Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan is arguably one of the country’s most historic bodies of water, dating back to the legendary Princesa Urduja, the pre-Spanish amazon who ruled over the vast Pangasinan kingdom.
Then came the fabled Chinese pirate Lim Ah Hong, then the Japanese Imperial Army commander Gen. Masaharu Homma who landed his invasion troops during World War 2, and then Gen. Douglas MacArthur with the Allied Forces to liberate Luzon.
But you need not be a history buff to enjoy its allure, with its sun-kissed shores and interesting stuff in between which will entice you to stay and spend a little more time in the area.
Here are five reasons why you should linger longer around the gorgeous Lingayen Gulf.
Stroll around the Provincial Capitol Complex
This American-era edifice is reputedly the most postcard-perfect in the country, restored to its former glory. The centerpiece of the sprawling government center is the main capitol building of Graeco-Roman architecture which is remarkably well kept.
The landmark was the ground zero of MacArthur’s second major Allied troop landing, and is immortalized in the Veterans Park which displays vintage photos and war materiel.
Nearby is the equally majestic Sison Auditorium, the cultural and civic center of northern Luzon restored in 2010 with a capacity of 1,000 visitors. Also within the complex is the stately Urduja House, the governor’s ceremonial residence.
At the Capitol Resort Hotel, you can perfect your golf swing at the Driving Range, the only one of its kind among provincial capitol compounds.
Do a tricycle tour of Lingayen town
Equally historic is the quaint town which this body of water was named after. One of the earliest organized pueblos under Spanish rule, Lingayen has a couple of ancestral houses which have withstood the war and the ravages of time.
Heritage structures worth seeing are the Church of the Epiphany with its massive century-old bells on display at the patio and the birthplace of President Fidel Ramos, which houses his personal memorabilia.
The town’s public market is a good shopping ground for Pangasinense food such as Bolinao’s binungey (sticky rice in a bamboo), Dagupan’s boneless bangus, Calasiao’s puto, Bayambang’s malangsi (fresh water fish), Mangatarem’s tupig (grilled rice cake in coconut milk), patupat (sweet sticky rice in banana leaves), Lingayen’s very own bagoong (fish paste), as well as other local delicacies from all over the province.
The points of interest are near each other and a tricycle tour would enable you to navigate some of the narrow side streets.
Hop around the Hundred Islands National Park
One of the country’s earliest iconic tourist spots, Hundred Islands is a cluster of 123 uninhabited islets, most of which have pockets of white sand beaches, crystal-clear water, cave pools, limestone cliffs, and coral gardens ideal for snorkeling.
The Park recently underwent a redevelopment to offer more facilities such as a zipline, pontoon bridge, view decks, picnic areas, and lodging rooms for those who want to get a back-to-basics island getaway.
Aquasports enthusiasts can paddle a kayak around the major islands for a close-to-nature interlude.
The gateway to the HINP is Lucap Wharf in Alaminos City, where visitors can choose various island-hopping tour packages.
A new tourist activity is the visit to the City’s vast mangrove forest and the Mangrove Propagation and Information Center, which emphasizes the importance of maintaining the balance of the coastal and marine ecosystems in the Gulf.
Go on a staycation at El Puerto Marina
A resort hotel and spa by the Gulf’s sleepy shores, El Puerto Marina is one of the recommended accommodations for family, barkadas or corporate events. This quaint getaway has tropical-themed rooms which combines homey ambiance and modern amenities. It also has newly-renovated family-oriented suites affiliated with the prestigious international hotel consortium, Resorts Club Inc.
The bungalow huts are a sought-after accommodations because of their front seat to a man-made lagoon where guests can fish.
Beside the resort is Aquatica Marina, a beachside water park with five swimming pools — a giant slide pool, a wave and giant bucket pool, the raging river, a smaller slide pool and a kids’ playground pool.
Its Playa Restaurant offers a gastronomic journey with mouthwatering Pangasinense cuisine, such as the famed luscious bangus, longganisa (pork sausage) of Alaminos, pingka (swordfish), as well as all-time Pinoy favorites.
The powdery gray beachfront is ideal for bonfires, sand-castle building, luau-themed dinners, team bonding activities, beach sports, watching the sunset, or simply killing time.
Wake up before dawn and witness the fisherfolk with their bountiful catch and buy their fresh harvest at rock-bottom rates.
Since there are no tour operators in Lingayen, the resort can arrange tours around the town, Hundred Islands, and transportation to various parts of Luzon.
Indulge in aqua and beach sports
With a shoreline over a hundred kilometers long, the Gulf is a haven for watersports such as surfing, kayaking, skimboarding, and banana boating which El Puerto Marina can provide.
Aside from watersports, biking along the bayside boulevard is starting to become a popular activity amongst locals and tourists, especially at daybreak.
The resort can also arrange cruises along the Agno River, one of the most voluminous river systems in the Philippines whose headwaters emanate from the Cordillera mountain ranges.
If you’re still itching for more patches of white sand, hie off to Patar in Bolinao or Tondol in Anda in the western edges of the Gulf. The latter is among the less-developed beaches in Pangasinan, but has the finest sands. And at low tide you can wade to the nearby Tanduyong Island.
Bonus: Take Part in the Pistay Dayat
The best time to visit Lingayen Gulf is during the Pistay Dayat, an annual month-long summertime festival which culminates in the first of May. The highlight of the celebration is the Banca Parada fluvial parade at the Agno River featuring gaily decorated boats showcasing municipalities, government offices and establishments in Pangasinan.
The river parade showcases Agno as one of country’s cleanest river systems after undergoing rehabilitation under the provincial government. The festival also addresses the need to protect the marine, coastal, river and mountain ecosystems for the next generation.
The month-long celebration also includes different events such as sandcastle-building, beach volleyball, a tourism and trade expo, various sporting events, and the Limgas na Pangasinan beauty pageant which selects the ambassadresses of tourism and goodwill of the province.
Lingayen can be easily reached by aircon bus lines (Victory Liner and Five Star) which leave Manila at regular intervals. Within Pangasinan, buses, vans and jeeps ply the Gulf towns on a regular basis.