It’s no secret. We get pretty darn good sunsets here in the Philippines. If you’ve lived here for quite some time, perhaps all your life, you’d know what I am talking about, right? I’ve had my fair share of travels, and throughout those wanderings there were a few sunsets that stuck to me. Those I will never forget. Those that, when I shut my eyes, I can still see as if I was still there.
It’s funny though because you’d think that we are all just looking at the same sun no matter where you stand in the world, but I have come to realize that sunsets vary just as much as people. Sometimes she’s soft, painting cotton candy colors in the sky, but sometimes she’s burning, setting the sky on marvelous fire. And sometimes she’s grand and majestic, like the proudest thing on earth, yet sometimes we see her only so slightly, peeking from behind a mountain across the sea.
Above all I have learned that sunsets, like many things in life, vary depending on the way you see yourself. Are you sad? Nostalgic? Excited? Angered? Elated? Are you surrounded by the people you love as you look right at it? Because those things matter. To me, at least, they do. That sometimes when I think about the sunsets at these favorite places of mine, I wonder if I’m really remembering the sunset, or it is the moment that clings to me. I’m pretty sure it is both, and though the sun itself is the main attraction, it’s the feeling attached to the memory that adds a dash of magic to it all.
And so here, now, with a bit of love and nostalgia, are my personal top and favorite sunset spots in our archipelago:
I first caught a glimpse of Pangasinan sunset when during one of my assignments writing for a travel magazine, we somehow found ourselves trekking up a very steep hill. I was unprepared and only wearing my trusty yet beaten cherry-colored Vans, absolutely oblivious to the challenge awaiting in climbing that god-awful hill. I almost fainted, no kidding. Clouds of white were blurring my vision. But I survived (hooray), and when I finally reached the peak behind everyone else, there it was. A spectacular view of this side of Pangasinan, with the sunset peeking from behind the clouds and mist like a glorious prize for our hard work. We all fell silent, naturally. Just sitting there, taking in the view, silently reveling in the moment.
4. Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Sundown. In this little floating playground in the middle of the ocean somewhere in Palawan. We were brought here to watch the bats from nearby bat island soar into the sky at sunset. Hundreds. Hundreds and hundreds of fruit bats awaking from slumber, ascending from the clustered trees in the distance. And the wondrous things flying over us in remarkable display. Isn’t nature just the grandest thing in the world?
And, as if a quick answer to my question, I turn around and I see a fisherman on his knees, tinkering with what he tells me is called a bira-bira, a string with green threads and a hook tied to it used to lure fish for catching. The sun was setting right behind him, and suddenly everything was drenched in gold. I took the picture, and now my memories of Palawan will forever be golden, too.
I wrote this here before, and I say it again: “Zambales is like that quiet girl at the back of the class you’ve never really noticed before. She’s overshadowed by the more popular kids at school—the more popular islands in this case—like Boracay and Palawan, but that doesn’t mean she’s any less beautiful. There’s magic there, and you’ll see it, only if you take time to look.”
Zambales will always be special to me, and I knew it from the first morning I spent here. And the sunset here, much like the place, speaks volumes of the kind of spirit you’ll find in this province. Zambales sunsets are just so naturally beautiful. No frills, no bravado. Just a slow, tranquil union of the sun and sea, leaving you speechless and at peace even just for a moment fleeting.
2. El Nido, Palawan
Ahh, El Nido. Here is the fiery temptress I was telling you about. Whether you’re in Las Cabanas or Nacpan, the sunset view from these beaches are both quite spectacular. From Las Cabanas the horizon will give you a view of limestone cliffs hailing from the ocean, and at Nacpan, the sun, raging yellow and bright and big, always sets between the two hills at the tail end of the cove. And if you’re lucky, a fisherman and his boat will be exactly in the view of the sunset, giving you a perfect postcard moment that encapsulates the peaceful yet extremely beguiling life in the islands of Palawan.
1. Ilocos Norte
I remember it perfectly. It was in La Paz San Dunes, and my friends and I were having the time of our lives. The 4×4 ride through the dunes was exhilarating, and we were the ecstatic girls with wind in their hair. Our driver asked us if we wanted to go to the edge of the dunes, and we told him that of course, we would. The sun was already setting, so we were in a hurry. And when we got there, silence. All of us were silent, and the only sound left was the angry clapping and crashing of the waves along the beach. My friend had caught my reaction on video; I was alighting the 4×4 with a dumbfounded look on my face. For in my mind, I was thinking: “Have we died?” For what we were looking at didn’t feel part of the earth anymore. It was simply…otherwordly.
The sun was blazing, the biggest I’ve ever seen it. Like it was so close I could just reach out for it and grab it. I know we had come to the edge of the dunes, but this felt like the edge of the world, too. Whenever I think of that burning sun, the memory still transcends me—the surreal high I experienced that day. And for that, I will always, always have a special place in my heart for Ilocos.
Again, these are personal favorites of mine, so it’s quite arguable whether there are better spots in the Philippines to watch the sunset than these I have mentioned, so please, if you care enough to add, do so. Leave your favorite sunset photos in the comments section, along with a little story of why this sunset has become so memorable to you.
I look forward to seeing your favorites. Keep chasing sunsets. x