Halughog-Bataan: Straight Ahead

First Article of the Halughog Series

Halughog was the Filipino term for ‘ransack.’ But I want to call it the passionate search.  This will also be this blog’s official term for road trips. The term was first used by my dear friend Nessa when she started planning for this trip.


orion bataan sunrise

Sunrise from the fields. Orion, Bataan

I was born in Balanga, Bataan. My parents were both from Orion, Bataan and so I grew up there.

orion bataan

Orion country life.

When I was younger, I was the epitome of the most kill joy person one would ever know. I could count using my fingers how many times I went to places in Bataan. I was so much into my studies back then that I lost the opportunity to appreciate life at its finest.

mariveles sunset copy

Sunset at Mariveles.

And so when my dear friends Nessa and Sir Cenon said they wanted to search Bataan passionately for destinations not known to the World Wide Web yet, I readily offered my hospitality.

morong sunset silhouette bataan

Silhouettes in Morong.

So how did we get to Bataan? The route was simple. We just went straight ahead.


From Pulilan to Balagtas, Straight Ahead

rubi hyundai getz

Rubi. Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

After a tiring work day, we travelled from the busy streets of Manila to a place where all other roads converged: Pulilan, Bulacan.  Here, Nessa and I fetched Sir Cenon and his fierce red car, Rubi.

And our first halughog together officially began. We exited Pulilan towards North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).

“(We are) driving in my car up highway one. (We) left (Manila) without telling anyone. There were people who needed something from (us). But (we are) sure they’ll get along fine on their own,” the three of us sang as Alanis Morissette pumped up the radio through our sweet escape to the countryside, leaving all baggage behind.

After less than an hour of more Alanis songs, we reached SM City Pampanga right after the San Fernando, Pampanga exit. From there, we took the Jose Abad Santos Avenue, going straight ahead to Lubao, Pampanga.

After around half an hour, we reached the World War II historical marker of the First Line of Defense in Dinalupihan, Bataan, the town past Lubao. We continued going straight ahead until we reached our lovely home at Brgy. Balagtas, Orion, Bataan, around twelve midnight.

“I am dancing with my friends in elation. We’ve taken adventures to new levels of fun,” Alanis continued singing with us as we giggle ourselves to sleep.


From Orion to Mariveles, Straight Ahead

Day 1 of our halughog started with some One Republic songs. Today “we will be counting stars” as we travel straight ahead to Bataan School of Fisheries in Brgy. Wawa. Here, we met the first star of the day, the bakawans of Orion.

bakawan orion bataan

Cenon with the Bakawans. Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

Then we met more stars. Fish spa in here!

fish spa bataan school of fisheries

The fish thought my pink nails were food. 🙂

And all of these were for free. We were escorted by Kuya Rex while inside the fisheries. Sir Cenon suggested to turn the place into a tourist spot to generate more income for the folks. He said that they could even ask for a very minimum entrance fee, just to help maintain the place.

Going north from Orion, we went straight ahead, through the Roman Superhighway where I learned to be a human tripod. Catching stars sure was no easy job.

human tripod bataan

A new career towards being the most stable human tripod in the world. 🙂 Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

It was almost twenty minutes of staying still for the sake of our hyper-lapse video. But it was all worth it when we were welcomed by the brightest star of Mariveles.

mt mariveles copy

Here at Mt. Mariveles, “the hills are alive with the sound of music…”

Then we had our lunch in a new restaurant that offered a magnificent view of the other stars in the area, the tip of Mariveles and Corregidor Island.

pupung mariveles bataan

pupung dagat mariveles bataan corregidor

The far blue island is Corregidor. Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

dagat mariveles bataan

Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

Just from the other side of the road from Pupung was the ever-famous zero kilometer marker of the Death March.

This was where the Death March started on April 10, 1942, a day after the historical fall of Bataan during World War II.

flag mariveles bataan

death march mariveles bataan

selfie with 0 km copy mariveles bataan

Because smartphones are so mainstream. Here’s a DSLR Selfie. 🙂

That night, we treated ourselves to overflowing squid and prawns from my mother’s kitchen. One Republic joined us with the feast, “Everything that drowns me makes me wanna fly!”


From Alauli to Mt. Samat to Morong, Straight Ahead

Halughog Day 2 began with Pilar’s Flaming Sword. This time, we started listening to Jason Mraz.

espada pilar bataan


The cobwebs around the sword were not yet here until maybe around two or three years ago. And yes, I called them cobwebs because they just construed the view of the sword, making it look like an obelisk, if you look from the side.

mt samat from afar copy

Straight ahead.

It was a Jason Mraz concert inside Rubi, “When I feel good I sing, and the joy it brings makes me feel good,” as we went straight along Gov. J. J. Linao National Road towards the famous Shrine of Valor.  And here was where we first saw the signage that said, “Pawikan Conservation Center, Straight Ahead.”

big cross pilar bataan mt samat

Dambana ng Kagitingan.

For some weird reason, there were a lot of people visiting the shrine that day. But we were able to get to the best spots first.

bilog mt samat dambana ng kagitingan pilar bataan

Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

design copy

Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

sulat pilar mt samat dambana ng kagitingan

Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

After enjoying the views, we went on, straight ahead, towards Morong, Bataan.  And then we saw the sign again.

pawikan straight copy morong bataan

Going straight ahead for almost one hour already.

I thought the sign was very deceiving because we started seeing it in Pilar, about three towns away from Morong where the conservation center was located.  But we followed the path and continued going straight ahead.

We passed by the Filipino-Japanese Friendship Tower bearing the zero kilometer marker for the Bagac leg of the Death March that happened a day after the Mariveles leg, on April 11, 1942.

