We have all heard about raves about the hidden paradise of Caramoan Islands in Camarines Sur. We also heard about the hassle associated with travelling to this place, but of really, some of the loveliest places are indeed hidden well away from bustling metros and are accessible only via the hardest routes to dissuade the curious onlookers.
After several months of laying-low, my boys had become even more restless at the onset of summer. Little did they know, I’ve been secretly planning a trip to these islands for several weeks already. I disclosed my plans to them 2 days before our scheduled trip. Baba was adamant and was very much concerned with our budget. Still we pushed through despite Baba’s worries and unyeilding self.
The six-hour rough ride to Caramoan from our home base in Daraga, Albay did not do much to appease Baba’s attitude. We took the van plying the Daraga – Naga (vv) and alighted at Anayan, Pili. There we waited for the Naga – Sabang jeepney that will take us directly to Sabang port. I noticed Baba’s hesitations start to vanish. We are enjoying the wonderful vista offered by Mt Isarog as our jeepney traversed the road to Partido area onwards to San Jose.
Arriving at the port, we hurriedly got inside a canteen (forgot the name) located just beside the passenger’s waiting area. We ordered some brekkie and took our time with it seeing the long queue of passengers waiting to board the boat. After breakfast, we went down to check the boat schedule and alas – the next boat is already full and we have to wait for the following one which they don’t know what time will arrive. We should have our names listed on the manifesto soon as we arrived, but our tummies directed us to the delicious smell coming from the canteen first!
Luckily two boats arrived instead of one and we were accommodated soon enough. Many “bangkero” will tell you to reserve seats by taking your bags to boat and you have to pay them P20 or P50, but we declined them. Also, since there is no “port,” bangkeros have made a “make-shift” port and asks P10 for each passenger. The boat ride took about two hours, traversing along the coast of Presentacion, Camarines Sur. We arrived at Guijalo port at around 1pm and took a tricyle to sentro. I asked the driver to take us to Villa Juliana for our accommodations.
After resting a bit, we went out to look for a place to eat and found ourselves at a small native restaurant along the highway for our late lunch. We went back to our inn and slept a bit. It was already four in the afternoon when we decided to check out Paniman Beach.
Paniman Beach is the pick up point for island hopping activities in Caramoan. It is well away from the town proper Tawog so we took a motorcycle to get there. The beach is lined with resorts and restaurants as well as souvenir shops. The water is very calm and the beach itself has fine brown sand. It was very soothing to sit and watch my boys play at this beach. We walked to explore the resorts at the far end and back. I think a lot of foreigners have already settled here and have opened their own resorts too.
I wondered how marvelous the sunrise would be in this beach. I faces some enchanting limestone karsts. Baba though still irritable from the lengthy trip, gave me unsolicited advise and said that if I only discussed this trip with him, we could have prepared a better itinerary. And maybe we could have booked our first night in Paniman and watched the sunrise from there too!
It was a Maundy Thursday when me and of my Bff’s decided to do Visitas Iglesias in the first district of Albay. Her family hails from Tabaco City, about an hour away from Legazpi. Since Tiwi, Baba’s hometown is nearby, I decided to pay his parents a visit too. Unknown to me and Jane, a mini reunion/gathering is happening there. After paying a visit to the church in Tiwi, we headed to Baba’s home. One thing led to another and we soon found ourselves driving to a beach resort en route to Joroan, a coastal municipality on the boundary of Albay and Camarines Sur.
Balikbayan Resort probably is a favorite hangout for vacationers and locals in Tiwi and Joroan. It is located just along the highway. The beach is a bit rocky for swimming but the view is gorgeous. Too bad me and Jane are totally not dressed for the venue!There is a lap pool, a dip pool and a kiddie pool. I haven’t really explored the first district of my province and visiting this one beach resort makes me curious about other sights and experiences we might have here. There are not a lot of fancy resorts in this side of the province, and Balikbayan is a good place to go when you want to experience a quiet and simple luxury.
