. In bikinis. While that must have been a very interesting sight, it was incredibly awkward for the three of us. I hope I made things very awkward for everyone watching by yelling, “Show’s over, let’s go!” when we were finally done.
We don’t have pics, therefore it didn’t happen.
A Baywatch Moment
Bikini-clad island explorers
After we spent several hours tanning, swimming, and exploring the island, we decided that we wanted to relax at the campsite and open a bottle of strawberry wine while Jomel, Kimi, and Mikey hit the beach again. In between swapping stories and lamenting the fact that we didn’t think of bringing a cooler, Mikey came running back to the campsite. “Can any of you guys do CPR?” he said after catching his breath.
Apparently, two girls and a guy who didn’t know how to swim got caught in the undertow and were screaming for help. Since neither he nor Jomel knew how to swim, he yelled for help and came running back to the campsite to get the almost-medical professionals in our group.
It was like a scene from Baywatch. Cams, Paula, Rica, and Ling jumped up from where they were sitting and ran across the beach in their bikinis to help Kimi take charge of the situation. The girl victims were doing alright by the time my friends got there, but the guy was barely alive and starting to turn purple. Nobody took them seriously at first, but once they screamed “We’re med students, damnit!” the drowning victims’ friends let them take over, do CPR, and other cool, TV-like life-saving things until someone found a doctor vacationing in the island twenty minutes later.
Hot girls save lives
The following day, we found out from the guy’s friends that he got discharged from the hospital and was on his way home. Back in Manila, I learned that the guy who nearly drowned was a friend of my former coworker, Coco.
What can I say? My friends are made of awesome. Also, this country is smaller than you think.
Never trust a man who tells you that he’ll take care of everything.
Our trip to Anawangin was organized by Serg, an acquaintance of ours whose plan was to trek to Anawangin Cove from Pundaquit with his mountaineering group while we took the boat. For some reason he wouldn’t give us his portable stove, but he promised that the hike would only take three hours and that he’d be back by 5 to help us with dinner. He did lend Paula his Swiss Army knife though, adding that it’s worth more than her life and that she better take good care of it.
What a gentleman, this Serg fellow
At 6 o’clock we were starting to get worried; not so much for Serg’s safety but for our survival. We were hungry, and chips as a substitute for real food just wasn’t cutting it. By 7, it was clear that Serg ditched us for one reason or another.
For a bunch of people with little or no camping experience, we sure knew how to organize ourselves and make the most out of whatever resources we had.
Mikey, Jomel and Cams built us a bonfire
Helga and Anne rustled up firewood
I borrowed us a pot for cooking rice
At least we had the foresight to bring dinner
We made sisig rice out of canned sisig and rice
It was a strange seeing Mikey and Jomel doing manly things first time – building a bonfire, cooking the rice, and finding cilantro and herbs in the forest without any complaints. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one thinking that watching a gay man act manlier than most men is kind of a turn-on. We girls offered to make them straight for a night but they politely declined.
The rice was a little gritty, but my god it was the best-tasting rice I have ever had.
Once we were done gobbling dinner down, guess who finally showed up at the campsite? Serg apologized and said that their trek took a lot longer than they expected because a newbie kept lagging behind. We politely informed him that had he arrived ten minutes earlier, we would have skewered him with our firewood and roasted him for dinner. (Though to be fair, he did make it up to us by cooking us breakfast the next day.)
Stargazing at the beach
This experience is further proof that we girls don’t need men to survive in the wilderness. Which is not to say that we didn’t miss our significant others, though. Especially the part where we spent the rest of the evening lying on the beach, bathing in the moonlight while watching out for shooting stars.
I wish you were there
Thinking that getting back to Manila would be as simple as flagging down a bus down from the roadside, we took our sweet time getting off the island and snickered at the losers who started packing up and heading out at 7 am. We arranged for our two boats to get us at 11 but due to communication problems (no cellphone signal on the island), we didn’t reach the mainland til it was almost 2 pm. And no, heading back Manila was not as simple as flagging down a bus from the side of the road.
All the air-conditioned buses to Manila passing by San Antonio, Zambales were full, so we hopped on a (non-airconditioned) bus to Olongapo City and figured we’d get tickets back home at the Victory Liner station there. What we didn’t know was that the whole of Luzon was in Olongapo that evening because the station was crowded like a sale in SM.
Long bus lines are long
We took turns standing in line while the rest of us waited at a nearby Chow King. For a while, it looked like we had to either spend the night in Olongapo or hijack somebody’s van and drive ourselves home because the line was not moving AT ALL. Our patience paid off though because two hours later, we were finally on a bus back to civilization.
Sweaty, tired, happy faces
This blog entry doesn’t do justice to the most amazing experience I’ve ever had. Sure, if we had planned our trip a little more carefully, we could have avoided the near starvation and the long bus lines. But if it weren’t for our little misadventures, I wouldn’t have gained a better appreciation of my friends and little things like ice on your drinks and privacy in the shower. I love that my friends and I never even came close to bickering and blaming each other when things started going wrong. The trip might have gotten uncomfortable at times, and sure I was exhausted as hell by the time the bus reached Manila. But I wouldn’t have avoided that crazy, dirty, chaotic camping weekend for a first class plane ticket to a five-star hotel vacation. Unless the Hohobags and the TMB girls were coming too, of course. <3