MATNOG, Sorsogon – There are no hotels, restaurants or even makeshift cottages in the beach that is now drawing a lot of Lenten Week vacationers.
Instead, Subic Beach, which is surrounding the tiny Calintaan Island in this impoverished coastal town at the southern tip of Luzon more popularly known as the jumping board between Bicol and the Visayas regions, offers rare pink sandy shores and inviting azure waters that beach lovers find hard to resist.
Also called La Playa Rosa owing to its long pinkish sand shoreline kissed by secluded turquoise water, it is a perfectly unique destination even with the absence of lavish developments that commercial beaches present.
Its calm water, which is ideal for swimming and drift snorkeling and the strangely pink colored fine sand that sunny day visitors enjoy exfoliating their skins by rubbing the grains devoid of coarse particles on their arms and legs for a spa-like treatment, are good enough that the place lying against the backdrop of verdant shade trees could afford.
At night when the weather is fine, these trees are swarmed by fireflies that flicker like distant stars and give the darkness a more pleasant ambiance.
Anyway, sailing via medium- to small-sized motorized outrigger boats from the mini-municipal port, dwarfed by the huge roll-on-roll-off (RoRo) ferryboat terminal nearby, is itself already an exciting experience.
Each trip has to deal with the encounter of the sea current coming from opposite directions, creating whirling basins that grow wider enough to swallow small sea crafts during stormy weather.
The intensity of this action when weather is bad produces loud whistling sounds and navigating through the area where the currents of San Bernardino and Pacific Ocean collide requires familiarity to avoid the whirlpools.
Town Mayor Emilio Ubaldo on Wednesday said Subic Beach has already been getting the attention of tourists almost equally with the world famous whale shark sanctuary of Donsol town located at the other end of the province.
While Donsol is for visitors in a hurry to see in real life the enormous but gentle sea mammals and even interact with them under the water, Subic Beach is for those who want to savor the beauty of nature, experience a once-in-a-lifetime discovery of the secrets of the sea and enjoy easy actions at a pace that is always relaxed, he said.
This Lenten season, hundreds of vacationers are racing one another into the beach and, Ubaldo said, more tourists, picnickers, backpackers and excursionists are expected to come during summer.
“We have allowed more boats to transport these visitors to Subic and cater to the needs of those who want to go on with their discovery of all the seafront eco-tourism marvels that our town boasts of,” he said.
Indeed, this municipality, located over 500 kilometers south of Manila, is a “hidden paradise” just waiting to be discovered — notwithstanding the fact that with its bustling RoRo terminal, the place serves as the jumping board between Luzon and the Visayas.
Tourists and visitors who have experienced staying here for these natural marvels have never been proven wrong when they call the place the “Seventh Heaven” as the municipality is gifted with a preserved nature, crystalline seawater along immaculate beaches, uphill caves, fish and lobster farms, marine sanctuaries and an amazing view of sunrise and sunset.
The larger portion of the municipality’s mainland is rimmed by high mountains teeming with coconut palms and residual forests that offer a soothing relief of fresh air because of its lush green growth.
Along San Bernardino Strait, which shares the town’s territorial waters with the Pacific Ocean and separates it from the Visayan province of Samar, small islands with unique characteristics await to be discovered.
One is the Tikling Island, which is four kilometers offshore or five minutes boat ride from the town proper’s shoreline.
It is a 40-hectare of fully vegetated circular landmass bordered around from the sea by 10 hectares of coastal area classified as government easement.
The island, which derived its name from the word “ticlin”, the Spanish word for egret, is quite eerie because of the distinct noise of insects and the chirping of the birds hiding in its lush tropical forest, not to mention the wild shrubs and growing vines near the shoreland.
It has a few small hills, one of which is about 180 feet in height covered with natural bush that provides visitors with a shaded walk.
The hillsides provide a water run-off area that is stored in old unused rice paddies of some 10 hectares and this fresh water area provides a haven for water birds including migratory ones.
Its pristine beach, on the other hand, is long enough for leisure walks, featuring its seductive blend of clear blue and light green sea waters.
Fishing is another leisure off the nearby reefs.
Calintaan, the next island besides having Subic Beach, is also known for its huge underwater and uphill caves populated by giant bats.
Nearby is the Juag Lagoon fish sanctuary which is a wide expanse of shallow salty waters enclosed by small rock formations that serves as home to diverse species of fish, turtles, sea cucumbers, lobsters and clams.
This place, reserved for the reproduction of fish populations, is gradually becoming an eco-tourism destination as visitors are allowed to view the fishes in their natural environment.
These fishes are collected for studies and breeding and released in the sea once they reached their full egg spawning potential, thereby reducing their probability of extinction.
Juag Island also boasts of a fine white sand beach where walking barefoot is a healthy body exercise.
The scenery from these places is stunning while the surrounding crystal clear water shimmers in alternating shades of blue, Ubaldo said, as he explained that the pinkish in color of Subic Beach is caused by naturally fine crushed red corals that peppered its sugary white sand.