Baba’s family prepared food and fed us until we can’t take anymore. We stayed in the resort for a couple of hours salivating over the crystal waters of the sea and the cool comfort that the pools can bring. We took a few more pictures and then courteously asked permission to go. We drove back to Tiwi and took Mama back home. This day’s experience was a bit stressful, yet the visit to the beach eased all the tension and I found myself being welcomed warmly into Baba’s family. To thank Jane for being my official driver, I treated her one of the best halo-halo joint in the whole province.
We went back to Tabaco, rested a while and resumed our Bisita Iglesia with her parents around Tabaco and Malinao.
It’s been a month since Teloyskie moved in with me and we started living a sedentary life. He got summer school and photography workshop for the whole month of April, while mom worked at the adjustment required from a mom. Our world then revolved around one another, his summer classes, mum’s office, adventure time and hotdogs.
Outings were limited to malls, cafes and fast foods until that one fateful invitation – are you going to Calaguas with us? You and Teloyskie?
That fateful day came like a breathe of fresh air. I left the office at noon that Friday. Hurried home and packed my stuff, I was anxious at the getting good seats in the van from Daraga going to Naga and from Naga to Daet, Camarines Norte.
This is my first time to go traipsing with Teloyskie in a place we both don’t know and I thought it would be that easy. Sitting in the jump seat of a cramped van with my kid on my lap and his pack on his lap, my only though was…
“how in the world can they do this and make it all look so flawlessly easy?”
After more or less 5 hours of land travel, we arrived at our destination for the night – Daet, Camarines Norte. We stayed in Pink Diamond Hotel and explored downtown that night. The hotel is more like an apartelle, it has crappy internet connection and cable but it sufficed. Come morning we’ll be off to Calaguas!
We met with our companions at 6AM in Jolibee Daet-Bayan and soon found ourselves in a jeepney bound for Vinzon’s port.
|yawn… are we there yet?|
A Blue so Blue
Ate and I cannot find the exact words to describe the blue, the aquamarine, no the turquoise waters of Calaguas. It was so darn beautiful for words and Teloyskie turned to the temperate clear blue waters at once!
The long stretch of creamy white sand reminded me of Boracay Island. It was so powdery soft that you wouldn’t feel stones poking your soles when you walk around. The only issue we had was it was HOT! It was considered peak season for Calaguas beach camping thus the limited trees on the beach was surrounded with tents wishing for shade. The water was dotted with lots of service boats obscuring what could have been gorgeous view of beach.
There was a multitude of beach combers and the island was full of activity. I suddenly felt a pang of nostalgia for the true blue beach camping experience I had in Anawangin and Nagsasa were you can count the campers in your hands and you prepare all your food from scratch (or from the can/pouch). But that would have been an experience with a capital E for one with tot that keeps vanishing from sight every 10 minutes or so.
Teloyskie spent most of his time playing in the water in the morning, after lunch I successfully convinced him to rest and take a nap for him to re-charge and have more energy for more playing the afternoon. At sundown, asked one local to get us some water for rinsing at P10 per balde. After dinner, we settled down and prepared to sleep. Teloy still is reluctant to do so and make incredulous comments just to irk mommy. I know he’s enjoying this activity and I can see that he’s taking backpacking like a duck to water.
Woke up from a comfortable sleep and settled outside our tent to admire Calaguas at sunrise. My little lion still sleep soundly in the tent, but soon he stirred and stretched. And while he was stretching, he said “Mommy, I’m gonna swim…” so we did.
After brekkie, we spent all our remaining time down the waters and baking “siopaos” and “siomais” in the sand. And even when we are about to leave, ate and I still can’t find the blue that is Calaguas.
Our Calaguas experience was made oh-so-convenient by a local tour operator. Andy and Rocky of Calaguaslocal.com made sure that each and every one of their guest enjoyed Calaguas.
My little backpacker even had the privilege of occupying the “top deck” of the boat to and fro the island.
The five islands – Palau Manukan, Mamutik, Sapi, Sulug and Gaya make up the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, a favorite activity by tourists and vacationers who come to visit the vibrant City of Kota Kinabalu.
