The first time I went here was in 1975 during my mom’s office excursion. I was in first year high school and excited about summer vacation, and especially about going out to a beautiful beach resort which is a national park with all expense paid.
Found north of Luzon, at the Lingayen Gulf touching Alaminos, Pangasinan to be exact, it has 124 small islands during low tide and 123 during high. You may hire a pump boat and go around the islands and probably land on Governor, Quezon, or Children’s Islands. We went to Quezon Island then where we enjoyed the beach in the morning and a plenteous lunch later.
Lingayen Gulf was the site of a massive landing of Japan’s 14th Army in the Second World War. In 1945, it also became the site of a massive amphibious landing of American forces (6th Army) to drive out Japanese forces in the area. So, Hundred Islands is also a historical place.
I took off my clothes and shoes in the men’s restroom and excitedly put on my trunks. I decided to lay my clothes, underwear and shoes down on the sand by the beach where I could see them while I swam, instead of leaving them at the cabin as others did. I thought it was a smart idea. I didn’t want to lose my best shirt, pants and leather shoes so I didn’t want them off my sight. They were presents to me on my recent birthday that summer. I placed them where the tide wouldn’t reach them.
Leather shoes to the beach? Yup, I was kindof the formal guy in high school, often preferring black shoes than sneakers even in rugged terrain. It’s the opposite now. I’d rather be in sneakers or rubber shoes even in formal functions. There were small crabs crawling on the shore so I made sure those things wouldn’t end up in my pants and underwear when I wore them back.
At waist deep I could easily see through the clear waters beautiful colorful fish swimming around my legs and feet. I could almost touch them. They were so friendly as if they knew me well. I’d like to grab them but was afraid I might hurt them. So I just watched as they darted in and out between my legs or stayed still underwater just within my reach.
Quezon Island is like a huge rock thrown in the middle of the sea. And then wild shrubs and trees had grown on it over the years and developed into a forest. From time to time, I’d watch a local hawk glide by and land gently on top of a tree. And perched up there, it seemed to watch us. It would scream now and then and then later gently took off and disappeared in the next island.
My attention was so caught up in the surroundings. It was my first time to bathe right beside a huge rock of an island, protected from the sun by its sheer height and lush forests. So even if it was around noon time, the place was cool except for some portions touched by the sun.
Lunch was ready so we gathered around the wooden dinner table in the open cabin. My mom’s Malacanang officemates excitedly buried their forks into the grilled porkchops and seafood—dozens of kilos of them—with loads of sweet carabao mangoes and rice cakes cooked in bamboos. It was some sort of eat-all-you-can lunch and the grilled bangus (milkfish) was the favorite. We just ate the bangus belly and left the rest of the fish untouched. What a waste, I thought. My pet cat, Negro, would’ve enjoyed them.
After lunch, rest and a few hours more of swim, we decided to pack up and head for the resort hotel (Hilltop Resort) in another town of Pangasinan where the town mayor had booked us. I was so tired and sleepy that I just wanted to reach the coaster, dump all our things there and doze off in my seat. After a few moments, I felt the coaster engine finally come alive and started off.
After passing several towns, I woke up from my nap, hearing the lively conversation in the coaster. Then mom asked me why I was just in my casual shorts and shirt, knowing how I often preferred to be in my formal shirt, pants and shoes. Then it hit me. I forgot to pack them and had left them lying on the beach. I suddenly froze. My birthday presents, all down the drain.
“What’s wrong?” mom asked, probably seeing how I must’ve blushed or turned pale. “You forgot them?” she queried, knowing how I was sometimes forgetful of my belongings. Then she knew it even if I didn’t say a word. My mom knew me so well. “What now?” she asked.
Well, I guess it’s good bye to my best attire, I told myself mentally. I sighed. Then some joker among mom’s officemates assured me he’d go back to Hundred Islands first thing in the morning the next day and look for my things. If he didn’t find them, he’d buy me new replacements. “Really?” I thought. Seeing I was taking the bait, my mom told me, “Don’t believe him. He always says things like that.” They all laughed.
So, I spent that trip in my casual shirt and shorts and almost barefooted (I forgot to bring slippers)—it was among most uncomfortable moments in my teenage life. We stopped at a mini mart along the road and bought slippers. Well, at least I had new slippers.
It’s a good place to see this summer 2018 but I suggest you see it in May. Going there during Lent may not be a smart choice or any day in April. It will be so crowded with tourists from all over. But it may be a good day to meet more new friends.