PH Skip: Caramoan! (First of Three Parts)

I sorely missed the beach and I haven’t gotten my fix for the summer yet. April was about to be over with, and luckily, my friends were feeling the same way too.

Therefore, we decided to go to Caramoan!

It was around March when Kim asked us (meaning Mario, Ianna, and me) if we wanted to go to Caramoan for the Labor Day weekend. Being the beach bums we are, we said YES OF COURSE WE WANT TO GO and let him fix the trip itineraries.

We went there with four from Kim’s circle of friends, and on our first day, all nine of us got packed into a small room at Tabgon Hometel. ALL NINE OF US sharing two bunk beds. But since we were there to hop islands, we just dumped our bags in the room and went on our way to breakfast before heading to the port.

I won’t bore you with any more details, so allow me to take you with us to Caramoan. I promise I won’t skip any stories and personal notes, though.

First stop: Guinahuan Island

The lighthouse on top of the island.

The scenery when you get on top of Guinahuan might vaguely resemble Batanes to you, and might also elicit that ever-so-famous line that goes: “See the line where the sky meets the sea, it calls me…” The trail is dry, but the view is incredible.

  • Yes, you need to climb up to get to the view. Get ready for rolling slopes, grazing cows, and the sun beating down on you.
  • Bring water with you, just to make sure you’re still hydrated enough to see the view up top.
  • Don’t settle for the view when you get to the lighthouse. Walk to the other side.

Second stop: Cotivas Island

We were here for lunch and for a quick photo session (see Mario in his coat above, channeling his workaholic self as if he’s holding a meeting on the beach). A lot of people pitch their tents and eat in the cottages here, so expect a sizeable crowd.

  • There are food vendors here, but you can also take food with you.
  • No, they don’t give out free ice.
  • The water recedes pretty fast, so you might want to take your tour guide or bangkero (boat man) seriously when they say you have to go at a certain time. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck there.
  • And you don’t want to get stuck in an island in Caramoan when there are SO MUCH MORE ISLANDS TO GO TO

Third to fifth stop: the middle of the ocean

I don’t really remember where we were, but we kind of just stopped in the middle of the ocean with all the other boats when our tour guide told us we could go swimming. We had three similar stops — one in shallow waters and two in deep waters, and for someone who doesn’t know how to swim… I couldn’t care less.

On our fifth stop, Mario jumped into the water ahead of us as we were all rearing to go down. Our tour guide always made sure to check the waters around the boat where we were going to swim; so he proceeded to check the waters while Mario was happily swimming around. A minute or so later, he tells Mario to go back to the boat.

“Sir, akyat muna po kayo. May nakita po kasi akong walo-walo.” (Sir, please go back to the boat first. I saw a walo-walo.)

Mario goes up to the boat before asking what a walo-walo was.

“Sea snake po.”

We didn’t have an actual picture, but this is the sea snake he was talking about. Photo from Blogie Robillo.

We were all frightened (most of all, Mario, I assumed), but since the tour guide seemed to take it in stride, we figured it wasn’t that big of a deal.

We got back to Tabgon at around 4PM, an hour earlier than expected.

  • You might embark before even reaching the dock. Get ready for reaaally slimy sand to caress your feet as you walk to the pier.

Before reaching the dock, we saw a figure standing on top of a nearby hill; and so we asked our tour guide if we could go there to kill the extra time we had. Four of us (Kim, Franco, Ianna, and me) still had the strength and excitement for it, so we headed for the hills.

Sixth stop: Our Lady of Peace Chapel and grotto

Cue soundtrack: “It’s the cliiiiiimb~”

“590 steps po paakyat yan, mam.” (“That’s 590 steps to the top, mam.”)

That was the tour guide’s warning to the four of us. Being the architects (and ex-architect) that we were, we computed the equivalent number of stories that would be in a high-rise building.

35 floors. We were about to climb 35 floors by foot.

Kim, Ianna, and Franco scale mountains together, so that would be easy for them. I was stubborn, wanted the cardio, and I wanted to kill calories. I have asthma, but it pays pushing yourself sometimes; so I still came along.

Boy, was it REAAAALLY TIRING. We had to stop for a few minutes at a time, and I had to catch my breath loads of times.

But the view at the top was all worth it.

There’s a small chapel perched there where mass is held every first Sunday of the month. Kinda reminded me of Mamma Mia! (the film).

A few more steps up and you will see the figure of Mary with outstretched arms — which was what we saw from the sea.

  • BRING WATER WITH YOU. I cannot stress this enough.
  • Don’t be ashamed to stop. There are only a few landings on the trail to the top, so you can stop midway.
  • The steps vary in height and width, so watch your steps.
  • Hold on to the handrails, and make sure that they’re there. There are a few sections where the handrails are missing or on the other side, so be wary of their locations.
  • There’s a small stall that sells food and drinks at the bottom of the staircase. Get yourself a cold bottle of soda when you get down. Then pat yourself on the back. YOU’VE EARNED IT.

When we got back to Tabgon Hometel, there was no electricity.

  • Bring your powerbank with you, and expect intermittent power until 10PM. With that, also bring a small fan with you.
  • Make the most of those power outages by setting up your camera for a long exposure photo. Stargazing is best when there’s no other light source around.

Day one stopped here, and we got ready for the next day — expecting more stories, more adventures, and more islands to skip.

And oh, we were NOT disappointed.


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