I’ve been wanting to finish this diary for quite some time now. Heck, it’s been eight months since this trip happened but since then work and school has been constantly eating my time. These days, it’s semester break already so I have some extra time to backtrack my travel diaries! I was actually alarmed that I could not remember already some of the names of the island we visited. Thankfully, I have my trusty notepad where I usually write the names of the places I visited and my expenses when I travel.
In my first Caramoan post, I last talked about Cagbalinad island. Day 2 was also about island hopping while on Day 3, we visited some sites in the town proper. Without further ado… here’s the rest of my Caramoan adventure.
Our second day in Caramoan started late. After enjoying our sumptuous breakfast served by the staff of Ronville Resort, we set out again to island hop at around 10 AM. Our first stop was the magnificent Manlawi sandbar.
I’ve seen the sandbar in pictures prior to going to Caramoan so I had an idea how beautiful it was especially when it was extremely low tide. When the boat was approaching the area, I was praying hard for the water to subside fast so I could have a glimpse of the famous sand bar. Sadly, the water was still about three feet when we got there and the boatman said it was not actually very ideal if we arrived when the water was already at its lowest level since we would have a hard time “docking” the boat. From afar, I was already in awe in the very visible difference in the water level in the area with the sand bar and the open sea:
Up close, it was even more amazing because the waters on the way were so tumultuous and suddenly I can feel sand under the boat. There were floating cottages in the area so we transferred our food there. We also decided to eat lunch there in the hopes that by lunchtime the water would be even lower.
The beauty of the place became more visible as the water level went down. Underneath the bluish water were perfect powdery white sand. My little cousins-in-law had a great time swimming because the area seemed like a large kiddie pool. They confidently swam around knowing the water was just about two-feet deep.
The boatmen were kind enough to include lunch in our tour package. As soon as we were served with rice, laing and liempo, the kiddos swarmed around the cottage immediately. A good indicator that they were very hungry already.
After lunch, we waited stayed for another hour hoping the the water would subside further. Unfortunately, it was taking forever so we decider to go and proceed to our next island stop.
Cotivas Island is another 15-20 minute boat ride from the Manlawi sand bar. It is one of the islands that is usually occupied by the reality show Survivor so it is often off limits to tourists. Thankfully, when we visited Caramaon, filming was already done so the island was open to visitors. From afar, we can still see some of the cottages used by the cast.
First thing I noticed about Cotivas was the sand and the color of the water. They were such a beautiful combination! The sand were perfectly creamy white and it was even finer than the sand in Matukad Island. On the other hand, the clearness of the water was the kind that I was looking for in Matukad as well. It reminded me of the beautiful waters of Samal Island in Davao.
The sun was so high when we arrived in Cotivas so we didn’t get to swim a lot. There were also hardly any trees on the shore that could save us from burning. So, we just took some pictures around the shore. It was a quaint moment for me because it’s been a long time since I last traveled with my brothers. The last time the three of us went to the beach together was when we were still in high school. More than 10 years ago!
After basking in the beautiful sands of Cotivas, we boarded again to to proceed to Bitang Laya. Unfortunately, the waves were so bad that the entire boat was rocking and sea water was splashing all over us. The boatmen were forced to take alternative routes to keep us safe so the travel to Bitang Laya took much longer than expected. Ultimately, they decided to forego Bitang Laya because the way was too dangerous. We just proceeded to the Shrine of our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, which was located quite UP UP THERE.
Shrine of the Most Holy Rosary
The Shrine was located on top of a hill and were told the climb will not be not a joke. The sayings were all true because just getting out of the boat, onto the shore and up the hill was hell. It was very low tide already so we had to climb out of the boat 10-15 meters from the shore and walk in the muddy tidal flat.
