Return to the Hundred Islands (Alaminos City, Pangasinan)

View of Islands from View Deck

The last time I’ve been to the Hundred Islands in Alaminos City, Pangasinan was way back March of 2005, Holy Week with son Jandy and 2 lady friends, and we only got to explore 3 of its islands, camping overnight at Marta Island. I considered this a poor batting average considering that there are 127 of these granite and scrub-covered islands and islets, a number of them having white sand beaches.  Again it was Holy Week and this time I, together with Jandy and daughter Cheska, found ourselves in Pangasinan, staying at El Puerto Marina Resort and Spa at the provincial capital town of Lingayen.  The resort offered day tours to the islands and we decided, especially Cheska who was a first-timer to these islands, to join the tour.  Our group included Fil-American Ms. Katrina Nogoy and Malaysian-American Ms. Janet Jun Siew Loh, both visiting school teachers from Japan.  Our guide was resort employee Mr. Viramel “Ram” Velasco. 

Lucap Wharf

The trip, via a van driven by Mr. Nixon Fernando, to Brgy. Lucap, take-off point to the islands, took all of 1 hour. Again, it being a long holiday, the wharf and every island with a white sand beach was packed with tourists.  Although I brought a 5-pax tent with me to Lingayen, camping on an island was out of the question.  However, we decided to explore beyond the normal tourist boat route which only included the partially developed Children, Governor’s and Quezon Islands, this time including the other outlying but interesting islands, paying a hefty PhP800 to do so.  While waiting for our boat, I made a short visit to Lucap’s Marine Museum which has a collection of corals and other marine life.  This 1,844-hectare national park, declared as such on January 18, 1940 through Proclamation No. 667, is believed to be the second largest marine reservation in the world with 2,000 species of marine life.

Lucap Wharf Marine Museum

The whole park can be readily covered, even by a slow banca, in half a day.  Most of the islands we passed are small (the smallest being less than 20 sq. m.), heavily-undercut at the base and have an elevation of 20 m. .  Many do not have trees to shade you from the sun and do not carry a name.  Some that do carry names are fancifully named after luminaries in the country (Marcos Island, Romulo Island, Quezon Island, etc.) while others are named after plants and animals that they resemble (Mushroom Island, Turtle Island, etc.).  An interesting photo opportunity was Cathedral Island, so named after its cathedral-like, fruit bat-inhabited cave with domed rock formations.  

Cathedral Island and Cave

Our first stop was Governor’s Island.  The island had white sand beaches on both sides but lolling around at the packed beaches wasn’t yet in our agenda.  Instead, all five of us decided to climb up the top of the island which, unlike 5 years ago, now had paved stairs and roped railings leading to a concrete view deck with railing (and packed with tourists).  What hasn’t changed, though, was the magnificent and panoramic view it afforded of this mini-archipelago said to have been formed from the tears of a prehistoric lovelorn giant who pined for his lost lady love.   The island also has a not-too-deep, sea-sculpted cave.

Marcos Island

Our next and longest stopover was Marcos Island.  Marked by mermaid statues, the island consists of 3 mounds, a 70-foot drop-off, a nice white sand beach (difficult to land on when the waves are high) and a helipad on the smaller dome.   From the beach, a well-marked trail, on the left, leads to the top of the island where its chief attraction is the bat-inhabited Imelda Cave which can be peered down from a blowhole above. Here, the adventurous and brave could climb down a wooden stairs to a ledge where they can cliff dive to the sea below.    

Waiting in line for our cliff dive
All five of us took a shot at it but the visibly scared Katrina and Jandy (although he knows how to swim) donned life vests just in case.  Upon hitting its suitably deep waters, we swam or clung to the cave walls, out to the cave mouth and back to the white sand beach.  Although Janet and Katrina only tried it once, we liked it so much that we went back for second shots (Cheska tried it thrice).  With our adrenaline rush sated, we finally settled down to lolling around in the rock-shaded portion of its beach. 
Cheska taking the plunge

