Caramoan Adventure

Credits: Quickpage by Sarah H from JS bloghop 2010.

An adventure it was indeed.  Not in a thrilling kind of way but more precarious I’m afraid.

St. Michael the Archangel Parish

It started as a simple exploration of the town and while there, we were met with rains so we waited it out at River Inn,

the nearest hiding place when it poured.  We watched the river swell as the downpour continued and seemingly refusing to let up.

We decided to make a go for lunch the moment it waned.  Needless to say, we arrived Sea Porch soaking wet.

The food was good at least so there were some delightful moments that transpired during the day.  After lunch, we decided that it was best to go back when the rain started to pelt down once again.

We hired a tricycle but halfway through, we saw the resort’s van stranded with newly arrived guests.  The river overflowed (which is a common thing, they say).

Children without a care in the world.  So used to it, they saw it as their playground.

It was deep and the current was strong, we couldn’t go further… at least not the tric, so we paid our driver and let him go.  At this point, we were so wet and weary that the idea of a dry, cozy cabin seemed so inviting.  We were told that it would take a while for the flood to subside, my heart sank.   I thought it funny that the resort sent a kayak to get us to the other side.  What?!? The current was strong; I was iffy.  If the kayak topples (which was very likely), my thought balloon goes, “there goes my camera”.  Desperate for a hot shower, I decided to bid my “rebel” goodbye and went for it.  All the worry was unnecessary – as I said, this happens often and they have used the kayak to get them across countless times.  They expertly maneuvered the kayak without us having to paddle a single stroke.  Our only task was to sit upright and not move.  It worked.

I remind myself often to throw caution to the wind and not to underestimate the deftness of Filipinos (or anyone for that matter) especially when caught in a situation.

In no time, we were curled up in our cozy little cabin — dry, warm and clean.  The rain eventually stopped, the water calm once more and the sun dared to peek out at one point as we traveled back to Naga the following day without incident.

A Preview of the Caramoan Islands

December and a typhoon looming at that is definitely the wrong time to explore the islands of Caramoan.  This however did not stop us…  “no guarantees”, we were told.  Do you believe in the power of prayer?  The weather held up for the most part.  We were limited though to 3 nearby islands, the waves were strong thus preventing us from exploring more islands much less snorkel.  But for bad weather, this was answered prayer.  Presenting the three:

Matukad Island

Beautiful stretch of powdery white sand beach walled with limestone cliffs.

At one end of the beach is a cliff that many climb to view the lagoon hidden behind.

Thought it would be wise of me not to climb that cliff due to a back injury I was nursing at that time but it did not stop me from being envious of friend S who got to see the lagoon.  Perhaps to make me feel better, she said I’ve seen better…    🙂

Hunongan Cove

This private cove beside Gota Village was developed to house the booted-out contestants of the Survivor series – what a nice reward, me think.

They have 14 pretty cabana that were not operational at the time of our visit – repairs were being made perhaps also in preparation for the next “Survivor” ocular.  Lunch was served there hence the visit.

Like Matukad, it has a stretch of powdery white sand and it being a cove is blessed with a much tamer shore.

Also like Matukad, it is walled with limestone cliffs but unlike Matukad, this does not have a lagoon anywhere.

Philippine Eagle

It has a regular visitor though whom they feed when around.

The caretakers opened a cabana, which I assume would be typical, for us to take a look.

This will cost P6,000+ a night if they were operational.  No thanks!  Our charming cabin at Gota Village albeit more basic was P3,500 a night only.

Minalahos Island

We were supposed to head back already but were curious with this one particular island with beautiful jagged edge formations so we stopped to take a look.  Glad we did.

The cliff was easy enough to climb and we were rewarded by a stunning view of the other side.  The boatman said that during calm days, it’s a good snorkel and kayaking area.

With the little that we saw, I can deduce that Caramoan is indeed a remarkable paradise that reminds of Palawan and even to a certain extent, Halong Bay minus the junks.  No wonder it has become the choice of many Survivor franchise.  The place is quite enchanting.

The Upside of Being Wimpy!

Credits:  Papers and elements by LivE Designs’ You are Awesome kit — AwwwSome Blue, Color Me Happy and Floral clusters; Frame by Moninda Fall Meditation Frame 4 with shadow.

To finally be on our way to Caramoan was like a project coming to fruition.  This trip was supposed to have happened a decade ago, prevented however by various reasons – the remoteness and the logistic nightmares being some of the major ones.  There were so many other trips so I placed Caramoan in the back burner until Gota Village Resort came about.  Yeah, sometimes I can be a wimp!!  An attempt last summer still didn’t fall through because they were closed for a Survivor shoot.  “Ok, maybe Caramoan really isn’t for us”, I thought.  But late last year, without a plan yet for the Christmas break, I attempted to inquire for rooms and lo and behold, I got an affirmative – but not without a side trip, as you probably know by now.

