It is amazing the incredible places you can reach relatively easily from the drudgery and confusion of Manila – how we dream of the wide open spaces instead of sitting in traffic for hours and being pushed and shoved by the hordes of people that are Manila. Also for those arriving from foreign fields either into Ninoy Aquino International Airport or Clark International Airport, there is a rare and stunning destination for you to head towards, that is only a few hours from Manila.
The province of ZAMBALES has some of the most stunning coastline in the Philippines and although there are a number of resorts to choose from, SAN FELIPE is not only a personal favorite but is just an amazing and beautiful place to visit.
If your a little interested in the history of the place without needing to feel like your going back to school, San Felipe has a large concentration of Aeta people, an indigenous people of the Philippines and the town was affected by the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption, being buried in about a meter in volcanic ash but damage was comparatively light.
San Felipe is much more than the numerous Surfing and Diving locations you can find in the Philippines, although these activities are well catered for and are fantastic. Additionally and uniquely, San Felipe offers more for the adventurous traveller, in the form of terrific trekking and a unique glimpse into the past heritage of the local Aeta people.
There are numerous trekking experiences you can get involved in. If you are into waterfalls and some excitement along the way, then imagine crossing a hanging and swaying bridge suspended in the air and be rewarded not only with beautiful scenery, but a great dip in the crystal clear, if not bracing, pool under the falls. (check out the season as the waterfall is rain dependent).
Also you can trek to visit the Aeta tribal people. It’s a medium difficulty trek which crosses a lot of water features but it’s not so bad that even the less agile of hikers can make it no problem. The great reward of doing this trek is you get to meet and spend time with the tribe.
So who are the Aeta tribes and why would you want to visit them?
The Aeta tribes are generally considered to have been not only the first inhabitants of the Philippines but probably the oldest living race in the world today. Their ancestors can be tracked to the aborigines from Australia, but the tribes on the Philippines originated in Borneo around 30,000 years ago. Very sadly their way of life was totally destroyed with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 and the Typhoon Didling and resulting tsunami, amongst other things. A bad time to say the least, and they were forced to desert their indigenous homeland. They lost everything and now need everyone’s help to survive. Tourism is one of the ways we can all help, so its like fun for the philanthropist and an opportunity to be involved in a unique experience not found anywhere else in the world!
You can get involved in organized visits and join in with the Aetian culture for a short period. Activities included in the tour and what you will experience are as follows:
1. Tree Planting – how to help the tribe replace their habitat – at The Nursery you begin to appreciate the serious situation the tribes are in and as great as your scenic trek across the mountains was, you must have noticed a complete lack of trees. This has led to a heap of environmental issues,; most seriously a lack of rainfall and water. Without the forests to cool the clouds, rainfall occurs much less often, which has lead to water sources drying up, leaving vegetation starved of their life source. The lack of trees especially has not only meant devastation of wildlife in the area, but also of the livelihood of the natives as well.
2. Lunch with the Aetas – They do the cooking 🙂 Enjoy amazing hospitality with members of the local tribe as they prepare some mouth watering dishes passed down from generation to generation – if your lucky maybe you can get the recipe for some of them and wow the folks back home!
3. Aeta Archery Lessons – traditional hunter/gatherers show you how it is done – The locals will let you use a bow and arrows, and everyone can have a go, under the careful supervision of a local tribesman. It’s great fun and you soon realize its not even close to easy and when you think that they used to hunt birds, and on occasion, wild pigs, it’s incredible. Just to rub salt into the wound, they will show you how it is really done!
4. Tribal Medicine and Cultural Show – maybe you can find a cure for the common cold?? Herbal and Alternative Medicines gain more traction and popularity every year, and when you join in this activity you are bound to leave with a few ideas that could save you an expensive visit to the pharmacy!
5. Learning about the local culture and how the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo affected and is still affecting the lives of a lot of local tribes and their families. Finally you get to understand how nature can totally destroy a human way of life and even years on, still has a resounding and dreadful effect on the locals. It makes the whole trip worthwhile.
You get to trek through the Aeta ancestral lands and when you are hot and bothered can take a swim in then crystal clear and refreshing rivers. When your ready to take a rest and some locally cooked food at lunch time, sit and listen to the elders of the tribe tell you about their fascinating and incredible culture and learn some traditional herbal medicine to impress the folks back home. When you’re rested and for the less shy, you also get an opportunity to join in the tribal dances with the locals and especially the irrepressible kids.
I particularly enjoyed learning about their archery skills and just loved the lessons, but I’m not sure you would want me to try and shoot an apple from on top of your head just yet!