The island’s proximity to the city makes it easily accessible via speed boats from the Jesselton Point Ferry terminal. After a hearty breakfast at Fook Yuen in Gaya Street, Baba and I prepared for our day trip to the islands. We left our packs in our hotel and just told the staff that we will pay for any extension if we come back late after visiting the islands.
We walked the length of Jalan Fuad Stephens in search for the elusive port. Some guys offered us a ride to the islands for a lesser fee while we walked but we declined and preferred to take the ones from the port. After a long and hot walk, we finally reached our destination. I was impressed with the place and how organized they were.
We bought a ticket for 3 islands and waited for the speedboat to take us island-hopping. One good thing about being in Kota Kinabalu is that many people here speak Filipino. Its proximity to Mindanao and Palawan also makes crossing easy for some Filipinos and Malays or Sabahans.
Tunku Adbul Rahman Marine Park
The islands nearness to the city center makes it a favorite activity of both locals and tourist with a few days or a weekend to spare. It was another first time for us to ride a speedboat, and we thought that the Philippines would benefit greatly if we have this kind of service especially for island hopping.
Everything looks lush as the islands kept their vegetation healthy. The water is clear and you can see fishes even while you walk on the planks. he boat dropped off passengers who only opted for the island of Manukan first before bringing us to Palau Mamutik.
I love the wooden docks in the island and Palau Mamutik have clear waters with plenty of fishes that are tame and swims with the tourist.
Baba can’t stop snickering and teasing for leaving the goggles in pack and in the hotel because now we can’t enjoy looking at the fishes under the water. So we simply relaxed at the beach and contented ourselves with people-watching, taking pictures and dipping into the cool crystal clear waters every now and then.
There are several options for different types of tastes. An island cooperative serves cheap meals and snacks a few feet from the dock.
Further down is the barbeque buffet being hosted by Sutera Harbor. You can ask for this from the boat operator from Jesselton Point and that is quite cheaper than getting it when you are already in the island. Since we don’t know this, Baba and I decided to try the ala carte meals from the Sutera restaurant.
We order Rendang and some Nasi, I’m not sure but they good enough. Baba find the spices and herbs a bit weird-tasting but we don’t have much choice.
We explored more of the islands after lunch and admired cabins under the Sutera management. We want to try staying in one of those but they’re probably rip off our budget anyway.
Our guide informed us that he still can’t find a boat that will take us to Sapi, the last island on our list, but that was okay. We are enjoying the views and the seascape in Palau Manukan.
We walked the sandy beach, took pictures from the wooden dock, the beach and whatever else took our interests. The place is so picturesque that it’s perfect for any photo shoots!
The islands also allow campers to stay and there are even tents for rent at RM30 per night. Soon it started to drizzle, Baba and I are now feeling tired so we decided to call off the visit to Palau Sapi and head back home.
Woke up early on a Saturday and sent a message to my colleague for the day’s plan. I’ve thought of alternative plans and go to the island on my own, but said he’s going to pick me up and the guys are already looking forward and also prepared for the trip. My colleague/guide arrived at 8am and took the other bed while I pack and fell asleep just before I finished counting to 10!
I decided to just finish some tasks while the idiot sleeps (they’ve been drinking since we arrived the night before, I woke him up at 11am and he was shocked and worried because the “bankero” has been waiting for us and seems angry already. So we rushed to buy food and other stuff for the trip.
We were a group of 6, Pedring the one who owned the boat agreed to take us to the island and back to Biliran anytime we want at P500. My colleague also volunteered to shoulder the costs of gas for the boat’s motor. My guides have all been drinking tuba all night and even while we’re already at sea.
Rough ride to Higatangan Island
We all hoped that he just misplaced it back home but he was worried about our budget especially since he plans to grab cheap flights to Atlanta by using promo code FL15 on CheapOair. I only have 500 with me too and our gas was just enough to bring as back to Biliran. But that gloomy feeling faded soon we reached the sandbar of Higatangan Island.
|joey boy the playboy|
It took us 2 hours to get there. The weather was fine yet the seas and the wind were playful. I’ve thought our little boat won’t make it for a couple times. Being in the company of fishermen who knows these seas did not lighten my worries. Pedring the boatman who lived just a few hours away has never traveled to Higatangan before – just now because they have a visitor. But all them are very courteous, respectful and went out of their way to ensure that I was comfortable and enjoying myself.
