Beach Camping for Beginners, at Nagsasa Zambales with Anywhere Philippines

This was my first trip with Anywhere Philippines and I chose a beach-bum themed camping weekend getaway at Nagsasa Cove in Zambales. I have never spent so much time (more than 24 hours straight) in a beach in my life before this. One of the things I will keep with me is the thrill of going camping again. I definitely learned enough basic beach camping and bumming techniques that can probably get me through and help me prepare for my next camping trip.

Tip #1 Catch some Zzzz and Hunt for Food
We proceeded straight to our Makati meetup place before 3 a.m., intending to sleep our way comfortably in a new and airconditioned (and Wifi-ed) van. The supposedly 4-hour plus ride was cut to three and I couldn’t sleep anymore due to the excitement of another adventure. We were at Brgy. San Antonio by 6 a.m. - a little too early for the local palengke.

There’s nothing in Nagsasa Cove to eat and buy and this was definitely not a hunting trip. Our guides thought ahead and bought everything for the next L, D, B that we needed – from condiments to meat to ice to drinks in the nearest town before the boatride. The “bummers”, on the other hand, hunted for breakfast at an eatery compound. I caught up with a plate of old-style palabok and it brought back childhood memories.

Tip #2 Wear Comfy, Light and Water-Friendly Clothing That Doubles as Sun Protection
For those of you who haven’t heard of Nagsasa, FYI, it is in Zambales and you take the NLEX (North Luzon Expressway) from Manila to get there. As you know, the Philippines is known for its humid climate, high temperatures and coastal areas (beaches included). This trip happened in early December of 2011 and all of the above were present. 

In short, the beach from our start-off point in Brgy. Pandaquit had a beach that was incredibly hot and tiring to walk on to get to the boat and I was super sweating. 

I made very deep holes so I had to carry my slippers lest I want them buried and I felt like I was on quicksand with every footstep. It was a very odd beach because of the grey-black sand quality. The waves were also heavy and ideal for surfing. 

There was no escaping the sun when we got to the boat. A dry-fit top paired with shorts and light sneakers/footwear (would choose closed and water-resistant or quick-dry next time) with a sarong or coverup (long-sleeves, sunglasses and hats for some) would have been a good idea instead of a beach dress and slippers. As this was an Anywhere Philippines “bumming” trip, all the bags, coolers, tents, food, boat fees, camping fees, guide fees and everything else were all taken cared of. I only had to bring myself and worry about what I choose to hand carry with me and my skin for the next 2 hours (arrived 9:30 a.m.) via boat to the camping site.

Tip #3 Mind Your Own and Let the Guys Get to Work
There were only 2 visible islands from a distance and instead of going to them, our boat turned towards the side following the shoreline to the coves. I loved the boat ride view.

Nagsasa Cove comes after the more popular Anawangin Cove. Many campers already beat us there and set up camp under shady trees. 

I could only take in the conversations between our seasoned camper guides when we got there. Our base structures were 2 huts with tables, one, they said, was to be the dedicated kitchen/dining area (where we will prepare, cook and dine) while the other was for our things. Hammocks were hung and two people will sleep here for the night. 

Tents were pitched without my help (you could actually make this your business, I was here to beach bum haha). 

I actually found out that there are different kinds of tents and beach tents probably won't protect you as much in a mountain camp.

People began to cook and make fire.

Some were trying to break in a block of ice from the cooler. 

A homemade sauce was made and the liempo was left to marinate in it.

Suddenly there was a person fanning the uling (coal) for the BBQ.

There was also sinuglaw na tuna (sinugba + kinilaw) in another pot. 

Mang Ador took care of the rice while pumpkin with gata was made for the vegetarian in the group. 

There was also some assembling of foldable dining sets going on. 

I, on the other hand, was told to enjoy myself like get in the water and do whatever floats my boat.

Tip #4 Scout the Area
Ah, the Nagsasa island life! 

Here I found mountaineers with their very organized backpacks and sleeping bags and made new friends who love these weekend getaways like me. Time was slow. There was definitely no cellphone signal anywhere when you get to this place. 

