FROM Lucap Point, the Hundred Islands of Pangasinan looked like large irregularly shaped rocks. But as our boat moved closer, the islands, getting bigger and greener, seemed to part slowly, as if the breeze blew the islands away from each other. Before we knew it, we were passing between two. We began to wonder which island would be our first stop. I looked around, not noticing that we were already headed towards it.

Unlike the others, which looked like hills out of the water, the Governor’s Island had a small beach. It welcomed us with its small shore of white sand. A small gap between the line of palm trees seemed like an entrance to a hidden world no one has entered for a long time.

We began exploring the moment we stepped on the island. Stephan spotted a small cave and immediately, we went to check it out. There were rock formations in it, which were surely worth taking pictures of. But we enjoyed posing so much that we didn’t hear the organizer, the Philippine Tourism Authority, calling all participants to move on. We were almost left behind.

We caught up with the other participants who at that time were already trekking the mountain. Since we went last, still posing from time to time to take pictures, we went the wrong way. Still, we managed to cross the mountain and reach the other side of the island to rejoin the group. Seeing a bunch of people wearing the same shirt as I did brought me great relief. But when we arrived, they were already about to leave, so we were not able to explore that part much. Geoff and Stephan, however, insisted on looking at the only house on that island, and again, we were almost left behind.

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Prenatal

The steersman of our official boat proved his loyalty and waited for us, and with years of experience, he managed to catch up with the others, and we even arrived to the next island first.

Children’s Island

I thought that the Governor’s Island was unique, but I was wrong. The Children’s Island also welcomed us with a small shore of white sand and palm trees.

The first thing that I noticed on this island was the caution sign which scared me. The sign reads, “The presence of jellyfish is beyond our control.” My companions, on the other hand, started digging the sand the moment we reached the island, looking for stones or dead corals.

Exploring the island, we found small nipa huts and pavilions atop it. As we took a rest on one of the pavilions, a man from the PTA approached us to chat. Those islands, he related in a tone that said he’s done this for hundreds of times, were once submerged in water which is why dead corals could be found all over them, even on top. The rise and fall of the tide makes the island counting difficult since smaller islets submerge underwater when the tide is high.

It was a good thing that we had someone from the PTA with us; this time we knew when it was time to leave. For the first time, we did not have to catch up with the rest of the group.

The boat ride to the next island seemed like a drag race, only boats were racing. Maybe the boatmen talked of racing to the next stop before we boarded because our boatman was surely serious when he was driving the boat as fast as he could. And again, due to talent and years of experience under his belt, we got there first.

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The poet of small things

Quezon Island

This island was full of action. If on the other islands, all we did was walk, trek, collect, and say “Wow,” this island offered us more than those.

First, we watched as a member of the PTA and Hector, a participant from De La Salle, dove and lifted one giant clam. The clam was so big that they had a hard time lifting it to show it to us. We heard that that particular clam was just one of the smallest in the area; some needed more than four people to lift them.

After that, we proceeded to the kayaking station. The PTA, generous as they are, let us kayak for free.

I was really excited to try the water sport that though I had no extra clothes with me, I let my only jeans for the day get soaked.

Rachel was with me, and both of us were first-timers. But after observing others do it, we were able to manage. In fact, I think that we were really good at it.

Then we heard the call to go back. Still soaking, we boarded the boat back to Lucap point. The island hopping was over.

The sun was setting. It was a beautiful sight at the end of that beautiful experience. It was a relaxing boat ride and we were silent, just feeling the breeze caressing our faces and letting the water splash on us. We got back to Lucap and took a bath in an attempt to look fresh. I borrowed a shirt from Rachelle while Joanne and Jhervy bought new shorts at the wharf.

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Buhay at puso

We went to the wharf after that to shop for souvenirs. Shirts, shorts, bead bracelets and other exotic-looking things could be found there. We had so much fun shopping for pasalubong at the wharf that again, we were almost left behind.

Running back and catching our breath, we boarded the bus.

Adios, Alaminos

On our seats were folders, brochures and souvenirs. We thought that that was it, it was over, but the PTA surprised us with their token of appreciation, a custom-made purple shell with our names on them. I was touched because I felt we were the ones who were supposed to give them tokens of appreciation for a truly wonderful experience.

That trip to the Hundred Islands made a great mark in my memory. I never thought that what I once thought as just a dull group of rocks scattered on a vast body of water could actually be one of the greatest places that our country has to offer. The Hundred Islands are a great gift of nature, and they are really worth seeing. The cool breeze, the crystal-clear waters, the rich marine life and other hundred things would always be reason enough for me to go back there again and again. After all, I have only explored three islands, there are still more than a hundred of them waiting for me. Lutchie Ann C. Corral

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