Bani, Pangasinan and its Unsung Wonders

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

bani pangasinan

This is the second installment of the Spread The Impact series  a collection of travel narratives and guides to less-traveled places in the Philippines, with the aim to spread human impact to the environment as well as uplift the lives of communities through tourism.
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When people hear of Pangasinan, the first thing that likely comes to mind is the Hundred Islands. And for good reasons, Alaminos and Bolinao remain as Pangasinan’s flagship tourist destinations. Yet huddled between these two popular spots is a municipality that deserves equal, if not more, clamor.

About a six-hour bus ride from Cubao will take you to the second class municipality of Bani. Named after the Bani tree, which can be seen in its town proper, Bani is located amidst Tambac Bay and the West Philippine Sea. It is 30 minutes away from Alaminos City, and people going to Bolinao passes through here.

Bani used to be part of Zambales. Together with eight other towns, it was transferred to Pangasinan in May 1903. It has 27 baranggays with over 45,000 residents. The town is known as the Pakwan Capital of the Philippines, boasting of exceptionally sweet and juicy watermelons.

Fully recovered from the severe damage caused by typhoon Emong in 2009, Bani is now ready to make music, sing about its own share of wonders, and have people join in for a one-of-a-kind experience.

THINGS TO DO

See and Experience Bani’s Leading Industries
Just like most of Pangasinan, one of Bani’s leading industries is salt-making. Its community-ran salt farm in Abunsiang, a sitio on the banks of Tambac Bay, can produce up to a million kilos of salt in one season.
pangasinan salt farm
The community-ran salt farm in Abunsiang during the start of the farming season
abunsiang bani pangasinan
A worker cleans a saltern in preparation of the start of farming season
salt farm philippines
mountains of salt
During the 70s, Bani was known as Pangasinan’s Golden West and is also a Hall of Famer in the Search for the Cleanest Coastal Municipality. It is, therefore, no surprise that its waters are rich and perfect for aquaculture, with hauls often comprising of not only tropical fishes but also sought-after crustaceans such as lobsters.  Bani’s traditional fishing village in Olanen is one of the remaining few in the Philippines.
Having a taste of Bani's juicy pakwan at the demo farm
Bani’s locals also thrive on farming. The town’s annual Pakwan Festival, held every January, celebrates the abundance of products Bani’s limestone-rich soil brings forth. Farms, like the LGU-ran demo farm in Tipor, cultivate a number of watermelon varieties.
A square watermelon in the making
During the Pakwan Festival, visitors are treated to a pick-and-pay system in the same farm in Tipor. Square watermelons, the first and only of its kind in the Philippines, are also on display and up for sale.

Go Up a Thousand Steps and Stargaze By the Beach
Settled on a plateau in Surip is a massive white cross. The structure was built in honor of the matriarch of Bani’s Navarro family and is also the site of the annual Penitential Pilgrimage since 1975. The path to there is composed of a thousand steps, leading to the elevation that overlooks the West Philippine Sea.
bani pangasinan
The white cross was built in honor of the Navarro's matriacrch
surip bani
The pilgrimage site also has a great view of the West Philippine Sea
Dacap Sur also has a number of beaches – Olanen, Tobong, Licupen, and Surip – lined and dotted by astonishing rock formations. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and recreational fishing can also be done in Surip Beach as well as camping.
beaches in pangasinan
Rock formations surround Surip beach
surip beach
Surip Beach in early light

Explore the Underground, Bathe under a Waterfall, and Take a Cruise Down rows of Mangroves
Bani has several cave systems but the most extraordinary is the largely unexplored Angel Cave (unofficial name) in Centro Toma – a class 1 cave with a number of natural pools and fragile calcite formations. Angel Cave, at present, is not yet open to the public. But there are other several cave systems one can explore: Surip Cave, Nalsoc Cave, Abot Aso Cave, Nangadiyan Cave, and Dumaloy Cave.
angel cave
A subterranean waterfall flows deeper into Angel Cave 
angel cave bani
Angel Cave possesses several natural pools
One can also go chase Baliwangga Falls in Baranggay Ranao.