The entrance to the hill was about another 10 minute walk from the shore. At the foot of the hill, we were welcomed by a very steep staircase, sign of a hard climb. It was indeed a hard one! 524 steps according to our guide. Halfway up I thought I died already. I was among the first one in our group to climb but suddenly, I was lagging behind my little cousins. How nice to be young again! Thankfully, the tiredness I felt was dissipated every time I glimpse to the wonderful view to my right.
After almost an hour of climbing, we were welcome by serene sites. A beautiful chapel was sitting atop the hill. Just behind the church was an image of Mary who seem to be guiding voyagers around Caramoan. At the spot where the image was erected, the view of the Caramoan peninsula was breathtaking
The “elders” asked us kiddos to make a wish because it was our first time in the chapel. I don’t know if such beliefs work but there’s no harm in wishing, so I made one. Thinking about it now, I can’t even remember what I wished for! Before climbing down, we took a group picture in front of the church, such a great reminder of the beautiful world behind us.
On our way back to the resort we were staying, it was almost sunset already. I asked the boatman if we can stop somewhere so we could watch the sunset. Sadly, he said it would be very dangerous to be still out in the water at dark. So, I had to comfort myself watching the sunset from the boat. Thankfully, I was blessed with a stunning, stunning, site. To this day, I think this is one of the best sunset shots I ever took:
We were all in good spirits when we got back. Instead of sleeping early after dinner, we talked among ourselves. I and my cousins played cards with Lola Elsa. It was so embarrassing playing with her. She is…. a legend. At around 11 PM, we called it night but all of us were not looking forward to Day 3 because it was our last day of stay.
We were supposed to catch the 10 AM boat trip back to Sabang so we hardly time to go around the town proper. After eating brunch, we already arranged our stuff and checked out the resort. We had some time to spare so we were still able to drop by the St. Michael Archangel Church located at the heart of the town.
The church was very different from most churches I’ve seen primarily of its brick red color. I wanted to ask about its history but sadly there’s was no around who could explain and we were also in a hurry.
We were able to reach the town port just in time for our boat ride. We were not the first to board so when we arrived the boat was almost full. Our group actually had to split up and the guys had to sit at the far back of the boat. The porter told us that the capacity of the boat was 100 but I wondered what kind of 100 he was talking about because at a 90 headcount, we could barely breathe. My cousin Aya and her aunt from her mother side even had to sit on a makeshift bench right above the engine. The porter even called for more passengers and we had to call the attention of a coast guard for him to verify that the boat was already overloaded. For a prime tourist destination, the ports of Caramoan and Sabang ports are really poorly managed. I think boats are not even properly checked if they conform to safety standards. Check this out:
Despite those mishaps, we finally left Caramoan at past 10 AM. It was another two-hour ride back to Sabang port and another two-hour jeepney ride back to Naga City. On the way, I just allowed myself to fall sleep while fervently praying the waves would be a lot calmer because I could not endure a rocking boat, a painful butt and crammed knees all at the same time.
Our family’s Caramoan adventure was chaotic at times but still overall, it was still a very fun experience. As I have said in my first post, it was my first time traveling with the entire family and I am not sure if I am ready to repeat such kind of adventure with very large group. However, it was a good learning experience for me. I also had a great time bonding with relatives whom I haven’t seen for years! And for one, it felt good that I was not the one in change. I did not worry where our group will sleep, what we will eat and where we will go next.
As for Caramoan itself… the place was beautiful. Hands down. However, for people who defines traveling as more than just the beaches, Caramoan will fall flat. That is slightly how I felt. Also, the distances between islands were so far. A lot of time was wasted on traveling in the open sea. I was also a bit traumatized by the waves so I don’t know if I can pull myself to come back there anytime soon.
Despite the above-mentioned shortcomings, Caramoan is another testament to the beauty of the Philippines and of the world as whole. If there’s such kind of eye candy in a place so close to home, then what more is waiting for me in the rest of the country? I’m so pumped up! See you in my next adventure! 😉
Credits to my Uncle Albert for some of the pictures.