As the sun was setting behind the hills surrounding Masasa Beach, the sea mirrored the sky slowly turning pink, orange, and purple. After nearly two years of not being around the sea, it was a sight that made me just sit still there, fixated and in awe until dusk had completely taken over. All the tiredness from getting there earlier in the day also faded away with the light.
After two hours of standing in line, there was still no bus to Batangas Grand Terminal in sight. My friends and I decided to be at the bus station at 3 AM to catch the earliest trips to the terminal. Once there, we would ride a jeepney to Mabini Port, then take a 45-minute boat ride to out actual destination: Tingloy Island, where the beautiful Masasa Beach awaits us.
However, it wasn’t just the transfers that made us realize we needed to be there as early as possible. From Tingloy Port, a tricycle (auto-rickshaw) would take us to a hillside path, the starting point of the 10-minute walk to the beach itself — all while lugging our camping and cooking equipment, luggage, and food provisions for three days and two nights. In the searing heat of the summer sun, this would be difficult and dehydrating.
With the bus very late, everything was all as we feared. Still, the promise of dipping in cool waters, the sight of coconut trees swaying in the breeze, and feeling sand under our feet kept us moving.
We arrived at an inviting but crowded Masasa Beach around noontime, nearly out of spot to pitch our tent. While the road to this beach in the province of Batangas isn’t a breeze, many tourists from Manila flock to it, especially during the summertime, because it’s cheap, readily accessible via public transport, and allows camping by the beach. And of course, worth every bit of sweat and tiredness from getting there.
We squeezed ourselves into the last empty spot along the best part of the beach, and as soon as the tent was up, got started cooking lunch and dinner. As our food sizzled and seared over the makeshift grill, I couldn’t help but wonder at how relaxing everything was despite the simplicity and ruggedness of things.
Days before the trip, I thought that the highlight of my time in Masasa Beach would be taking photos by the sea again. After a long time of photographing nothing but buildings and city life, I craved to burn my films with scenic seasides and experiment with doubles using my trusty Nikon FE2 (I had only discovered its multiple exposure switch fairly recently). So I did, and I was excited to see the results (which turned out really as well as I hoped).
On the second day, however, I surprised myself by taking on a hike to one of the peaks of Tingloy Island. Upon asking the locals if there was someone who could take us to Mt. Mag-Asawang Bato (roughly translates to “husband and wife rocks”), a guide approached our tent by late afternoon. I asked him if the trek was easy and if it would take two hours tops to do, and he simply said yes. So I decided to tag along without realizing that I just signed up for a hike that I was totally unprepared for, and that it’s never as easy as the locals say. Always.
The trail required a lot of legwork — and by that, I mean lots of nearly vertical assault that made my legs and lungs burn. I was a total hiking newbie and totally out of shape that 30 minutes into the trek, I had to ask to stop to catch my breath. I would have asked for us to go slower, but we were pressed for time and needed to descend before sundown. I didn’t make it to the summit as getting to the peak was complicated (and I was too exhausted), but the view close to the peak was so beautiful and worth the pain.
The descent was just as challenging as we had to traverse down the rocky trail by nightfall. It was one of the surreal parts of the whole trip; I saw nothing but the path lit by the guide’s headlamp, and I had to focus on feeling the right way down with my feet so I don’t slide all the way down into the dark nothingness. I was only able to breathe a sigh of relief and take everything in once we were back in our camp.
It’s been two weeks since I got back in Manila. I still think about the nights I spent just lying there on the beach, staring at the sky waiting for the Milky Way to “appear” and making wishes with every shooting star in sight. As I fall asleep in the comfort of my own bed, I long for the ache of lying on the sand but being lulled by the sound of the waves crashing close to my feet. And each day since I got home, I wake up with a promise that one day, I will be back to do it all over again.
See the complete photo set on my Flickr page: