Challenging Caramoan

The Caramoan group of Islands gained fame after being one of the destinations of successful American reality TV show Survivor. I thought it would be a pretty chill getaway since I wasn’t in charge of itinerary (an activity which both stresses and excites me haha) nor reservations (thank you ate kay and kuya kim!). All I had to do were pack my bags, be at the meeting place, and bring money. Easy peasy.

However, this trip has something more in store for me. They were so frustrating at that time but are merely funny when I recall from my current point of view. You know, the typical nostalgia-is-overrated-I-only-remember-the-good-things perspective.

For the first time since I remember going on trips, I was left behind by the bus. All thanks to a naive taxi driver, roads under construction and the horrendous Metro Manila Makati traffic on a weekday. Call time was 7:00 PM at a bus terminal along EDSA. When pressed for time, I would have taken the LRT-MRT but since I left home at around 5:30 PM and in accordance with what I thought would be a chill trip, I took a taxi. Everything was fine until we arrived at a road under construction (forgot where) and were forced to make a turn in Buendia where cars were in a standstill. After realizing that it will take us forever to get to our destination, the driver, which was thankfully not a douche, decided we take another route so we did. Unfortunately that one was closed too so we found ourselves in the worst place during rush hour: Ayala.

Looking back, it was only through reading Solid Joys on my phone that I was able to keep myself from screaming and crying. At around 7:30, my companions started calling and texting me and I wasn’t about to spoil the trip for everyone so they left first and I just promised to get to Goa (a town away from the port en route to Caramoan) before 7AM the next day. I just didn’t know how because at 7:45 I was still stuck in Makati.

To cut the story short, I arrived at the bus station around 8:30, paid 500 to the poor taxi driver whose usual route is Antipolo and who was so traumatized he promised never to accept passengers if the destination is in EDSA-Makati again. I walked back and forth along the many terminals with buses bound for Naga (no more trips to Goa, I’ll have to ride another van from Naga instead) looking for the earliest departure time, naks lakas maka amazing race. I almost compromised my safety after, in desperation, I followed a stranger who offered me a ride. Thank God for the ticket seller who called out to me and said, “sige sumama ka dyan bahala ka kung saan ka niya dalhin” not exactly kind words but they scared me.

In the end I left Manila at 9 and arrived in Naga at 5AM. Since Kuya Kim was stationed in a nearby town, he kindly met with me and together we went to Goa on a private vehicle which was faster. Hence, we were able to meet with our companions just in time for breakfast at Jamea’s house. Thank you Lord for a safe trip!

You can actually go to Caramoan via land trip but it would take thrice the travel time so we decided to ride a boat from Sabang port to Guijalo port, 1-2 hours. Since it was summer, there were a lot of visitors we had to work ourselves up that list. Speaking in a vernacular language really helps, thanks Jamea!

