It was the same reaction that I got when I first opened the idea of visiting Mariveles in Bataan. Same as most travelers, I have only known Mariveles as a small fishing town where one of the two Kilometer Zero Monuments of the Bataan Death March is located. Other than that, I don't think there are any other interesting facts that would spur my interest about the place.
I was wrong.
Mariveles is a jewel of the west and there are a lot of nooks and coves that will just simply surprise every traveler, both new and seasoned ones.
Arriving 2 hours late from the actual meeting time, I scurried to take a tricycle to where the group was already having breakfast. Traffic was really bad along NLEX that the usual travel of 4 hours turned into a 6 hour trip.
Mariveles is a municipality located at the tip of the Bataan Peninsula. It prides itself to being the home of the Bataan Economic Zone, the very first economic zone in the country. It is popular among mountaineers because of the popularity of the Mount Tarak Ridge. Unknown to many, Mariveles hosts a number of amazing beach coves amidst the backdrop of its rugged terrain.
With the team from the Bataan Weather Page, let me show you why Mariveles is rising towards the tourism map.
Death March Kilometer 0
The Death March is the most harrowing ordeal that thousands of Filipino and American POWs had to endure during World War 2. After keeping their ground against the Japanese forces, Filipino and American soldiers had to surrender after making Bataan their last gruelling stand against the invaders. These POWs, due to their huge number, were then forced to walk from Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga where they were loaded onto trains to be brought to Capas. They walked a total of 97 kilometers.
Death March Markers were installed along the route with two Kilometer Zero markers installed in Mariveles and Bagac. Why two starting points? The POWs were amassed in both locations. The POWs were then forced to walk to Bagac to merge and proceed to Pampanga.
The small and quiet park that sits close to the center of the town complements the laid back atmosphere of Mariveles. At the center of the park is the symbol of the Fallen Soldier and close to it is the actual zero kilometer marker. On one side are two plaques with the Philippine and US flags standing alongside. The plaques bear the story of the march in Filipino and Englsh.
Bonifacio Fisherman's Wharf
Small boats dotted the wharf that offers a magnificent view of Mariveles Bay and its surrounding landforms. The spot gives you the panoramic scene of the Mariveles shoreline with Sisiman Point on one side and Naswe on the other. The wharf gives you that rural feel. The end of the wharf was already re-claimed by the sea after part of the wharf has given in to the pounding of the waves. But I did not mind as it added to the texture of the photos that I was taking.
I guess the wharf becomes busy in the mornings with fishermen coming in to trade their catch from the sea. It must be one busy wharf as Mariveles is a a fishing community. I also figured that locals head off to the port during late afternoons and early evenings to enjoy the fresh air and the peaceful ambiance of the Bonifacio Fisherman's Wharf.
Find it: Just a few meters from the wharf is the original Corregidor Historical Marker that was installed by the National Historical Institute.
A rugged terrain with huge waves crashing onto rock formations is what you will find in Panoypoy Cove but the view is one that will keep you in awe. The view from the top is magnificent as you get to see the rugged terrain of Mariveles meet the rough waters of the West Philippine Sea. The ruggedness is a beauty in itself. This is when we got our first taste of #BataanesOfTheWest. The view totally swept us off our feet.
The beauty was all around that it was hard to capture the natural beauty of Mariveles in one frame. You can enjoy the view of the landscape and seascape from the top or you can opt to enjoy a face-to-face encounter with its rocky beach.
After seeing Panoypoy Cove, I was convinced the Mariveles was a secret ready to be revealed.
Tucked within a small black sand beach cove is Hawla Resort, our home for the night. The small private resort has two non-airconditioned rooms and open air cottages that you can rent for a day or for an overnight stay. Showers are basic and clean. It has a small spring water wading pool that guests can enjoy.
It sits on a very small cove which makes the resort adorable because you have the whole cove for yourself. The waves were a bit big at the time of our visit but you can still enjoy taking a dip. On one side are the "rockies" that you can explore cautiously.
But the real beauty of Hawla lies on the trail that leads you to the cove. The trail gives you a spectacular view of the cove, a peek of Panoypoy, and the rugged landscape around it. There is one particular view deck that overlooks the cove where the scene is straight out of a dramatic movie. The landscape and the skeleton of previous man-made structures is a perfect for melodramatic moments. It is simply captivating.
The rolling verdant green hills were close to being picture perfect. The view reminded me of Calaguas, only this time I was on the western coast of the Philippines. It was a great way to welcome our second day in Bataan. I am amazed as to how Mariveles was able to keep its natural beauty away from the eyes of travelers and tourists considering its proximity from Manila.
