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Saturday, June 10, 2023

The Liwa Experience

10/20/2022 06:17:06 PM

There are some points in your life wherein you realize that you want to get out of the hustles and bustles of the city. A few years ago, my then-partner would take me to places totally out of my spectrum. Fast forward to the present day, and although I have been in a different phase now compared to 2019, I seem to find solace in this laid-back beach strip at the Westernmost part of Luzon Island.

For what it's worth, Zambales has a rugged coastline on the West and mountainous terrain on the East. Perhaps, this sets up a nature-friendly province and a plethora of tourist spots (ranging from coves, beaches, and even lakes) that possess a rural chill vibe. Take Liwliwa – better known as Liwa – for an example.

Liwa is a sitio that is part of the barrio Sto. Niño at the town of San Felipe, one of the 4th-class municipalities located in the southern portion of the Zambales province. Since the early 2010s, Liwa has been flocked by tourists who just want to go off the grid and escape, especially those who want to surf.

It's no secret that from what has been a usual province land, Liwa has grown tremendously into recreation, with accommodation places built left and right to welcome every guest possible. Plus, who would've thought of getting a board and riding the waves on such nearest shore aside from the famous surf town called Baler – and even the already-popular Elyu?

Traveling from the nation's capital to Liwa can be short yet exhausting. If you have a car, it takes around 3-3 ½ hours as long as you speed your way up on NLEX and SCTEX. Via commute, though, is a bit different story, for taking a Victory Liner bus from Cubao all the way to San Felipe via SCTEX would take you around 3 ½ to 4 hours – assuming you subtract the time spent during the stopover in the Olongapo terminal. The straight-up fare is priced at 484 pesos as of this writing, and taking a cutting trip (which I did by riding two buses a few months ago) can hurt your wallet a bit. Also, a 20-peso tourist fee is required upon paying entry, whether you are driving a car or a tricycle passenger. 

As always, going to Liwa on the weekend is the challenging norm for everyone, be it a barkada or a solo backpacker. For one, you have to expect that every stall and street will most likely be crowded, with Fridays and Saturday nights being the party mode at the shoreline with all the loud noise, bonfires, and every merry-making in between. Although it's nothing compared to the other beach spots that sport a massive mainstream appeal and aren't only flocked by people of different walks. But also, with expensive food and accommodation choices.

Going there on a weekday, though, is something I prefer. Sure, some places may be closed during the stretch, but that can be the price to pay if you desire peace and calmness, especially if you stroll along the beach. Consider yourself warned, though, because the shoreline there isn't something you might want to dip that much, especially with the stronger current of waves coming at you by the late afternoon. 

Besides, there are very few but good food places you can chance upon even on a Monday to Thursday schedule, like Mommy Phoebe's Place, which is famous for its very affordable 'lutong bahay' menu and shakes, Kapitan's Liwa for its all-day breakfast meals, or Nightsilog for the nocturnal peeps. Hell, on the near-weekend days, Liwalize also opens its pizza place, and mind you, it's so delicious, whether you are up for a dinner or a bar chow. Oh, good lord!  

However, if you don't wanna wade into the water, you could still be mesmerized by its beautiful surroundings have molded Liwa into such a sanctuary for the mind. On one side, I noticed how many people want to flaunt their sexy selves on Instagram. On another, I saw guests and locals play soccer and volleyball by around 5pm. There are also ATV rentals which people can drive along the coast. Then, almost every hour in the morning and late afternoon, townsfolk market some locally-made souvenir items, from magnets to those key chains and tiny toys. These, of course, were aside from people who would want to blankly stare at the calmness of the waves and capture the sunset beneath the gray-colored sands (which aren't bad at all).

There are so many things you can definitely do at Liwa than simply being at the beach, chilling, and riding an ATV. Some would enjoy Muay Thai and Yoga classes that certain stalls offer. There's also a work-from-home thing there as long as there's a decent wifi reception. Should you want to explore, go to the nearby mountains and falls like Lungon-Nangoloan and Grotto, to name a few. Don't rely much on your mobile network, though, because the signal strength from the alleys of Liwa is weak, but the reception at the shore itself is really great, so if you can't wait to post your beach fashion photos, there goes your opening. 

As for the places to stay, Liwa has a collective of beach resorts and hostels that can provide a decent staying experience, depending on your budget. You could rent a tent for places like Kwentong Dagat or aim for the glamorous one like Surface. If you want just a bed for one, you can never go wrong with either Bom Dia, Maverick's, or Aluntala; but if you want to get a room of your own, there are places like Liwa Sands, Enzo's, and Kapitan's Liwa, to name a few. In my case, staying in a bunk bed is something I prefer the most since I only travel lite (although having a camera as a separate bag, haha!), and it just costs me less than P1,000 per night! 

Although you know what? The strangest thing from all the previous experiences I've been with here in Liwa is the fact that I can socialize with people. I doubt that my phase as a single has something to do with this – maybe my previous stay-in houses do play a factor, though. But the catch is I've never had several encounters with strangers anywhere else. One of my photographer friends told me that the Liwa community consists of happy people. And you know what? She's right because I mingled with a few people who were either frequent visitors of Liwa or local residents. They did not make me feel lonely as a solo traveler. What a feeling, right? They're probably your dream neighborhood. They're kind, accommodating, and probably tell you what to do if you make a mistake without being condescending, unlike here in Manila.

Perhaps, summing all of these things, that makes one think: Liwa is definitely a place to say, and it would make you keep coming back or stay for another while. Because it certainly worked on me, and I'm pretty sure there are more reasons to come back here soon. My post-birthday stay here should last for three days and two nights at first, but I extended it for another day and one more night. Although I'm pretty sure that more hostels or resorts will be built around the vicinity soon despite the rough roads and quite a long journey from the highway – and it can be scary since Liwa has for so long been known through its overall nature-y laid-back atmosphere. 

Well, we could only hope for better things to come around the next time we have a stop.

All photos in this article were taken between December 2018 to October 2022.

Author: slickmaster | © 2023 The SlickMaster's Files

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