On a more serious and practical side, you have an opportunity to learn and experience about sustainable community living and how to help the tribes become more self sufficient through the practice of agroforestry.
- Introduction to Aeta Culture
- Native Archery
- Music and Dances
- Herbal Medicine Garden Tour
- Tree Planting
- Carabao Rides
- Snacks, Lunch, and Dinner with the Tribe
9pm Departure from Victory Liner Cubao Station
Arrival at Iba, Zambales (Midnight)
Tricycle Pick-up from Station to Liwliwa
7am Meet-up at Circle Hostel
Volcanic Ash Trek to Yangil
Tree-planting at the Nursery
Lunch at the Village
Village Tour & Storytelling with the Tribe
Archery, Traditional Music & Dances
Sunset at Liwliwa
Dinner at Chief Iking’s
Free Time / Beach Time
9am Sunday Smoothie Bowls with Seed Nation (Optional)
12nn Trike Pickup from Liwliwa to San Felipe Town
1230pm Departure from San Felipe to Cubao
530pm Arrival in Victory Liner Cubao Station
- Activities mentioned in the Tribes & Treks Tour
- Guided Trek by MAD Travel & Yangil Locals
- Lunch, Snacks, Dinner
- Simple Hostel Breakfast
- Roundtrip Victory Liner Bus Tickets (Cubao-Zambales)
- Roundtrip Tricycle Pickup & Dropoff (San Felipe Town-Liwliwa) Transfers within Zambales
- 2 nights at Circle Hostel
WHERE TO STAY
The Circle Hostel Zambales
Address: San Felipe, Zambales, Philippines
To book online: The Circle Hostel
HOW TO GET THERE
Take the NLEX until the last exit. Take the SCTEX until Subic. Head to the Kalaklan Gate. Turn left upon exiting the Kalaklan Gate. Go straight and pass through the following towns: Subic Town, Castillejos and San MarcelinoYou will hit an T-intersection with a Petron. Make a right. Straight until through San Narciso until you see the San Felipe arch. You will pass a cemetery on your right. Then a little past that you will see the Bobulon Elementary School on your left and a green sign saying: “This way to Liwliwa” Make a left here! Keep following the road (it will become a dirt/sand road. Nearing the end make a left and follow the road. (you’ll see an electric post with purple spray paint).You will come into an open area but the road will continue rightish straight into a bamboo gate lined path.
Go straight and you will find The Circle on your left.
From Manila Option 1
Take Victory Liner from the Cubao Station OR Pasay Station to Iba Zambales
Tell the bus driver you will get down in the town of San Felipe. From the town take a tricycle and tell them you want to go to Liwliwa near the pier (Sa may dating pier). From the town center the tricycle will pass Bobulan Elementary School and turn right. He will go straight to the end and make a left (you’ll see an electric post with purple spray paint) then go straight until a clearing. He’ll make a rightish straight. Keep your eyes peeled for The Circle on your left! 🙂
From Manila Option 2
Take Victory Liner from the Cubao Station to Dau Pampanga Bus Station
OR take Victor Liner from the Pasay Station to Iba, Zambales. Transfer to a bus/shuttle going to Olongapo OR Iba, Zambales. Upon arrival in Olongapo transfer to a bus going to Iba, Zambales. Tell the bus driver you will get down in the town of San Felipe. From the town take a tricycle and tell them you want to go to Liwliwa near the pier (Sa may dating pier). From the town center the tricycle will pass Bobulan Elementary School and turn right. He will go straight to the end and make a left (you’ll see an electric post with purple spray paint) then go straight until a clearing. He’ll make a rightish straight. keep your eyes peeled for The Circle on your left! 🙂
BY CLARK AIRPORT
Take a shuttle from the airport to the DAU BUS STATION. Transfer to a bus/shuttle going to Olongapo OR Iba, Zambales. Upon arrival in Olongapo transfer to a bus going to Iba, Zambales. Tell the bus driver you will get down in the town of San Felipe. From the town take a tricycle and tell them you want to go to Liwliwa near the pier (Sa may dating pier). From the town center the tricycle will pass Bobulan Elementary School and turn right. He will go straight to the end and make a left (you’ll see an electric post with purple spray paint) then go straight until a clearing. He’ll make a rightish straight. keep your eyes peeled for The Circle on your left! 🙂
Liwliwa Beach, Zambales is just meters away from The Circle Hostel. This beach in San Filipe becomes a haven for surfers and surfer-wannabes.