probably the last of the unspoilt destinations
Caramoan Peninsula has been the filming site of several editions of Survivor programs, most notably Survivor France which has filmed in the peninsula twice. Three other countries have shot their Survivor editions in the many islands surrounding the peninsula.
Pick your own Survivor island
Easy route by boat
Most people go to Caramoan by boat from the Port of Sabang in San Jose, from Naga and Pili, Camarines Sur.
No, they don't use sailboats!
I knew about this after my Caramoan adventure, just to check out possibilities for less adventurous friends. I met a man who introduced himself as Bisaya, and he sure knows how you can park your car overnight or as many nights in one of the resorts in Sabang, of course with parking fees. This is the easier, lazy route to Caramoan.
I took the route less traveled. We drove all the way to Lagonoy from where we started a 4×4 drive on practically non-existent roads. Ok, that may be a bit exaggerated – – there were cemented portions here and there, and mostly at the start of the journey. The view is fantastic, immediately after passing the long bridge that leads to Lagonoy Lake. About 2 hours away, which seemed like forever, we reached the small town of Presentacion. Lunch was in a carinderia beside the town hall. We asked how much longer, and were told that it was going to take another 2 hours to Caramoan. This time, the road got even tougher. There were sharp curves downhill on muddy, slippery unpaved roads. I was literally holding my breath, thinking we could turn turtle anytime. I was prepared for that. The trip was made worse because I went to Caramoan on the rainy season. The few trucks and Sarao-type jeepneys who dared take on this road were prepared – – apparently they are experts at handling the road condition! They would pour several sacks of rice husks (ipa) when the road is too muddied and slippery. They even had a ready crew with “bareta” and what nots to clear the mud, put some stones and ipa, to get out of being stuck in the mud. I figure this scene happens to every single truck or jeepney at least 10x on each one way trip.
my 4x4 Hi Lux survived the practically non-existent roads
Just as well I was on a 4×4. The only annoyance is that we naturally have to wait when a truck or jeepney is stuck, and we are able to pass only after they get out of being stuck.
About an hour away, we got a flat tire. The road was really punishing. While my driver was changing tires, I took the opportunity to use the bathroom at the back of the house of the old lady who sold bananas on the road. We were lucky we were in a populated sitio when we got the flat tire. I just bought all of the bananas, thankful of the relief after using their Antipolo-type toilet. It was clean, though. And no-stink because it was practically open, with just some sawali for cover.
Buy bananas, use their toilet
We finally got to Caramoan. Instinctively, I went to Gota Beach because my internet research showed Gota to be the place to go to. I was told by the guard they were closed for renovation. Survivor France was filming again in January, thus the renovations. Oh well.
It was raining and we had to do two things – – find accommodations and get the flat tire vulcanized. Or else we will have a problem going back, with no spare tire. We found a vulcanizing shop, but they didn’t have a tire gauge. We looked at auto supply shops, no tire gauge.
We were directed by locals to Rex Hotel, in the center of town. Climbed the concrete stairs carefully because the stairs were wet, and found a lady at the front desk. The rooms were at P1,500 for two. I negotiated for two rooms at P1,000, one each for me and my driver. The lady agreed, saying it was low season anyway.
The room was spartan. Air conditioned, moderately clean. Food can be ordered at the nearby fast food, owned by the sister of the hotel’s owner. We feasted on cocido, barbecue, vegetables, all told dinner for 4 people (we treated the friendly hotel staff to dinner) and ordered daing, fried egg, and rice for breakfast for two. The total bill for all of these was just P400.00. I don’t mind staying at Rex Hotel again.
Rex Hotel can be booked by mobile phone 0919 8821879, 0919 3089675
The next day, we drove to Paniman beach to hire bancas for island hopping. The banca hire was P1,500 but the trip was well worth it. We moved from island to island, each one different in character. One island, Matukad, is perfect for camping.
Another island, called Lahus, is actually 2 islands with a sandbar in between, so visitors can swim on two beach options – – five steps away from each other.
Another island looked like a mushroom.
All island photos taken by my friend ABJ on a recent trip
My favorite is Matukad, and I shall one day camp in this island. Meanwhile, I had to settle for a souvenir taken from the island, a very very white stone that was probably from corals and got its fine edges from being constantly crushed on the shore.
I like Paniman Beach. In fact, having seen Gota and the other El Nido -type accommodations in the different coves, I thought I’d stay in Paniman when I go back. And start from there for an overnight in Matukad. Paniman is a fishing village and some locals have erected cottages for rent.
Breeze & Waves in Paniman
I met a lady by the name of Myrna Rodriguez who opted for early retirement as VP at Philamlife. She and family decided to go into the growing tourism business in Caramoan, and built a few cottages near the beach. Their place is called Breeze & Waves. The cottages, as built, looked like mini bungalows, each one in a different color.
candy-colored cottages, photographed from their brochure
I engaged her in small talk about design for resorts, and suggested that she repaint the units in earth colors. And maybe have cogon on the roof, for a resort feel, She was taking down notes all along, and said she will follow my advise. She was so pleasant, and thankful, I got a free “nilagang camoteng kahoy” for merienda.
This location allows visitors to engage the locals in some banter. Breeze & Waves has a little cordoned off area in between their rooms and the shore. There is even a karaoke, and facilities for barbecue.
photo of their brochure
Apparently, the Rodriguez family has also sent out brochures and posted information on the net for packages to Caramoan : island-hopping, accommodations, and meals all inclusive.
You may reach Mrs Myrna Rodriguez by phone 0918 9139623.
You can book package tours as follows:
1 day and 1 night, minimum of 10 pax:
P2,300 per pax, pick up at Guijalo port (in Caramoan)
P2,400 per pax if picked up in Sabang port (in San Jose, where you will ride the boat to Caramoan)
P2,500 per pax if picked up from Naga City.
2 days and 2 nights, minimum 10 pax
P3,400 per pax, Guijalo, Caramoan pick up
P3,600 per pax, Sabang pick up
P3,700 per pax, Naga pick up
Package inclusive of van (if from naga), boat (if from Sabang port), jeepney (from Guijalo), seafront room accommodation, boat for island hopping, all meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
Rates for groups of less than 10 can be arranged;
Contact : Freddie 09082911072 Labeth 09198319497 Junjun 09265677770 email : email@example.com
Here comes Ondoy
Testing my spirit of adventure, Ondoy came the evening before we were leaving Caramoan, taking the same 4×4 route. Imagine how tough it was going, and how much tougher after raining all night? I had visions of me being airlifted by my friends in Naga and Legazpi, thinking that maybe my driver can stay behind until the roads are more manageable. But then I decided to go for the drive. The downhill portions on our way to Caramoan proved to be the most daunting – – – driving uphill on unpaved roads made even muddier by Ondoy! Of course we made it through, or I will not be able to write about it. Will I take this 4×4 route again? You bet.