Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dingalan, Aurora

The mountains and the sea represent the town's vicinity,
the shack with its simplicity,
and the pretty flowers with its exquisiteness

A Secret Paradise in the East
by Ivan Ignacio

photo courtesy of the official website of the town of Dingalan, Aurora

Hidden behind the mountains is a precious gem worthy of visiting: Dingalan. This southernmost town of Aurora province is a natural paradise sandwiched by mountains and the sea. As of this writing, getting to the town (and generally to the province of Aurora) takes approximately three to five hours from Manila regardless of being just a part of the neighboring Central Luzon. It is bordered by the mountainous part of Nueva Ecija (through the towns Gabaldon and General Tinio), the mountainous Dona Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan and pardon the emphasis, the mountainous General Nakar in Quezon province. Yes, the town is kept secret by the mountains of the Eastern Sierra Madre. But once you take on the challenge of pushing through despite the long and grueling travel, you will be amazed by the combined simplicity and allure that the town can offer.


Third Year Anniversary

It all began with an unplanned expedition to somewhere to celebrate me (BP Ivan) and BP Angel's anniversary. For all those three years of tender love and devotion, I figured that we deserve the best and sweetest escape from the excruciating challenges and intricacies of the metropolis. And what's the nicer way of doing that than to travel with our friends: The BACKPACKERS. Unfortunately, the planning stage happened late at night and we can not bring everyone on the said trip due to their availability and vicinity. Nonetheless, BPs Liz, Jovy, Weng, Heinz and Wilson together with our new found friends and climb buddies Aaron and Rexie were all on board with the impromptu trip. We were even joined by Jacob, Aaron's adorable son.
Baby Jacob carried by BP Jovy

Angel and I used to do this during our first year. Hopping on a random bus that will get us to somewhere we haven't been before. Thanks to our mutual love for traveling and exploring places, we have been to countless places that are worth discovering. I am always the planner  and she would just tend to request for a specific venture, except in our Leyte trip which is her hometown. In this particular occasion, she said she wanted to go on a beach trip.

There are only quite a few provinces near Manila that contain beaches. Zambales, Bataan, Batangas, Cavite, Quezon. And honestly I have been to all of these places before; all but one: Aurora! And so the joy of an unplanned backpacking began. We were already together except for BP Weng who we fetched in Novaliches before entering the North Luzon Expressway en route to Aurora province.


The journey progressed along NLEX where we had one stopover to load up gas and grab some coffee and snacks. Thanks to BP Wil's knowledge and the power of GPS, we were able to trace the route to Aurora. Looking at the map, the province is just a straight bullet away from Manila. However, due to the terrain on its south which is impenetrable by vehicle, we had to trace the National Highway through the mountains of Sierra Madre which basically covers the whole town.

Good morning Aurora!
4:20AM when we reached the intersection by the traffic light at San Jose, Nueva Ecija. We turned right which marked us leaving the plains of Central Luzon entering its mountainous side. We entered Fort Magsaysay in Gabaldon. Traveling at night is clearly very advantageous as there were only a few vehicles traversing the road with us. At around 6AM, Wilson pointed out a small ray of light in the clouds which probably meant sun rising on the other side of the road. And we can not get a glimpse of it as we were in the middle of tall mountains. However, the thought of catching sunrise was erased when one by one, the magnificent outline of the mountains started to pop up. The smell of fresh air - yes! away from polluted Manila - was an aroma to behold that morning. Though unplanned, everything was lining up perfectly.

The light hit the sky when we entered Dingalan and the delightful view continued. It was a truly breathtaking morning that we had to stop along Brgy. Tanawan. Everything's green and we can see some neighboring mountains which were awe inspiring. The environment was perfect to just gaze and appreciate this new day that was given to all of us.


Jacob the sailorman
We finally reached the quaint town of Dingalan, mysteriously kept secret by the hills and the sea. Our hearts were overjoyed as it was a promising morning - exploring a new place for all of us. We passed by Brgy. Aplaya where Dingalan Port is located. The port was not busy that morning. A local said that the fishermen will return at 10AM so we were very early to scour for fresh seafood. Along Aplaya, we turned left to follow a marker of a restaurant where we all were surprised. We thought we were crashing to the sea because of the powerful view in front of the narrow street: blue water colliding with a cloudy sky. The restaurant is situated just beside the sea to entice the patrons with a nice vista of the town's shores.

