Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Hippie Life at Circle Hostel Zambales

Ever since dad's vegetarianism and Beatles influence, I've always felt that I am a hippie at heart. I love the lie-low, hang loose life, and although I can express this through my personal style or my choices in life (work that is art related, never the 9 to 5 job), I haven't really tried hippie living till last long weekend at The Circle Hostel Zambales. It was indeed an experience.


The Circle Hostel is a chain of budget-friendly eco-hostel in the Philippines. Perfect for the artsy and the adventurous, Circle Hostel has branches in surf-spots Zambales, La Union, and soon in Baler.
My group of bloggers and writers met up in Katipunan at around 5am, ako I went there straight from Pax's birthday celebration (tibay!). With less than an hour of sleep, the 4-hour drive to Zambales felt short because I was asleep for the most part (except the stop-over). We arrived Sitio Liw-Liwa at almost lunch time, and we were welcomed with a happy receptionist and an even happier (colorful!) place.

Everywhere I turn and look, panay painting and art! There were surf boards, doodles, and life quotes that are all instagram-worthy! Learned that these are created by the visitors of the hostel. 
When we got there din, I noticed that Edge lang ang signal ng phone ko (so hindi din kaya mag IG all the time! Haha!). As Rafael Oca of Circle Hostel described their Zambales branch: "If you want to disconnect, this is your place." For a big social media girl, challenge ito 'cause I always feel the urge to update and be updated online. But I know that disconnecting is something that I need once in a while.


There are three options where you can stay when in The Circle Hostel:

My group stayed in the bunk beds, which cost P450 per head. In our cottage, there are 3 simple double-decker bed. For a little privacy and protection, each bed has curtains and kulambo or mosquito nets. Also upon checking in, we were given new sheets and kumot so we can fix our own areas ourselves. Feeling the simple life, it was exciting at eto palang yung.

Another option in The Circle Hostel is the hammock, which is priced at P350 per head. The hammocks here can be zipped up (also for a mosquito-free night), and there are sabitan for your clothes everywhere. I wonder if this is something that I can survive... But maybe someday when I am more adventurous!

And third, you can also pay P250 per head per night when you bring your own tent.

Met The Circle Hostel Zambales' resident fat cat Garfield! Pati siya chill na chill, hehe.


I think that Circle Hostel's tagline "There are no strangers" is best shown with the many common areas of the hostel. The restrooms have 3 toilet cubicles (with bidet! ;)), 3 shower areas, plus 2 sinks outside. Some of the visitors even leave their tubes of toothpaste, soaps, and shampoo bottles, so even that felt communal. Best to have waterproof everything (like vanity kits or small bags for your clothes), and also bring your own tissue!

 Since the place is open (no locks even in the cottages), there are free lockers provided where you just have to bring your own padlocks. I didn't used one, though, in fairness Tracy and I just left our backpacks on our beds when we went out! 

One of my favorite spots in the hostel is the common area, which was also my group's meet up point. Barkadas and individuals go here to rest, to make new friends, and basically to just do whatever they want. It's like the hostel's living room or tambayan area, hehe.

After settling in our bunks, we met with our group in the common area where I witnessed a mix of activities going on. May mga nasa hammock busy with their book, there were kids running around with bags of Mr Chips, and our group playing Jason Mraz and other summer-feels songs:

The common area also provides free breads, peanut butter spreads, and banana for the guests (or the "surfer's meal"). There are no chargers in each room, so you have to go to the common area talaga and then place your phone in one of these pots (which is a brilliant idea so you can personally socialize more with your friends and other hostel guests). There are also guitars and books for everyone's entertainment.

We went out for a walk, and then checked out the beach if may waves so we can surf that afternoon. Sadly, flat at parang swimming pool that day, so tumambay nalang kami sa sand. I instantly missed summer, and was glad to be there.

Lunch was provided by one of Circle Hostel's nearby karinderya. There are, I think, 2 walking distance eateries that sell breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks, and even basic necessities like toiletries and medicines. Raf of Circle Hostel told us that their goal as social entrepreneurs is to have a sustainable community by not having food areas in the hostel so that people will instead buy in the nearby stores. They do this to support the locals and their small businesses--the idea is heartwarming for me.

Saw this blackboard of activities you can avail while in Circle Hostel Zambales. So other than surfing, we also had the following options: Water Falls, Fishing, and Massage.

After lunch, and because we can't surf, we decided to take the waterfalls adventure. I thought it was just a long hike...

Then we crossed waters...

May pagka buwis buhay din pala siya for someone like me na hindi naman athletic! Good thing we have kuya guides naman with us who helped me especially sa matitirik na areas! :p Safe naman siya, just be cautious, ask for help, and don't bring a bag na if hindi naman kailangan (ang laki ng dala ko that time, haha!). Best also to have waterproof everything, from phone case to camera, and don't forget to apply sunblock!

And I tell you, if you're into nature, the hike is worth it sa view palang! We stayed sa falls for a while to swim and take lots of photos (hehe). Malalim siya, so the brave souls were able to jump from the high rock formations! I opted to just swim around, haha.

Post-trekking merienda: Pansit canton, my favorite!

We stayed by the beach for sunset, with our drinks, chips, and the cute dogs. I was so tired from the hike, humiga lang ako at nakatulog kaagad while staring sa clouds. Nakakatuwa lang just watching people skim board, and the skies just turn from sky blue, to red-orange, to a combination, and then pitch black.

When nighttime fell, and it got cooler, the group decided to have a bonfire. The warmth felt sooo good, and we had a nice starry night background that technology can't capture. :)

After cleaning up and dinner, we went to the common area again as part of our itinerary. I had no plans to drink or even to socialize as it was one of my tired and "KJ" nights (haha), but biglang total opposite ang turnout. It started with an "I'm Yours" ukulele lesson and magic card tricks with one of the hostel's guests Jake, and then our circle got bigger as the other people from different groups got curious with the magic demo. We ended up in one big group playing the riot "Random Game"! 

Last one out! The night ended with a smaller group - with my blogger friend Tracy, a traveller from Malaysia Niz, Shyla of TV5, and Joel who is a law student. We had a looong life talk with vast topics from religion, love, politics, travel, etcetera. Ang daming quotable quotes! This is a highlight of this trip, a memorable Circle Hostel experience of a world that have no strangers--"just friends we haven't met".

The next day, although puyat, Tracy, Raf and I woke up early to check out the waves again, but still the water was flat. We just paddled and swam.

I can stay here forever, and enjoy the still water and nice view!

One last time in the common room. :( Before our check-out, we went to the common area to "leave our marks"--a nice tradition in The Circle Hostel where, with buckets of paint and other coloring materials, anyone can leave their artwork in walls, floors, ceiling, etcetera. And maybe the next guests will admire it, take IG photos of them, or even relate to your words.

The experience is very positive and relaxing, a nice and steady vacation from Manila's busy and overly-connected lifestyle. I admire Circle Hostel for their idea of a hippie culture that promotes music, art, and nature, promoting small businesses of the locals and camaraderie within their guests. It is something that, as a traveller, I will love to be part of again in my next adventure. Will you go with me then? :)

For more The Circle Hostel info and updates, visit their Website, follow them on Facebook and Twitter / Instagram at @thecirclehostel. Official hashtags #circlehostel & #therearenostrangers.

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