by Danny Tariman
Last June 7th, 2013, my family went on a 5-day road trip to Bicol. This was a planned trip as early as 2 months before. We were all very excited because for one, we will go to places we have not been before, and second, we will be visiting not 1 but 3 the most famous and popular tourist destinations in the Bicol region.
Despite the forecast of a rainy weather throughout the 5 day trip, we had good sunny weather except for brief showers in the afternoon.
The Road Trip
We left Metro Manila at about 7pm. I was on the steering wheel of our Isuzu Crosswind, while my wife was seated next to me. She was our head navigator. Assisting her were our 2 children who were using GPS (or Global Positioning System) on their smart phones to guide our way, while my wife would confirm the information using our map-on-paper.
We were off to a good start. We cruised the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) at 100kph, but we had to slow down to about 40-50kph few kilometers from exit in Laguna as we were met by heavy rains. The rains subsided as we were approaching Quezon. However, the roads in Quezon province were under repair. This has somehow slowed down our trip. Road re-blocking was up to Quirino Highway.
In the last stretch of Quirino Highway – entering the Bicol region – the roads got better. I resumed my speed and was back to 90-100kph. We reached our first stop at about 5am at Sabang Port in Camarines Sur, just in time for the boat ride at 6am.
Our first destination was the Caramoan Islands where the popular US TV reality show “Survivor” had been shot. In fact, not just the US edition of the show had their Survivor series shot in Caramoan, the islands were also host to other Survivor editions – France, Israel, Serbia and Bulgaria.
Riding the Seas to Caramoan
Upon reaching Sabang Port, we parked our car in a gated compound just in front of the wharf. It was safe and quite cheap at Php150. We then boarded an over-sized out-rigger boat with about 60 to 70 passengers. It was I think, the first trip to Caramoan. (You need to check the latest trip schedule on the internet to ensure proper planning of your trip.) It took us about 1 1/2 hours to Guijalo Port, Caramoan. This port is the entry to the Caramoan Islands.
We had a taste of the local food at the port. I was really on the look-out for some unique local dish which I can introduce to my children. And lo and behold! We found kinunot – flaked shark’s meat in thick coconut milk. More on this on my daughter’s blog (just click the link). Here’s another one: a “mother bangus”. This kind of bangus lives in the seas – and therefore salt-water bangus. This is very different from the bangus we normally have in Manila which is grown in fresh water, because the size is at least twice as big as the fresh-water species.
We finally reached our Caramoan destination by yet another boat ride – a 30-minute cruise from Guijalo to Tugawe Cove.
Wow, this place is a cut above the rest – clearly a class in its own. An exclusive beach enclosed by hills on all sides. Going up the resort, you will be met by the resort welcoming party, with smiles and cold juice drinks. You pass by lakeside huts walking on wooden planks, then you go up hill on stairs carved out of the slopes. More air-conditioned huts, until you reach the peak where the hilltop restaurant and swimming pool awaits you.
We quickly stored our bags in our hotel room, and had a quick ala-carte lunch consisting of chicken, fish, and vegetable dishes with dessert and coffee in a very relaxing resort atmosphere on top of a hill, overlooking a swimming pool and looking further, the famous Caramoan Islands.
The Beach and the Islands
Soon, we found our way to the Cove’s exclusive beach. Few minutes later, we took our island hopping tour. Wow, it was so good to be on location of an internationally famous TV reality show – The Survivor. We went to Matukad Island where you can see an enchanted lake. You have to climb to the top of the island to see the this lake.
Move moved to other islands, including the place where a Survivor ‘tribe’ lived for 36 days. We visited the lake where they would catch some fresh fish – I tried it too using a homemade rod and line (see photo). Unfortunately, after minutes of waiting, I got nothing. But a native boy was able to catch a fish within a minute! Oh, anyway…
We stopped and moored the anchor in one good snorkeling spot near an island. I and my son immediately jumped into the water. As we were enjoying the beautiful undersea wonders of corals and fishes, I noticed a sea snake wiggling very near me. I was truly scared! I immediately climbed the boat and my son too, and left the place.
In the morning the following day, we were greeted by a big bird flying nearby. It is a domesticated bird, but its size was quite intimidating. We didn’t dare to have it land in our arms. Hehehe. After our buffet breakfast, we were back to the beach again for our final swim before heading back to Sabang.
Back on the Road
From Sabang Port, we drove to our next destination: Donsol, Sorsogon, with a sleep-over in Legaspi City. Our son took the steering wheel from Sabang Port to the next town. Our daughter then piloted our car to Albay. I got back the wheel when we reached Albay province.
A Better Alternative
In April 2014, we went back to the irresistible Caramoan. It is really beautiful. But this time we passed through Virac, Catanduanes. On personal note, I would recommend passing by Virac. The sea travel to Caramoan is shorter, plus you have more options – the Puraran Surf Beach, the pristine Mamangal Beach, or the Twin Rock Resort with more amenities, plus a host of tourist destinations that Virac offers.
How wonderful it is to enjoy the place with the family!