This is a post by THH Jon.
What I like about living in the Philippines is that there are plenty of long weekends due to holidays landing on a Friday or a Monday. One of the holidays that we celebrate here is the Holy Week or Semana Santa.
Since it’s the Summer season, #teamharthart decided to go to Caramoan Islands which is located in the lower eastern part of Camarines Sur in the Bicol region. Our team normally travel using public transportation to cut cost but on this trip we hired a private van since we ran out of tickets. People would normally go back to their hometowns during the Holy Week so we thought that getting bus tickets 3 weeks in advanced would guarantee us seats. Apparently that wasn’t the case. We didn’t mind travelling in a van as it was more comfortable and less stressful. We were able to play games, sleep comfortably and have stop overs when we needed to eat or use the toilets.
Kuya Nick (our driver) suggested that we take the scenic route (Rizal-Laguna-Quezon) since he predicted that we’ll get stuck in traffic if we use the South Luzon Express Way. The back road to Quezon was smooth most of the time although we experienced some traffic when we entered the town propers. Our first stop over was at Tayabas, Quezon where we ate dinner at Rodilla’s (which is popular because of it’s Yema cake).
We continued our long journey after filling our tummies with tapsilog (which is traditionally eaten for breakfast) and coffee. We were asleep most of the time but we were awoken by Kuya Nick because of a flat tyre. Fortunately, there was a vulcanizing station and a carinderia nearby where we ate hot noodles for breakfast. It was also an opportunity for Kuya Nick to sleep as he’s been driving throughout the night.
As soon as our van was all fixed, we headed towards Sabang Port to catch a boat to Caramoan but the coast guard did not allow the boats to leave because of the typhoon (I forgot to mention that there was a super typhoon during our vacation). Some of the boatmen offered us a ride but it was well expensive so we declined because we felt like they were ripping us off. We decided to just travel by land. The 3 hour ride going to Caramoan was not easy at all. The road was rough and twisted. We were driving on a road built on a mountain so one wrong move could cause the van to go off track and fall off a cliff. We’re all very thankful that Kuya Nick brought us safely to our destination.
After 3 hours of long rough winding road, we reached Bikal Port where our boatman was waiting for us. We thought that everything will go smoothly from here but our boatman informed us that we couldn’t go to the island because of the typhoon. Not just yet anyways (If you were there with us you would’ve seen clear blue skies and the calm water. It was scorching hot so it’s very hard for us to believe that there was a typhoon).
It was already past noon when we arrived so the boatman suggested that we eat our lunch while we wait. The island was only 30 minutes away and can be seen from the port (It was so near yet so far hahaha!) . All hope was gone but our faith did not waver. The day was not over after all and we did not come here for nothing. After a couple of hours of waiting, our boatman gave us the go signal! Everyone quickly got back up on their feet and got on the boat.
The island greeted us with its fine sand and breath taking rock formations (TRIVIA: Caramoan Islands are home to many of the Survivor series). The island really looked beautiful but it was defiled by tourist leaving their garbage and vandalizing the rock formations. There were no care takers to clean up after the tourist. To all who will be visiting this place, please do not leave your rubbish behind. You will ruin not just the island but the experience of the other visitors as well (We’ve been to Calaguas Island in Bicol and it was so beautiful so I guess our standards were high).
We set up our tent on a flat grassy area somewhere near the shore. It was quite windy and cold but the view was amazing. Adobo and rice was on the menu that night and after dinner we spent the night exchanging stories, laughing, teasing each other and playing games. This was my favorite part of the trip. Happiness is most powerful when shared.
The sky was not very clear when we woke up the next day. It was windy and it drizzled once every so often. We ate breakfast (dried fish, fried rice and spam) and went island hopping soon after. We were supposed to go to 4 islands but it was too dangerous because of the high waves caused by the typhoon. We only visited one island and spent the rest of the day on our island.
We were supposed to stay in the island for 2 nights but the coast guard visited the island and enforced people to leave as it was too dangerous to stay. Since we did not have a choice, we left (and I am glad we did!) the island but at least we can say that we are now survivors!
We wanted to go somewhere else since we had a lot of time and was able to save some money. Kuya Nick also did not want to drive in the night time while in the middle of the storm. Good thing he had friends who owned a retreat house 4 hours away from where we were. We would like to thank Mr. Stan (a priest) and Mr. Kim (Kuya Nick’s friend) for providing us shelter in our time of need.
It was Easter Sunday the following morning so the team decided to attend a mass first before heading home. We visited the Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Penafrancia in Naga City.
On the way home there was very heavy traffic since everyone was going back to the city. The night over took us so the road became very dark. Good thing there were volunteers on the dangerous parts of road that signaled the cars to stop/go to avoid crashing into each other. We got home around midnight with Yema Cake for pasalubong.
Our trip to was almost thwarted by the typhoon but we still pushed through. We were able to see a beautiful island paradise, made new friends and experienced a lot of things we haven’t done before. We would like to go back to Caramoan to see the other islands but I hope that when we do, we won’t regret coming back.
Photo Credits: Ivan Garcia
Van – P20 000 (4 nights. Includes gasoline)
(1) Boat – P1800 (from port to the island and vice versa. It was supposed to be P2700 but since we only visited 1 island aside from where we stayed at, we were able to lower down the fare.)
Food – depends on how big your team is and how picky you are. We bought our food from the local market.
Estimitated budget – P3000-P3500 each (group of 11 people).