It was actually the first time that I have seen so many stars in one night. The absence of city lights, or should I say electricity, had all the stars shining above me that I was just in awe staring at the early morning skies. It was surreal and beautiful that, at plain sight, the skies was naturally shimmering. Those thousands of stars in the night sky would be etched in my mind and will always be associated to this serene beach in Batangas – Burot Beach.
Reading through blogs, Burot Beach is one of the favoured quick escapes south of Manila. The cove is just 3-4 hours away from the metro and it is comfortably nestled along the shores of Calatagan. It boasts of semi-fine cream colored sand and its own set of rock formations. The place was once owned by the Elizalde family and was sold to a Filipino-Chinese corporation for further development. Burot Beach is still open to the public while it waits for the development plans to roll out on its shores.
Burot Beach, despite its proximity to the town center, remains unspoiled by developments. There is no electricity, no standard accommodations, and limited facilities to cater to its visitors. The best way to experience Burot Beach is to camp it out. Yes, sleeping inside a tent under a million of stars is the way to go.
We got there at around 7pm and it was already dark. There were a lot of campers for the weekend and a couple of bonfires were already lit up. Good thing that we brought my handy headlamp so I did not have a hard time setting up our tent. This was my family’s first camping trip and I guess we went there not THAT prepared. You can rent out a table for Php300 and a griller for Php100 for convenience sake. If you do not have a tent with you, there are also tents available.
Although there is a store in Burot Beach, I suggest that you purchase everything that you need at the public market before heading off to the beach. It is a lot cheaper and you can also get fresh produce that you can grill. My pick for that day was squid and that made my evening after we grilled it with salt as its seasoning. Talk about going back to the basics.
For an additional of Php200, you can have a bonfire all for yourself by the beach. We were lucky to have set up our tent by the beachfront so our bonfire also gave us a close-to-the-shore feel. The good thing about the bonfire set-up is that the locals will prepare everything for you and even the cleaning up. This was one experience, with Asher, that I would not want to miss out and it was nice having conversations with her by the fire. It was also a great feeling that she was enjoying the experience.
The lack of amenities, like electricity, in Burot Beach paved the way for me to experience and appreciate one of nature’s gifts to us – stars. I have never seen so many stars in one night. The sky was literally shimmering that night. It helped that we had good weather that night that I was able to appreciate the beauty of the night sky.
As camping was new to us, I was not in the comfort of getting a good night sleep at that time. Well, the noise from other campers did not help in tuning me in to a snooze. But because of me dozing in and out of sleep, I was able to see night skies at 3am and 4am and I must say that those are the best times to enjoy stargazing. And you will be surprised as to how many stars you will get to see in one night.
Walk the Beach
Burot Beach is a small and serene cove and exploring it is quite easy. You will get to enjoy the soft sand under your feet as you walk along the shores. If you are facing the sea, you will see a rock formation that stretches out to the sea. Exploring it requires caution as the rocks are a bit sharp. Two trees have already taken its roots on the rocks and gives it a more dramatic effect for photographs. From this point, you will get a panoramic view of the cove. You can also take a dip on its cold waters but practice caution in doing so.
On the other side of the cove are rock formations, some of which jut out from the sea. A lot of people walk around and explore these rocks as it is also adds drama in photography. Smaller coves in between rocks can be seen on this side of the beach. Further along the trail is another cove that is quieter than the area where we pitched our tent.
On this side of the beach is where you can do another kind of stargazing, one where you find the stars underwater. You will get to enjoy the different sizes and the different colors of starfish in the area. I have read blogs that you can also be lucky to catch a glimpse of sea snakes to which I was not really keen on searching.
Unfortunately, the sandy beach of Burot is not conducive for an actual swim. Apart from the water depth that extends further onto the sea, water plants also cover the floor area of the beach. I had an actual swim by the beach further out during our boat ride.
I was intrigued when we were offered if we were interested to do island-hopping for an amount of Php500 for a whole boat. When I asked as the destinations that it will cover, Kuya Renato said that the hour of boat ride will cover a visit along a nearby sandbar and a stop at a coral reef. The sandbar got me interested so I decided to go for it.
