Cabangan: My Zambales Hideaway

Cabangan Zambales Beach

It’s fascinating that in just three weeks, we actually experienced Akira’s many firsts—his first road trip, first farm animals experience, and first boat ride, to name a few. In his two years of existence, he’s been confined to the four walls of our home and all he did was live vicariously through other people’s adventures on TV because of, well, the Covid-19 Pandemic.

It may be a cliché but during those three weeks, I truly felt the “I am happiest when you are happy” as we see our son smile in my parents’ hometown and my birthplace—Cabangan, Zambales.

Cabangan Beach Zambales

When I realized that one of the reasons for my existence was to explore the world and record it through a personal blog, I knew right away that Cabangan had to be my first ever blog post (read Ode to Cabangan). That was eleven years ago and since then, my adventurous feet have already traveled to so many happy places. This also led me to another traveler and writer, Christian, which became my partner for life. Ever since I stepped out (literally) of my comfort zone, I became a much happier and more contented version of myself.

Cabangan Zambales Sunrise

But the pandemic happened and it forced us to stay put in our home, and if not for our son that kept us occupied, we probably wouldn’t know how to live our lives during those times. It was when my mom died because of Covid (I still have an overdue blog post about her) that we decided to go to Cabangan to bring her ashes back to her beloved hometown.

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It was also during this time when we contemplated on having our own car. Commuting with a toddler isn’t really that safe anymore, what with the pandemic and all. So yeah, we are currently considering buying our own car, hopefully soon.

Cabangan Zambales Sunset

I was born in Cabangan but was brought immediately to Quezon City where my parents chose to settle. Like a sea turtle who was born in a certain place but would swim far away to explore and eventually find its own way back to where it was born. I would even write Zambales in documents when they would require you to jot your “permanent address” (as also advised by my mom). And yes, I consider it my home even if we didn’t have our own family house there.

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Cabangan Zambales Dapiya River

All my childhood summer memories were spent in Cabangan—from learning how to fall from a bicycle to falling in love with a random kid when I was young, a summer fling. And I know I wouldn’t be as confident in swimming without enduring the crazy Zambales waves when I was younger. A few of my friends are envious knowing that my province is just a few hours away from Metro Manila or the fact that I actually have a countryside haven I could go to.

Cabangan Zambales

But looking at my hometown now, I’m amazed to see cafés, restaurants, resorts, and boutique hostels that have popped up during the pandemic. And there are community centers and non-profit organizations as well, such as Alon & Araw Club Zambales that helps the children of vulnerable coastal communities to dream and pursue a purposeful life that they will be proud of. Amazing, right?

Cabangan Zambales River

So I think, much more than seeing Akira having fun experiencing new things on this side of the world, it was also  me reminiscing the good old carefree childhood days with my dear cousins. Memories of times when all we cared about was whether we’d go to the beach or climb the hilly side of the town.

It’s their turn now, the next generation, Akira and his cousins, to create memories that would shape their identities as well as connect with one another on our common ground, our native land, Cabangan.

San Isidro Cabangan Zambales

We went to Cabangan in November of 2021 for three weeks and in May of 2022 for two weeks—I couldn't be more thankful to my work-from-home set-up for allowing me to spend quality time with family there. And as expected, we would go anywhere as long as there’s a cousin, an aunt, or a friend that would invite us.

Cabangan Zambales Beach

Before this trip, Akira’s perception of the outside world was that everyone needed to wear face masks. So just imagine his surprise when we were out on the beach or the farm and we would go out without wearing one. Just the freedom of not having to wear one is definitely a game changer (or life changer for that matter).

Cabangan Zambales Bangan Pier Beach

I could still remember how hard it was to see Akira growing up with him not knowing the world beyond our gate. Those times when merely standing outside our gate would be difficult for him as his legs would tremble not knowing how to act properly outside. It was heart-breaking to see him grow up in that kind of world.

Cabangan Zambales Mountain Range

So imagine his reaction as he stepped on an actual beach for the very first time. He couldn’t move as he was afraid of the sand on his feet. And to see him overcome it, finally running and having fun in the sun, playing with his sand toys. It is priceless. He also fell in love swimming in the unpredictable waters of Zambales—my definition of an actual beach when I was younger, those crazy waves with amazing sunsets.

Cabangan Zambales Bangan Pier Beach

We were the type of clan who don’t need to go to other beaches or whatever fancy holiday destination during summers. It was just like before, we are all contented with our little hut on the beach. As long as there's food and booze, then we're good.

I also love how my relatives would create mini adventures for us so that Akira would experience things that we know he wouldn't be able to try in the metro. We went to a number or rivers, mini waterfalls, and endless beach sesh with my cousins and their kids. It was as if every day is a holiday.

Cabangan Zambales Beach

We even got to ride an outrigger boat, cruising along the sea—which surprisingly, is a first for some of the kids in Cabangan, given that some of them actually lived right beside the beach. We also got to experience riding tractors, harvesters, and other farm trucks that Akira is fond of watching on TV.

Cabangan Zambales Beach

He also met some cows, carabaos, goats, pigs, and other animals that he just normally see in his books. His newfound friends also taught him how to climb a tree, run along the shore, and even stay up late just playing under the bright full moon.

Cabangan Zambales

It’s actually the feeling of constantly being surrounded with people who love you, no matter what, that I truly miss. That feeling of not needing to explain why I act this way or that way, because these people know exactly who I am. I want that for Akira, a place where he would feel safe and at home with people that would vouch for him no matter what.

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