For this year’s Maundy Thursday trip with the Maundy Thursday crew, we went to… *drumroll please*
Potipot Island, Zambales! Travel time was at 16 hours back and forth amid Edsa reblocking efforts — it took us 3.5 hours just to get from Makati to SCTex — and generous stopovers in Subic.
This was the original plan for last year until we abandoned it a few days before the trip to go to Baler in Aurora instead. No surprises on the road for this trip, as the van we rented had a pretty experienced driver who had his own GPS (lol, thanks Mike!) thus I did not have to bring a foldered detailed map like last year. Just the same, I plotted this year’s map from Makati to Candelaria, Zambales here.
When we left PDI in Makati at 12:30 a.m., traffic was relatively light northbound up until we reached Boni area, and it was pretty much at crawling pace from there all the way to Cubao, where commuters already spilled out of the bus stations and onto the main highway due to the Holy Week exodus. It was almost 2 a.m. when we reached the other half of the contingent stationed at Ministop near SM Annex and Nice Hotel.
On NLEX, there was also a bit of a bottleneck approaching the toll gates, but we were at SCTex by 4 a.m. I slipped in and out of sleep throughout, only waking to hand money for toll (details for expenses re: this trip below) but man have you seen SCTex under a full moon? It was eerie but glorious.
Anyway, around 5 a.m. we entered Subic, where we bought breakfast and ice. You’ve probably heard this before, but I think it bears repeating that Subic is pretty serious about full stops and traffic rules. So serious that they have traffic enforcers apprehending violators before 6 a.m. on a Maundy Thursday, so yeah. Full stop wherever it says full stop etc.
I don’t know what the driving speed over at Google Maps is, because it said Candelaria, Zambales, where our jump-off point Dawal Beach Resort is located (they have a pretty good map here), can be reached in under 4 hours from Makati. In truth, Subic to Candelaria alone was already a 3-hour drive, including a stretch of road that is one-way due to repairs. But yes, the road to Candelaria was wayyyyy better than what we negotiated with coming back from Baler last year, and a lot more simpler to follow, so there. Apparently, Makati to Candelaria, Zambales is lengthier at 256 kilometers than Makati to Sabang Beach in Baler, which was only 239 kilometers, but for some reason, this year’s drive felt much shorter than last year’s. This year’s drive also afforded me more sleep on the frontseat. Hehe.
ANYWAY. Candelaria is one of Zambales’ northernmost towns — if you’re thinking Zambales is just near that’s because you’re probably thinking of San Antonio’s beaches (I know we did) but perhaps just to manage your drive expectations, think of Candelaria as Zambales that is almost Pangasinan (and we have been to Pangasinan on a Maundy Thursday — Bolinao, to be exact haha). Not even kidding — it’s past Botolan, Iba and even Masinloc. Just a fair warning to people who are really expecting a 3-hour drive from Manila =)
We reached Dawal around 8:30 a.m. We approached the desk to inquire about boat transfers to Potipot — it seems that they have had a lot of guests who use Dawal as a jump-off point. Boat rental is at P400/boat, with each boat carrying 6 pax. As we were a group of thirteen traveling with a cooler (courtesy of Ana, thank you!) they suggested we take all three of Dawal’s bancas, all named Usad. In our brief interactions, I found Dawal’s people to be friendly and helpful. They were also patient enough to answer my pre-trip queries via text messages. They also said we could use their common shower areas afterwards.
Transfer to Potipot took around 15 minutes. Entrance to Potipot Island is P100/head. By the time we got there, the island was already packed. Not even kidding. We found our spot on the other side of the island, which at the time had been relatively empty. We set up camp under a tree, and not very long after, Lawrence found a giant rake and started sweeping the area of leaves. He’s a very good boy, haha.
Basically we spent the day camwhoring, eating on the sand, sunning ourselves as we slept and swimming in the calm, albeit itchy, sea. In the afternoon, they found a jellyfish in the water and promptly put it in a cup. It looked a bit scary hehe. Speaking of scary: We left the island around 4 p.m., and as luck would have it, it started pouring the minute we were out at sea. It wasn’t too windy (thank God), so the waters were not horrifyingly choppy, but still we were drenched. Seems like there’s always something to remember each Maundy Thursday trip — in 2011 in Calatagan it was the balsa; it 2012 in Bolinao it was Camiling; last year in Baler it was duct tape. HAHA. So yeah, this year will be remembered as that time we actually went to Potipot then got rained on while on the banca on the way back.
We left the resort at past 4. It was already raining anyhow. We caught the sunset somewhere in Zambales — maybe Botolan. We got to Subic just in time for dinner around 7 p.m. We ate at Tokyo-Tokyo in Harbor Point, which was mercifully open despite it being Maundy Thursday. SCTex was nearly pitch-black, save for the full moon, but in all it was generally an easy drive back to Makati, with exits to Dau (where we dropped Mayi off) and Meycauayan (where we dropped Rafi off). Edsa approaching midnight was lighter throughout, despite ongoing road work. By midnight we were already gassing up at Petron on Buendia, which was where we said our last goodbyes.
Before we head to the pictures, I would just like to say that I love our Maundy Thursday balikan trips because it brings people together. This year, we missed Cy because she was ill (get better soonest Cy! we’re beaching soon too!). This year’s mix included this year’s Research crew (with our new kids Rafi and Kat) and significant others (Kim and Drea), team UST (college buds Ana, Mayi and Nicole), Jaycee’s best friend from birth Neneng (na nagtuturo ng isda, apparently, haha), and of course team UP (me, Almi our resident treasurer, Julie, Jaycee, and Lawrence).
It’s always a pleasure to travel with this crew. 🙂
Speaking of GIFs, we took two sets of ten-shot timered successive photos. The first GIF I made, I posted in the sneak peek (here in case you missed that). Here’s the second GIF (where Kim stays virtually afloat throughout — galing!)
Notes on expenses: Van rental was at P4,000 (Makati-Candelaria, Zambales-Makati) exclusive of fuel, toll and driver’s meals — contact Mike Dionisio: 0915-6686704 (Globe), 0998-555-8352 (Smart), 0932-9675351 (Sun). Fuel expenses reached P2,450, while toll expenses reached P875 two-way (with exits to Dau and Meycauayan). Boat rental P1,200 (P400 x 3 boats for 13 pax). Potipot entrance P100/head.
Notes on travel time: We left Makati around 12:30 a.m. and reached the resort around 8:30 a.m. with stopovers at NLEX and Subic. Going back, we left the island around 3:30 p.m. and the resort around 4:30 p.m. Caught dinner in Subic 7 p.m. By midnight we were back in Makati.