This post was most recently updated on January 4th, 2018
The long walk and tiring climb really pay off when you see the view from the top, at least on my experience. This was the case of my recent trip to Dingalan, Aurora.
As much as I really want to try something different and special on my 24th birthday, I planned a trip that isn’t very far from Manila but would still allow me to escape the city stress even just for a day. Well, I am really a fond of just standing from the peak and overlooking the mountain ranges and a bonus view of the seas and oceans. This place was a perfect fit for this fascination, as I experienced a glimpse of what Batanes feels like, not a total disappointment.
After riding a bus very late on a Friday evening, and continuing the quick three-hour travel, we were about two hours ahead of our expected time of arrival, the start of our first day was spent sleeping and waiting before the van leaves in Cabanatuan terminal. Our “breakfast” (or was it even valid to call it one?) was just about a buy-1-take-1 burger from the burger joint in the area. It was around 4 am when the van was finally filled with passengers and was ready to depart.
Dingalan, Aurora Highlight
Reaching the top and looking over to see the cliffs and the hills that seem to roll forever was such a thrilling experience. One of the most beautiful, natural things I’ve ever seen; the place is truly a “paradise of the east”. When we talk about Aurora, the first thing that comes to our mind is the popular surfing spot, Baler. It’s also the first time I’ve heard about Dingalan, thanks to my social media friends who posted pictures of this. With so many places to visit within the vicinity, tiresome may be the reason of struggle at points but afterwards you will be rewarded with a very great view.
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Most people see millennials as spendthrift. Though this may be true to some, this does not apply to the generation as a whole. This story is about a boy who just turned 24 and celebrated his birthday in the simplest way in the mountains of Dingalan in Aurora. As time passed by, he made some realizations in life that travel alone, like in this beautiful scene, is nothing if it’s not shared to others. As a birthday present for himself and to other people, he made sure that he will give back to the community that he visits. It is more fun when the memories are communal and shared to the local Filipino people. #ExploreXWTN
How to Get to Dingalan
The fastest way to reach the place, if not by a private car, is by bus. From Manila, ride a Five Star bus bound to Cabanatuan via SCTEX (You may place an online reservation here). With only three-hour travel time. Buses only stop at one point and for some instances none at all. For trip schedules, they have schedule 24/7 trips to Cabanatuan that leaves every hour. Once arrived in Cabanatuan terminal, ride a van that will take you to Dingalan proper. Total travel time from Manila is approximately 4-6 hours depending on the waiting time. For 20 pesos each, a trike is needed to get you to the feeder port where you have two options on how you’d like to get to the lighthouse and viewdeck; First is by trek for 45 minutes and your second option is to hire a boat for 10 minutes for 500 pesos roundtrip.
Sample Itinerary to Dingalan, Aurora
11pm – Meetup in Five Star Cubao terminal
11:30pm – ETD to Cabanatuan
2:30am – ETA Cabanatuan terminal
Go directly to van terminal bound to Dingalan. We waited for the van to get full. At 4am it departed from Cabanatuan.
4am – ETD to Dingalan
5:30 am – ETA Dingalan. Van will drop you off the plaza. Ride a trike going to feeder port.
6am- Start of trek to White Beach
7am – ETA in White beach. Start hike for 30-45 mins to Lighthouse.
7:45 – ETA in Lighthouse. Picture taking and rest.
8:15 Start descend back to White beach.
8:30 Start hike going to viewdeck.
9:15 ETA in viewdeck. Picture taking.
9:45 Start descend back to White beach
10:00 Brunch and swimming.
11:30 Trek back to feeder port.
12:15 ETA feeder port. Ride a tricycle going to Tanawan falls.
12:30 ETA in Tanawan falls jump off point. Start trek going to falls.
1:00 ETA in Tanawan falls. Swimming and take pictures.
2:00 Take shower and pack up. Ask the trike driver/tour guide to drop you to plaza where vans going to Cabanatuan are waiting for passengers.
Note: bus going to Cabanatuan is only until 2:30 pm while vans last trip is only until 3 pm.
3:30pm ETD to Cabanatuan
5:00pm ETA Cabanatuan terminal. Ride a bus going to Manila
5:30pm ETD to Manila
8:00pm ETA Manila
White Beach, Lighthouse and Viewdeck
We left Cabanatuan terminal around 4 am, and relying only to the buy-1-take-1 burger that we had for breakfast, it took us about an hour to reach the ‘plaza’ then rode a tricycle going to feeder point, where the registration and tourism desk is. It is where you can also hire a tour guide that will help you through-out your Dingalan tour. From feeder point, you have the options to trek or hire instead a boat going to the White Beach.
The jump off point to the lighthouse is in the White Beach area, which was another half an hour of climb. So all said and done, it was 7:45 am before we reached the lighthouse. We stopped for 30 minutes for photos because it’s not every day you can see a masterpiece, after all—and then headed back down again to the White beach.
On the other side, we wanted to check the viewdeck. It was a different trail and took us the same time hiking up, although, the scenery just kept getting better. Once at the top, you could stand on the cliff giving you a fascinating view of the blue ocean and the green hills of Dingalan. I wish we’d had more time to linger, as I would have loved to soak up the scenery for as long as possible. It felt like a big painting right in front of me and this was my most favorite place here.
This may not be as grand as compared with other falls, Tanawan Falls should still be included in your Dingalan itinerary. After a very tiring trek and hike, a dip into the waters of Tanawan Falls makes it a perfect combination. Besides the cold water, the other great thing about Tanawan Falls is that it’s super accessible from the main road; about 20 minutes of trek. Make sure also to head to Tanawan viewdeck which gives you a panoramic view of Sierra Madre and Dingalan town. After taking a couple of photos and swimming, we proceeded to call it a day as we wrapped up, showered, to make it to the last trip of vans going back to Cabanatuan.
Dingalan Budget and Expenses
I was really surprised knowing that for a thousand peso, you could already experience a Batanes-like getaway. I suggest that you also bring packed food since it’s hard to find a place to eat there. But if not possible, you may ask the resort in the White Beach to cook for you for a very reasonable price. Below is the list of our expenses. Hope it could be of help to your trip!