Thursday, September 22, 2011

Going Green: Green Travel 101

Going Places is for Green Travel! A campaign I started since 2009. I believe this is not only very helpful for us travel lovers and wanderers but also to the places and communities we visit by. But before we go ahead in campaigning for this important cause in travel, let us first get to know what is Green Travel all about. 

What is Green Travel? Maybe you already heard about ecotourism, sustainable tourism and responsible travel from various media, magazines and news headlines. Those terms are all part of the many catch phrases of Green Travel.

There are various shades of difference among all these terms, but at the heart of the matter is the importance of protecting the natural and cultural environment of the places you visit. That means conserving plants, wildlife and other resources; respecting local cultures and ways of life; and contributing positively to local communities.

Green Travel, for me is becoming environmentally aware and earth-friendly while on travel. I am environmentally aware by having knowledge of the importance of cleanliness and pollution-free of the places I am visiting both natural and man-made sights and becoming concern for the environmental impact that I may create whether big or small to the place or sight that I am visiting. Practicing earth-friendly living while on travel can be from small ranges like keeping your own trashes, recycling plastics, usage of bikes to large ranges like staying to a green hotels, involving in ecotourism activities, etc that most are easy to practice and remember.  

Boracay Beach - one of the places that tend to be overexploited by tourism.
Green Travel, defined by Go Green Travel Green:
1. Thinking about your impact on the environment (both the physical and social environment) when you travel
2. Doing your part to minimize your impact on the environment – so that tourism in your destination can be maintained in the long run.
3. Understanding eco-friendly choices you can make
4. Making eco-friendly choices when they are options
5. Doing your research to be a responsible traveler
6. Saving money by making low-impact choices

Why go green?
With nearly 1 billion tourists crisscrossing the globe every year, it's more important than ever for travelers to minimize their individual impact on the earth's natural and cultural treasures. The potential negative effects of tourism are both local and global; oceanfront hotels contribute to beach erosion in Hawaii, rising numbers of visitors threaten the fragile ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands, and carbon dioxide emissions from planes are a growing contributor to global warming.

Chocolate Hills and Bohol province itself is an ecotourism destination.
Taking a green approach to travel is an easy and essential way to protect the places you love to visit, not just for yourself but for the travelers who come after you and for the people who will continue to live there long after you've flown home. As an added bonus, it often makes for a more rewarding, authentic travel experience, encouraging deeper connections with the people and places you visit.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't necessarily have to pay more in order to travel green. While offsetting the carbon emissions from your air travel will set you back a negligible amount, you can find green lodging options in all budgets, from hostels to luxury hotels. And earth-friendly transportation options like biking, walking and taking public transit are often cheaper than taking a cab or renting a car.(Source)

Going Green in Alaminos City
Why I go for Green Travel? Simply because I want to share to others the beautiful places that I have been and places that I am going to visit in the future in its full glory. You wouldn't want Boracay's beaches or Tagaytay's surroundings be polluted, right? Or the Great Wall of China being eroded and Sydney's Parramatta River dirty? I believe we can preserve these beautiful places by simply practicing green travel. I did a past entry of simple and easy but very effective way to practice green travel tips (click here to see) which is very helpful in campaigning for Going Green.

Also more and more cities and municipalities in our country are campaigning for ecotourism and proper waste management like my recent trip to Alaminos City who is strongly campaigning for Reduce, Reuse and Recycle platform in every street corners. Lastly, Green Travel for me is one effective "travel for a cause" that you can contribute to our community and get something good in return. By practicing this, we don't just show and do a care for the place or country that we are visiting but also a care for our planet Earth.

Learn more about green travel through this online communnity sites:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pangasinan Wanderings 2: Treasures of Bolinao

There are treasures to be found in western Pangasinan. Those treasures that I found were not gems, jewels nor chains of gold. But surprisingly beautiful sights and natural wonders that can only be found in western Pangasinan.  These treasures lies in the golden cape and rugged beauty of Bolinao. A place where beautiful sunsets are met against marvelous rock formations by the beach. A place where natural caves are enchanting. And the only place with a beach where the is sand is golden fine.