The group resumed drinking their tuba, played around the vast sandbar and helped me take pictures. Our plans to explore more of the islands – the rock formations on the other side, the lighthouse and Hagdan beach – became just plans because of the unfortunate disappearing wallet and my limited budget.
|My awesome guides Tikboy, Dodong, Gilford, Pedring and Joey boy|
The group did not allow me to explore on my own. They also warned me of the foods or drinks that some may offer so I just stayed there in the sandbar, swam a little and enjoyed the serene seascape.
|Biliran by the Shadows|
|gateway to Gigatangan?|
|short shut-eye for the tuba drinker|
|calmer side of the sandbar|
According to travel guides, this sandbar is famed for it’s shifting direction. Depending on the direction of the tides, the curve of the sandbar also changes. But looking at the stones in the calmer side of the sandbar, it must have been months (years) since the waves have disturbed it.
|finer sand as the water deepens|
We stayed in the sandbar until the sun have set and moon was visible. It was getting dark and I was getting worried. Being around a bunch of inebriated bunch of fisherfolks is like being around kids with tantrums and hyperactivity disorders.
I wanted to go back to Naval and rest, but the guys still won’t prepare. Until I was the one in a tantrum and they took turns in talking to me softly and calmly. They started explaining that since the tides are turning, it is windy at shore, the waves and the wind is stronger in the middle of the seas. They convinced me to have a little more patience and wait a while for lowtide. They also promised that in case we can’t travel back to Biliran, they will ensure that I will comfortably sleep inside a home even if they sleep on the shore. (sorry for the tantrum…)
|sun down at Higatangan|
It was around 730pm when Pedring announced that the boat can now make the crossing. Despite being intoxicated with tuba, he uttered a short prayer for guidance and safe travel. The moon was bright overhead and the waves are playfully tame now. It lulled everyone to sleep. The crossing took a little longer this time, and we reached Baras at 10pm. My colleague took me to Naval to check in to El Roman Pensionne despite feeling drunk, tired and depressed at the loss of his wallet. He still offered to take me to Tinago Falls the next day but I was hesitant and offered to shoulder the cost of gas for his motorbike, fortunately he agreed this time.
Higatangan Beach resort also arranges day trip from Naval to Gigatangan every Saturday. Pick up time from Naval pier is at 900Am and departure from Higatangan is 300PM.
A trip to Baler will never be complete without riding the waves. Our first day in Baler was spent exploring other towns and views around Sabang beach. It ended with us four lounging and just people watching at the beach. We were all amazed at how those little girls can surf like a pro, and we all looked forward to trying it out the next day.
Dinner took hundred years to arrive at Bay’s Inn, afterwards we headed to Bay-ler for a night cap. Baler was full packed that time and there were only a couple of establishments that were still open at late night. We finished off early slept in preparation for next day’s activity.
Baler Sunrise and Mahdox Surf School
|Sabang Beach, Baler, Aurora|
Before our trip to Baler, I asked one of my friends for a recommendation on where to find the best surf instructors in the Baler and he gave us Mahdox Surf School and Surf Shop. According to him, this is the only place to go when you want to learn surfing in Baler. Mahdox is actually the first registered surf school and shop n Baler and it is owned by one of the Philippines’ top ranking surfers – Okoy Rojo. They got a team of friendly, professionals and expert surf instructors to give you personalized and one-on-one coaching.
We scheduled our 1 hour surf class and we started right away. It was a first for all of us and we dreaded doing it on water. Each of us have our own instructors and gave us our needed push and encouragement each time big wave comes.
|Mahdox Surf Shop and School – 0910.307.5253|
All of us learned and enjoyed surfing in Baler. We all made it and were able stand on our surf boards before our time was up.
Why Surfing in Baler is a Must?
