As I have done my travels from north to south and then east to west of the Philippines, I have encountered a couple of iconic labels and hashtag of different Philippine destinations. Most of these labels are embraced as its own and yet there are quite a few who try to ride on another destination's popularity. Let me put it straight out there, there are benefits when you associate destinations to the more popular one as it increases awareness. However the more often that you refer to the association, the bigger chance that your destination loses its own personality and kick. In the end, your spot plays only second best to the original because there can only be one.
Dingalan has been on my radar for almost a year now. Its rise in the tourism front came about because of its association to the more popular destination of Batanes. If my memory serves me right, its popularity rose around this time of last year and its discovery gave way to a new kind of adventure and a source of livelihood for its locals.
Dingalan is a municipality popular for its rugged terrain south of Aurora Province. It was once under the jurisdiction of Baler and became an independent municipality in 1962. The municipality is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Madre mountains exposing the municipality to the hands of nature’s creativity. As a result, its coastline was crafted to a rugged beauty that has attracted off-beat travelers.
Welcome to Dingalan
We arrived at Dingalan Feeder Port at around 6am from Manila with fellow travelers. Our trip was organized by the FB travel group, Just Go and Travel, who prepared an itinerary that was good for a day. The port was our jump-off point to Dingalan’s coastal attractions.
The port was busy when we arrived because of the regular daily load of public sea transport apart from the tourism load that they have for the day. Today, a boat was leaving for Calayan, a destination up north. I asked around and found out that the trip to Calauyapn would take 24 hours from Dingalan.
Apart from the usual activity at the port, you could really feel the more laidback atmosphere on this part of town. If it was not for the chatter of excited tourists, it would have been the usual day in Dingalan.
Dingalan’s coastline is peppered with rock formations but there are pockets of sandy shores that break through its rugged coastal terrain. Our first stop is a cove popularly referred to as White Beach by locals because of its light colored shorelines. Again, it is not as white as that of the more popular white sand shoreline but it is a good break from its rugged coastline.
White Beach is where most Dingalan guests stay as it has beach resort huts that accomodate tourists for daytrips and overnight. It is a no frills kind of resort with a small local store to cater to its guests. It is a good place for a weekend relaxation if you are up for a laidback and back-to-the-basics kind of chill.
White Beach is also the jump-off point of one of Dingalan’s main attraction - the Mountain View and Dingalan Lighthouse.
Mountain View and Dingalan Lighthouse
Mountain View and it’s nearby lighthouse catapulted Dingalan into the tourism front late last year. A number of photos that circulated on social media was enough to make travelers gravitate towards discovering Dingalan.
A 20-minute uphill trek from White Beach will bring you to a viewing deck atop a hill that offers you an amazing view of Dingalan’s rugged coastline. The vantage point gives you a panoramic picture of the mountains meeting the blue waters of the Pacific on this side of the Philippines. The view is often associated to the landscape of Batanes that, at one point, Dingalan earned the monicker “Batanes of the East”. Eventually, it was able to shy away from the dire comparison and was able to stand on its own.
The view from deck was simply amazing. We came in at around 7am and the sun was giving us the heat. Too bad though that we missed out on the sunrise because I reckon that it is a great place to watch the morning sun rising from the waters of the Pacific.
You can also catch a glimpse of Dingalan’s Lighthouse from the viewing deck. The trail to the lighthouse is different and I opted to no longer check it out since it was no longer accessible and the sun was really hiving us a beating.
Dingalan’s coastline is dotted with cliffs and rock formations. We made a quick stop in one of these coves to have a closer look of nature’s artwork.
One would be amazed with how nature crafted these formations. Natural elements designed it with years and years of battering onto these solid rocks. The end result is an amazing natural artwork which you can admire from afar and closely.
Another iconic tourist destination in Dingalan are the Lamao Caves. It is a series of caves located along the rocky coasts of Dingalan. These caves are half submerged in sea water and faces the Pacific Ocean so you can expect that the waves can sometimes be a little rough.