The sandbar is 15 minutes away from Burot Beach and, as described by Kuya Renato, boasts of powdery white sand and clear waters. The waters were so clear that it was easy to spot sea urchins who are residents in the area. The shores along the sandbar are swimmer friendly because of its sandy bottom and its water levels. But again, be cautious of sea urchins in the area.
On one side of the sandbar, you will get to enjoy a different underwater scene – the sandy shores filled with starfish. You can get into the water to enjoy counting starfish of varying sizes and colors.
After enjoying the sandbar, we then worked our way to the coral reefs. Too bad though that I did not have my goggles with me and that our manong also did not have the gears for snorkelling so I had a hard time viewing the reefs. We just had fun taking a quick dip into the cold waters before heading back to shore.
Side Trip: Faro de Punta Santiago
Simply referred to as the Calatagan Lighthouse or the Cape Santiago Lighthouse, this century-old lighthouse is definitely worth a visit before we headed back to Manila.
Built in the 1890s, the lighthouse was built during the Spanish period and remains to be the oldest structure in Calatagan. It stands at 16 meters and offers an amazing 360 degree view of the sea, the mountains, and the flat lands of Batangas. The round structure was built from brick and mortar and remains functional even to this day but with modern light fixtures. It is open to the public but you would need to first seek permission from Kuya Junior, who serves as the third generation caretaker of the lighthouse.
The Calatagan Lighthouse was a 20-minute tricycle ride from Burot Beach through agricultural fields. It pays that you have a good travel guide/tricycle driver, Dominic, around who knows his way around Calatagan and he knows almost everyone in town. He was the one who sought the permission of the lighthouse caretaker for our visit. Dominic shares that apart from Burot Beach, there are other coves that we can also check out on our next visit.
The lighthouse is hidden from view because of the lush greeneries surrounding it. In fact, you would have to traverse a road trail to the lighthouse once you make the turn from the main highway. A pathway leads up to the gate of the lighthouse from where you can see the lighthouse in its glory.
The lighthouse has maintained the same structure that was built during the Spanish period. The iron-gate bars, the complex, and the tower was maintained although some facilities were no longer being used like the kitchen. The main building and the actual tower is still fully functional although there are still minor repairs that needs to be done.
The lighthouse is still in use today using the same old structure that was built. You can climb up the tower using the original 65-step iron spiral staircase that leads up to the viewing deck. The deck offers a spectacular view of the Batangas’ coast, flat lands, and the nearby mountains. Kuya Junior gamely provided us a number of trivia on the landowners of the place. One could really see the beauty of Calatagan from this vantage point.
I noticed that the lighthouse did not have the seal of recognition from the National Historical Institute so I asked Kuya Junior why so. He said that the lighthouse is still bounded to a contract that prohibits NHI to install its marker that recognizes the Calatagan Lighthouse for its historical value. I hope that it will get the recognition soon.
Post Travel Notes
Burot Beach is definitely a cheap and easy option for those who want a quick weekend beach escape. It is a great place where you will definitely enjoy the camping, bonfire, and stargazing by the shores. The beach is good for pictures and the same goes for its almost powdery sand.
On the other side of it, the beach is not ideal for swimming because of its depth and its floor cover. In the same way that basic facilities are crude and, at times, unpleasant to all the senses.
At this point, Burot Beach is STILL open to the public despite privately owned by a major corporation. I was told that development of this popular beach will start by next year. I just hope that, should it get developed, it will also provide opportunities for the locals of the communities around it.
Getting there: The fastest and easiest way is to take a van to Calatagan. The terminal is at the back of Kabayan Hotel in Pasay City. Fare is at Php180. You can ask to be dropped off at the Calatagan Public Market. You can then take a tricycle from the public market to the entrance of Burot Beach. At the gate, you pay Php20 and then board another tricycle to bring you to the beach proper. Fare is at Php100 per trip.
Our tricycle contact in Calatagan is Dominick Velilia. He is very accommodating and is one person who seems to know everyone in town. You can arrange for him to bring you to Burot Beach and back to town with a Calatagan Lighthouse sidetrip. Dominick can definitely be a tourism frontman for Calatagan. You can reach him at (0926) 5457371.
Biyaheng FX is a new blog series that I am doing where I intend to explore destinations near Manila by just hopping on an FX or a van, hence, the series title.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.