It was now noontime and, after this exciting but adrenalin-sapping exercise, we were visibly hungry, our previous meal being an early breakfast at the resort.  We got back to our boat and proceeded to Quezon Island (at 25 hectares, the largest in this mini-archipelago).  This most frequented island was truly packed to rafters with tourists as it had, aside from its white sand beach, a pavilion for guests, stores (where one could dine) and toilet and bathing facilities (for a fee).  Again, it being a holiday, prices of goods bordered on the cutthroat but, hungry as we were, still ordered cooked Spam (at PhP250, twice that in Manila) plus rice (at PhP25 per cup) washed down with half-liter bottles of water (at PhP60).  The island also has a nursery for giant clams (locally called taklobo), a demonstration site for 300 clams dispersed here and at Children’s and Governor’s Islands, and all monitored on a regular basis. These, as well as the corals and mangroves, were rehabilitated through a program called “Marine Biodiversity Enhancement,”  a project of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA), the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UPMSI) and the Marine Environment and Resources Foundation (MERF). 

Cuenco Island and its Cave
Backed at our boat, we passed by, but did not land, at the similarly packed Children’s Island which has a walkway and a calm, nearly wave-free shoreline suitable for children (hence its name). Cuenco Island, also called Quinco Island, was our last stopover.  This interesting island has two white sand beaches, on two sides, and a huge cave that passes through its center. 

Cathedral of the Epiphany of Our Lord (Lingayen, Pangasinan)

This church, built in 1712, was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1892.  The dome was built by parish priest (1826-1834) Fr. Miguel Aparicio.  On January 9, 1945, the bishop’s residence was greatly damaged and the church was partially destroyed when American forces dropped bombs on the Poblacion.

Cathedral of the Epiphany of Our Lord

Cathedral of the Epiphany of Our Lord

The renovated church reopened in 1965 but it was damaged again during the July 16, 1990 earthquake and later repaired.  This massive adobe church, formerly the Three Kings Parish Church, is now the seat of the Lingayen Diocese which was created in 1932 with Msgr. Cesar Ma. Guerrero as its first bishop.

The 5-storey, octagonal bell tower

The 5-storey, octagonal bell tower

Its interiors have fine specimens of religious art in wood and metal and its imposing, Oriental pagoda-like (supposedly an architectural influence of the town’s Christianized Chinese inhabitants during the Spanish colonial period) , 45 yard high, 5-storey bell tower is said to be the tallest in the country.  Its centuries-old church bells dating back to the 1800’s, which fell during the American bombardment, are displayed in the Kampana Museum within the cathedral grounds.

Check out “Kampana Museum

Cathedral of the Epiphany of Our Lord: Poblacion, Lingayen, 2401 Pangasinan.  Tel: 542-6235.  Feast of the Three Kings: January 4-6.

How to Get There: Lingayen is located 200 kms. from Manila and 15 kms. west of Dagupan City.

War Memorial Museum (Lingayen, Pangasinan)

War Memorial Museum

War Memorial Museum

This open-air museum, within the Lingayen Gulf War Memorial at the Provincial Capitol Compound, has relics of the American landing during World War II. On December 22, 1941, during World War II, Japanese Gen. Masaharu Homma and his 43,000 troops landed at Lingayen Gulf. Four years later, on January 9, 1945, Gen. Douglas MacArthur also landed here with 68,000 American troops during the liberation.  A stone marker here marks the landing site.

The exhibits

The exhibits

The open-air exhibits include a twin 40 millimeter ant-aircraft gun, a naval 3” gun, a Japanese Nakajima “Kate” torpedo bomber and two repainted U.S. M10 tanks (one has its turret turned to the side, and the other’s turret is to the front).

A repainted U.S. M10 tank

A repainted U.S. M10 tank

Japanese Nakajima “Kate” torpedo bomber

Japanese Nakajima “Kate” torpedo bomber

The author, Cheska and Jandy beside an ant-aircraft gun

The author, Cheska and Jandy beside an ant-aircraft gun

A pagoda displays a collection of historic photographs (including information on HMAS Australia hit by Kamakazes) while a bronze compass and map, in the center of the compound, details the US Army units that landed on January 9, 1945 at Lingayen Gulf.