Ilocos Norte Adventure: Part I – Paoay Church, Plaza del Norte and Malacanang of the North

Before we bid good-bye to Vigan we took a quick visit to Calle Crisologo to have a picture of this prime tourist attraction in broad daylight. And it’s good to see the cobbled pathway with less crowd compared the other night.

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the imposing Paoay Church with the massive buttresses

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Paguriran Lake: In My Little Conquer

The nestled lagoon in the middle of an island, a natural sanctuary for giant seafaring turtles, fills with salt water during high tide.

This was the caption of March to April 2007 page of PNOC’s (Philippine National Oil Company) calendar with their theme, “Our Undiscovered Country” with the stunning picture of Paguriran Lake in Bacon, Sorsogon. Imagine an enclosed lagoon in the middle of an island? I jotted it down in my brown notebook and vowed myself to visit it in the future. Below the main picture were small pictures of Vera Falls which I visited last year (so thankful) and the other was Naghaso Boiling Lake (next target to explore), both were found in Albay.

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the scenic view atop the jagged rocks

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Part Two of our Caramoan Dream Tour

I stepped out of bed early to savor the cool breeze and the fresh morning scent of Caramoan. There was no sunshine photo because the sky was gloomy. A bit dismayed, I took a quiet walk on the peaceful road, amused to see early riser locals and pleased to smell the sweet wafting fragrance of flowers. Oh I just can’t sustain my excitement and happiness looking at the pleasing sights.

Good morning lovely Caramoan!

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the long stretch of creamy white sand of Sabitang Laya

I thank the Lord for giving me another wonderful opportunity to explore the hidden beauty of Camarines Sur through a package tour.  I will be sharing happy memories with my former colleagues, Sir Alex, Alma, Ana and Rose.

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another day in paradise… at Lahus Island

Breakfast was served early with fried rice, dried fish with tomatoes, sunny side up egg and coffee.

With Ryan wearing the official uniform as tour guide, we were fetched by our service van by 7 a.m. and headed to the jump off point at Paniman Beach. Along the way, we were mesmerized by the picturesque countryside view, from the lush green rice fields, farm lands and coconut trees. It felt so good to see the unhurried life and simple living of Caramoan.

We were so excited as we reached Paniman Beach which is a beach itself.  Though it was not a white sand, it fascinated us seeing scattered islets from afar.  

The clear blue sky was so lovely to behold. 

And so, here we come for the much-awaited Caramoan island hopping adventure!  Yehey!

Caramoan Island Hopping

There are two island hopping tours in Caramoan, the short tour (P1,500 to P1,800) which includes Our Lady of Peace Grotto, Matukad Island, Lahus Island and Gota Beach. The long trip (P2,500 to P3,000) includes Sabitang Laya, Cotivas Island and Manlawi Sandbar. Since we only have one day, we go for the short tour and begged Ryan to include Sabitang Laya, to which he favored our request.Yeeey!
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Our Lady of Peace Grotto (Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary)

Travel time – 35 minutes.  We started our adventure, not on a beach escapade yet, but a trek to 524 steps starting from the foot of Mount Caglago in Barangay Tabnon.  Two locals approached us and knowing that they will guide us along the way, we let them walked with us and later they shared interesting stories about the islands of Caramoan.

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the breathtaking view taken from our Lady of Peace Grotto

It wore me out the climb but seeing a fascinating view of several islets, islands and the Tagbon Bay whisked off everything.

The Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary which was said to be the largest Marian in the country looked like it was overlooking and protecting the whole Caramoan Peninsula.  Walking around in this peaceful place is worthy of doing so.  When we went down, we bought souvenir items in a little store and gave P200 each to the two guides.

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savor the view and the serenity

It was flickering hot and everyone was sweating. There were nipa huts near the docking area. We decided to have an early lunch inside the hut and feasted on rice, laing, fried yellow fin tuna, adobong port, banana and cold soft-drinks.

 

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Travel time-35 minutes.  I was too excited as we were approaching the glistening white sand of Sabitang Laya. It is composed of a long shoreline in Lucsuhin group of island.

We docked on the shore bringing our cams. In a sweltering summer heat like this, walking along the long-stretch under the blistering sun was so strenuous. Hooh!  

But the stunning views of the sand and sea stretching into the brilliant sunshine with several colored beige star fish on a very clear water made us forget the muddy weather.  In fact, I don’t mind anymore if my skin gets dark.  

