I went to Casiguran, 120 kms north of Baler, without knowing where to stay. My internet search yielded nothing. A friend texted me somebody’s name, but the text message remained unanswered.
Yet, the thrill of passing through rugged mountain roads made me go.
I got what I wanted. While the road is slowly being paved to connect Baler and Casiguran, it doesn’t look like the project will be completed in the next 6 years. No, not even during the term of the incoming president.
The trip started out on well paved roads from Baler to the next town called Dipaculao. Shortly thereafter, it was dirt road. And it remained like that for most of the trip, with some paved portions here and there, mostly within the town and sitio centers. Imagine the sharp curves of Eme or Bitukang Manok in Atimonan, Quezon. Make the roads narrower, and take away the concrete or the asphalt. You get a pretty good peg of the trip to Casiguran, with the Philippine Sea on your right as a big bonus.
The next town was Dinalungan, where a most interesting advertising signage hit me. On a bend through the rocky roads was a huge boulder with the words “Lily’s Restaurant – 6 kms”. How ingenious. There is some form of civilization some 6 kilometers ahead? True enough, another short stretch of paved roads was ahead of us, and on our right was Lily’s Restaurant. I wasn’t hungry, and the thought of feasting on seafood in the coastal town of Casiguran made sure I skip Lily’s.
No one brings a sedan on this drive. Not only because the roads are unpaved, but also because there are portions of the road network that slide deep down to serve as water passageways, from the mountains to the sea. Imagine driving your sedan through a large basin.
Within these largely unpaved roads, you will find just-finished bridges. Apparently, the contractor is starting with the bridges, and then the concreting of the road starts right after. Methinks it is also wise, because Casiguran is very isolated and help can not come when bridges are downed by typhoons.
I knew I was in Casiguran when I saw the welcome arko ahead of me. It was a small town so I asked around for Ronie Montes, the name given by a friend. As it turns out, Casiguran has been blacked out for a week because there have been no deliveries of fuel to the electric cooperative. Thus, batteries of their mobile phones have been drained, rendering their phones inutile.
Ronie asked around, checking for available accommodations. We finally went to a mayoral candidate’s private beach house which he rents out to visitors. It was supposed to be the best choice because they had a genset in the place.
Off we went to Kapaspasan, and a campaign poster of “Curitana for Mayor” greeted us. We checked out the rooms. I was told the rooms can be rented at P1,500 per day. OMG! I never imagined having to pay that much for a room in the boondocks. No aircon, just a fan. No fresh beddings, just the bed cover that seemed like it’s been there for years. Even the silk pillow case gave me visions of mushrooms sprouting anytime. There isn’t even an en suite toilet – – there is one outside of the room , for common use. Oh yes, maybe because it was a private house, not a hotel. But they were renting at hotel rates, and they did not even provide towels or toiletries. Just as well I had everything, including my own beddings, pillow case, towel and toiletries.
On the plus side, they had a wide covered veranda on the side facing the beach. And the house is on an absolute waterfront. A videoke can be rented for P200 for the whole night, no tokens required. All things considered, this was still the best possible accommodation in this God-forsaken town.I negotiated to pay P2,500 for 2 rooms so I can have a room for myself, and another room for Ronie and my driver. The caretaker reluctantly agreed to my offer.
We had drinks with blue marlin for pulutan. And videoke, with the caretaker couple as our audience.
Breakfast was left-over blue marlin, tuyo, scrambled egg and rice. Plus instant coffee using hot water from a blue colored thermos bottle. It was raining.
The whole day was spent on hiking around virgin forests descending on coves for more beaches. Casiguran is so isolated and so unexplored one can feel like Indiana Jones. I was told we could even explore caves, but I wasn’t ready for that on this trip. Maybe on the next visit, when I stand as godfather to Ronie’s child, right now three months inside his wife’s womb. Maybe then I would rather pitch a tent.