jay and i were arguing about constellations. he was insisting it was orion's belt, while i reckoned it to be ursa minor. the stars formed a polygon that oddly resembled a laddle. or a dipper. the little dipper is actually an asterism of ursa minor, or the little bear. i remember telling the same thing to nette while we were on the saddle campsite of mount pulag, and she snapped back at me by saying that she knew nothing about astrology. that much was obvious, since i was actually talking about astronomy. this time around, however, jay and i were assisted by star walk, a GPS-assisted application on the iPad which maps out star formations. you hold it against the sky and it tells you exactly what constellations and other heavenly bodies are sparkling in front of you. i've had the star walk since august of last year, but i've never put it to good use, except to see whether the gibbous moon was either waning or waxing. there aren't that many stars in attendance in the skies hovering over manila, so i braved possible damage to my iPad by bringing it over five hours away from home, an hour of which was spent over tempestuous waters in the south china sea, just so we could gaze at stars. we were absolutely floored, and the night sky over nagsasa cove was permeated by a string of wows and OMGs.
i have been to nagsasa -- or nazasa -- twice already: the first time was with some of the country's most outstanding landscape photographers, and the second with a group of strangers. ever since anawangin's fall from grace, i've been wondering whether there were other places that could be found tucked on the fringes of the nation's rugged coast. in 2009, nagsasa seemed to be that place: it was a deep scoop of beach fenced by mountains. there was a small but thriving community of honest locals immune from the trappings of commercial greed. a river poured from the barren hills that locked the cove from the rest of zambales, collecting into a shallow, placid lake before it flushed into the sea. i knew it was too good to last.
today -- and i already saw hints of this last year -- entrepreneurial ideas have invaded the minds of the residents, and they've marked their territories with barb wire fences. they've laid pipes leading into the stream that gushed from rounded peak to bring running freshwater to the beach. mang ador has even installed a jetmatic pump to provide unfettered supply to the toilets that have been dug up near his spot. he is proud of the little improvements that have been made, investments culled from the user's fee that's being collected: P100 per visitor. of course, one cannot complain about progress. these things make the experience more comfortable for urban dwellers who are unfamiliar with the sensation of pumping for water or making do with the barest of essentials. but then again, if we sought comfort, then we would've stayed in a resort.
the problem is, we look for alternatives to the tired, the usual, the mainstream, and yet we harbor tired, usual, and mainstream expectations. i want complete escape from the trappings of everything that i associate with life in the city: electricity, indoor plumbing, concrete, glass, steel, noise. i want to hear nothing but our own chatter and the chirping of birds. the sound of waves crashing into the beach. the rustle of tree branches in the fervent wind. the gentle patter of pine needles falling on my tent's rainfly. music from glee bleating from my altec lansing... ok, so maybe we still want to be entertained.
nagsasa has not only changed significantly because of these human introductions. there was also a slight, but noticeable evolution in the way it looked: the rocky coast we once photographed has been diluted, overcome by what seemed to be an expanding beach. the sea also appeared to be very calm. perhaps because it was a dry, prickly summer. i heard from peachy's climb group that the rivers and streams beginning at the jump-off in cawag had nearly dried. they arrived at the beach a shade after 5pm, getting there by gaining elevation along the slopes of mounts basilio and redondo, ending up in nagsasa ridge, a dip between pointed peak and rounded peak, approaching wild horse creek and ending up on the beach. the IT wasn't very accurate after all, since mount nagsasa actually rises near the northern peninsula that separates talisain cove.
i remember asking the local aeta guides the names of the peaks that surrounded us when i climbed it last year, but they were indecisive if not unsure. my eureka moment happened when i was sent a topographic map of the area and learned many things, including the name of the place: in a variant spelling, it's actually nazasa. i printed a colored version of the map and gave it to our boatman vic, who eyed it with curiosity, before he rolled it up and tucked it in his backpocket. vic had been our trusty boatman in all my trips to zambales with my photographer friends, both to capones and nagsasa. he had shown a lot of initiative the week before we arrived at pundaquit, getting us into contact with mang ador, calling me up regularly to ensure our arrival. he gamely informed me that he had a new boat made, a twin-engine monster with a capacity of 30. the whole barangay apparently knew about it as well.
despite my issues about nagsasa going the way of anawangin (it was very crowded: the area adjacent ours had a complete catalogue of bobcat dome tents), it still was a gorgeous weekend filled with great food, fantastic company, and even a reconciliation, courtesy of silent lucidity. there were new people dragged into the activity, who all seemed to enjoy the experience: mountain, beach, and sea. i helped in organizing logistics so that we would be spared the inconvenience of public transport. this is hopefully the beginning of a year filled with new acquaintances and even bigger realizations.