Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dared and Enthralled by the Caramoan Islands

After the 3-day grueling workshop, which I happened to be the facilitator for the most part, a respite in a place like Caramoan is well deserving. I have never heard of this place to be interesting until my chief, Ms. Alma and my supervisor, Ms. Doreen, assigned me to arrange this sidetrip after our workshop in Naga City.

For a week, I called up the Camarines Watersports Complex or CWC to reserve us a room at the Gota Village Resort, its partner in Caramoan. Unfortunately we were declined due to the shooting of Survivor Serbia still on-going that time that occupied the said resort along with another Hunongan Cove Resort. So I found an alternative resort in Brgy Paniman, the so-called Breeze and Waves Resort.

My research revealed that Caramoan is a municipality of the province of Camarines Sur. It is not entirely an island separated from the mainland province; only that it has several islets within its municipal boundaries, just like hundred islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan. I initially thought that the only way to reach Caramoan is by boat. But no, it has an alternate road but not motorist-friendly. It is still better to ride the boat than snaking the super rough road.

October 28 came. Humid as it always is but clouds served as our umbrella. I feared it rains but it did not. The Naga-Sabang trip took a little more than an hour in an airconditioned van. Fare was 90 pesos per head and we paid for the last one slot at the back to give some air to Ms. Alma and Ms. Doreen. I wonder that my company both realize, only then when we reached the Sabang, that sabang means meeting of river and sea waters. In my hometown, I used to hear people call such a point as Sabang; considering that we have several rivers running down to the seashores, so you can be perplexed with several number of places called Sabang.

We hopped on the parked boat, a big boat with outriggers the size of which look like a fashion show runway. Not for long, the boat was packed with people, residents and tourists. The last to board was a group of 20 students who occupied the front section. As the countering waves become bigger and wilder, these students cried in chorus, especially when the hood slapped the water and ushered some splashes inside the boat. It was agonizing really for me, considering that I myself have a bit of fear of the waves. Don't laugh at me. Yes, I was born in a town near the sea and of course I knew how to swim, but to be inside a boat packed with people, shaken by wild waves, it's entirely a different feeling and it scares me. But I have to remain calm. I just treated the screaming and howling of females a chant of a cheering squad. I did it lighten up my own share of fear.

Behold! After thirty minutes of swaying, floating with the boat, an islet appeared on the right horizon, so green, so prestine and looked uninhabited, with two small nipa cottages erected on a white sandy beach at its front yard. The green background looks like a mini-forest backyard. I drooled at the beautiful scenery and wished I can have a chance to step on its ground. So much more, when we pass to its side where Mayon Volcano’s perfect cone has stepped in as its background.

The two-hour boat ride surely bored me, other than scared me with its wild shakes from time to time. So I entertained myself admiring the beauty of naked Mayon volcano on my right and the busyness of the fishermen tending their nets on my left, the green hills as their backdrop. I also busy my thoughts pondering on the existence of villages, I mean communities, in this remotest places. I lacked sleep and I wish I can gain some nap while boat riding, but sleep never visited me. It must have been scared and shooed by the wild ride too.

My mind wandered in the oblivion, making up stories and sceneries about anything under the sun. And it came back to reality upon the site of the Guijalo port gradually becoming visible. It delighted me to know that we were almost at our destination and have finally ended the scary and wavy ride. We rode a motorcab at P250 hired rate directly to the resort, the Breeze and Waves Resort, we booked. We passed by a cafeteria to bite lunch and buy chichirya in the nearby grocery store. The ladies found our lunch unsatisfactorily costly.

Loaded with everything we need, groceries and water, we went to back to another bumpy ride. The road to Brgy. Paniman from the junction to the Poblacion is rough and undeveloped. Despite the fact that most island hopping events start from this place, the people we talked told us that it may be because this point in Caramoan is a competition of the province(government in this case)-run Gota Village Resort, which is situated in another barangay.
We checked in and settled for a minute inside the airconditioned room. The room accomodation in the resort is good enough for nature-lover and adventure-tripper like us. Meaning, you don't have to stay inside your room for a long time. And with the captivating view of Caramoan islands and the refined sandy beach of Paniman, you will surely stay outside.
So we went beach walking from 2 to 5 in the afternoon. Under the cloudy skies, we wore off our slippers and let the sands massaged our soles. We walked the whole stretch of the Paniman beach until we reached another "sabang" and back. We were accompanied by a friendly dog we encountered at the La Playa Picnic Camp cafeteria when we took our afternoon snacks. We kept on strolling until late afternoon; we took pictures as we climbed at the abandoned props of the Survivor show at its Workshop Station.

That first night in Caramoan, we booked our dinner at La Playa; Ms. Alma and Ms. Doreen ordered an adobong pusit, a pinangat and the The Bar vodka. We did not empty the vodka bottle in La Playa, despite the long-playing videoke singing with matching dancing. My partner in singing was Ms. Doreen and in dancing was Ms. Alma. We finished our vodka though at the dining area of Breeze and Waves Hotel while chatting with the owner-manager (I am sorry I forgot her name) and the two Danish brothers who like us are first-timers in Caramoan. I admired their sweetness and of course their fluency in speaking English. For sure they're rich kids. When Ms. Alma asked them where they got to know Caramoan, they replied "Lonely Planet".

The second day started with a simple and usual breakfast and then we hopped on the boat we booked for the Island Hopping. Loaded with the lunch provision prepared by the resort and snorkeling gadgets, we visited the nearby islets (only 8 islets were covered by the P1,500 rate). Good for us that we were early to land at the Matukad Island because after we took several pictures, the Survivor production closed the islet for the day's shooting. Then we proceeded to the next equally beautiful and white sandy islet, the Naglahos Island. What made it uniquely wonderful is that the two adjacent big rocks (which comprised most part of the islet) are joined by the short stretch of white prestine sands. I believe it is what is meant by Naglahos.

We went snorkeling at Tinago Island first, then at the islet fronting the Hunongan Cove Resort, but we enjoyed it most when we went back to Naglahos Island where the snorkeling area was full of colorful fishes. The island hopping lasted at 2 in the afternoon. We dried up ourselves after the long hours of sun exposure. We were indeed blest with good weather during our two-day trip from the heavy rainy days before it.

I enjoyed the whole trip, the island hopping, the snorkeling, the Caramoan Islands! The good weather lasted until the day of our trip back to Naga City. This experience made me look forward to visiting the place soon, maybe with the same company or with other friends.

I hope my sunburn will heal fast...