Travel time to Bolinao is 45 minutes from Alaminos City via bus or van. Travelers can also take a 7 hour road trip via bus from Manila. My travel mates opted to take a van from Alaminos since we just finished visiting Hundred Islands. Upon arrival in Bolinao town proper, we were fetched by our contacted resort’s tricycle.  I was surprised that the ride took 45 minutes from the town proper to our resort accommodation at Baranggay Patar.

Sunset in Bolinao.
Bolinao is a 3rd class municipality of the province of Pangasinan. Folk etymology attributes the name "Bolinao" or this remote fishing enclave from the fish piece "monamon" but commonly called "Bolinao" by the Tagalogs, Bicolanos and the Visayans. A theory also points out that once upon a time "pamulinawen" trees grew luxuriantly along its shores, thus, the Ilocano migrants who crossed the Lingayen Gulf named it phonetically similar to the name of the tree. Nowadays, however, such tree does not exist anymore. Legend also relates that during the first days of the Spanish era, a lovely lass nicknamed "Anao" lived at the present site of the town proper. She used to bathe leisurely for hours under the Boli-Bolinao tree where a chieftain's son who lived across the channel first saw her and then wooed. An early marriage ensued but with the condition, among others, that the seat of the chieftain's government be moved to the place where Anao lived. There they were to stay rulers, hence the name of Bolinao, Boli-Bolinao and Anao. (Source)

Our arrival in the resort is just in time for sunset. I don’t want to miss this beautiful phenomena in Bolinao. But sunset is fading fast so I immediately run to the front of the beach to watch my first sunset viewing at Bolinao. I did not mind my travel mates who proceed on doing the usual resort check-in as I marvel at the breathtaking scene of amber glow of sun set against the beach beautifully surrounded with unique rock formations. The amber rays of sunset touching the outlines of the rocks creates a glow effect on it under the siege of night sky. It was an unforgettable sunset of Bolinao that I witnessed.

Good morning Bolinao! Sunrise at Bolinao.
We were so tired from our whole day activity in Alaminos so rest immediately after dinner. The excitement of looking forward to discover Bolinao the next day made me eager to sleep right away. I had a good sleep that night so i woke up early to watch the sunrise.  The sunrise of Bolinao is beautiful as its sunset. The morning sun is a refreshing sight in the morning. The glow of sun rays this time is bright and flashing. I went to the resort’s beach front area to fully bask under the sunrise while seeing its full beauty.

The beach front of Solomon’s Paradise Beach Resort (Abrac, Baranggay Patar, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 2406/0905.398.1470 and 0928.474.8845) is true gem.  It is because the beach is surrounded by unique rock formations that made the rugged beauty beaches of Bolinao. I fondly call this site at the resort as Solomon Paradise Rock Formation because the only access to these rock formations in through the resort.

Our piece of paradise in Bolinao.
The nipa-style rooms of the resort.
The marvelous beach front of Solomon's Paradise Resort.
Shells in various forms found at the shores of the beach.
Only in Solomon's Paradise...
Natural beach pools.
This rugged beauty of the beach led me to explore it further. The rock formations are in all shapes and sizes. Some are high as a small storey building. While some are low as an average height of a person but has sharp edges. I suspect that these rock formations were eroded sea rocks and formed over a course of time. Some of the rocks even have half submerge caves for visitors to explore. From the tall rising rock formations down to the water submerged rocks, these natural sights continues to awe me.  Some of these natural wonders of rock formations create small pools of water by the beach that has varying depths because of its shapes. Though, some are not deep as an average human height, extra carefulness is caution in exploring them as unaware stepping on it might surprise you suddenly like falling to a manhole!

