There are no strangers at The Circle Hostel

We were on the way to Liwa, Zambales when I was in the backseat of the car, not only third-wheeling to my best friend and her boyfriend at the wheel,  but sitting next to Blue. The dog.

My god,  how sad. I better make some friends in the next three days, I jokingly thought out loud. Unless I want to risk running into potentially awkward situations and spend the weekend with the dog.

But the intrigue of The Circle Hostel, our destination for that Labor Day weekend, is that you never feel lonely, even when you go alone.

The open-space is designed to knock down walls of judgement, fear, and loneliness.  While hostels are unusual in the Philippines, the appeal is that everyone can be an architect of conversation. Stories decorate the walls of The Circle in quotes and paintings. It feeds the local community and fuels the passion of dreamers and wander lovers like yourself.

So, in a place of no pretension it’s not hard to reveal and leave a part of yourself. In exchange for being real, you almost always go back home feeling whole.

While Zambales is known to be a local hot spot for surfers, not even a weekend of no waves could stop people from coming over last April 28-30 and not be bored.

Mia, one of the girls at the hostel, left the first night to attend to her family duties back in Manila, only to drive hours back the next day. She knows that when there’s a will, there’s always a way, even if the distance is worth hundreds of miles.

Do you remember the good ol’ days of face-to-face conversation? Life is a commune and we often forget that you don’t need Facebook to connect with others. Filipinos tend to be cliquish, so put down your phone and leave your group. A friend request is as simple as a “Hello!,”  “How are you?” or “What book are you reading?” Try it. It will surprise you.

There are no feelings of animosity, even when diverse personalities from far-fetched and flung lands of experience and interest exist.  They mingle in a refreshing mix of insight and intrigue.

Bottom-Right photo by Consuelo Serina

They also sleep together in peace. Wake up. Eat. Sleep. And repeat in nap-time intervals. This is The Circle way!

The Circle is a rich experience at a cheap cost, which is one of the best things about it. I always felt that travelling should not feel like a luxury.

You can rent hammocks/ bunk beds for P250/350 a night.  With a canopy of mosquito netting for protection against bugs, a locker area for valuables, and a bathroom shower head with a wide nozzle and hot water, it’s, cheap, clean and safe.

For lunch you can head over to Mommy Pheobes. Indulge in simple pleasures, like P35 beers, P70 meals of carbolicious Bagnet (pork belly), and lots of instant pancit canton, topped with a refreshing Mango shake.

Because The Circle brings in a lot of business, Mommy Pheobe gives us free bulalo soup!

Photo by Peter Tolibas

Outside is a lot where some of the guests conduct free poi and hoop workshops to fellow Circle friends, courtesy of Planet Zips, the pioneer poi company of the Philippines.

Even the locals, both kids and adults, set aside their shyness to join the fun.

“The flow” philosophy, which the poi movement is based on, is a great source of community empowerment whether it’s for the locals in Zambales or the city folk looking for a lifestyle “full of color, fun, energy and good vibes.” 

From afar, what may look like playing with toys, is a simple source of self-satisfaction and self-expression. But ironically it’s only achieved with full mental concentration, pushing yourself to the point of letting yourself go and flow.  Imagine being able to live your life effortlessly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s what being in the zone feels like. It’s what the flow feels like.

Because sometimes there are really no words to express only what your body can. And you won’t ever really know until you try. Try, try and try again until you’re able to do…

… THIS. Yes, even you can one day do this. I know that I want to!

The Circle is all about sharing what you love, which is why the guys from The Ministry of Mushrooms were invited to give a talk about how to grow your own mushrooms and minimize waste through organic farming.  You can find these guys selling at the Salcedo weekend market.

You can also sing and jam during every hour of the day and night, at the beach, in the dining area, everywhere.

Photo by Consuelo Serina

Epic jam session going on until 4am!

Photo by Peter Tolibas

On our last full day we had a beach clean up, which encourages the locals to take better care of their beach as well. As Ziggie said, “You don’t realize how dirty a beach is until you have to clean it up.” Or in other words, you don’t realize how dirty you are until you have to clean it up yourself.

We stayed on the beach until it was time to release some lanterns into the sky. While I lit a candle for myself…

… I loved seeing the sky being illuminated by the wishes of others. It felt utterly divine, like the universe is lighting the way for you.

Top-Right: One day you stop working for money; Bottom-Left: If not now, when? – Brandon Boyd

Like seeing your hopes , dreams and frustrations in quotes and artwork painted everywhere — left, right, top and bottom of the ceilings, walls of The Circle. They were left by the guests who have come and gone. Guests like me and hopefully you too. 

Friends from kindred kin who never make you feel alone.

For more information on The Circle Hostel please visit their FB page or read a write up on CNN. 

For Planet Zips

For The Ministry of Mushrooms 


8 thoughts on “There are no strangers at The Circle Hostel

  1. Sounds like a wonderful place for those who would like to travel alone—escape and finally get to accomplish stuff without the distraction of the city.

    • It’s great! It’s for surfers and non-surfers! It was the most well rested I’ve felt after a vacation in a loong time. I highly recommend that you go. :)

  2. Thanks for the great article. I did a day trip to Liwa a couple years ago but its great to see it growing. I hope I can get there next month when I’m back to the Philippines :)

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