But, perhaps, the activity that one shouldn’t miss is a visit to the Bangrin Marine Protected Area (Bangrin MPA).
bangrin mangrove
The clump of green is the Bangrin MPA
bangrin birdwatching
An explosion of birds will great you as you enter the MPA
The sunset in these parts is magical. Throw in rows and rows of mangroves and an explosion of bird, and the experience is not so different from scenes you watch on National Geographic documentaries. The mangroves of Bangrin are also home to 122 species of both endemic and migratory birds, according to the most recent assessment of the local agricultural office.
bangrin pangasinan
Cruising through the mangroves as the sun sets in Bangrin

FOOD TO EAT AND SOUVENIRS TO TAKE HOME

One word: Pakwan!

Indulge on the best watermelons the Philippines has to offer. With a wide selection, visitors can purchase pakwan for a cheaper price – the most expensive varieties priced at Php50/kilo.
bani pangasinan
Several pakwan sellers line the roadsides of Bani
Fresh seafood is also plenty in the local market. 

HOW TO GET THERE

Take a 5 Star Bus bound for Bolinao either in Cubao or Pasay. Alight at the town proper of Bani and proceed at the tourism center. Travel time is approximately six hours. There are buses leaving for Bolinao as early as 12AM. For the complete schedule, check out 5 Star’s website.

Commuter jeepneys do not ply the road to most of the destinations mentioned. So renting a tricycle is advised.

SAMPLE ITINERARY

2 Days; 2 Night*
Day 1
05:00 to 11:00 – Cubao to Bani 
11:00 to 12:00 – Tourism Center + Lunch at the Market
12:00 to 14:30 – Licupen Beach
14:30 to 15:00 – Olanen Cove
15:00 to 17:00 – Olanen Fishing Village
17:00 to 17:30 – To Surip
17:30 onwards – Check in at Hide Away Resort + Dinner

Day 2
05:00 – Wake-up Call 
05:00 to 08:30 – Sunrise-watching + Breakfast + Prepare + Check out
08:30 to 09:30 – Proceed to Tipor
09:30 to 10:30 – Pakwan Demo Farm
10:30 to 11:30 – Back to Poblacion
11:30 to 13:30 – Lunch + wait for advice re water level at Bangrin
14:30 to 15:00 – Proceed to Bangrin Fish Port
15:00 to 15:45 – to Abunciang Salt Farm
15:45 to 16:30 – Explore Abunciang
16:30 to 17:30 – Cruise down Bangrin MPA
17:30 to 18:30 – Back to Poblacion
19:30 to 19:30 – Dinner 
19:30 to 02:00 – (next day) ETA at Cubao

*The second night accounts for the travel time

EXPENSES AND BUDGET

Air-conditioned Bus Fare (Cubao vv Bani) Php417 x 2 = 834
Air-conditioned Bus Fare (Pasay vv Bani) Php427 x 2 = 854
Ordinary Bus Fare (Cubao vv Bani) Php319 x 2 = 638
Ordinary Bus Fare (Pasay vv Bani) Php326 x 2 = 652

Tour Guide Fee (Bangrin MPA) – Php200
Motorboat Rent (Bangrin MPA) – Php1000, good for 5 people
Entrance to Bangrin MPA – Php40/head

Other rates upon request from the Municipal Tourism Office / Mayor’s Office

CONTACT DETAILS

Mr. Romel N. Dulay
Office of the Mayor
+63 928 244 5119 / +63 998 556 6942 or find him on Facebook. Link here.

Or email at banipangasinan@yahoo.com.ph

Hotels, Resorts, and Lodges
Hide Away Sea and Beach Resort

Oldwoods by the Sea Eco Resort 

Surip Beach Mountain Beach Resort

Cacho Beach Resort

Kindly contact Mr. Romel Dulay for further details about the tours and accommodations

Enjoy traveling to off-the-beaten paths? Check out the quintessentially laid-back town of Alabat, Quezon, and the rest of the Spread The Impact series.

What other less-known places should Celineism feature next?

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