Don't you just love Bolinao?
Stunning rock formations at Solomon Paradise' resort private cove.
The beauty of nature in Bolinao.
Only in Bolinao...
The beach of Solomon’s Paradise is so perfect for photograph souvenirs. These rock formations were perfect backdrops for pictures. I them very scenic and perfect post card photos in every angle view of the sights. I had so much fun with my travel mates while enjoying the view of Bolinao Beach here.  What a wonderful sight to see a beach made more scenic with rock formations set against the bluest waters. It was a marvelous sight of the beach that I have only seen in Bolinao.   

By 9 am, me and my travel mates were fetched by Mang Celso, the resort’s trusted driver and tour guide to start our exploration of the “treasures” of Bolinao.

Welcome entrance at Enchanted Cave.
The enchanted water is also good for swimming inside the cave.

Enchanted Cave is a natural cave with an enchanting water  pool inside its caverns was our first treasure discovery of Bolinao. It is just 5 minutes away from Solomon’s Paradise. Before proceeding to the cave, we were first greeted by the lush green forest garden surrounding the cave. The cave is located above a hilly trail and the entrance step down to the cave is quite steep and small. But the sight of the whole cave below is worth the trail. The nature-made water pool in the main cave cavern is enticing for a swim. One of my travel mates ask the cave guide about why the cave named enchanted. He simply replied, “because the water is enchanted.” I don’t know if he is serious or joking in his reply but I really find the water inside the cave enchanting.  Maybe it is enchanted because the water is naturally clean. Just looking at it feels already enchanting because of its natural beauty. The light turquoise water is also very clear that you can see the bottom bed of the cave pool. The guide told us that the water has already been tested ans passed the cleanliness and pollution test making it suitable to drink. I try to feel the enchantment of the water by dipping my feet. Grr, it’s cold! Just like other caves, Enchanted Cave is adorned with numerous stalactites and stalagmites. And while its caverns is beautifully crafted by nature, it main attraction is its pool of enchanted water.

The enchanted water inside the Enchanted Cave.
10 minutes away from Enchanted Cave is the country second tallest lighthouse, the Cape Bolinao Lighthouse. The lighthouse, still located at Patar rises majestically 351 feet above sea level atop Punta Piedra Point, a towering hill of solid rock which is the sharp point of Cape Bolinao itself. It was built by the Americans in 1903 on a 351 feet (107 m) high promontory at the western part of Cape Bolinao. The lighthouse provides a panoramic view of a portion of the 1,269 hectare Cape Bolinao Dendro Thermal Ipil-Ipil Plantation on a land area where archaeological excavations have revealed relics from the 14th to the 15th centuries. Filipino, British and American engineers constructed the lighthouse in 1905.

The Cape Bolinao Lighthouse.
The view from the lighthouse ground point.
Go whacky in Cape Bolinao Lighthouse.
The caretaker of the lighthouse wasn’t there there during our visit so we weren’t able to climb up the lighthouse to see a full view of Cape Bolinao. But nonetheless, I was still able to enjoy the sights around the ground viewing deck of the lighthouse. There’s also a ruined building perfect for vintage souvenir shots. Though there not much to do in the lighthouse aside from viewing, the lighthouse’s historic value makes it a worthy part of itinerary in Bolinao.

It's my first time to see a lighthouse in our country.
The ruin section in the lighthouse is perfect for photography shots.
The next treasure I discover in Bolinao is probably the most treasured sight of Bolinao. This is the golden sand Patar Beach located west of Baranggay Patar. Patar Beach is one of the most distinct beach that I have been becasue of its cream to maize colored sands that makes the beach seems to have specks of gold in its sands. When it is reflected by the sun, Patar Beach glows in almost golden color.  I bet Patar Beach would look more spectacular during sunset. The beach is surrounded by numerous private resorts and hotels for accommodation but there is also a public section particularly nipa huts in the beach where we stayed for a day trip.

