The tower which was constructed with the help of the Japanese government is located on a little triangle of land in the middle where a local road and busy national road meet. It is to symbolize the reconciliation between the two countries and the wish for continued peace and friendship. In the middle of the three pillars of the tower is hung a bronze (I think!) bell.
When you go to Montemar Beach Resort, explore the left side of the cove. That's where "old" Montemar was. Now, the place is no longer used; the banks of the resort area have eroded, the structures/huts are already dilapidated. Yet, if you go there very early in the morning, you can see a glimpse of the sunrise behind the palm trees in the compound. We learned about it late for the sunrise, but we went there anyway for our morning brisk walking exercise and some photography.
The sands are much finer and cream- colored. Small shells and broken (but not sharp) corals are left by the tide in a nice lay-out on the beach. The sea water is so clear and clean; the sea breeze is refreshingly cool and crisp. The view is so beautiful!
There were overcast skies when we reached Bagac, so we didn't expect to witness a beautiful sunset. However, we didn't lose hope. We put some chairs on the beach facing the horizon, and patiently waited for the "magic hour' when an awesome display of colors would hopefully present itself. Dark clouds loomed, but we stayed on. Then, just when we were about to give up, the skies changed colors. Maybe not as fantastic as what we've longed for, nevertheless, the experience elated us.
When we went to Montemar, I noticed that there were floral decorations at Talisay terrace. I asked the waiter if there was an occasion, and he said there was a wedding reception the previous day.
Just in case you're interested about beach wedding at Montemar, look up their pictures and rates.
I learned from friends (who knew our fascination for old churches) that since Bagac town was established in 1873 by Spanish friars, one of the oldest churches in the Philippines may be found there. I was curious to see the miraculous "Ina Poon", as I'm confused if the locals were referring to St. Catherine of Alexandria, the patron saint of the church or the Virgin Mary.
When I finally saw St.Catherine of Alexandria Church in Bagac, I was saddened. Supposedly being one of the oldest churches, it doesn't look like a notable heritage site anymore. From the outside, it looks like a regular church. My friend who had the opportunity to go there in the past mentioned that the only remaining colonial features of the church could be gleaned at the left side walls, though adobe-walls and coral blocks were still visible at the time they went there. This is in contrast with what a front desk staff of Montemar (who is a resident of Bagac) said, that the church underwent a lot of renovations, hardly leaving any signs of the old church's architectural details.
Notwithstanding the present look of the church, I wanted to see and pray before the miraculous icon of "Ina Poon", said to be enshrined there. It's a pity I didn't have the chance, as the church was closed when we dropped by.
Not to be confused with the Morong Pawikan Conservation Center which has been around much ahead, the Bagac Pawikan Conservation Center is an initiative of Montemar Beach Resort in collaboration with The Department of Environment & Natural Resources and other agencies. Having read that Montemar is actively in the forefront of the Pawikan Conservation Project & Grand Pawikan Fest, I immediately looked for their Conservation Center. There was no staff nor community volunteer on site, so I explored the area by myself. I was disappointed to see that the site is not well maintained; in fact, I almost didn't see the two turtles in their shallow, murky pond.
When I mentioned the matter to the Front Desk Staff, I was told that the sea turtles come to nest only during the cold months so they didn't have much turtles in the pond. However, I pointed out that my concern wasn't the quantity of turtles but the quality of environment they were providing the caught turtles. They might be better off brought back to the sea than be held "captive" in a dirty pond which they share with toads. Yes, I saw two warty toads in the pond.
There are boats docked at the beach that are acccredited by the Beach Resort. At Montemar, you can rent a boat for P550/hour. The boat can bring you to a snorkeling site, or you may opt for cave exploration at the Bat Cave and swimming at the White beach (reportedly owned by a former General who became an Ambassador). The outrigger boat accredited by Montemar has comfortable plastic-resin chairs and life vests for the tourists. The tour takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on your desired activity and destination(s).
Bagac Bell Tower a.k.a. Filipino-Japanese Friendship Tower is a 27-meter high tower conspicously seen on the national road. The tower was erected as a gesture of friendship, and conceived to symbolize the peace and reconciliation between Japan and the Philippines after the bitter encounter during World War II. The beautiful tower has three pillars connected to each other by rings, and a bell hangs on the first layer of rings. When I looked at the bell it seemed to "resonate" the plea/need to "heal the wounds".
Rissho Kosei Kai, a Japanese Buddhist organization, undertook the construction of the tower. The tower was inaugurated on April 8, 1975.
The Zero Kilometer Death March Marker in Bagac is a reminder of that fateful day of April 11, 1942 when the POW Filipino and American soldiers of the United States Armed Forces of The Far East were forcibly gathered by the Japanese Army to start the march to Camp O' Donnel in Capas, Tarlac.
My father was among the prisoners of war who survived the Death March, so seeing the Zero Kilometer Death March Marker made my heart beat faster as I imagined his hardships.
After your day's activities, have a relaxing traditonal and/or Swedish massage in your room. Just give advance notice (1-2 hours) to the Front Desk Staff and they will make the arrangements. My daughter who frequents various spas in Metro Manila said so far, she had the best massage in Montemar. Her masseuse was Nida who used a combination of traditional and Swedish massage. My daughter swears she had a very relaxed feeling and restful sleep because her tension nodes on the shoulders and back were gone after the massage. She liked Nida's massage very much, she had a repeat session with her before we left Montemar.
You can also have the massage in one of the cabanas in the beach.
Massage fee is P300/hour.
Montemar's Blue Pool is aptly named, it being tiled blue so that the water seems to have a dark blue color. The deepest part is only 5.5 feet. The kiddie pool is adjacent to the big pool. On one side of the pool is a hut-type gazebo with underwater stools. Loungers and chairs surround the pool. Showers and faucets are near the pool steps. A lifeguard patiently keeps a eye on the guests.
I like Montemar's Blue Pool because it doesn't have very strong chlorinated water that irritates the skin and eyes. At first, I was hesitant to take a dip at the pool because of my hypersensitive skin; my dermatologist ordered me to avoid chlorinated and/or sulphuric pools. My daughter and grandson first tried the pool. Then, my daughter assured me that it doesn't have the reeking smell of chlorine, so I followed them. I was pleasantly surprised to feel the lukewarm water. It was so relaxing to the body. The lush greens and tall trees around the pool add a refreshing sensation at the pool area.
A few hours after my dip in the pool, I still didn't have rashes on my skin;-)
Nestled between the hills of Bagac and the pristine waters of South China Sea, Montemar Beach Resort lies on a sprawling 12-hectare cove. Its website says it "boasts of a clean stretch of 500-meter white sand beach and has unpolluted and calm waters that are free from underwater rocks and corals making it ideal for swimming and other aqua activities." Well, I say YES and NO... YES, it can boast of its fine sand, unpolluted and calm waters, no sharp underwater rocks and corals, and lots of fun aqua activities to do... But NO, it doesn't have white sand. The sand is creamy-gray; more gray on the right side of the beach, more creamy colored at the left side of the beach, and combination or creamy-gray on the middle part... But white sand or not, the fact remains that the fine sand, clean beach and pristine waters are plus factors to the resort.
The sea was calm when we went there. I've gone far for a dip, but the waters were still shallow. The sand was so fine; the children had fun rolling their bodies down to the sea. I love Montemar Beach because it is so clean. My extra-sensitive skin didn't itch even after my dip in the sea.