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Tuesday, March 20, 2012


The thing about leisure traveling is that it makes the cooperative weather factor the luck of the draw. Yes one can keep an eye on the forecast, but to expect otherwise – like anticipating a sunny day amid a tropical storm – sometimes can’t hurt. Well, just sometimes.

Fixated on pushing ahead with our do-it-yourself Caramoan weekend getaway despite the overhanging bad weather, my friends and I boarded the 45-minute Airphil Express flight to Naga Airport in Pili, Camarines Sur that Friday of July last year. Seemingly enough, luck was on our side, because instead of dark clouds and heavy showers, we were welcomed by a clear blue sky and stifling sun.

Upon arrival at the airport, we took a short tricycle ride to the town’s highway where we hailed a jeepney bound to SM City Naga, which is just across Naga City’s Eastbound Terminal. (If you are thinking of going to Caramoan and following the same procedure as ours, you can also opt for a van to bring you to Sabang Port straight from Naga Airport, though this option may cause a dent in your wallet.)

After having our early lunch at a fastfood, we headed to the terminal and took a less than two-hour van ride to Sabang Port, where we then hopped aboard a service boat bound to Guijalo Port and relished another two-hour travel by sea.

The time of our visit was an off-season, and so we made no reservations at any hotel or inn prior to our trip. So once we were at Guijalo Port, the group went by tricycle to the town’s “centro” and directly checked in at Villa Julliana, taking our cue from friends who stayed at the same inn (and swore by its fairly affordable per-night stay rates) during their Caramoan visit the year previous.

Exploring the town started off by checking out the Bulang-Bugang Cave, an underground stream with no exit, in Barangay Taisan. Unfortunately, we were unprepared to go spelunking so we just opted to immerse our legs into its cool water and take pictures.

Besides the Bulang-Bugang Cave, Caramoan, a second-class municipality on the Caramoan Peninsula, also boasts of the Umang Cave, which is a part of the Caramoan National Park. It also has the Kulapnit Cave (best known for their limestone formations) and the Manipis Cave (rumored to be one of the hiding places of the famous General Yamashita's treasure).

Then we were off to St. Michael the Archangel Parish, as we were advised to go take a look at the said church located just a few meters away from our inn. It is an old red-brick church said to be built by the Franciscan missionaries during the Spanish colonization.

A large courtyard, with well-groomed lawn, houses this church. Locals also say that the church has undergone several renovations over the years. We even saw a proof of this as part of the chapel was under renovation when we dropped by. And so we just took pleasure in taking pictures of the colorful and pretty flowers aplenty in its garden.

We were told that a tour of Caramoan would not be complete without trekking the 500-odd steps to the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Mt. Carmel Caglago in Barangay Tabgon. Subscribing to the recommendation, we began our island-hopping the following day by first setting out to scale the otherwise interesting steps (our "tour guides" pointed out that the names written on each step are actually the names of the donors) to the biggest Marian statue I have seen thus far. Reaching the top of Mt. Caglago was a feather in our cap by then, but what we saw was by far greater: a breathtaking 360-degree view of the Caramoan islands.

From mountain hiking, the group, still rather blessed with a brilliant weather, then moved on to cap off our day's activities with our trip's high point and what Caramoan is really famed for: island-hopping.

Caramoan's pristine beaches with their fine-grained sand and crystal clear waters have earned for the place its "next Boracay" sobriquet. That is why it is no wonder that its islands' untouched beauty has been figuring as a favorite host to international franchises of reality TV game show Survivor, such as its Bulgarian, Serbian, Israeli, Swedish and French versions.

In fact during our visit, Survivor India was being filmed, restricting us from some of the islands and even from taking the Paniman beach as our island-hopping starting point. However, we were fortunate enough to have reached the island of Lahos and have our own Survivor mementos (through pictures, of course) before the show's crew came back and packed up their props.

Swimming, snorkeling, climbing the islands' jagged rock cliffs and ostensibly endless picture takings were sandwiched between our hops to the islands of Matukad, Lahos, Cagbalinad and Tawog. For those who are not on a budget unlike us, other equally great adventures such as kayaking and scuba diving are a must in their itineraries.

Caramoan has sure lots to offer as a tourist destination. It's nice to think though that albeit it has been likened to Boracay ("the benchmark against which all local beaches are measured," as one writer puts it), it still manages to be so sans the rowdy crowds and establishments. And yet it holds out its true splendor, of course, when the sun cooperates.Photobucket

(I'd like to thank my travel buddies Oz and Tiny M. and Joja B. for some of the photos above.)