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one of the beautiful picture-perfect views of Sabitang-Laya

We went to the other side of the island and was amazed to see unique rock and limestone kart formations.  It reminded me of Coron in Palawan, only that this was smaller. It was so inviting to do rappelling and rock climbing activities. There were lots of big rock boulders scattered near the shore.  At last I saw the most photographed part of Sabitang Laya which was the big and only rock standing few distance away from the shore.

Here’s the picture.

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the most photographed spot in this island

The place is a heaven especially if you could own it for few minutes and much better in an hour, like we did.

We didn’t swim for we were so excited exploring around and took an endless picture taking.  The island was so beautiful and again, almost comparable to Coron in terms of cleanliness and tranquility. Looked like Caramoan is the next Palawan.

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scattered star fish on shallow clear water

Isn’t it wonderful to see an island with no garbage on water and on the sand?

Once you clamber atop a big boulder you could see that the whole island is shaped like a triangle or a big kite.  The island is perfect for camping but sad to say, camping is not allowed.  What to do, is to swim, snorkel, walk on the shoreline, enjoy the sunset, feel the serenity and take lots and lots of pictures.

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Lahus Island

Travel time-25 minutes.  Every island has its own irresistible charm.  Lahus Island was a stunning sandbar with creamy powdery-sugar sand in between two huge jagged limestones.

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the captivating sand bar

Water was very clear and again, we didn’t swim. We were overwhelmed taking pictures and more pictures of all the beautiful things perceived by our eyes.  Ryan told us that during high tide the island was covered with water leaving only those rock formations visible to one’s eyes.  This is where it got its name, ”lahos” or “laho” which is “vanish” in English word.

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having the great time of our lives… the coconut ball and our jump of joy

We dipped on the clear water and later stayed on the sand for our wonderful jump shot with a coconut ball as our backdrop. Lahus Island is a beautiful island, unexploited, stunning… huh! Beyond compare indeed.

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 Matukad Island

Travel time-35 minutes.  Matukad Island is the most popular and favorite island in Caramoan Peninsula. It is always included on the top list for island hopping.  What made this favorite is its fine powdery white sand and the exciting trek going up the lagoon which has an intriguing legend about the milk fish.

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the stunning view from the top… another hidden paradise… my favorite island

The story – long ago, there were two milk fish roaming freely on the lagoon, until one of this was speared by a fisherman, took it home for his family and cooked it.  But after eating the fish, they all died, apparently from food poisoning.  It became so mysterious to the locals, so from then on, no one has attempted to catch anymore the milk fish left. Afraid that they will experience the same fate happened to the poor fisherman and his family.

Today, the enchanting milk fish remains a mystery.  And I guess, will always be.

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the intriguing lagoon of Matukad Island

Like Sabitang Laya and Lahus, Matukad Island has no cottages, no nipa huts, no electricity, no entrance fee. Everything is basic.  The visitors were scattered on the sand beside those impressive limestone rock formations.  This island is the most crowded with a combination of foreign and Pinoy travelers.  

I enjoyed walking on barefoot because the sand was so soft, almost comparable to the sand of Boracay. I headed curiously to the long queue of eager souls waiting for their turns to climb the lagoon. I was so excited to try it but no one from my buddies brave the activity.  Ryan was willing to assist me but I let go of the experience because I want to do it with a group. Ika nga, the more, the merrier.

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the climb to the lagoon of Matukad Island

Instead Ryan volunteered to take pictures of the lagoon especially the big enchanting milk fish.  I was amazed how fast Ryan did his turn. In few minutes, he went back  with his magnificent shots.  But he wasn’t able to take photo of the fish because he can’t come close to the lagoon for there were several people hanging around.  Only 16 persons are allowed near the lagoon. So that’s the reason why there was a long waiting because of this people not minding for the others’ turn.

Matukad by the way means to climb or go up.

This time we all immersed on the water and basked on sunshine.

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Gota Village Resort

Gota Village Resort is the only island in Caramoan that has the best accommodation for travelers.  Though it was above the average budget, your stay in this island will worth the experience.

There are three types of air-conditioned cabanas to choose from. The small – P2,500, Medium – P3,000 and Large – P3,500.00.  All of which are made up of our very own Bakay Kubo.

 

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the docking area of Gota Beach

 

Our contact person had a connection with the owner of Gota, so instead of paying P300 for the entrance fee, we were given a privilege to explore the island for free.

As Ryan told us, there’s no trace of materials or signboards used in filming the Survivor in selected islands. It was being cleaned  up thoroughly to regain its unspoiled beauty.  Even Gota which was rented exclusively by the cast and crews of Survivor series, has nothing to store for any souvenirs.  But we were thankful that we were able to set foot in this island for no one can visit here if there is an on-going shooting.