To experience Lamao Caves, you need to board a motorized banca. If you are lucky enough, the waves will allow your boat to get inside one of the caves as such with our case. But don’t expect the stop to be smooth. I opted to take a dip when we were inside the cave because I was starting to get dizzy with our boat bobbing up and down with the waves.
I enjoyed exploring the walls of the cave. I think that the particular cave that we were in was created when one the rock formations eroded onto the other one. It created the cavity that we were in.
We did not stay too long as some of our companions were getting nauseous already. But visiting the cave was worth it for the experience of swimming inside a coastal cave with the Pacific waters surrounding you.
Suha Rock Formation
As we headed back to White Beach, our boat guide made a brief stop at the Suha Rock Formation. Exploring Suha was a challenge because of its “dock” have sharp rocks and shellfish. Make sure that you wear protective footwear when exploring this point.
Suha gives its guests a commanding view of the Pacific Ocean. I was also mesmerized by the rushing of the seawaters in its own version of a death pool. Watching the wave crash onto the rocks had a relaxing effect on me. On one side of the formation is a mini saltwater lagoon where the water is calm. You get to enjoy a calm dip in its cool and clear waters.
Our companions explored the farther side of the Suha Rock Formation which they say was more dramatic compared to where we stayed. I was not able to check it out because I enjoyed the relaxing dip in the mini-lagoon.
From the sea waters to the sloping mountains of Dingalan, our group went on to another hike to explore Tanawan Falls - one of the hidden gems of the municipality. The trek can be a challenge especially if you have been out exploring the place the whole morning but the overlooking view along the trail is enough to motivate you to keep going.
The slopes leading to Tanawan Falls offers an amazing panoramic view of Dingalan’s coast. You get to see the eastern coast of the country meet the deep blue waters of the Pacific. At one point, a local have set-up a view deck where you get to enjoy the breeze while enjoying a relaxing view of a mix of blue and green.
Taking a dip into the cool waters of Tanawan Falls was a reward worth taking after the 30-minute trek. I took my time admiring the strong cascade of the falls. The catch basin is deep that one can cliff jump from the side of the cascade into the basin. In no time, our group was enjoying and cheering those who were brave enough to take the leap.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
I must say that Dingalan is a good fix for those looking for a quick out-of-towner for a day or two. It has an interesting selection of spots that allow you to enjoy the views of the mountains and the sea, not to mention the cheap adrenaline thrills along the way like taking a dip inside a cave being smashed by waves of the Pacific Ocean, right? Dingalan stood up for what it offered and I am happy that it did not fail my expectations. Not too much promises but simply surprises along the way.
With more than 7000 islands, it is no longer a surprise that the Philippines is blessed with a thousand of amazing destinations. We should not be surprised that two, three, and even more local spots will find something common among their features hence we often encounter associations between them. The challenge really for these local spots is to find the one thing that makes them unique and make use of that to make its own mark in Philippine tourism.
Dingalan’s claim to fame was being tagged as “Batanes of the East” and the association clearly gave them an advantage as it started to attract travelers. However, unlike others who simply banked on associations or added more associations, it was able to steer away from that trap to simply stand on its unique proposition. Let me get this straight, Dingalan remains to be an off-beat destination. Though it may have similarities to Batanes, I think most travelers and the locals have long understood that it can never be Batanes. Dingalan is unique in its own - a place where the mountains meet the sea.
Getting There: Dingalan is about five to six hours away from Manila. You can take a bus bound for Cabanatuan where you can catch a van headed for Dingalan. Once in Dingalan, you can take a tricycle to Feeder Port where you can charter a boat to White Beach and Lamao Cave. You can then hire a trike to take you to the jump-off point of Tanawan Falls.
For a hassle free day trip to Dingalan that will cover the local spots featured on this blog, I highly recommend joining the organized trips of Just go and learn. We opted to join their organized trip to save us the hassle, money, and time and they were able to deliver very good service for the package price that they offer. You can visit the FB page of Just go and learn for your inquiries. (By the way, this is not a paid ad. I sincerely recommend travel organizers when good service is delivered.😁)
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Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.