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Sunday, March 23, 2008

HUNDRED ISLANDS - The next adventure sports destination

Comprising the 1,844-hectare nature and recreational park, the Hundred Islands National Park was the venue of the recent Triathlon Open organized by the Department of Tourism (DoT) together with the City Government of Alaminos and the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (TRAP).

DoT Secretary Joseph "Ace" Durano said, "The event shows that sports can be a very good ingredient to further develop tourism in the country."

He added that Filipinos are capable of keeping pace with the rest of the world in sports that require great skills and rigid discipline and training.

Aside from being geared as Pangasinan's tourism capital, the Hundred Islands National Park will also be groomed as one of the prime adventure sports destinations in the country. "Hundred Islands can be a perfect getaway for those who thirst for adventure and adrenalinepumping sports," he said.

The triathlon, which is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world today, is a multi-sport race against time and other competitors, known as triathletes. It involves completing three sporting disciplines-swimming, biking, and running-done in immediate succession. The goal is to complete the three-leg race in the shortest time. The transition periods and activities, from swim to bike and from bike to run, are part of the race and included in the total time.

The Hundred Islands Triathlon Open attracted over 80 participants from neighboring cities and provinces, mostly from Manila and Subic. This is the first team-up between DoT and TRAP and is the second time that TRAP is collaborating with Alaminos City in the conduct of a triathlon event at the Hundred Islands. The first one was way back in 1996, dubbed as the "Alaminos Sprint Triathlon".

The race distance for the Hundred Islands Triathlon Open covered a 750-meter ocean swim, 20-km road bike, and 5km road run. The swim leg was held along the waters of Lucap Wharf through a rectangular swim course, while the bike and run legs were held on a concrete road at the Lucap area.

Alaminos City, known for its natural beauty, is decorated with a cluster of 124 islets (during low tide and 123 on high tide), located west of Lingayen Gulf. Hundred Islands was established as a park on Jan. 18, 1940 under Proclamation No. 667 issued by the late President Manuel L. Quezon making it the first national park, and in whose honor the biggest of the islands was named.

Truly a breathtaking wonder of nature, the islands are mainly composed of coralline limestone, characterized by a wide reef flat. A highly diverse ecosystem supports a variety of marine and terrestrial floral and fauna and wildlife resources while various marine resources such as sea grasses, corals and numerous fish species abound in the waters.

On many points between the islets, the waters are shallow making it ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Other recreational activities in the islands are picnicking, diving, island hopping and spelunking. Among the most frequently visited caves here are Milagrosa, Cathedral and Virgin.

Only three islands have been developed for tourism, namely: Governor; Quezon and Children's Islands.

How to get there:

From Lucap, one takes a 30-minute boatride to any of these islands. Of the three islands, only the Governor's Island keeps a guesthouse which is ideal for family use. It has two bedrooms, living room, dining room, bathroom and kitchen.

The nipa huts and mini pavilion with bedrooms at Children's Island are for budget travelers. Common areas are provided for dining and cooking. Meanwhile, Quezon Island is often visited by picnickers and campers. It also has a pavilion with picnic tables.

Reservations are made at the Public Assistance Center in Lucap Point (mainland) where motorized bancas for trips to the islands are hired. A tower-type building near the Lucap Park houses an office at the ground floor which also controls the influx of tourists to the islands. Its main building has a conference room and accommodation facilities.

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