Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Boracay of the North: It’s back
to the sea for my new year

Check out Pangasinan’s hidden white-sand gem—because, as they say, the beach is life, even in this pandemic

Tanduyong Island (Photo from the author)

It felt surreal celebrating my 26th birthday on the pristine white sand and in the crystal-clear water of Tondol Beach, which some folk call the Boracay of the North, on the northern tip of Anda, Pangasinan. It’s a long and tiring three-hour drive from my hometown in Pangasinan, so I made sure to prepare my favorite serene playlists and podcasts while witnessing the beauty of mountains and beaches along the way.

JCT Beach Resort (Photo from the author)

I booked at the beachfront JCT Resort three days before our trip. Since we were traveling just within the province, we were required to bring only a valid ID (with our address on it), booking reservation confirmation, and health declaration form. At the police checkpoint, we were asked to present these upon entry into the town. We arrived at 5 pm.

The inclement weather did not keep us from enjoying the trip. We just left our bags in our room and rushed out to swim and swam until 7 pm, even with heavy rain and thunder. The beach is life, as they say. We had dinner and drinks until we were drunk, which is just how a 26-year-old should celebrate. I can barely remember what happened after our favorite brandy and cola. My friends told me I was very talkative, I threw up, but I still managed to take a shower before going to bed.

All I know is that I was happiest that night—I was with some of my closest friends, and it was full of love.

Tondol Beach at 7am (Photo from the author)

As my normal biological clock would dictate, I woke up at 5 am.

I went outside and watched the sun beginning to shine on the breathtaking vista that was the beach.

I could still remember the first time I went there with my cousins. Tondol Beach has not changed; it is still as wondrous as it was five years ago. The fine white-sand beach with a long stretch of a sandbar, the calmness of the sea, the ankle-deep water, the clear blue sky, and the people were all amazing.

After our breakfast, we went island-hopping and paid P1,500 to fully enjoy the scenery.

Cory Island (Photo from the author)

The author on Cory Island (Photo from the author)

We headed first to the islet of dead corals called Cory Island, which, according to our tour guide, was named after the late President Cory Aquino. We were required to bring our slippers, as the corals were sharp enough to wound the feet. It was a good photo spot. I didn’t imagine that dead corals could create such a masterpiece; there was something bittersweet about it.

The author with friends on Tanduyong Island (Photo from the author)

Tanduyong Island (Photo from the author)

From Cory Island, we headed to the unspoiled Tanduyong Island. The tour guide asked us to pay P20-per-head entrance fee. It was unclear if it was really for entrance to a private island, or an environment fee—I didn’t bother to ask. We took a rest, as they had hammocks and small huts reserved for island visitors. There were full-grown trees, grass, and also fine white sand. I remember seeing some fisherfolk with their catch, trying to sell their freshly-caught fish to us. But noticeably, most huts were already ruined, maybe by storms or by age. All in all, it was virgin, preserved, a place where you would want to relax after a tiring day.

I told the guide to bring us to an area for a swimming. Even far from the shore, the water was still shallow. My friend, who is fond of watching schools of fish, borrowed the mask of the tour guide and enjoyed seeing some unusual types of fish. “It feels like I’m watching fish in an aquarium,” he said. There were schools of fish, according to him—yellow and black, blue, orange. I don’t know what they are called, but they’re a must-see for tourists. The water was very clear— you could still see your feet and the green seagrass in five feet of water.

We didn’t realize that we had already been swimming for two hours, and with the sun so bright, the sunblock proved useless: we all got sunburned. Nevertheless, we enjoyed it.

At noon, we decided to go back to the resort to pack up. We took photos in front of the resort, and enjoyed some snacks while reminiscing the events of the previous night. We had our lunch at La Isla Nenita Paradise Beach Resort. I got home at 5 pm.

Whenever friends from outside the province ask me about the best beach in Pangasinan, I often say it’s Tondol Beach. Aside from it being one of the cleanest in the province, the locals are very accommodating, too. It has a lot to offer, from freshly caught fish to island tours. This hidden gem is worth the long drive on zigzag roads. It’s very relaxing, and it filled my heart with a renewed appreciation of nature.

My birthday celebration was my fourth time in Tondol Beach. The beach is still astonishingly beautiful, and I will keep returning, even in my 50th year!

The author with friends at JCT Beach resort (Photo from the author)

Read more:

I needed this dive trip to Bohol—as much as Bohol needed me

My canyon no longer grand

I relished a forest lift—but I passed on the zipline

About author


He is a 26-year-old Speech Communication and Broadcasting graduate of the University of the Philippines. A former creative writing instructor, he is working as researcher in a publishing company.

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