Last December, with the Christmas season – and its accompanying stress – well underway, my friends and I found ourselves in desperate need of a retreat from the hectic city. One of us, AJ, has a tita who owns a private beach called Mawakis Cove in Mariveles, Bataan, and told us if we just paid for use of the generators (since the beach is quite isolated from the town and is not connected to the electricity grid) she’d be happy to let us spend a weekend there. Naturally, we said yes.
We left Manila at around one in the morning and arrived in Mariveles at six AM, stopping at the market to pick up supplies. We bought fish, crabs, sweet potatoes, eggs, and apples; we already had fixings for smores that we’d bought in Manila, as well as beer and one of those five-gallon water bottles with a faucet.
The road leading up to Mawakis is paved and winds through the mountains surrounding Mawakis. Eventually though, the paved road comes to a complete stop and turns into a rough pathway carved through the grass. It’s nothing short of nerve-wracking to drive here, but my car made it through, and according to AJ, her tita’s Ford Explorer regularly makes the trip up here, so I suppose SUVs and sedans will fit just fine. I’m not too sure about bigger vehicles though.
At the end of the road is a red gate which marks the boundary of the Mawakis Cove property, and a parking lot a few meters from the gate. From there, it’s a thirty-minute hike down the side of the mountain to the cove – which is no fucking joke while carrying all our bags and supplies. Still, the view from the top was amazing, and gave us the energy boost we needed to get our asses down to the beach.
We had the cove all to ourselves that weekend! We pitched our tent under the shade of some trees, put the beer, water, and food in the nearby shed, and settled down to nap. I spread a towel on the beach and brought out a book, which I managed to read for a couple of chapters before succumbing to the allure of sleep.
We all woke up shortly before noon, and since we didn’t want to build a bonfire yet, we had egg salad sandwiches and some of the apples for lunch. Then we decided to explore the cove.
The water is a deep, clean blue, and is nice and cold enough to take the edge off a hot day. The sand is smooth, dotted with the occasional coral formation with fish darting in and out of the hidden nooks and crannies. While some of us swam and explored how far out we could swim or how deep we could dive, a couple of others borrowed the kayaks and paddled around the cove.
We discovered a second beach, totally inaccessible except from the water as it was surrounded on all sides by the mountains embracing the cove. Those in the kayaks immediately headed that way, but those of us who were swimming headed back to the beach, grabbed one of the bancas, and rowed to that hidden beach. Total Moana moment, right there!
From that beach, we walked along the the rocks underneath the cliffs surrounding the cove, all the way until the end and all that faced us was the open ocean. All along the rocks and corals, and in the little tide pools in between them, we found different-colored sea urchins (we had a hell of a time struggling not to step on them), starfish, snails, sea slugs, limpets, barnacles, angelfish, sea anemones, small crabs, and mussels. Tide pools are so fascinating, aren’t they? The conditions are so harsh – one moment you’re submerged in seawater, the next the tide is low and you’re exposed to the unforgiving sun and to hungry predators – and yet the inhabitants of tide pools rely on these conditions in order to survive. Such an interesting paradox of nature.
In another life, I might have been a marine biologist.
We were also able to climb up the rock formations about halfway through, and – naturally – we took photos.
When we got to the end of the cove just before the open ocean, we found a small area situated between the cliff and an outcropping of coral where we could swim. We left our things on the rocks and jumped into the water, which was really deep – twenty feet or more, definitely. The water was really clear though, and even without snorkeling equipment we could see the fish and corals beneath us. (And lots of sea urchins, but the water was deep enough that we weren’t in danger of stepping on those bitches.)
The tide was beginning to come in, so we decided to head back. We clambered back over the rocks and returned to the second beach, got back into our kayaks and the banca, and rowed back to the main beach.
As the sun began to set, we decided to build our bonfire so we could start dinner. The caretaker had chopped some firewood for us beforehand, and we brought scrap newspapers for kindling. It took a while (because we are crap survivors) but we finally got the fire going! We wrapped the crabs, sweet potatoes, and fish in aluminum foil, and then placed it right in the fire. We also made smores! Since we were alone at the cove, we stuck to drinking beer. Drunkenness plus being alone on a beach with the nearest house maybe ten kilometers away? Recipe for disaster.
Sadly, we didn’t manage to catch the sunrise the following day, although we did spend the morning swimming and kayaking again. Then after lunch, we broke camp and headed back to Manila.
I’m so glad we got to spend the weekend here. Mawakis Cove is exactly like Anawangin and Nagsasa – without the droves of tourists in the summer. It’s clean, well-maintained, separated from the town by hills and winding roads, and the water is nice, cool, and clear. It was exactly the break from the hassle of Christmas in Manila that we needed.