The heat in Manila was getting to be unberable and what’s worse is getting stuck within the bubble with limited movement. I seriously thought that this year’s summer was going to breeze by without a much-needed dose of the sun, sand, and sea. So when I got the chance to make a quick weekend run to take in some vitamin SEA after a more relaxed quarantine was announced, I did not pass up the chance.
Catanauan is a municipality along the western coastline of Quezon, facing Tayabas Bay. The town was first established in 1686 but was first recorded as a pueblo on the map in 1734. However, there is evidence that supports that its existence pre-dates the arrival of Spaniards with the discovery of ancient burial sites artifacts in the area.
But Catanauan has more to offer beyond its rich history. Its rustic coastline offers a quick weekend escape to beach bums who are looking for laidback beach spot where you can just relax and unwind. Its close proximity to the island province of Marinduque also gives its guests the advantage of exploring two of the famous tourist destinations at the heart of the Philippines.
Camping it out in Catanauan
Catanauan’s coastline remain rustic and laidback despite having a steady tourism business in the area. I guess the popularity of nearby destinations have left Catanauan under the shadows of these spots giving it the opportunity to retain its pristine natural beauty. This is a good proposition to those who are looking to experience a raw beach adventure.
The best way to enjoy this side of town is to camp out along the white sand shoreline where you get to enjoy the views of the sea and the silhouette of the nearby Marinduque. The calm waters of Catanauan is inviting but take extra precaution because there are seasons where jellyfish abound. Some resorts have set-up safety nets to keep their guests safe from these sea creatures.
Strolling along the beach, you can explore the mangrove areas located on the right side of the beach strip. There are rock formations that you can explore on this side. The best time to explore the area is during the sunset where you get to enjoy a show of shifting color hues, just a bit short of the actual sun setting down the horizon.
Evenings are relaxed and amusing with the usual late night chats over a couple or cases of beers. Campers get to enjoy the cool wind from the sea and the gentle sound of waves rolling into the shoreline. We were lucky that night that we caught a glimpse of the Milky Way and we were able to capture it on photo.
The close proximity of Catanauan to Sta. Cruz, Marinduque give them shared access to two of Marinduque’s iconic attractions. It does not come as a surprise that locals offer island hopping trips to these spots as part of their tourism proposition. I did not miss out on the chance because these were also the two spots that I did not get to explore during a trip to Marinduque a few years back.
Palad Sandbar is a famous strip of white sand in the middle of Tayabas Bay, close to the island of Mongpong Island. The sandbar sways to the cycle of the waves as it only appears during low tide so timing your visit is crucial. Local guides are familiar with the timing so it is best that you heed their instructions.
Unfortunately, we missed out on the sandbar by a couple of minutes. The sandbar was already submerged by the time our group arrived at Palad Sandbar. Its white sand was still visible under a few inches of saltwater that allowed us to explore the submerged bar. Its clear water were inviting that I enjoyed taking my first beach dip for 2021, along with many beach goers.
Ungab Rock Formation
Ungab Rock Formation, located on the eastern coast of Mongpong Island, is the iconic natural rock formation of Marinduque. Its famous “arch” was naturally formed through soil erosion molded by the wind and waves of the waters that surround it. The centuries of molding by nature produced a beautiful natural rock arch that is now an attraction on this side of Luzon.
The Ungab Rock Formation is an interesting spot to explore but it did not really got me excited. I don’t know if it was the weekend crowd but it really looked like a normal beach spot that happened to have a cool natural arch. Don’t get me wrong, the rock formation was fascinating but I guess the surrounding area needs to look more appealing to its guests to complete the vibe. The crowd also made it difficult to find a spot where we can capture its best angle.
I would also recommend that the LGU and the locals work together in keeping the area clean. The beach spot has a lot crevices where you can see pieces of trash left by island hoppers. The locals should take the reigns of taking care of this Marinduque tourism icon.