Apatot Cove, as viewed from the top, is a charmer. Again, the view was like straight out of a set of your favorite soap on primetime television where your lead characters enjoy a brief romantic moment against the backdrop of grasslands with a view of the sea. It is close to being perfect except that part of its beauty was carved out to accomodate an open landfill.
Such a pity that self-serving former government official would destroy such beauty because of greed.
At the heart of these life-size images are the huge sculptures that depict God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This is the Naswe Grotto - a collection of life-size collections of saints that were installed along the hills of Naswe in Mariveles. It once sowed fear among residents when, at the height of its construction, rumors of a local cult were shared among locals.
But the faith of the devotees stood its ground with the completion of the place of worship and a place that attracts tourists. Unfortunately, the grotto was already left in disarray with weeds growing in its surrounding areas.
Balon Anito Hot Spring
At the heart of a barangay sits the Balon Anito Hot Spring - an open natural pool believed to be a vent of a dormant volcano. The source of the spring water and the depth of which is still undertermined. Although there is a running story that a dead carabao was once lowered into the pool to determine where the hot spring leads to. The remains of the carabao was said to have been found at Sisiman Bay that lead to the speculation that both bodies of water have a connection.
Nevertheless, the hot spring is said to be a favorite afternoon spot by locals and its waters are also believed to be therapeutic.
Karagatan View Deck
Another vantage point worth checking out is the Karagatan View Deck. Only this time, it is not a view of the sea but an almost complete view of Mariveles - the sea, the town, the nearby water reservoir along Bateral River, and the mountain ranges of Mariveles.
There is also another viewpoint in the area where you get to see the steep curve of the zigzag against the backdrop of the Mariveles mountain range. It reminds you of Baguio in a way. I guess, for those traveling from Manila, the area is a good stop to catch a view of the municipality's rustic beauty before heading of to town.
Sisiman Bay View Deck
From Karagatan View Point, we were then whisked to an area that is unofficially a viewpoint for Sisiman Bay. The vantage point gives you an amazing view of the southern side of the peninsula, the Sisiman Lighthouse, San Miguel Peak, and its community. You get to see the whole community in one sweep.
As the weather was starting to be uncooperative, we decided to head off to the foot of San Miguel but the rains started pounding when we got there and that limited our exploration of Sisiman Bay. The view of the peak was beautiful from below.
Just right beside San Miguel Peak was a smaller hill and it is the home of a small grotto that was installed by the locals. The Sisiman Grotto is very accessible with cemented steps leading to the image of the Virgin Mary and extends to the peak. Take extra precaution though as the steps leading up is steep.
But the rains did not stop us from conquering the more accessible vantage point of Sisiman Bay. We managed to head up despite getting drenched from the pouring rain. Our efforts to make it to the top was rewarded by another breathtaking view of Sisiman Bay and Mariveles Bay on the other side.
Our host said that the place is such a beauty that it was used as a location for a tv advertiement. Judging by the beauty at the peak and its surrounding areas, it was the best way to end our exploration trip to Mariveles, Bataan.
Post Travel Notes
Mariveles is definitely a destination that is rising in the Philippine tourism radar. We came in to the place with no expectations and we ended up completely surprised by its beauty. The coves and its rustic landscape are just simply breathtaking. It was a trip that had us surprised on every turn.
As Mariveles starts getting traction in the tourism front, a bigger challenge is making sure that they are able to maximize the benefits of the tourism industry and spurning new opportunities with the birth of this new industry while ensuring that its attraction is kept intact with very minimal or no environmental effect from the influx of tourists.
Mariveles has a lot to offer. It is amazing that with all the beauty that this place has a lot to offer, it has managed to stay away from the eyes of travelers. But such amazing sights cannot be forever kept away from the eyes of off-beat travellers. Its rustic sights and landscape kept us in awe that we think that it is just right to tag it under the hashtag #BataanesOfTheWest.
So expect Mariveles to keep rising!
Getting there: You can reach Mariveles by taking a direct bus trip from Manila to Mariveles. Genesis Transit and Bataan Transit have regular bus trips to a destination that we dub as #BataanesOfTheWest.
It was a hot and humid weather that greeted us when we started to shoot for #ProjectIceCream. This was the fourth serving of the project and my second in attendance. The project featured the designs of Instagram friend, @vansquared32, and modeled by her muses - IG: @aizeecream, IG: @mellangela, and Kim.
In contrast with previous shoots where the beach is the background, Van chose a venue that is closer to home - the Tarlac Recreational Park. The sprawling complex sits on a 78-hectare land in San Jose, Tarlac City and boasts of world-class sport facilities in the midst of verdant greens of the province. It played host to the Palarong Pambansa in 2010 and the Central Luzon Regional Athletic Meet in 2009 and 2013.
