It is El Nido without the pain in the ass. Literally. None of those 8 hour rides over crappy roads or wasted time waiting for the same road to be passable (totally worth it though).
I was in Caramoan for a total of 24 hours but within that period of time, I’ve already experienced a gamut of emotions that you’d think I was living life in steroids. I was:
– sleepless, having driven to the airport straight from my nightshift work,
– drunk, had a couple of beers before the airport drive (kids don’t do this or you’ll end up giggling like a hyena most of the time, cool, but for all intents and purposes, stupid)
– fatigued, my travel buddies said I snored through the 45-minute plane ride
– soaked, yep after donning on copious amounts of sunblock, the heavens opened up. But what the heck, we decided to island hop anyway.
– deathly frightened, did an impromptu rock climb just to spot a wild mother bangus (see story below)
– amazed, the caramoan peninsula’s water is like liquid copper you’d think you can scoop them up and they’d be like jelly in your hands
– touched, our homestay hosts were so accommodating that I wished my mother is still alive
– victorious, after conquering that rock and taking a glimpse of the mother b, I felt like I stared death in the eyes and made him blink
– voracious, after all those adventures I was raving hungry and thanks to those awesome folks at Rex’s Tourist Inn, I consumed food like you won’t believe
– and of course drunk again, one of the super cool kids concocted a drink called Boracay out of emperador, condensed milk, coffee, and crushed eyes. I think he missed his calling.
Now about Caramoan. I wasn’t really expecting anything much. I’ve been to El Nido and have righteously assumed all beaches to be inferior. I think I’m not alone in that perception. Caramoan however has a few aces up its sleeves. For one, there’s the survivor shoots, during the time that I was there, Survivor Hungary was holed up in Bag-ing island. There were not so subtle signs admonishing island hoppers not to take photographs. Are you frigging kidding me? This is our turf! And you’re telling us not to take pictures? Of course I took pictures! But only after I was safely ensconced in our little banca and driving away. Teehehehe.
Because of the very limited time we have (only a half day’s worth of island hopping) our island hopping guide decided to just bring us to the three awesomest islands within striking distance. The first was in Bag-ing (see above), then in Lajos, and lastly in Matukad.
Lajos, well I thought this is a Cebuano term and probably it is. This island is like a bald man’s head. You know some cluster of hairs on both sides while the center is totally smooth. Lajos has rock formations on both sides and white sand in between. Thus you have two beaches to choose from, one in front and one in the back. There is ample space for a little swimming but I think it’s best snorkelled than swam. Still the water is crystal clear and my cam whore friends had a blast taking photos and showing a little skin. I’d have preferred for them to remain clothed though.
Matukad is by far the most varied of the islands that we went to. It has its secret lake as well. This is the lake that I risked life and limb for just so I can see that mother bangus. Bangus = Milkfish (just in case you’re not familiar with the local name).
Ok a little trivia why this particular bangus is called Mother. Bangus fry, in case you don’t know, is usually caught in the open sea. You might think that because bangus comes in a fish pond, it was born and raised there. Au contraire, they may have been raised there but they certainly were not born there. This is where the bangus fry fishermen come in. These fishermen are those who wake up very early in the morning, bring out their fine-meshed nets and trawl the waters near the beach. They are after bangus fry. Now where do you think those little bangus fry came from? Yep it’s the mother bangus’ doing. They’re usually big assed fishes who live in the wild. It’s going to be a very sad day when these mother bangus (banguses, bangii?) are included in fishermen’s catch. They should throw them back in the water or worship it even for all the good that it’s doing.
The rock that we had to climb is not actually a rock. They’re limestone formations that have been forged by father time over hundreds if not thousands of years. So their edges are really sharp. In our case, these formations sort of served as a very high wall (I think around 40 ft high give or take) to protect the lake. There’s no way around it. If you want to go near the lake or even just to try and get a glimpse, you have to get over that wall. And nope there are no set footings prepared for city boys like myself. However when our tour guide asked if we want to see the mother bangus I immediately said yes. I only realized my folly when I was almost at the top about to clamber down. It suddenly dawned on me that were I to slip just even once, I will not be able to see future generations of me. Anyway I pushed all those nasty thoughts aside and concentrated on being careful to save my ass (again, literally). True enough there was the secret lake but from where we were standing (almost 50 meters away) we couldn’t see a bloody thing. Only the murky brownish green water. After a while our guide said ‘Here she comes!’. And there she was, shaped like a shark, streaking through the water like a hot knife on butter. It was a glorious sight. Even made glorious because of what we had to go through to see it. Of course there were pictures for posterity with the lake as the background. But since my butt crack(kidding. or not) was showing (I insisted on being photographed from the back), I’m showing here my friend’s picture instead.
Surprisingly, going down was by far easier than going up. I thought it would be the reverse. But thank God for that. It took us half the time to climb down that rock. With only a few scrapes on our hands, no broken bones, and our bodies glistening with sweat. I think we looked awesomely manly (bilbil and all) to our lady companions. Of course we had to exaggerate to the max when we recounted our climb. But there was general great feeling all around. Coming out of a death-threatening situation can do that to you.
By far, Matukad was the awesomest island we went to. There was a good spot for swimming and again the water was very clear. I think we could have gone on exploring other islands but alas, darkness was fast approaching.
I thought about all the island hopping tours I’ve gone on and so far this one comes a close second. El Nido will always be number one. Although in terms of convenience and proximity from Manila, Caramoan is a very able substitute. If you haven’t been there, there’s really no excuse not to go. Fare is low, accommodation is cheap, and you can totally enjoy it over the weekend.
Saturday 6:30 AM – Flight To Naga
7:30 AM – Arrival
7:45 AM – Van to Guijalo Port (for the boat to Sabang, Caramoan)
8:45 AM – Arrive in Guijalo
9:00 AM – Depart for Sabang
11:30 AM – Arrival
Sat aft. 1:30 PM – Island Hopping
5:30 PM – Back from IH
Sunday 9:45 AM – Depart for Sabang
10:15 AM – Depart for Guijalo
12:15 PM – Arrival
While we were in Caramoan, we were supposed to stay in Rex Tourist Inn, but because they were fully booked, they assigned us to one of the homes there who offer homestay. I think it turned out pretty alright. Our hosts, Engr. & Mrs. Elvin Sacil were very accommodating and their house was very nice. We occupied two rooms (both fully airconditioned) with a private sala to boot! Something you wouldn’t get at Rex (hehehe). There were two bathrooms which was really cool. Theres a garden outside the house, plus a few caskets. Kidding about the caskets. Lol. Actually, I’m not kidding. There’s a shop just outside selling caskets. But don’t be put-off by that. There’s no wake there. It’s just a business after all so none of that weird stuff.
The important thing is you get to have a very homy atmosphere and some very cool hosts. In fact had we contacted them directly, I’m sure we could have saved a lot of money instead of going through one of those tour organizers. If you want to talk to the Sacils directly, here’s their number (09084633101).
So what did we do Sunday Afternoon in Naga? Why, we had to go wakeboarding in CWC of course! But that’s another story.