Baler can be considered as the birthplace of surfing in the Philippines. It’s clean coastline is open to the Pacific, thus beautiful waves is ever present anytime of the year. In 1979, the movie Apocalypse Now has parts filmed in Baler. It offer different surfer levels surfing points to match their levels. Sabang Beach has perfect waves for beginners, while Cemento Beach have stronger waves for the adventurous and experienced surfers. Charlie’s Point was made famous in the movie’s surf scene.
The production crew of the movie left their boards with the locals thus, surfing started in this province.
How to go to Baler (from Manila) and Back?
Baler, the capital of Aurora maybe reach through direct trips with Genesis Bus via Joy Bus and their regular air-con buses.
Joy Bus schedules are 12MN and 0430 from Cubao Station.
Reservation nos. (02) 709 – 0545 or 709 – 0544
Fare: P650 one-way
We were not able to get a reservation for Joy Bus and made do with their regular air-con buses bound for Baler.
Regular Bus Schedules are – 0100, 0200, 0430 and 0530.
Fare: P450 one-way
Others may also take buses to Casiguran, Aurora via Baler which travel at 0100 and 0300.
Going back to Manila, we were not able to reserve or find a Genesis Bus schedule that will suit our IT, so we decided to take another risk and head for Cabanatuan via vans plying the Baler-Cabanatuan route and just find Buses there going to Manila.
Vans from Baler to Cabanatuan travel frequently. Fares are around P220 and travel time is about 4 hours. From Cabanatuan, there are many buses that you can take such as ES transport, Five Star and Baliwag Transit.
A private message from one of my high school classmates gave way to this trip. We were 3 girls but I wanted to bring along my partner for him to experience what I love doing – travel.
The trek was fun and easy. You can hear the sounds of flowing water and the sounds that small animals and insects make.
Museo de Baler
After our late lunch, we walked around town with our guides to explore and know more about Baler.
Baler is very rich in history. Before Aurora became a province, it was a part of the province of Quezon. Both President Manuel L. Quezon and his wife Aurora was born in Baler. Baler also was an active participant in the galleon trade during the colonial times.
Our last destination for the tour was Aurora Quezon’s home downtown. They were considered wealthy during those time. Quezon’s presidential car was also parked here.
We also passed by the church and gave short prayer of thanks for this opportunity to travel and enjoy the company of each other.
We headed back to our room and decided to rest. It was a tiring but satisfying day of exploration. We are beginning to fall for the beauty of Baler.
Last year, I came up with a year end review of my 2010. It had been a year of balanced good and bad experiences, and 2011 started really good for me. Now it is over, and as I recount my experiences, I’m shocked at how busy the year was for me.
2011 started with so much gratefulness in my heart, and it has ended with so much more. A recent facebook status from a friend said “Grateful people get more than what they are grateful for” a passage from Bo Sanchez made me realize how true it is for my 2011.
I made a list of goals for 2011 and so far, I’ve successfully met some of them.
Yes, I was able to build stronger family ties. an added bonus was, a close tie with my 2nd family as well – my co-workers. and for the later part of the year, an even stronger bond with my high school and college tropa (10years and counting).
Yes, I am finally debt-free!! Though most of what I’ve earned for this year went to paying accumulated debts for the past 2 years, I was able to manage and still live well over what’s left.
No, I wasn’t able to finish DPM 🙁
No, I wasn’t able to climb Mt. Apo. 🙁
No, I still did not learn to ride a bike!!
But, yes I came back to writing. I finally got my back on track and found clients who recognize good work and compensate well. yipee! 🙂
Then, I remember making a top 3 travel wish list for 2011, missed out 1 but was able to have more!
|Sta. Cruz Dragonboat Exhibition Race March 2011.
Photo by Mr. Abet Lagula
|AQ at BIDBF. Photo by Mr. Abet Lagula|
It all started with a busy racing schedule on March. All the training was put to good use as my team Aqua Fortis joined in several racing events for the summer. Then there’s the Sta. Cruz exhibition race and the Boracay International Dragonboat Festival which brought me to yesssssssssss Bora for the first time!!!
