When you mention the Philippines, places such as Manila, Boracay, Tagaytay, and Cebu are usually what comes to mind to those who are not familiar with the country. While these places do offer fun and interesting activities and sights, there are still so much more you can see and so many more places to explore. Morong, Bataan is somewhat of a hidden gem, popular with the locals but unheard of for foreigners - unless someone recommends it. It is a hub for history, culture, and nature - an important place in the history of the Philippines, and it is known for its beaches and pawikan (sea turtle) sanctuaries. Here are some of the best things you can do to start you off on your visit to Morong, Bataan.
1. Visit the sea turtles
Bataan is famous for its efforts in pawikan (sea turtle) conservation, especially in the towns of Bagac and Morong, which serve as the nesting grounds for three out of the five sea turtle species found in the Philippines. The local government of Bataan encourages people to join in their efforts of protecting the sea turtles, which is why they established the Pawikan Conservation Center. Inside the center, you can see the turtles currently under their care, eggs that they’re protecting, and the hatchlings they’ll be helping go into the sea. If by chance you drop by on the day they release the baby turtles, you can buy one and release them into the sea. The money they get from the visitors contributes to the continuous effort in protecting the turtles.
If you are able to go to Morong, Bataan in November, then you should not miss the annual Pawikan Festival, held by the conservation center. The festival’s main objective is to educate visitors and the locals and to raise awareness about the sea turtles. It is a week-long celebration filled with activities such as a graffiti contest, dancing competition, and a walk for the cause. However, the highlight of this festival is the releasing of newly-hatched baby turtles into the sea, which happens usually in the morning.
Pawikan Conservation Center
Address: Brgy. Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan
Contact: +63-917-6716995/ +63-47-2374785
Website: Pawikan Conservation Center
2. Try out some Vietnamese-inspired dishes
Loleng’s Hu Tieu-an is a recommended food stop when you’re in Bataan. It is a simple eatery that serves local food such as palabok, and lumpiang shanghai. However, it is much more known for the Vietnamese dishes it offers, such as Bahn Mi and Hu Tieu Special. The owner, Loleng, learned Vietnamese cuisine while working as a cook in a refugee camp that housed Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian refugees during the Vietnam War. While he doesn’t use ingredients from Vietnam, the dishes are close to authentic cuisine. It also helps that the food is good and inexpensive - a dollar for a bowl of Vietnamese noodles!
Loleng's Hu Tieu-an
Address: Mayor’s Street, Brgy. Binaritan, Morong, Bataan
Opening Hours: 7am - 9pm
Facebook: Loleng’s Hu Tieu-an
3. Honor the heroes of World War II
World War II is an important piece of history for the whole world. The Philippines was one of the countries affected during the war, especially Bataan, where the Bataan Death March happened. The Dambana of Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) or Mount Samat National Shrine was built in honor of the fallen heroes of the Second World War. It is a 73,665-hectare (182,030-acre) park located on the summit of Mt. Samat, in Pilar, Bataan and it is the site where the battle against the Japanese happened, during the war. The two features of this park are the Colonnade and the Memorial Cross. The Colonnade is a marble structure that contains a museum and an altar, with an esplanade surrounding it. Meanwhile, the Memorial Cross is a 92-meter (302-foot) structure made of marble, steel, and reinforced concrete. There is a viewing gallery inside, in the arms of the cross, that gives you a spectacular view of Bataan’s landscape.
Dambana ng Kagitingan
Address: Barangay Diwa, Pilar, Bataan
Price: 20 PHP (0.40 USD) / person Viewing Gallery: 10 PHP (0.20 USD) / person
Opening Hours: 8am - 5pm.
Contact: +63-47-2374785 / +63-47-2374476 (Provincial Tourism Office)
4. Take on the Pinagbutasan Trail and see the falls
Ang Pasukulan Falls sa bayan ng Abucay na matatagpuan sa pusod ng nahihimlay na Bulkang Natib. 📷cttoPosted by Bataan Weather Page on Tuesday, 8 November 2016
If you’re feeling like going on a hike while in Bataan, Pinagbutasan Trail is perfect for you! The trail is located in Bataan Natural Park on Mt. Natib. While the thought of hiking is exhausting, the things you will see as you go along the trail, is rewarding. The trail, surrounded by thick vegetation, can lead to either the summit of Mt. Natib, or to the Pasukulan Falls. The Pasukulan Falls, in all its 61-meter (200-foot) glory, is actually a hidden gem deep inside the mountains. The hike is composed of steep ascents and descents, but as soon as you hear the rush of the waterfall and it slowly comes into view, you know it is worth the work.
Address: Orani, Bataan
Price: 70 PHP (1.40 USD) / person and 800 PHP (16 USD) for a guide
Contact: For guides: Darwin (DENR Office): +63-998-8623106
5. Go bird-watching
There is a time in the year where migratory birds come to Morong, Bataan. If you want to see flocks of birds gathering in one place, then you should definitely visit the Balanga Wetland and Nature Park, or Tortugas Bay Park. The park, considered an outdoor museum, is a sanctuary for the birds who come during their migration season. The protected area helps to prevent these birds from getting killed, especially by hunters. For people who have a love for birds, this will be an enjoyable activity. It is recommended for visitors to go during dawn or before sunset since that is when most of the birds come to the park.
Tortugas Bay Park/Balanga Wetland and Nature Park
Access: 20-minute tricycle ride from the tricycle terminal in Brgy. Tortugas
6. Visit Oyster Island
Oyster Island, commonly known as Playa La Caleta, is a privately-owned beach on a remote island in Morong, Bataan. For a person who is looking to completely cut off the city noise, to take a breather and just relax, then Oyster Island is the place. The island, with its natural rock formations, clear waters, and picturesque beach, is almost solitary and there’s no other way to enjoy the island but to soak up the sun and just enjoy what the island has to offer.
Playa La Caleta
Address: Morong, Bataan
Access: Boats going to Playa La Caleta are at a port near Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar
Website: Playa La Caleta
An adventure like no other
Morong, Bataan, in the Philippines, definitely has some remarkable destinations to offer its visitors. The town of Morong serves as a quick getaway from the city - near enough to take a one or two day trip, but far enough that you can actually get away from all the city noise. Going to Morong is an enriching and enlightening experience to anyone who decides to stop by for a visit - from learning a bit about the Philippines’ history to understanding how nature and humans interact and what their roles are on this planet we call Earth. It will definitely be a unique experience for any visitor.
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