The TRP, also known as the Jose V. Yap Recreational Sports Center, was the brainchild of Jose Yap who envisioned a sports complex in Tarlac City that would be at par with international standards. But it was his son, Victor Yap, who made the dream a reality during his term as Governor of the province. At present, the recreational park is a favorite hang-out of locals and tourists who are up for either a lazy or a very adventurous afternoon.
The Fiery Muse of Passion
@mellangela was at her element during her shoot. She was first garbed in a yellow gown where she glowed with fiery passion. The flowing yellow gown with its intricate designs was a fit to the tee. She was simply fierce and as fierce as the sun that was beating down on us during the shoot.
In the same way, the Tarlac Recreational Park is a product of passion for passion. It is a sports complex so you can expect to be treated with facilities that will spark the inner athlete in you. At the center of the complex is the track oval and the grandstand. This is where the young passionate minds once stood to face their opponents and their victories.
TRP has complete sports amenities for budding athletes – running tracks, basketball courts, Olympic-size pools, etc. Its design is one that mirrors excellence and inspiration. I guess this is where inspiration takes their first step in the mind of a would-be athlete. This is where a young mind feels the excitement of every practice and every game that would take them to achieving their dreams.
Our muse had the same energy and passion when she shifted from her yellow dress to the one in orange. You could still feel the same emotions from her even with the change. This was her – a person that is passionately driven to pursue her dreams. She would valiantly face every obstacle and challenges with a fierce attitude because she knows the reward that goes with every sacrifice, just like the athletes and budding athletes who stepped into this complex.
The Vibrant Muse of Life
Vibrant and bubbly, Kim is probably the wackiest among the three muses of v4. She is comfortable with herself that she can crack her own jokes about herself. But after she dons the make-up and the gown, you can watch her burst into sophistication.
The Tarlac Recreational Park is more than just a sports facility. The sprawling park is also a place for those who love nature because of the lush greeneries within its complex. It is so vast that dirt trails were set up along its rugged terrain where guests can hike, bike, or even take the ATV to explore its dirt trails.
A small man-made lagoon can also be found within its complex and it completes the vibe of being close to nature. The lake provides a great place for meditation or for some peace and quiet. The lake is also a great spot to watch the sun as it sets along the horizon as you enjoy the cool afternoon breeze.
Elegantly wearing the vibrant colors of blue and green, Kim evokes the vibe that is full of life. Her laughter breaks the monotony of the photoshoot. She gives life to the amazing works of @vansquared32 and she does it with relative ease. The way she stares and the way she arches her body speaks before she breaks into her joyful laughter.
The Regal Muse of the Heart
At the heart of this project is @aizeecream. If I am not mistaken, she was one of the reasons why #Project_IceCream was conceptualized. Her tandem with @vansquared32 had given birth to creative works from the couture until the actual photo outputs. As our muse steps into the scene, the team is amazed by her transformation. She is elegant in pink and the color matched her personality.
At the heart of the Tarlac Recreational Park is the vision to provide a Tarlaquenos with a facility that will help develop the ideals of perseverance and sportsmanship. It provides access to local athletes to world class facilities where they can develop their sports skills and talent.
The Tarlac Recreational Park has reinvented itself to not only cater to the sports-minded but it has creatively molded itself to become a favorite destination for families. Its water facilities include an Olympic-size pool and a small leisure play area for kids. It now offers recreational activities like biking and kayaking where you get to explore the nooks and crannies of the park. It is still in the process of arranging other interesting activities that will definitely attract more locals and guests to the park.
Regal in a purple gown, our muse is one lady that has no qualms in reinventing herself. She loves the adventure and she is not afraid to face the uncertainties. She is always ready for the unexpected with a character that she wears on her sleeves, in this case, on her gown. She knows that it all boils down to what is in her heart, no matter how she reinvents herself.
Post Travel Notes
The Tarlac Recreational Park is a good weekend destination for those looking for a quick weekend or day escape where they can try a laid back atmosphere. It is a good spot for family bonding as the park has a lot of activities that will allow you to bond.
A lot of improvements still needs to be done for the park to be able to address the needs of its guests, like a decent café or accommodations. There is a huge potential for the park to make a bigger mark as a weekend destination with the improvements and the planned additional recreational activities.
As I sat on top of the grandstand enjoying the breeze and the view of Tarlac City from afar, it was nice to see that I am enjoying the realization of a vision of a local official to improve the lives of his fellow Tarlaquenos. We cannot discount that it was Jose Yap’s passion, life, and heart that brought the project to life... just like our three muses.
Getting there: You can take a bus going to Baguio or Pangasinan and ask to be dropped off at the bus stops in Tarlac City. Most of these buses make Tarlac City one of their stopover points. From these bus stops, you can take a tricycle to bring you to the Tarlac Recreational Park.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.