SONY DSCSabang port. Even though it’s a budding destination, the port is not as organized nor developed as others I’ve been in.SONY DSCThe boats can’t dock near the shore so we were carried by locals for a fee. Sorry to the two guys who bore my weight.pageWe arrived in Guijalo at around noon, it was low tide so we had to ride smaller boats to reach the shore.SONY DSCOur homestay. I don’t know anything about our travel agency since Kuya Kim and Ate Kay arranged everything basta we paid 2,800 (or 2,900?) each for lodging, island hopping tours and full on board meals for 3D/2N. There are power interruptions at night but there’s a kubo where you can have alcohol and play fun drinking games loiter. Not bad.caramoan (34)Really not bad especially because ALL the meals we had were delicious and our hosts did not skimp on the servings! From this welcome lunch of blue marlincaramoan (31)To this fish dish I don’t know the name of but was really goodcaramoan (33)To my favorite meal in Caramoan, Patatim (isla na, karne pa rin)!caramoan (48)And our island hopping baon of Tilapia and ginataang langka. Sobrang sarap lahat never akong hindi nag extra rice, may fruits pa lagi!caramoan (16)It was one and a half days of hopping from one island to another and out of more than half a dozen we visited, I only remembered the names of three: Cotivas because it’s the sandbar (there’s Manlawi nearby but we had to wait an hour for the bigger sandbar to emerge and we weren’t in the mood, too tired and too annoyed at Chito our guide chos), Matukad because it’s my favorite (white sandy beach where I built sand castles and had a conversation with aforementioned Chito), and Lahos (pictured below) because it was the first island we visited on our first day where I lost my beloved camera of five years 😦SONY DSCLahos is famous for its two-sided beach, a pretty sight albeit there were a lot of visitors during our visit. Fake treasure chests were sprawled all over. I think I was taking a picture of Ate Janine or Ding using the former’s phone and while looking for a good angle, I totally forgot that a vulnerable piece of metal was hanging around my neck as I submerged in stomach-deep water. Only after a couple of seconds did I realize it. A couple of seconds and I already felt hopeless because I, of all people, know how deadly seawater can be, having lost my phone to it a few years ago (rani – 0, seawater – 2). I wasn’t feeling the loss during the first few days (you know, Denial stage in DABDA). I subsisted on asking my companions to take a picture of me with their phones. Now that I think about it, there’s a camera-shaped void in my life and I will write a proper obituary for DC (its name) in the days to come, below is the last picture it took.SONY DSCSnorkeling. In the first area where Chito brought us, the waves were too strong and there weren’t a lot of fishes. We did not enjoy. The boatmen had to throw ropes for us to hold on to because the waves were bringing us farther from the boat and majority didn’t know how to swim. It was hilarious though, some of us (mostly me) panicking haha! This began our never ending complaint request to be brought some place we could swim/snorkel.caramoan (14)L-R: Ding, Jamea, Ate MG, Ate Janine, Ate Kay, Kuya Kim, me, Ate Karen. Props to Chito for taking this picture kahit sablay siya sa ibang bagay haha caramoan (20)caramoan (18)Some islands were closed during our visit, an ongoing shoot maybe. In fact, some more will be off limits to the public soon because the TV show leased them for 25 (?) years.caramoan (32)caramoan (30)Sabi nga nila, “ball is life” daw sa Pinas so everywhere you go, you’ll see a basketball court.caramoan (36)The view after the hike to Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto located at the top of Caglago mountain where you are welcomed by a 26-foot image of Mary after climbing 524 steps. caramoan (39)The climb wasn’t easy for me (for some of my companions it was!) but the view and the buko juice afterwards made up for it.caramoan (38)The water is so clear in some areas you can see the corals and scary-looking sea urchins from your boat. I hope it stays that way!caramoan (44)Cotivas Island where we spent most of our time taking pictures because really, it was picture-perfect. You just have to bear the heat. 1111This picture reminds me of one of my favorite Beatles’ song, Dear Prudence:

The sun is up, the sky is blue. It’s beautiful, and so are you ❤caramoan (49)Pasingit po ng selfie…caramoan (45)Most of our time was spent sitting/sleeping/eating/taking pictures in awkward positions in the boat because some islands were far from each other. The travel time was too long I got used to the loud sound from our boat rigger even though it annoyed me at first.caramoan (42)Matukad. I think this was the island where we spent the longest time.caramoan (35)St. Michael the Archangel Church which was founded in the 16th century! Ate Karen left her wallet here during our night visit and the good people of Caramoan surrendered it to the parish priest who then did every means possible to contact her (called and texted the number they found, had an old lady write her name on an offering envelope and show it to passers by outside, and planned on announcing her name during mass). Such kindhearted people are mostly seen in small towns (no offense to city folks).00000Chito (the one in black shades below) wasn’t the greatest guide. He was mostly late in picking us up, didn’t bring us to all the places in our itinerary, had excuses when I asked him to accompany me to a cave, failed to impress us with his choices of snorkeling areas, and last time we talked wanted to be a policeman for the wrong reasons (hold a gun), etc etc. Despite those, for some reason we enjoyed his company and had fun chiding him with his incompetence. We even told him we’d recommend his services to friends so he can earn more instead of being paid a wage by the owner of a travel agency. Only Kuya Kim has his number and I’m waiting for his reply, will post asap.

Overall, my Caramoan trip wasn’t as chill as I thought it would be but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Thank you Caramoan buddies and good morning Queen. 🙂

caramoan (22)

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