Bataan is perhaps best known for the 1,787-foot Mt. Samat, the seat of the historic Shrine of Valor (Dambana ng Kagitingan), a commanding memorial dedicated to the brave souls who endured the Bataan Death March. But roughly 50 kilometers northwest, in the brisk town of Morong, awaits a dramatic splash of oranges and violets setting down clear green waters and light gray shores.
We arrived half an hour after four past lahar-stricken towns and densely forested thoroughfares at Bataan White Corals Beach Resort, where we were billeted for the weekend.
The welcoming sight of a fiery sun coming home to the vast West Philippine Sea completely unobstructed greeted us as we combed the fine, coconut-fringed sands barefoot. I have witnessed many sunsets on water, but Morong’s definitely one of the most enigmatic.
Plans for a Mt. Samat trek was scheduled the following day, but all the boys in the group went on an early drunken spree, so us gals resorted to abusing the resort pools and the sea instead. While saltier than usual, the water in the beach was wonderfully warm and very calm, being situated within a cove (Anvaya sits nearby). Though not sparkling clear, we spotted a lone jellyfish and two schools of anchovies floating ashore, much to our delight.
Much of the corals have been destroyed by the daily low tides though, and should you crave a snorkeling activity, your best bet is to hire a boat to take you to a nearby coral reef and a small parcel of land the locals call White Beach – both accessible in 20 minutes via an outrigger that can sit 10 persons max. A two to three hour trip (travel time included) costs P1,000 to P1,500, depending on one’s haggling skills.
Boatmen also offer trips to the Pawikan Sanctuary in Nagbalayong for P150/head, but if you have your own vehicle, the sanctuary is an easy fifteen-minute drive from the numerous resorts in central Panibatuhan.
The tides begin to settle by noon, exposing a rocky patch of seabed that spans for miles. Curious tourists flock to this brown sprawl of jagged earth during dusk when it is fully exposed, searching for dead starfish and corals. We were told by locals that corals abound on the other side of it, though fins would come in handy what with the numerous sea urchins scattered beneath.
We tried our luck and treaded the waters and crushed pebbles onward to the rocks, but couldn’t push through any farther out to that side, because the rocks become more slippery, irregular, shaky and incredibly difficult to walk on as you venture out further. Live soft corals, sponges and shells sit on the rocks, and it would be a sacrilege against precious marine life to pursue for the sake of curiosity.
Despite a postponed Mt. Samat trip and island hopping activities and a super early check out *whine*, this Bataan jaunt is one for keeps. It was a weekend that is special on so many levels, being our first in Bataan. More than anything else, it was a weekend of amends. It was the first time that we’ve seen my stepdad since getting married, and his first to see Lia. The joy in his eyes as he tells Lia to call him Angkong or Kong Kong was priceless.
Morong is no Boracay or Coron, but there’s much splendor that awaits open eyes.