Mermaid Firsts: Hello Zambales!
This story was originally for the Paramore concert that was supposed to happen last February 18, 2018. In case you didn’t see the notice, the band had to abruptly cancel their show in Manila due to their lead singer and frontwoman, Hayley Williams being sick and unable to perform.
This was a major bummer because I went to Manila primarily for this concert. Although I had other side trips that I packed on this trip which made the postponement of the concert less hurtful.
When we found out about the concert being postponed, our group decided to stay extend our stay in my new favorite coastal province in Luzon, Zambales. Knowing that it was a long weekend, almost every vacation destination outside Manila would be packed.
With La Union having a surf competition and Baler having overhead waves (at this time of writing), I figured bringing a board to surf for only the weekend would be too much of a hassle and expense. I then remembered meeting a lovely couple in Siargao last year who owned a beach resort in Zambales.
After doing a quick research, it was then set that Zambales would be the go-to destination because it was similar to my home break, Dahican. It was around 3-4 hours away from Manila (again, depending on the traffic) and it felt very unspoiled, to my amusement.
To get to Zambales, one has to pass through the throngs of speeding cars on the NLEX-SCTEX. Veering from the road going north through La Union and Baguio where the majority of the traffic was, we turned right to Subic.
I’m not so sure of the weather in this area but Zambales had a kind of arid, desert-like feel. You can see from the brown hills that surrounded the seemingly vacant highway that led us to Subic.
The top of mind when people hear about Subic is the Freeport Zone where you can buy imported goods cheaper than normal establishments. Load up on chocolates, chips, and drinks while you’re here and then continue on to the road to reach the coastal areas of Zambales.
We decided to stay at Crystal Beach Resort in Barangay La Paz, San Narciso. I had expected to see something similar to the San Juan surf scene where commercial establishments greeted you instead of tropical greenery.
Turning from the main highway, we entered a small residential street that gave off a feeling of a very laid back beach community. I was immediately impressed when we saw the gates of Crystal Beach and the organization of the whole place was seen right upon entering.
Asking our front desk officer, Nica, she told us that Crystal Beach had been in operation since the 1980s. I was surprised at the expansive 8-hectare of beachfront property that was literally lined with agoho (pine) trees. It was quite amusing how there was not one coconut tree in sight along the areas.
The resort was fully booked for that weekend and the place had a carrying capacity of around 400-500 overnight guests but it didn’t feel cramp or suffocating. I wondered where people were since the beach never got to a point where it felt like a marketplace.
The sand wasn’t black. It was greyish white and not too fine like Dahican’s but it was clean and still felt welcoming to the soles of my feet. On normal days, I would have been bummed out and would have started to get bored because the forecast fizzled when we got there. The waves just disappeared, unlike the previous week.
The good thing about Crystal Beach is that there were a lot of things to do and places to stay within the property. You could rent canoes if the waves aren’t big enough for intermediate surfers while beginners could go all day long on the friendly waves. There was an effective learning system for surfing where you could clearly distinguish who the instructors and students were as they had different colored rash guards.
The lifeguard tower was the authority on the beachfront as they would continually remind beachgoers and swimmers to stay within the safety of the beach flags. If being active on the beach isn’t your type, there are a lot of sunbathing and shaded lounging areas, spaced apart to give you a semi-exclusive feel.
Also scattered all over the place were Instagrammable little nooks and decorative signs where snapping a photo is irresistible. Four days wouldn’t be enough to fully enjoy the place and to think I wasn’t surfing as much as I wanted but I had fun. The people were so friendly and accommodating and most of all loved sustainability.
Thank you to Abby and Mac for showing us around! Loved every part of your paradise! ✨