Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saturday, November 21, 2015
Patar Beach




According to locals, Bolinao used to be part of the sea. Submerged underwater a long time ago, the town's coralline rock-studded terrain seem to prove the point. The ubiquitous formation is difficult not to notice when you're entering the municipality from Bani. It's along the road or just next to a highly vegetated beachfront. Like other present shorelines in the Philippine archipelago, this coastal swath of Pangasinan shows signs of a water-world past but it's just one facet of the place.

Bolinao recently made international news for being the site of excavated skulls that feature dental decorations made of gold. The artifact would later be known as the Bolinao Skull and was eventually displayed at a component museum of the National Museum of The Philippines. The discovery gives the world a glimpse of the kind of culture that early settlers in this part of the country used to practice.

Enchanted Cave
Cape Bolinao Lighthouse
Enchanted Cave resort grounds
Coral reef terrain of Bolinao at Enchanted Cave

A recent trip to the town's village of Patar gave me enough time to explore the place. Booked on two separate occasions at the relatively new G Beach Resort, I had the chance to stay for a few days there. It was enough to get away from the tourist-thronged rock formation destination and simply marvel at the quieter stretch of sandy beachfront that's a stroll away from the border of the next town.

Facing the gulf of Lingayen on one side and the West Philippine Sea on the other, the town was formerly part of the province of Zambales until a formal turnover in 1903. These days, its coral beach is sought-after by tourists from Metro Manila and provinces in the north. As a matter of fact, on my second visit at my booked resort, a bus loaded with young professionals from Benguet was about to ply the newly-paved road of Patar after check-out. It's conveniently three hours away from neighboring provinces up north which makes it a favorite alternative to La Union and Ilocos Norte's beaches. For those in Metro Manila, it's a six-hour drive which requires patience on the road.

Hammocks for guests at the resort grounds of Enchanted Cave
What's to experience in this side of Pangasinan?

Experiencing the town is worth the distance. From a bamboo cake delicacy to an interesting cave located in a coral reef mountain, Bolinao promises to amuse:

Visit The Enchanted Cave

Patar's Enchanted Cave is not mystical for being a site of healing rituals. However, for its obvious touristic appeal, it can be. The coral reef mountain where it's nestled is enchanting enough to be looked at. I honestly did not find the cave interesting except for the fact that its owner does not know where the exact source of the natural spring water is. The whole attraction is a compound that's been converted into a resort where its cascading terrain is studded by coralline rocks and sheltered by enormous trees, making the place cool and breezy.

For a reasonable entrance fee, guests can have a day tour and view the display of large, fossilized clams that were dug up at the site. They can also fully enjoy the place by booking an overnight stay at any of its decent huts. For idle moments, they can lounge at any of the hammocks that have been placed between the rows of trees or have a fresh water soak at the pool.

A fresh water pool at the resort grounds of Enchanted Cave
Cape Bolinao Lighthouse
Drop By The Cape Bolinao Lighthouse and Patar Rock Formation

Erected atop Punta Piedra Point in the same village in Bolinao by Filipino, American and British engineers, the Cape Bolinao Lighthouse is as famous as the tourist-favorite Patar rock formation. Built in 1905, it's next to Ilocos Norte's Cape Bojeador in prominence. Having been operated using kerosene in its first 80 years, its lanterns are now being powered by electricity. Solar panels have also been set up to recharge the lights.

Entrance at the lighthouse site is free and can be a good stopover after your visit of the rock formation in the same village. Viewing the rock formation requires a minimal entrance fee of P100 as it's located at the beachfront of a resort. Should you have the guts to brave the pounding waves (and I don't recommend this), you can walk along the dangerous shoreline for free.

The famous Patar rock formation
A beach crawler
Church of St. James the Great

Reflect At The Church of St. James the Great

For a certain period of time before 1788, Bolinao's 75-foot Church of St. James The Great was the tallest Catholic church in all of Northern Luzon. After a destructive earthquake in the same year, the worship structure's tower was toppled in half. Local experts contend that the first mass was held there in 1324, roughly 200 years prior to the recognized first mass celebrated in Southern Leyte. As it is, the church is the town's proud symbol of its religious past where early settlers were known to have been converted to Catholicism by the Franciscan missionary known as Father Odorico.

Located at the town proper, the church is always a wise stopover just before you leave the province. Should you be booked at a nearby resort on a weekend, a Sunday visit for mass is always wiser.

A snack of Binungey

Snack On Binungey Anywhere

Most provinces in the Philippines have their own local cake, a delicacy that reflects the history and sensibilities of its residents. In the case of locals in Bolinao, it's Binungey, a fancy bamboo cake that's peddled at the beach and the streets of the town. It's also sold at the town proper near the church. The delicacy is sticky rice steamed with salt (optional) and coconut milk in bamboo poles that are top-sealed with banana leaves. For taste enhancement, its surface is drizzled with muscovado syrup.

The set I bought at the beach was peddled by a young female local who shared that it took her auntie three hours to cook the whole roster. The bamboo is supposed to enhance the taste of the sticky rice while it's being steamed using coconut husks. She reminded me that they're only good for two days without refrigeration and best consumed within the day of preparation.

A guestroom at G Beach Resort
Camping at the beachfront of G Beach Resort
The villa guesthouse of G Beach Resort
The infinity pool of G Beach Resort

Stay At G Beach Resort

There are a handful of resorts that dot the shoreline of Bolinao's Patar, but most of them face a rocky beachfront. The famous white beach, though, is open to the public and guests can rent decent cottages for affordable rates.

My chosen stretch of beachfront, however, led me to book at G Beach Resort. It formally opened its gates to the owner's close friends and acquaintances in early 2014 until it welcomed booking guests as a result of emerging interest in the place. It has a private villa charm as there’s only one main structure wherein all the rooms are on the second floor and the restaurant is at the ground floor. Since the property is located on a descending terrain to the beachfront, it did not require a necessary fence. This enabled the owner to install an infinity pool that looks out to the beach with a partially obstructed view of the sea. For that matter, there are a few trees like the bat-sheltering Salisay Tree that frame the view. Non-guests can simply stroll at the beach and walk straight to the restaurant to dine if they want to.

Read more about G Beach Resort here.

Bolinao is just one wonderful town in Pangasinan. There are a lot more to explore in the province. The next town of Bani is as interesting and I'm looking forward to discovering more of it soon.

G Beach Resort

Address: Patar, Bolinao, Pangasinan, Philippines
Phone: +63(45) 966-0738 or +63(45) 966-3826
Mobile: (Smart) 0918-926-3909 or (Globe) 0917-938-0804 or 0999-990-9689 or 0929-806-8335

More Photos Below:

A rock formation at the beachfront of Patar
Gazing at the stunning Bolinao sunset in Patar
A Bolinao local
At the beachfront of G Beach Resort
Patar Beach
The sunset view from G Beach Resort's infinity pool
The famous rock formation of Patar


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