We were in Bagac now but the sign pointing to the Pawikan Conservation Center still said, “Straight Ahead.” So was this some kind of enchantment for travellers seeking the pawikans?  Should we turn our shirts inside out because we were already getting lost?

While Sir Cenon and I were busy arguing about how far we were from this “Straight Ahead,” Nessa saw another sign bearing the message “Discover the truth.” So we took our luck and turned left. And then we saw this.

discover the truth copy bataan nuclear power plant

Because we wanted to “discover the truth.”

At the gate, the security guard told us that we need reservations to enter the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. He said that we need to go back to the Friendship tower to fill-up some forms. But it was already fifteen minutes before four o’clock and if we go back, we might not reach the pawikans in time for sunset.

the gates to zombie land copy

What really were inside those gates?

The guard wouldn’t really let us in.  We started wondering what was inside.  And then I told the guard that I was from Orion and these suddenly became magical words that made the guard change his mind and let us in.

And the security personnel surely had something to guard inside those huge gates.

inside plant copy bataan nuclear power plant morong bataan

Who wants a post card? 🙂

The scenery inside the non-operational power plant was just breath-taking: the road that goes straight ahead to Mt. Natib, the well-maintained trees, the expertly-sculptured clouds.  This picture actually reminded me of scenes from a Japanese movie.

We were told to ask permission from the administrator’s office to explore the plant. Ms. Ma. Corazon O. Baluyot, the Plant Tour Coordinator, said that they might not be able to accommodate us since their office was until four o’clock only. And one tour around the plant would take us around one and a half hours. But she gave us her calling card in case we would want to come back. And we would definitely be. We actually wanted to know if we would turn to mutants after a complete tour inside the unused nuclear power plant. Just kidding. 🙂

Tour fee was 200 pesos per head, with a minimum number of 5 participants per tour. Students could get a 50% discount. Their contact numbers were: 9245313/ 09213713865. Visitors could also email them at: baluyotmco@yahoo.com.

I told Ms. Baluyot the magic words again, that “I am from Orion,” so she let us have one photo with the power plant.

bataan nuclear power plant morong bataan

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, Morong.

The plant itself inflicted a feeling that zombies might be living inside. Just kidding again.  My mind was creating a lot of bizarre scenarios already.  We should really go back to see what was inside. 😛

Outside the compound, we were greeted by the sign “Straight Ahead” again. Ok, fine.

And then at long last, maybe around ten more kilometers, finally we saw this sign.

pawikan conservation center morong bataan

At long last…

We paid 20 pesos for the entrance fee and saw only three pawikans.  The eggs would be hatching soon, according to the caretaker, but that would not be later than ten in the evening.

pawikan conservation center morong bataan


A bit disappointed, we proceeded to the nearby shore, where we found the real culprit behind the “Straight Ahead” signs. Here’s a video from Sir Cenon’s camera.


Jason Mraz told us, “It’s freedom. Got to get yourself to that freedom. You deserve your freedom.”

Apparently following all these “Straight Ahead” signs religiously turned out to be all worth it, wasn’t it?

And we capped off the night with an affordable gourmet meal from Loleng’s Hu tieu-An, a Vietnamese carinderia, yes carinderia, located at downtown Morong.

loleng's hutieu-an

Sulit Vietnamese Food in the Philippines! Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

We were so starved by all those “Straight Ahead” signs that I wasn’t even able to get a decent photo of Loleng’s place. The food really was a must-try.  The place was even featured in GMA 7’s Biyahe ni Drew.  Plus, Drew Arellano and Iya Villania themselves were there that afternoon, as the girl at the counter showed us her Facebook photo with the showbiz couple.

screenshot copy

“We’ve got some life to bring. We’ve got some joy in this thing,” sang Jason Mraz as we drove along the zigzag roads under the cloudy night skies of Morong.


From Balagtas to Orani to Dinalupihan, Straight Ahead 

For the last day of our halughog, we woke up early to catch the sunrise at the Orion Port.

We plan to get the same results as with the Morong sunset, as Jack Johnson waited with us.


The sun sure was shy that day, “love can be deceiving,” but the skies still gave us “moments that just might find their way into (our) dreams tonight.”

orion port sunrise supposedly

And what were we doing in here again guys? 😀

And then we prepped ourselves for the last day of our halughog. Nessa and Sir Cenon already had their bags stuffed at the back of Rubi as we continued with our road trip.

Lunch for the day was care of Aling Chedeng and her famous pancit Orani.

chedeng's pancitan

Then straight ahead from Orani, the roads led us to Dinalupihan where we found a feel-good coffee shop with an ambience better than those in Balanga City.

I would recommend everyone to try their raspberry latte.  It was really soothing.

bean box copy dinalupihan bataan

Just in front of Dinalupihan Municipal Hall.

But then every straight road has an end. After having a good coffee, finally the road branched into two.

hanggang sa muli copy dinalupihan bataan

To Manila or to Balanga?

I need to stay in Bataan for a few more days so Rubi, together with Nessa and Sir Cenon took the left turn, while my bus was already there to take me back home to Orion, via Balanga City.

Separation anxiety suddenly caught me there. But it was a good trip wasn’t it? And here’s Nessa’s take on this halughog.


And yes. “I’ll tell you one thing, it’s always better when we’re together…”

mt samat selfie copy

Thank you for a wonderful trip 🙂

So, where’s our next halughog? 😀


All lyrics from http://www.azlyrics.com

Alanis Morissette’s Giggling Again for No Reason

One Republic’s Counting Stars

Jason Mraz’ The Freedom Song

Jack Johnson’s Better Together


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