BP Angel presents the port of Dingalan

BP WilsEn
Unfortunately, the restaurant was still closed. A local commented that the owner was still asleep, exhausted after celebrating her child's birthday the night before. It was 6:30 in the morning and our stomachs were all craving for something called breakfast. We were instructed to head to the market where open carinderias were located. We had our breakfast there while I did my on-the-spot research on where the most beautiful beach in Dingalan is located.

Eating @ Carinderia, Heinz, Weng, Rexie and Ivan


found out that the finest sands in Dingalan, Aurora can be found in Brgy. Matawe. From Brgy. Aplaya, it will take at least half an hour to get there. So we readied ourselves for a whole day of beach bumming in the magnificent beaches of Dingalan. We dropped by at some stalls which sells freshly caught seafood.

Unfortunately, we learned from the vendors that the road to Brgy. Matawe is not established and it tends to get real slippery when there's rain. A local pointed out that we had to traverse a hill to get to Brgy. Matawe and that our private vehicles may encounter a difficulty in doing so because of the mud in the dirt road. And it rained all morning while we were eating in the carinderia. They suggested to just hit any resort as there are plenty along the way. We entered Brgy. Butas Na Bato and the road intermittently became rough. The first resort that caught my attention had no one tending on it, so we pushed through. Until we saw the signage of Juniban Resort.

For a very affordable non peak season rate:
50Php per head and NO cottage fee
We opted for Juniban Resort
Juniban Resort does not offer a luxurious stay, but it was decent and affordable enough to house us for this day trip. And in my opinion, as I surveyed the resorts in Brgy. Butas Na Bato, they offer just the same amenities and share the same line of seashore. The edge of Juniban Resort is the presence of a swimming pool and an enticing garden. So I figured when the heat of the sun becomes unbearable, we can just hit the pool instead.

Ate Weng adoring the beautiful flowers by the shore
Heinz playing with baby Jacob
Rexie posing at the beach
It was the perfect escape from the monotony of our lives in the city! BP Weng had the opportunity to fly her kite once again! BP Jovy spent the whole afternoon relaxing and dozing off while the others played with baby Jacob, hit the beach and swam in the pool area. I would also like to commend Aling Nita, the owner of the resort for being very kind and accommodating!

Liz and baby Jacob playing with the kite
Our food that afternoon
Hitting the waves
The pool area:

(from L-R) Wilson, Heinz, Weng, Ivan, Angel, Liz, Jovy, baby Jacob, Aaron and Rexie
We love Dingalan, Aurora!


It was a very long day spent productively by refreshing our energies, gathering fun and good vibes by the shore and most importantly, a time well spent with friends. On the way home, we stopped by at one of Dingalan's tourist attraction: the Tanawan viewdeck located at Brgy. Tanawan. It offers a breathtaking view of the nearby hills and mountains which according to my peers, "is like visiting that majestic place in the corned beef advertisement on TV."

Aaron at Tanawan view deck
Jovy at Tanawan view deck
The girls enjoying the view deck
Hidden in these green hills and forests is the majestic town of Dingalan, Aurora


The long journey home ensued after our stopover at Tanawan view deck. Some could not prevent themselves from falling to sleep on the way. They just woke up in two occasions: in that splendid view of the setting of the sun while we were in Nueva Ecija and when we arrived at Baliwag, Bulacan for our dinner at Bulalo Republic.

Bulalo Republic has a very cozy ambiance. It has a wide space where you can choose where you would like to be seated. Our stay there was not interrupted by the few vehicles trudging the National Highway beside it. The food, above all, was exceptional. For a contribution of 238Php per person, we were able to indulge and satisfied our stomachs.

That's it for another round of adventure for The BACKPACKERS and friends! Surely, we did not plan on heading directly to Dingalan, Aurora. But this proves that sometimes, spontaneity brings us to a place which deserves exploring. And that makes the adventure more exciting and memorable.

Thank you friends for joining us in celebrating our third year anniversary in the beautiful town of Dingalan in Aurora! ~BPs Angel and Ivan

Photo credits to Liz and Aaron

No comments: