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It is not easy to plan out-of-town getaways, especially if it involves five people, four of whom are girls. I am not giving a gender-insensitive remark here, just an awful truth from personal experience – it is such a herculean task packing for 4 girls (heck, just for myself can be quite a chore) – and this time the clothes, accessories, meds and all other “essentials” would have to be good for five days. I planned on packing slowly and meticulously every night for about a week prior to the scheduled date of departure, but as expected I still crammed the night before ).

I cannot begin to imagine how it would be to pack if we were to go abroad, for a month or so. THAT would be the challenge. (Dreaming is free, and we are getting there. Everything begins with a vision.)

Anyway, after around five hours of driving and more driving (road felt endless, there were times we were joking we might end up in China, not knowing exactly how far we still were), we finally got past through the markers, with lighthouse figures on both sides and the sign “Welcome to Bolinao”. We thought we were near but it took us a good 20 minutes or so still to get to our first stop, the St. James the Great Parish, one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, having been “canonically erected in 1609”. (One good thing with technology these days is having travel blogs online that discuss and describe great places to visit when it’s your first time to go to this town or that. I did A LOT of reading prior to the trip and was so glad I did check out the blogs.) Next stop? Bolinao Market for our girls’ beachwalk slippers. Yep, with 3 travelling bags, 1 accessories bag, 1 toiletries bag, 1 techie bag (holding all chargers, cables, techie stuff) and a shoes bag in our trunk, there were still some stuff missing!

Then we realized that the scorching heat was due to the fact that it was high noon, and we had no idea where to eat. After asking for directions to Punta Riviera Resort, we embarked on the next challenge – to find a good place for lunch. We opted not to have lunch at the resort yet (again, blogs told me the food prices are quite steep…and again, the blogs proved right) and we found this place along the way called Bolinao Seafoods Grill, set amidst a lovely yard with hammocks under fruit trees, and an open restaurant adorned by seashell curtains. At this point I would already have sampled my favorite seafoods; unfortunately there was a red tide advisory for Bolinao a week before our trip. Grrr…of all times…that means no mussels, no oysters (my absolute favorite, and supposedly a MUST when on beach trips).

Thirty minutes after burps, we were in paradise. We were to spend our first night in Bolinao at this lovely resort called Punta Riviera. The reservation was only for one night (they were fully booked the next three nights since it’s Holy Week). At first I hesitated making the reservation for only one night, knowing that it would be quite a chore packing things again to move out and transfer to another resort (but I later found out it was a blessing in disguise). Punta Riviera is truly close to paradise. Ok, we were quite disappointed about the infinity pool (expecting it to be literally only a short distance from the sea); but that aside, the place is simply breathtaking. Our room veranda has a great view of the pool, the sea and a neat little hammock between coconut trees. The shutterbug in me was shaking, wanting to take pics of everything, and a few minutes later our camera (for the first time) showed the warning “memory card full”. What??? But the card has a capacity of 4GB! (Ok, admittedly, i forgot to unload older pics before the trip, my bad ). The girls were starting to frown and dislike the photo ops, they were just dying to dive in and enjoy the pool – which they did, until around 9 in the evening. They practically almost grew gills and scales there. Their only break was for dinner, which we ordered about an hour before our intended dinner time (another valuable tip I got from blogs). But before that we got a good glimpse (no, we GAWKED in awe, actually) of the majestic sunset. I love sunsets and twilights. They always look different each time and there are rare occasions for me to actually catch them and just appreciate, and even capture them in photos.

An overnight stay with Punta Riviera includes free kayaking by Ilog Malino (Malino River). You were supposed to kayak by yourself (no one to do the rowing for you) and un-athletic me just chickened out. The river looks quite long and wide and I have no idea how to row, and might just get stranded in the middle of nowhere.

The portion of the beach fronting Punta Riviera looks great, perfect for photo ops, but is not good for a swim. There are sharp rocks and corals, and at low tide it reaches just knee level so no chance for a good cool dip. We left Punta Riviera before lunch on Maundy Thursday, with the resort already full of guests whining, waiting for their rooms (some there as early as 8 am, from Manila the night before!). We were quite apprehensive about the resort-hopping thing, thinking the next resort we will stay in won’t be as good.

Little did we know the best is yet to come.

sun*star.baguio.05may2011.

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