I Wanna Dance with Zambales

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san_miguel120160920“I wanna feel the heat with Zambales

Yeah, I wanna dance with Zambales

With Zambales who loves me”

This quaint barangay in San Antonio named after an archangel in Zambales in miniscule. It is probably the only barangay in the Philippines that has its own festival – not just one, but two – and celebrates every life’s small miracles daily.

It is home to hundreds of fishermen who survive on the bounty of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). These are simple folks with simple dreams. Whatever blessings they receive, they share it with their neighbors.

And San Miguel is truly blessed. It is a nature’s paradise. Its light gray sand is perfect for lounging around during summer. It invites many tourists during summer because it is clean and it is free. During amihan (with very little rains) season, the waters fronting the village are calm and perfect for swimming. During habagat (rainy) season, the waters become rough and inviting to surfers and windsurfers.

The sunset is also lovely at San Miguel.

The sunset is also lovely at San Miguel.

San Miguel is also an alternative jump-off point to the many treasures of San Antonio: the hidden coves of Anawangin, Nagsasa and Silanguin, and the enchanting islands of Capones and Camara.

San Miguel once hosted the US Naval Communication Station for many years until the early 1990s. But it had to be closed when Mount Pinatubo erupted.

Pinatubo may be quite far from San Miguel but its eruption affected the livelihood of many of the residents there. Many used to be employed by the Naval Station but they now have to rely on the sea to live. They went back to fishing, and soon with the booming tourism industry, they are now using their boats to bring visitors to the nearby coves and islands.

How to Get There
With the opening of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), it is now easier to reach Zambales either by private vehicle or public transport.

Driving to San Miguel from Manila takes only three hours. Take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), then take the SCTEX, and then exit at SBMA. It is always easier to drive inside SMBA instead of going through Olongapo City. From SMBA, the road leads to Subic, then Castillejos, and then San Marcelino. In San Marcelino, the road splits into two: left to San Antonio; and right to San Narciso. Head straight to San Antonio. Turn left after the public market, and then turn right. From there, the road splits again: turn left to Pundaquit; or head straight to San Miguel. San Miguel Barangay Hall is located where the road ends to the sea.

Those on a budget can go camping in any one of the coves or even in Capones Island.

Those on a budget can go camping in any one of the coves or even in Capones Island.

Taking the bus to San Antonio is also quite easy. Victory Liner has regular scheduled trips to Zambales. Take any bus going to Iba and Santa Cruz as they make their regular stops in San Antonio. From San Antonio public market, tricycles can be rented to go to San Miguel.

San Miguel is where boats going to the islands and the coves can be rented. Boats can carry a maximum of four passengers. Boat rental fee is fixed by the local cooperative. Visitors usually combine the visit to the islands with an overnight camp at one of the coves. The current rates for cove plus islands are: P1,500 for Anawangin; P2,000 for Nagsasa; and P2,500 for Silanguin. Pay only after when the boat returns.

What to see, what to do
The barangay’s best-known attraction is Casa San Miguel. The Bolipatas of Zambales built Casa San Miguel in 1991 to provide a venue for local artists to hone their talents and share their creative skills with the community. It also provides opportunities for the underprivileged to have access to education and the arts.

San Miguel got its name from the Archangel Michael.

San Miguel got its name from the Archangel Michael.

Casa San Miguel is a haven for artists. From time to time, there are performances by local and visiting artists. It also has several art galleries and art installations.

At the beach of San Miguel, boats can be rented to go to the nearby attractions around San Antonio. There’s a small tourism office at the Barangay Hall and it is best to ask their assistance in booking a boat. Vehicles can be parked in front of the Barangay Hall.

The island of Capones with its century-old lighthouse is one of the most visited spots near San Miguel.

Completed in 1890, its light guide ships entering and leaving the ports of Manila Bay and Subic Bay. It also warns navigators of the rocky shores surrounding the Capones Island.

The nearby Camara Island is a huge rock set against the sea. It is a favorite of rock climbers who enjoy the challenge of conquering its walls.

Anawangin Cove used to be the secret hideaways of many mountaineers and backpackers who come regularly to this place via six-hour trek crossing Mount Redondo. But with many stories and photos of Anawangin coming out of the web, it was soon discovered by many city dwellers looking for quiet place to spend the weekend.

The island of Capones with its century-old lighthouse is one of the most visited spots near San Miguel.

The island of Capones with its century-old lighthouse is one of the most visited spots near San Miguel.

But now many visitors opt to go further to Nagsasa Cove where the beach is more quiet and the water a lot clearer than Anawangin. There are no cottages in Nagsasa so visitors must bring their own tents and other provisions. There is no entrance fee to Nagsasa as compared to the P100 being collected in Anawangin.

The village of San Miguel hosts two annual festivals: Layag Festival in March; and Pusit Festival in April. Layag Festival promotes windsurfing in San Miguel. During the festival, windsurfing enthusiasts around the Philippines come to San Miguel to experience different kinds of watersports.

Pusit Festival is held during the summer weekend when the moon is full. This the time when fishing boats return to the village with bountiful harvests of squid, and the whole barangay celebrate this with street-dancing and a feast featuring the many ways to cook squid.

Where to stay, what to eat
Casa San Miguel has bread and breakfast facilities: the large family rooms cost P9,000 (inclusive of complimentary breakfast) and can accommodate six, while the de luxe rooms at P4,500 (with complementary breakfast also) can take in four.

The author with a buddy enjoying the waters off San Miguel.

The author with a buddy enjoying the waters off San Miguel.

Those on a budget can go camping in any one of the coves or even in Capones Island. It is also allowed to camp at the beach.

For dining, the Backstage Café of Casa San Miguel serves breakfast and other light meals. But for those on a budget, the public market in San Antonio has many eateries serving home-cooked style meals.

But for who wish to bring home something sinfully delicious from San Miguel, grab their now-famous polvoron called Julian’s Dream that was served during the state dinner for President Barrack Obama in 2014. It is so good that those who taste it simply wanna dance with Zambales!

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