From CWC, we hired a van and headed to Sabang Port.  At the port, we took this boat so cramped with passengers to Guijalo Port.  2-3 hours later we got into a van provided by the resort and another 30-45 minutes, we finally reached our destination.  Not exactly a breeze but imagine if you took public transport all the way… which would be the case if we had gone a decade ago.  And that, my friends, was the reason this trip only happened now.

Also known as the Caramoan Peninsula, it is a group of islands isolated from the rest of Camarines Sur and like many remote islands, these included, they remain unspoiled by regular tourists.

December however is not exactly the right season to be exploring the islands, the waves prevented us to explore even the island across the resort.

I have to say, this resort is charming!  No beach in sight but as you enter, the wooden cabins and the mountains in the background is an obvious prelude to the charm.

The deck at the reception area allows a peek of the ocean on one side

The cabins from the deck at night.

and the other a bird’s eye view of the cabins.

The dining hall from the beach.

Walk further to the dining hall and you will see the ocean emerge inch by inch and before you know it, right in front of you is a breathtaking view of the ocean and its nearby islands.

It’s like being in the mountains with the beach just around the corner.

As with CWC, the Provincial government of Camarines Sur operates Gota Village Resort, which makes transfers from CWC much easier than doing your own logistics.  In fact, for large groups, one can organize for a fast craft to shuttle you directly to the resort.  It will only take an hour.

It is also said that the resort earned for the Philippines the title of “Ecotourism Destination of the Year” in the 2009 edition of Nature – one of France’s biggest travel fairs.  It was also with France that Caramoan first got its big break.  The French franchise of the reality show “Survivor” chose to shoot one season here.  Many more franchises of the “Survivor” shows followed after that… Sweden, Israel, Bulgaria and Serbia.  And while we were there, they said that they would close again soon to make repairs in preparation for the next ”Survivor” ocular.

The different bridges connecting one tribal council to another.

It is on the adjacent beach called “Gota 2” that they built the different “tribal council” sets.  Not exactly my cup of tea ( I don’t follow this show) but the reality is that they pride themselves of being the favorite of the “Survivor” series… and why not?  Sadly though, they rave more about this when there is so much more to rave about — like their beautiful islands and breathtaking cliffs, perhaps?

Given the rainy season, the crowning point of this trip for me was spending most afternoons enjoying the mountain setting with some wine and cheese (that we brought with us) on our cozy little porch chatting away till dinner called.  Precious.

Useful Info:

Gota Village Resort
Address:  2F Bldg. 11 La Fuerza Plaza Compound,
2241 Don Chino Roces Ave., Makati City
Tel. No.:  +632 817-0831 or +632 710-9086
Mobile:  +63 928-308-3969
Email:  gotavillage@gmail.com or infocamsur@gmail.com

Sili’t Gata

Serve me a dish that combines coconut milk and chili pepper and you’ve won me over, tightly wrapped around your finger at that.  So imagine me in Bicol where sili (chili pepper) and gata (coconut milk) is present in almost every dish.  Absolute bliss, I tell ya! First thing we did after we put to right the mishap was ventured to the Food Court of SM-Naga looking for the food stall recommended by the CWC staff.

At Geewan:

We shared an order of:

Clockwise:  Laing, Pinagat and Bicol Express
Laing:  Probably the most famous Bicol dish.  It’s pork sautéed in garlic, ginger and onions combined with dried taro leaves cooked in coconut milk and spiced with… you guessed it – sili.

Pinagat:  Similar to Laing, Pinangat is bundled taro leaves filled with meat or shrimps, sili, ginger, garlic and onion and then slow cooked in gata.  Until I came to Bicol I thought this was a version of the Laing.

Bicol Express:  Pork meat simmered in gata with lots and lots of chili strips.  Some version use green chili to make the dish less spicy and some versions has shrimp paste to add to the flavor.

Kinunot:  Not something that I’d order but in the spirit of adventure, we ordered it just to taste.  It’s an unusual dish of stingray meat or what they call pagi and malunggay leaves.  Just like all the above, the meat and vegetable is simmered in gata and sili.  It was pretty good, I must say.  The thought however of eating something so beautiful does not leave me longing for it.

Laing Pizza

An out of the ordinary creation we got to try at the CWC clubhouse.  Interesting flavor and surprisingly delectable.

Bob Marlin

Our last dinner in Camsur, we decided to go to town for a more scrumptious experience of Bicol cuisine.  We likewise wanted to experience the taste of the town, particularly Magsaysay Ave., the restaurant street of Naga City.  Shuttles were available at the CWC to take guests to town.  We had ourselves dropped off at Bob Marlin’s Restaurant and Grill.  Crispy Pata, albeit their most popular dish, was not something we’d order as we remained faithful to Bicolano food whilst there.

Given the restaurant’s name however, we cannot not have a Marlin Slab in honor of its namesake.  We were not disappointed.

