Geotechnical consultant Dr Ian McFeat-Smith and his Ilocandian wife Aileen Respicio discovered a rare and stunning piece of coastline at Bolinao and in a few years designed, developed and recently opened a  remarkable beach resort called Punta Riviera Resort at Barangay ILog Malino, Bolinao in Western Pangasinan. In this article they describe the romantic and cultural attractions  of the Bolinao area and their new resort.

History and Environment

To say that the 20 km long, coral fringed coastline between Bolinao and Patar’s white beach is steeped in Philippines history and well preserved romantic surroundings would be an understatement.

As the most westerly point on Luzon Island with a protected harbour that offers mariners sanctuary from the typhoons that ravish the South China Sea, new rumours abound that the Vatican is researching the story that an Italian Priest, Father Ordico held first mass in the Philippines here in the early 1300’s. The Portugese built the Fortress Church of St James in the heart of Bolinao in 1609 and hence celebrate it’s 400th Anniversary next year. Somewhat later Spanish Explorers established themselves here, British sailers sited a cemetary in the town, in the early 1900’s Scottish engineers from Cable & Wireless brought the first telecommunication cables across the South China Sea from Hong Kong, and in 1909 the Americans built the famous Cape Bolinao Lighthouse on the hillside above Patar.

This rich history is however matched by a similarly rich environment and each mornings sunrise catches villagers engaged in a wide variety of novelty fishing activities and farming bangus or milk fish along the beaches, fringing reefs, sea caves and rugged coral atolls with its miriad of aquamarine and emerald green pools. Meanwhile, in the background, huge torquoise foaming waves crash onto the edge of the reef as the odd Aussie surfer whoops with delight. In the evenings, big sunsets with awsome kaledescopes of colour dominate the endless horizon whilst refreashing sea breezes sweep inland creating new life and expectations for the future. This facinating area with its laid back village life, has lost none of its natural ambience.  

There are several oceanographic marine laboratories here and the University of the Philippines Marine Service Institute are proud of the many varieties of giant clams that they breed near Santiago Island. Snorking is carried out here as well as at the marine sanctary just off the coast at Balingasay.  

From Bolinao and the mouth of the Balingasay River with its centuary old mangroves, fleets of large bancas regularly sail out into the occasionally treacherous seas bringing back a wide range of sea creatues. The open market at Bolinao is, not surprisingly, rife with all sorts of local seafood including tuna, flying fish, durado, bangus, swordfish, blue marlin, squid, octopus, lobsters, crabs, green lipped mussels, clams, sea urchins and oysters and a few of the local, upmarket resorts like Punta Riviera Resort specialise in seafood cooking. Other local attractions include swimming in the local inland caves, expert surfing and kayaking in the Amazonian-like Ilog Malino River. The resort runs a variety of land and marine tours (see - www.puntarivieraresort.com) for in house guests as listed below:

Educational land tour; Eco-tourism land tour; Marine (snorking) tour; Punta Riviera Special Discovery Tour; Hundred Islands Tour


Jewel Of The North

Like Hundred Islands National Park, which is located only 40minutes to the South by road, the Bolinao – Patar Coastline is becoming a key tourist destination in Western Pangasinan that the Department of Tourism is keen to promote as part of their Rediscover the North campaign. The title Jewel of the North seems most appropriate.

It was into this paradise that my Ilocandian wife Aileen Respicio and I and came from Hong Kong to build our retirement home early in the 2000’s just at the mouth of the Ilog Malino River. However Aileen had somewhat grander ideas and, before long, our sea frontage was built with our infinity pool standing above the river and a stunning section of the sandy coastline. Our accommodation, including both Mediterranean and Cabanas style was built in a U – shape around a large central landscaped garden facing the sea to maximise incoming sea breezes and the view from all three sides.  

Since then the resort has been developed into one of the most romantic, secluded environmental havens to be found along Philippines Sunshine Coast. The new resort, which was opened in April 2006 is proving to be popular for weddings and honeymoons as well as for families and companies seeking relief from Dagupan, San Fernando- La Union, Baguio, Tarlac, Angeles, Subic and Manila and overseas tourists looking for Something New – Something Different in the way of beach resorts and quality cuisine in the Provinces.

So if you are looking for a romantic, laid back honeymoon resort with wide horizons and big sunsets or are seeking to explore the Amazon by kayak check us out at www.puntarivieraresort.com; e-mail us at punta_riviera_resort@yahoo.com;  or call Elvie at
Tel +(63) 756961350 /1274 or Gener at 09185917148.