Every true-blue jazz fan knows English clarinetist Acker Bilk’s instrumental hit “Stranger on the Shore,” which smashed both British and American music charts in 1962. Balladeers Patti Page and Andy Williams would later do the version with lyrics which further added to its success. With the easing of the quarantine status, we’re all just like that—strangers—when we drive back to the beach destinations we missed last summer.

With the allowing of non-contact activities, it’s time to catch up on beach getaways with the family. The health benefits of sunlight can’t be overemphasized, and basking in the sea is now essential to health after being in prolonged indoor lockdown.

Just about two hours north of the metropolis is Zambales, which boasts of a 177-km seaboard of fine sand beaches of varying shades, coupled with the mesmerizing sunset at the West Philippine Sea. Sandwiched by the ocean and undulating mountains, driving across the province is a delight with its paved highway and roadside spots where you can pull over for a snapshot, a cold drink, or to buy the sweet kinalabaw or dinamulag mango variety.

Olongapo City and Subic town, located just outside the famed Freeport, are the nearest stretches of beaches where you can frolic. Whiterock Beach Hotel and Waterpark, a pioneer establishment, offers aqua-based recreation, good food, and a captivating vista where the mountains meet the sea.

The mountains meet the sea in Zambales

The secluded coves of Sampaloc, Silangin and Nagsasa can also be reached from Subic by an outrigger boat.

San Antonio town is popular for hopping around Camara and Capones islands, and Anawangin Cove, a pine tree-lined campsite. Afterwards, chill out at Casa San Miguel, the music and art enclave of violinist Coke Bolipata tucked in the mango orchards.

Ride the waves in San Narciso and San Felipe, whose surfing sites and communities are friendly to newbies, and laze at Zambawood, a boutique seaside garden lodging.

Isla Jardin Del Mar in Glan town

Further up north are Masinloc’s Taklobo Farm and Marine Conservation Park, Bakala sandbar, Palauig’s Magalawa Island, and the sister islands of Hermana Mayor and Hermana Menor in Sta. Cruz—all of which are too gorgeous to pass up.

A personal favorite is Candelaria which has an exciting combination of different water bodies—Uacon Cove, the powdery Potipot Island, a river, and Uacon Lake which we navigate onboard a kayak. 

Meanwhile, down south in Mindanao, sun worshippers can motor to the Gumasa Beach in Glan town from the cities of General Santos or Davao.

Gumasa Beach in Sarangani

This coastal village is the heart of Sarangani Bay and hosts the SarBay Festival, the country’s largest beach party filled with watersports, wellness, entertainment, and family-oriented recreation, and environmental activities. The sought-after summer event, which draws some 150,000 warm bodies, got cancelled this year and is slowly beckoning visitors from the neighboring provinces to visit again.

Likened to a local version of Boracay in its raw form, the bay is a government-declared Protected Seascape and a Key Marine Biodiversity Area.

With just a handful COVID-19 cases, strict health protocols, and the abundance of sunlight, beaching around is indeed a healthy option.

The scenic bay, one of the country’s biggest, embraces several coves which rival each other in terms of sand and water quality. A comely cove is situated inside Hacienda Don Juan, an ancestral home which has been repurposed into a museum-like resort adorned by antique furnishings and displays, with a restaurant and private beachfront.

Hacienda Don Juan

This heritage town has also been luring visitors with its Great Glan Gourmet Getaway (4G), a gustatory trip around quaint restaurants offering specialties such as tuna and seafood from Sarangani Bay, buko halo-halo, and Maguindanaon delights.

Swing by the spic-and-span municipal plaza which memorializes the colonos Visayan migrants who populated the town in 1914, and the Tour Town landmark which has a calming view of the tranquil bay.

Glan Tour Town Marker viewdeck

For a dash of culture, take a 20-minute detour to the Gamaba Cultural Center in upland Malapatan, the weaving room of National Living Treasures Awardee Bai Estelita Bantilan, where the exquisite igem mat is woven by Blaan tribal women.

With our refreshing reunion with the archipelago’s bountiful waters, we hope that quarantines will not make us strangers on the shore again.

This article was first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Motoring section.