It was a wow experience for me setting foot in the beautiful island of Boracay for the first time. And though this trip was spent mostly on the boat, I still loved it – just feeling the sand on my toes and seeing crystal blue waters each morning is divine! I made a promise to go spend some time here again soon.
Then just two weeks after, I flew to Puerto Princesa, Palawan with my most dear friends. An experience that brought us together again after many years. It also gave us a chance to bond and talk about how things had been going, how things are going on at the moment and how things will be in the future.
It was the highlight of the mid year and summer season for me. It was apparent with my skin color how much I enjoyed the sun and beaches for the summer of 2011!
The Palawan trip also brought me to one of the world’s Natural Wonders – the Underground River in Sabang, Palawan. I was very lucky to have visited this place at least once in my life and I am also putting this on would-visit-back-with-teloy trips one day soon.
This trip concluded the first half of my 2011. For the month of June, work started to get busy, and I seriously wanted to get my flawless (yes, flawless!) skin back so I took a rest from rowing.
July came in and ended with an unexpected surprise. It was something that gave spice to my single-lifehood and had a bittersweet ending. Still, I’m giving it (or him) another chance and so the future looks brighter with renewed fate and beliefs.
August came in heavy in emotion and a sudden urge to escape. The long awaited trip to Sagada and my goal of crossing out the first on my top 3 travel wish list loomed ahead, but typhoon Mina got in the way and gave me an unplanned sojourn in the cold and typhoon drenched city of Baguio.
Maybe it wasn’t really time for me to get to know Sagada yet. So I’m putting it yet again on my top travel wish list for 2012.
|view of Mt. Mayon from the
2nd flr of Embarcadero
And, still experiencing that emotional turmoil, being okay and not okay, I seek refuge in the comfort of being with my son, Teloyskie. I took a vacation home and came back to work with a vengeance.
The burger project in Maginhawa St. in Teacher’s village allowed me to customize my burger and gave me my first taste of blueberry milk shake.
This also made me work on gaining weight so people around me started taking me dining and food tasting. But still I was more into coffee tasting and how I love meet ups with fellow Aquababes Debie and Osh at Toastbox for a cup of skinny coffee!
Work also became demanding along with a new and demanding boss. Busy could not completely describe how this month was, then it ended with a work related trip to Fontana Leisure park in Pampanga.
November was a blast! This month took me to my top 2 travel wish list for 2011 – Davao. Though it was a rush 48 hour experience, it was still a trip that took me to the southern part of the country – Mindanao!
It was a busy work-related trip but we were also able to go around the souvenir shops suggested at the in-flight magazine of Cebu Pacific – Smile Magazine.
December probably was the busiest part of my year with the long list of events and activities. There were a lot of christening, bridal showers, weddings and Christmas parties. All these events, gave me some of the best time with my family and friends. And showed me all things that I should be more thankful for – the people who were with me all this time. Thank you for all the love and support! Another year comes, and I have 365 more days to show my appreciation and love for all of you.
The beauty of nature here in Nagsasa also lures photography enthusiasts because of the scenic views of sea, mountains and lakes. I was lucky to have been invited by a friend who wants to celebrate his birthday in this amazing place.
To reach Nagsasa, you can drive to Pundaquit in San Antonio Zambales and find a boatman there.
Boat fares range from 300-400 per person. You can camp with Mang Ador in the left side of the cove and he charges 100 per person per night’s stay. Local guides are available from 400 up if you are interested to trek and explore the mountains and the forest beyond.
What to bring on a beach camping?
Beach camping should not be any different from hiking or trekking up a mountain. Here are somethings you should bring on your beach camp:
- sleeping gears (sleeping bag, malong)
- head lamp
- cook set
- butane lamp or led lights
- mess kits (spoon, fork, plate?)
- swiss knife
- rope for a clothes line
- swim suits
- light clothing
- zip lock bags or a dry bags (to keep your things dry)
- insect lotion
- garbage bags
- first aid kits
The more you explore and go on beach camps the easier it will be for you to decide on the things to bring and what you will need.