The golden sands of Patar Beach.
Experience serenity to the fullest...
Picturesque colored bancas at the shores of Patar Beach.
Me and my travel mates arrived at Patar Beach at almost 12 noon. The sun is in its highest place but it didn’t stop me to explore the beach. We heavily trooped at the souvenir stores of the beach first where a wide selection of souvenir mementos of Bolinao are sold like t-shirts, magnets and keychains, of course! Then we went to the native nipa huts where we stayed to rest for a moment while admiring the spectacular Patar Beach. I am surprised that the beach was not crowded during our visit. There were other visitors but only few. It was weekday during our visit. It lead us to think that we own the beach. I am glad that we were the only people there as I appreciated the serenity of almost painting scene of Patar Beach the most.

Cream, maize or gold? The sands of Patar Beach.
Priceless Patar Beach shore.
Marvelous blending of colors of sand and sea.
Only in Patar Beach...
I wander around the wide shore of the beach. I notice how beautiful the cream colored sand blends perfectly to the contrasting cerulean colored ocean of the beach. I also saw post card pictures of bright green and orange bancas docked at the yellow cream beach sands. These beach sights are some of the unique seascapes that I saw in Bolinao. After a few minutes of wandering around and admiring the beauty of the beach, my travelmates invite me to swim. The bright turquiose water is irresistible but I still feel hesitant to swim because the sun is at its highest point at 2pm! But then I give in to the temptation!  I swam and enjoyed the beach to the fullest. I didn’t mind the strong tides. I didn’t mind the hot rays of the sun. I didn’t mind getting the sun-kissed skin. The only thing on my mind is to enjoy Patar  Beach to the fullest.
Public nipa huts for visitors rest area while at Patar Beach.
I had an exceptional cape of golden treasure experience in Bolinao!
Sidetrip: I missed seeing the other “treasured” sights of Bolinao like Bolinao Falls, Balingasay River and Bolinao Church. But one can still put these sights in your Bolinao itinerary as sidetrips. Bolinao Falls is located in Baranggay Samang Norte. It is approximately 30 minutes from the town proper and goes on a different road away from the main highway that’s why it is mostly not in the itinerary when touring Bolinao beacause of its out-of-way location and distance from the resorts.  The waterfall  has one of the best large pool perfectly inviting for a swim.  Balingasay River is said to be one of the cleanest river in the country. One can take river cruise via pump boats to explore the river and its scenic spots.  What you see as you sail along the river are century old and new growth mangrove stands, stretches of attap palms for nipa huts roofing, balete trees hanging into the water, and different species of birds making their home on the top of the trees along the Balingasay. For those who want to explore in the religious and cultural side, Bolinao Church or Church Of St. James Fortress is the best place to see. The Bolinao Church was built by the Augustinians in 1609. It houses wooden statues nowadays a rarity. The antique altar is flanked by two grinning tongue-protruding Aztec visages presumably of Mexican influence and brought over by the Galleon Trade. It  402 years old to date.

Bolinao Falls. (Photo courtesy by keich of flickr)
After 15 minutes, we went back to Solomon Paradise Resort to have our lunch and prepare for our return back home. Patar Beach is just five to seven minutes from the resort. By 4pm, we were in Bolinao town proper and we just learned that the bus that directly plies to Manila. So we opted to take a van going to Alaminos and there take a bus ride to Manila. We departed at 7pm from Alaminos and arrived 12 midnight in Pasay.

I had an exceptional cape of golden treasure experience in Bolinao. I did not find any gems, jewels or chains of gold in Bolinao. Specks of gold in Patar Beach’s sand maybe. But  from golden sunsets to golden beach sands, I certainly did find the real treasures of Bolinao in its beauty of nature and marvelous wonders.

Treasures of Bolinao is part of my Pangasinan Wanderings two series story happened last July 3-4. Also do read the first part of the series - Alaminos' Hundred Charms.
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