Travel and Tourism

Lakbay Norte: History, art, sand play in Zambales

Kathleen A. Llemit - Philstar.com
Lakbay Norte: History, art, sand play in Zambales
Art and recreational activities abound in Zambales. Visitors can visit the arts and music destination Casa San Miguel, get dirty and creative at Clay Avenue, and soak in sun and water in White Rock Beach Hotel and Waterpark.
Philstar.com/Kathleen A. Llemit, NLEX/Released

MANILA, Philippines — Did you know that there is a bed and breakfast that dabbles as an art and music haven that still nurtures over 800 trees planted by former President Ramon Magsaysay? 

This destination is among Zambales' picturesque locations for those who want to have some rest, relaxation and fun just three and a half hours away from Metro Manila via the NLEX-SCTEX route for that much-awaited Lakbay Norte trip. 

B&B with history, art and world-class music 

Casa San Miguel in San Antonio is haven for the arts and music-inclined. It is a four-bedroom bed and breakfast rental that teems with history. 

Many of the trees, majority of which are the popular Zambales mangoes, are said to have been planted by President Ramon Magsaysay himself. A photo of the former president in action is seen in Casa San Miguel. 

Casa San Miguel inspires creativity with its many artworks and installations found within its premises. Many of these artworks were made by artists who had once resided in it since the arts and music program was established by seasoned performer and musician Alfonso "Coke" Bolipata in 1993. 

Bolipata initiated a pay-it-forward scheme in the early days of Casa San Miguel's inception where he taught apprentices who would later teach students in exchange of board and lodging. 

Currently, Casa San Miguel's music students, about 80%, come from the local community while the remaining 20% of students are from neighboring communities and provinces as far Cebu, Bohol and Davao. Its excellent music program has produced the world-renowned Pundaquit Virtuosi String Ensemble, composed of 28 young Filipinos, who had toured around the world including Europe in 2019.  

Guests who are staying or visiting who want to see masterpieces and feel like a music virtuoso can inquire with Casa San Miguel for opportunities to learn art and music during their stay or visit. 

Let go and play with clay

It has been nine years since Mia Abiva-Casal decided to relocate to San Narciso. The artist-potter looks at home in the quaint Zambales town teaching those who want to learn pottery. 

"Just feel it out. Don't even plan. Don't think of 'Ay baka masira.' No, nothing like that. You're just going with the flow, the rhythm of the clay. Take your time and relax," Casal advised in a voice that would have belonged in a classroom, but in actuality, was uttered in her workshop in Zambales. 

Casal is the woman behind the Instagram account, Clay Avenue, known for making barnacle mugs. These are made from stoneware clay and black sand which are abundant in Zambales.  

Her family is on the creative side, notably publishing and specifically Abiva Publishing, known for publishing educational materials. Thus, said Casal, it was natural that she would still be inclined with the arts.   

"Once pala you're an artist or you're in the creatives, parang, you're looking for something more. So, I explored making pottery. Since then, since the first time I held them, you can count the number of days that I am not touching clay because it's very therapeutic, very calming," Casal said.  

Before the pandemic, she offered a package that includes pottery workshop and accommodation at an ancestral property. She had to stop the workshop when the pandemic struck. Casal is excited to announce that she is bringing it back but in a more meaningful way at the latter part of the year. 

"It's not going to be just learning pottery. It's rediscovering yourself after the pandemic. Something like that," she shared.  


R&R with watersports, good food

Those who want to have their picture-perfect shots can stay and shoot away their selfies at Searenity Suites when they are in the Cabangan area. The boutique resort is surrounded by mountain ranges and provides an easy access to Sapang River and other island-hopping destinations. 

In the nearby LC's Stop and Chow, try its famous Halo-Halo that arguably competes other more popular brands of the well-loved shaved ice dessert. It also offers Filipino fare like Lumpia, Pansit and various other viands. 

Those who are Zambales regulars certainly are familiar with White Rock Beach Hotel and Waterpark in Subic. It is accessible and provides the kind of thrill and adrenaline rush with its waterpark features and amenities. 

For those who love their pizzas, pastas and pastries, Xtremely Xpresso in Subic Bay Freeport offers a selection of these classics that its loyal patrons swear by as being close to Italian as these treats can get. 

RELATED: Lakbay Norte: A visit to Subic Bay




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