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I am a Bicolano by birth and choice. By any standards, I am a slow runner but I like it that way. I look at running as a healthy and exciting way to make a difference. Together with my fellow runners from our family, school, office and the community, we use running to give back..

August 1, 2017

UEP WHITE BEACH: A Running Nirvana

Hands down, "Chariots of Fire" is the most iconic of all the running movies. And its famous slow-motion run along the beach which opens the movie to the tune of Vangelis' original composition has never failed  to uplift my spirit not just as a runner but as a human being. For me, hearing the musical theme and watching the joyous faces and the gliding strides of the runners on the West Sands of St. Andrews in Scotland in the opening scene of the 1981 movie feels like  nirvana.

While I may not be so fortunate financially to reach West Sands, I have often searched for that white beach here in our Philippine archipelago which would host my Chariot of Fires moment. There have been some nibbles like the ones in Pico de Loro (Nasugbu, Batangas),  in Quinapaguian (Mercedes, Camarines Norte), or in Manlawi (Caramoan, Camarines Sur).    But none were as powdery or as expansive  as the one in West Sands.  Nirvana has been elusive. 

But wait.  Hope springs eternal for the Bicolano Penguin as I search for the splendid white beach to have that run of nirvanic proportions. One of  these days, I will turn that proverbial left turn and be gifted with a pleasant surprise.

Alas, "one of these days" happened on July 21 in the capitol town of Catarman.  My high school batchmate Ernie and myself woke up early. We were both excited to have an early morning run primarily to wake up our running muscles in preparation for the 50km Catarman Cathedral to Allen Church Ultramarathon the following morning.  But we were excited also to explore downtown  and the surrounding areas.
The Catarman Cathedral at dawn, resplendent in immaculate blue. 

Praying for a good run. 

Having visited and prayed first in the Catarman Cathedral, we started our run by taking the Catarman to Laoang road  which cuts thru the downtown. We headed east and after passing a handful of streets named after our past presidents (Osmena, Roxas, Marcos & Macapagal), we came upon the Catarman bridge which was under major rehab and was  closed to vehicular traffic. No problem we are foot soldiers and the bridge is  passable to foot traffic. Three kilometers from the poblacion, we came upon the entrance to the so-called  "University Town" of the University of Eastern Philippines (UEP).

The route of map of our run from the poblacion of downtown Catarman to  the University Town of UEP just after Brgy Cayapan (Cawayan).     

Entrance to the UEP Campus. The campus is on both sides of the Catarman-Laoang Road. 

Ernie running along the Catarman-Laoang Road with the UEP Amphitheater in the. background. 

The UEP has a huge campus, roughly 516 hectares and the national road actually runs thru the campus for a couple of kilometers.  We chanced upon a campus security guard and asked him where the entrance to the beach was.  He pointed up the road and told us it was to the left.  So we continued our easy run and when we came upon a gate to our left,  we entered it and lo and behold, an awesome view greeted us.
The awesome view.  Welcome to UEP White Beach. 

It was a view of the sea framed by towering coconut trees with a circular waiting shed at the center. It was breath-taking for us and as our Altra and Hoka trotted toward the beach, more was in store for us. This could be our Running Nirvana.  It is perhaps best to let the pictures do most of the talking:
Running on the beach fronting mangroves and islets. 

Looking unspoiled and pristine, this beach has much to offer. 

Meeting a retiree. I told him how lucky he is to retire in such a cool place. He said thanks to his wife who is a retired teacher of UEP.     
Meeting a runner from Catbalogan. 

Google satellite imagery of White Beach.   

Ernie at the bend of the White Beach (which can be seen in the Google satellite imagery).  On the background are UEP students taking an early morning dip in the sea before attending their classes.  What a life for these students.   
The Bicolano Penguin and Ernie taking a 2 km run on White Beach.   

The sand is powdery and very soft to land on. 

Our hearty smile is proof that this is running nirvana for us.  
On the background is Hirapsan Island.   
Ernie passing a group of good looking cottages. 

A closer look at the cottages.  Perfect accommodations for a running retreat. 
We could not resist the temptation to jump into...  

...cool waters of the Pacific. 
Thumbs up for the UEP White Beach. 
Indeed,  both Ernie and the Bicolano Penguin consider ourselves very blessed to have stumbled upon this hidden gem of a running nirvana - UEP White Beach. So much delight for us to have romanced this beach the runners way.

Definitely more fun to run in the provinces.


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