Because it is my favorite Bicolano dish, we ordered the Pinangat to celebrate Bicol cuisine.

Lastly, we ordered a dish we haven’t tried yet and the curious in me just had to give this dish a try.  Adobong Manok sa Gata — Chicken Adobo in Coconut Milk.  Sounds interesting?  Tastes interesting too.  The dish replaces soy sauce with gata, which made the stew creamy.  Because I absolutely love gata in anything, I utterly enjoyed this twist in adobo and have inspired me to attempt this dish at home someday.

Useful Info:

Geewan (Main branch)
P. Burgos St.
Naga, Camarines Sur, Philippines
Phone Number: (63 54) 472-3888 or (63 74) 811-7272
 
Bob Marlin Restaurant and Grill
Magsaysay Ave.
Naga City, Camarines Sur, Philippines
Phone Number: (63 54) 473-1339, (63 54) 478-4414

Around Isarog

So the mishap in our reservations gave birth to a short exploration of nearby spots around Naga.

A whole afternoon with nothing to do, we headed to Mt. Isarog (after a Bicolano lunch at the SM) not to climb it but to explore the nearby areas.  We hired a van for the afternoon and heeded his recommendation.  He brought us to an enclosed hilly grassland where they breed deer, the land so vast we had to look hard to find them.

We eventually walked to where they were grazing or resting to get a better glimpse.

As we were approaching, one by one they got up and in no time dashed towards the gate.

Turned out it was feeding time and friend S who didn’t walk with us gets to feed them.

The provincial government funds this Deer Farm, which today holds 300 herds of deer from 60 herds when it started in 1996.  They have at least 5 species from Australia such as Blackbuck Antelope, Fallow Deer, Red Deer, Elk, etc.   Located at the slopes of Bicol’s 2nd highest mountain, the Deer Farm is about a 90-mins scenic countryside ride from CWC.

Nestled on the shoulder of Isarog and about 30 minutes drive from the deer farm is Concosep, a barangay in the town of Tigaon.

With an elevation of about 1,800 ft, Consocep is home to 3 waterfalls (Tumaguiti, Kawa-kawa, and Bulalacao) but because just days before the trip, I developed a pinched nerve and could hardly walk; we opted to visit just Kawa-kawa falls, the smaller and has the easiest trail of the three.

The path is wide and mostly concrete and it only takes a few minutes to reach the falls.

Derived from the word “kawali” or pan because the pool resembles it.  Nothing impressive but it gave my nerves a good workout, which actually was recommended by many.

Unwittingly, it turned out to be a good 1st day.

Useful Info:

If you are in need of transport around Naga, get in touch with:

Edgar Medina
Mobile:  0933-480-1747 / 0926-567-9797 / 0918-596-2593

The Mix-up That Went Right

Credits:  Template from Crystal; Paper from LivE URAwesome kit.

A miscommunication that had us staying in Pili, Camarines Sur for 2 nights was not such a bad thing after all.  The plan was to stay at Gota Village in Caramoan all the way but when I inquired for rooms on the Gota Village Resort link at the Caramoan website, I assumed that it was for the resort and wasn’t very specific, but apparently the inquiry went to the Provincial government (which operates both CWC and Gota Village Resort) and we ended up with a 4-nights reservation at the wakeboarding domain, a more popular destination I suppose.  Not exactly our idea of a Christmas break and owing to low season, Gota (thankfully) wasn’t full and we managed to change our bookings right there and then.  We just had to stay the night because the ferry to Caramoan had already left for the day.  No problem, we’ll take what we have and make the most of it.  A blessing in disguise, I would like to think as we also found out from the CWC staff that we will not make our flight if we don’t spend our last night at CWC, so we ended up staying 2 nights each in two places.  Being flexible is less stressful, don’t you think?

CWC stands for Camsur Watersports Complex, the watersports park that made wakeboarding the new thing among the youth and a new haven for adventure sports enthusiasts.  The park was designed for wakeboarding, water skating and waterskiing with a 6-point cable ski system towing the wake boarders all day and all night.

The pool and the massage huts with Mt. Isarog in the background.

The government-operated park has hosted many competitions placing the Philippines on the water sport enthusiasts’ map.  Once considered a disaster-stricken province due to typhoons that struck them through the years, Camarines Sur or now more popularly known as CamSur has steadily risen to be among the top ranking tourists destination, even hauling the most tourists’ arrival in the Bicol region, outperforming Albay, where one can find Mayon Volcano.

We were given 2 wood cabins on a cul-de-sac at the Villa Del Rey – all pre-fabricated from China, I heard.  The wood cabins gave a cozy feel of the mountains and is so conducive to curling up in one corner and read.

After all, we were there to take a much-needed break from the crazy Christmas season and weather didn’t help much as well.  But the adventurers that we are, we still found some time to explore a bit of the nearby places.

More of Camsur coming soon.