In the land where there seemed to be no electric outlets, laptops and online friends, there were lots of hills and mini-mountain ranges that looked so easy to climb without the trees. 

The government is managing half of this area (to the left where we camped) while the other half (to the right) is being managed by Aetas. There were pine trees everywhere and it’s still one big question mark to me as to how they grew in this place. 

On the top of my mind, I can only recall catching pine trees in Baguio and Tagaytay in the Philippines. I didn’t go into the “wilderness” behind the camp anymore. Other Nagsasa goers found their spot to play Frisbee 

while I lounged at the sand and posed for the camera. 

I wanted to take the beauty of this surreal place surrounding me with me. I wish Nagsasa could remain unspoiled in the years to come – with no electricity, no signals, no other structures more than what is already there today and just spells out the complete opposite of the life that I know.

Tip #5 Take as Long as You Want

Time doesn’t seem to fly by as quick here and it doesn’t mean that I didn’t have fun. I just found myself dumbstruck and caught up with the following: the lovely view, the camp, taking everything in, the super nice water and the sudden silence, eating with my hands or a spoon only, what will happen when the sun sets, the rain, what time it was, walking in pitch black darkness, taking a bath without a showerhead and going to the bathroom with a flashlight. There are only two covered bathrooms with no showerhead (balde and tabo only), no light bulb, occasional loss of water supply and super small toilet bowls with no auto flushing system.

I spent the afternoon sitting in the water. What I loved most about Nagsasa is the beach. You’ll find yourself half a kilometer from the shore and still the water is knee deep (I’m short so the water level is lower if you’re taller than I am)! The water is calm and very clear. You’ll only find baby waves near the shoreline. There was only one fish in sight too. 

Plus the “sand” (volcanic debris) settles at the bottom with a wave design (you can see where you’re going very clearly if you swim with goggles). 

I sat there with an awesome view while some of my new friends had a swimming competition. You can go from side to side (horizontally) or back to the shore (vertically). Wherever you are in the water, you can claim a spot to just sit and contemplate.

Tip #6 Bring Stuff for the Cold, Rain, Mosquitoes and the Dark

After my beach time, I slept in the hammock after I took a cold bath while our master campers cooked once more. I actually fell to the ground when the hammock gave in and the helpful kuyas did some hocus pocus with the ropes after they saw me land on my butt. It was very funny.

I also had mosquito bites when I woke up so I will do it again with more protection like be covered from neck to toe or put on some insect repellant while I sleep. 

I would also bring a hammock that is not netted for comfort. For dinner, we had nilagang butu-buto (boiled spareribs soup) plus pasta with tomato and cheese, pesto and spicy tuna sauces. We ate with lamps (bring sources of light stronger than a flashlight) and with the heavy rainwater dripping from all over the makeshift shade. 

A windbreaker, hat, sarong and plastic would definitely help. It was cold and wet and fun. Good thing we put our bags in the tents already. Our ever so awesome seasoned camper guides Migs and Alvin managed to make a bonfire out in the beach after the rain stopped! 

All the magic just came together and made the evening so wonderful – there was warmth as we formed a circle close to the fire, makeshift long sticks and a whole pack of big marshmallows for me to burn over the fire and eat, 

music that was from a phone playing through a portable speaker, flashlights and camera tricks,

twinkling stars and people. This part of the night was called socials – where people talked about their travels or stories and got to know each other a little.

Let’s Go Back to Nagsasa. #Only in the Philippines.

This was just Day 1 of my overnight Nagsasa adventure. Ready for Day 2 of my Nagsasa trip? I believe now that one has to be ready for the sun, the rain and the dark at the very least to go beach camping. Good thing I was with Anywhere Philippines or I wouldn’t know where to start and be a little overwhelmed with all the preparations like transportation, the food, the tents, the cooking gear and everything else. I got to be a beach bum for the first time in my life and appreciate what was in front of me. The trip also opened me up to the wonders of backpacking and camping. My to-buy list just got longer (those foldable plates and portable cooking gear are super cool for one). Haha. Most of all, I got another taste of another beautiful place in the country that I would probably go back to again and again.