On the Road: Girasole Flower Farm
Since we joined a weekend organized trip, we made a short stop to the Girasole Flower Farm in Candelaria, Quezon. The 1-hectare tourist destination prides itself for its sunflower plants that bloom the whole year round. In fact, its name was derived from its sunflower attractions.
The festive and fair-like atmosphere of the flower farm is highlighted by the different variety of flowers being cultivated and propagated. Couple it up with colorful structures from a kid’s storybook and you got a perfect IG-worthy attraction that people will line up for. It is a perfect spot where you can play around with your imagination to come up with that perfect profile picture for your social media platforms.
Girasole Flower Farm is undeniably a plantito/plantita heaven. The flowers are there to be admired and, if the admiration turns into wanting to own one, they can purchase to start their own collection. The farm caters to all ages and have something to offer from play areas to plant selections for hobbyist. If these stuff are not your thing, don’t worry because they have a small cafe where you can enjoy a snack and a refreshing cold drink to keep you relax while watching people do their thing.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
For a brief moment, I seriously thought that my summer 2021 was going by without my dose of vitamin SEA. But I am thankful that a last-minute decision to join an organized tour had me discovering a new destination where I got my dose of sun, sand, and sea. It was a a much-needed relief after months of having to stay at home with limited movement. The best part of it is that I also got to enjoy my first May rain shower while taking my saltwater dip!
The pandemic has changed much of our lives. I saw the excitement in the eyes of the joiners of the trip of having some sort of break from the confines of the quarantine restrictions. But what struck me the most was the excitement of locals whose livelihood were affected because of this health crisis. Again, let us travel locally first and help rebuild lives. Let’s help revitalize local tourism safely by traveling responsibly. And when you get your chance, get vaccinated. This is the only way that we can keep the people around us safe and the solution out of this pandemic.
Check out my Catanauan video blog on my Youtube channel - #ByahengOffTheGrid.
The New Normal of Traveling
I clearly remember how relaxed I was last year when I checked in for my flight to Butuan City. It was an early morning flight in March and I was brave enough not to wear a face mask at a height when news of COVID19 hitting the country. I brazenly walked the halls of T3 without a mask. I only felt the need to wear a mask after seeing a fellow passenger boarding the same flight and she was carrying two crisp Japan Airline Duty Free Bags. I remember thinking… “shoot, may balikbayan from Japan at baka may dala (virus)”. Who would have thought that it was the start of a grueling year that changed the world?
The COVID19 pandemic changed the landscape of our lives. It managed to stop the world and keep us all inside our homes. In doing so, a lot of travelers, like me, were all confined in our corners daydreaming about our cancelled trips and planning future ones. Experts say that it will take us years before we can go back to the pre-pandemic normal that we once got used to. It is safe to say then that the health crisis has and will change the way we travel and how we travel.
Here are some of the major changes that we can expect now that we are slowly reviving our tourism industry.
> > > Research on your destination and its local health protocols. < < <
Research is one of the skills that seasoned travelers are very good at so this part of traveling will come very easy. The way we do our research will have to expand to include local health protocols of your destination. It would be a walk in the park if you are going to just one destination but can be quite tricky if you are planning to go on a multi-destination trip. At this point, local government protocols vary from
one destination to another.
Things to check are requirements on COVID19 test, health certificate, quarantine procedures, accommodation and itinerary, and the procedures when you arrive at the destination. This will help you save on time and money once you have these additional details with you. This can help you plan out your trip better in terms of time and additional expenses.
Planning your trips is not just about researching where to go, where to eat, and what to do. Knowing the health protocols of your local destination is THE most important part of the preparations. You can check out the social media pages of your destination or our local airlines’ website for an updated list of requirements. Remember that these protocols can spell out a great vacation time for you or wasting time on quarantine.
> > > COVID19 Testing is going to be a travel requirement. < < <
Get your nose ready for the nasal swab for that COVID19 test before taking a trip. This test is going to be staple in the coming years whenever we travel. Again, different LGUs have different approaches with some asking for RTPCR tests while others are okay with Antigen testing. You would have to include this additional cost in your travel budget although there are some government agencies that offer discounted rates for local tourists.
Based from my experience, RTPCR tests are more expensive based on the schedule that you need the results. Antigen is more cost and time efficient because you get the results within the hour at a lower rate. Again, you would need to check with the LGU regarding their testing requirement because you don’t want to spend on a test that they won’t consider and acknowledge. If nasal swabs are not your thing, the Philippine Red Cross offers saliva tests which some LGUs acknowledge upon entry. The swabs take a little time to get used to but, if you are a frequent traveler, you will get accustomed to it in no time. Hahahaha! And yes, please do not be a selfish a-hole by fabricating your COVID test results. Don’t put the lives of locals at risk. This kind of action smells of cheap desperation.
> > > Register on the LGU’s Contact Tracing / Visitor Registration App < < <
I have seen different local governments launching their own contact tracing apps and, most of the time, they also require visitors to register for easier monitoring. Some of these apps serve as digital repositories of your travel documents, monitoring your entry and exit from your destination, and can also function as a contract tracing mechanism as you go around exploring. They also have updates on travel requirements so this apps or online links can be useful to local travelers even before embarking on the trip.
It is also important that we take contact tracing mechanisms seriously for our safety and the locals that we interact with during the trip. I also recommend that you have your own personal log of where you have been and who you interacted with during the day. These simple mechanisms of recording can significantly help in controlling the spread of the virus in the event of an infection. Let us be responsible travelers by proactively recording these details.
> > > Alcohol, Facemasks, and Face shields are not part of travel necessities. < < <
Apart from your OOTDs, personal accessories, and mobile phones and gadgets, these three will now form part of our travel necessities. We all know that self-discipline on personal hygiene is very important in keeping you safe from COVID19. I guess most of us may have gotten used to it already and have already created hygiene behaviors around it. What is important is that you need to pack extras for the duration of your trip. If you can bring a little more to share with the locals that would be very much appreciated.
Apart from these new travel necessities, keeping your distance when interacting with locals and fellow travelers is also a major shift in our travel behaviors. We always need to keep in mind that we might be carrying the virus so keeping our distance is our way of showing that we care and respect the people around us. These may be hard in a certain set-ups but it is best that we enjoy each other’s company with the distance. One would probably argue that you had a negative test when you arrived. That is true but what you don’t want to happen is to bring the virus home with you. If you can’t help it, keep your mask on.
> > > Get vaccinated. < < <
The best way to beat COVID19 and help us get back to the old normal is to get vaccinated. There is no known cure yet on COVID19 and our best armor against it is to get inoculated. Vaccines, whatever brand it may be, have been proven to prevent the severe cases of COVID and death. This is our best protection especially for us travelers who love to wander around where we get to interact with different people, be it locals or fellow tourists.
A lot of countries are opening their doors to tourists who are already fully vaccinated. It is the safest way that they can protect their people and keep their tourism industry afloat. I hope that we can also do the same here in the Philippines and, more importantly, I pray that you would do your part of protecting yourself and the people around you by getting vaccinated against COVID when you get to your turn. This patriotic act will save your life and will keep you safe as you go around exploring the Philippines.
We can expect these changes to stay for quite a while and there is also a huge chance that additional protocols be imposed as time goes by. As much as we hope for a uniform approach on tourism protocols, there are a lot of variations and it is best to first check with the LGU of your destination. What is very important is for travelers to respect and abide by these protocols. Please do not be a pain in the as* and act boastfully as if your presence in the area is a right. Remember that you are just a guest in their place. Also, responsible travelers do not take shortcuts especially on tests. We don’t put other people’s lives in danger.
Beating COVID19 is easy if we take on the responsibility of having the right disciplines inside and outside our homes. We need to develop the behaviors needed to lessen our chances of getting and passing on the virus. All these changes involve self-discipline and that plays a huge part in the bigger picture in controlling this pandemic. Entitlement does not have a part in this crisis and your cooperation and discipline will determine how fast we can go back to our usual way of traveling.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.