Wednesday, February 4, 2009

White Beach and Pagsanjan Falls

Sorry - the computer we're working with today doesn't have enough muscle to let us load pictures. We'll update with photos soon ....

We love to be on, in or under the water. The Philippines is an archipelago of 7000 islands, so you can imagine there is lots of water around to enjoy. We’ll share with you two experiences – one involves beautiful white sand and clear blue water at White Beach; and, the other involves muddy brown water that cascades and flows out of the hills in the southern part of Luzon island at Pagsanjan.

Our trip to White Beach started with a bus ride in very windy weather. There was talk of a typhoon coming but when we got to the ferry in Batangas the seas were relatively calm. And the water was fairly calm for most of the trip but our little outrigger did take in some water, and there were some green looking people when we finally arrived at White Beach.

It is a small community, basically a small strip of restaurants, souvenir shops, dive shops and more restaurants along the beach. We stayed in a small seaside chalet and ate every meal with our feet in the sand. John took an introduction to scuba diving course and spent a full hour under water exploring a reef. As a family we snorkelled at a coral reef and around some huge oysters (unfortunately we do not have a waterproof camera so you’ll have to imagine the photos). Danielle got her hair braided and Simon managed to escape without a tattoo.

The area surrounding Pagsanjan Falls is considered the “Hollywood” of the Philippines. Many people will say that you have not seen the Philippines if you have not been to the falls at Pagsanjan. There are several falls set in a lush ravine and boatmen paddle and pull you up the river and then steer you back down. We travelled there with a group of students from Dordt College who were filming in the area. The falls were nice and all but what has caused the most discussion in our family was the pressure to tip. When we paid for our tickets we were told what an appropriate amount for a tip was. The whole way up the river the boat men would huff and puff and make a dramatic scene of the effort they were expending along with comments about “hard work ma’am”. There was no other discussion or attempt to be a friendly host. Just a lot of talk of the hard work and need for a good tip. For me a tip is expected in some situations (i.e. a restaurant) and sometimes can be considered a wage (i.e. airport porters) but a generous tip (i.e. a bonus) is for work above and beyond the call of duty. In the end our tip was deemed inadequate by our boatmen. That was OK by me and I think there are many other situations that we have come across more worthy of tipping.

PS – we had a great time hanging out with the Dordt students for a few days. The CRWRC people helping them out organized a Balut Night (Google that if you don’t already know). Pam and Simon had a little taste (but not the whole thing) but we certainly couldn’t keep up with the students – some of whom had more than one. For what its worth we did eat the durian and enjoyed it. Durian is a fruit famous for its bad smell.


  1. You would have lost me on the Balut... seen that on Survivor and Paul & I agreed that if either one of us had to eat that to see the other...we would completely understand not eating it... Good for you guys!!!

  2. Hey, this is one of the Dordt students who was there at the waterfall. I just wanted to comment that I thought those boatmen worked very hard and deserved the tip. They have a dangerous, strenuous job and seemed to take pride in doing it as well as they can. There's no way I could ever pull 400-500lbs (guesstimate based on two adult passengers) of tourist-filled canoe up those rapids.

    Admittedly, the canoes that came alongside and tried to guilt-sell us Cokes for our boatmen did make me a bit disgruntled. That's a whole other story though.