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at the cave

We headed to the beach front and strolled around.  Gota Beach was a small cove with a short stretch of creamy white sand.

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the torch used at night

After a day’s sightseeing and relaxation, finally, we decided to have some rest. We sat on benches and feel the serenity and the beauty of this island.  There were few people swimming on the water.  It was so wonderful to stay still and watch the gentle waves.

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at the event center of Gota Beach

A moment later we headed to the small cave just beneath the beach front.  This was the end of our island hopping.

Gota is connected to the mainland. We were fetched by our service van around 4 pm. On our way back to the town, I didn’t bother anymore taking my cam for picture taking.  I savored the moment looking at the cabanas and to the panoramic scenery as the afternoon sunlight casts a vibrant rays to the vast rice-fields and several nipa huts.

Caramoan is indeed an unforgettable picture of serenity.  I was so thankful to see its charm, seclusion and its bewitching beauty.

Now I know why Survivor keeps coming back to this hidden paradise.  Just like them, certainly, I will go back with my family.

And when that time comes, I hope this dazzling paradise is still free from monster modernization… for my kids to appreciate and love the nature more…  like I did.

 

 In getting there:

Through Bus – Manila to Naga City:

1)  Take a bus ride either in Pasay City, Cubao or Alabang bound to Naga City, approximately 8 to 9 hours travel time, bus fare-P700 to P900  depending on bus lines. (Penafrancia Travel and Tours Bus, Philtranco, Amihan Bus, Isarog Bus Lines).

2) From Naga City bus terminal head to Van terminal located between SM Naga and Naga City Bus Terminal and ride an air-conditioned van bound to Sabang Port, approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes travel time with fare of P100.

3) Boat ride from Sabang Port to Guijalo Port started at 5:30 am until 11 am only. Travel time is 1 hour and forty five minutes or 2 hours depending on climate condition-fare-P120 with environmental fee of P5.

Be sure to catch a morning ride to Sabang Port or else you will rent a boat exclusively for around P2,00o to P3,000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bulusan Lake: Into Exciting Route and Awesome View

Bulusan Lake also known as “Switzerland of the Orient” lies at the heart of Bulusan Volcano National Park. It is a protected rainforest and wildlife sanctuary located in Barangay San Roque.  Its center attraction is the Mt. Bulusan which is one of the active volcanoes in the Philippines.  The lake has two mountain peaks, the Sharp Peak and Mt. Hormahan and in between is Lake Aguingay.

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There are two options in getting there. One is through Maharlika Highway, passing towns of Casiguran, Juban and Irosin. The other option is at Gubat to Barcelona.

Travel time coming from our hometown in Malinao took us four hours in getting to Gubat. We took a room reservation for overnight stay in Rizal Beach around noon time, ate our lunch and headed to Bulusan Lake. The muggy weather tempted us to swim in the resort but we have to escape momentarily to complete our Sorsogon escapade.

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From Gubat, we passed the town of Barcelona. As we get closer to Bulusan, the view gets greener and the air smells so fresher. Vast rice fields were in our right and at left was the scenic view of Pacific Ocean. We enjoyed watching the rustic countryside. It was so wonderful looking at those golden grains which any moment from now is ready for harvest.

When we reached the town proper of Bulusan we asked the locals of the right direction. It’s good that we were heading to the right way. We saw a signboard “8 km to Bulusan Lake”, so we assumed we were so near.

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At first the wide road was well-paved, later there were portions under construction.  As we went up, my buddies started to panic as the road became rougher and stiffer. My hubby had difficulty in traversing the “scary rough road”, but he had maneuvered the steering wheel very well.

I really had no idea this would be the road situation. It seemed we were heading to an endless journey. Soon we were enclosed by canopy of trees.The small and narrow road was well-paved again. Sound of kuliglig (cricket) got louder and louder. Surprisingly, it was getting cooler as we entered a forested trail. Going to the lake was a combination of exciting anticipation and fear sprinkled by suspense as we were nearing the climax of our trip.

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At last we saw the signboard! I breathed a deep sigh of relief. Everyone now was shouting for joy when we reached the parking area.  We paid P10/head for the entrance fee (what a cheap rate).

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What was so amazing here in Bulusan Lake is that a large amount of body of water nestled at the foot of two mountains and at Bulusan Volcano. The view offered a unique serenity. Indeed, this is ideal for family outing. It was so awesome communing with nature in this magnificent wonder.

The greenish color of water is not suitable for swimming because of mud in the bottom. But there are water activities that surely everyone will enjoy like kayaking (P100), water bike (P600) and boat rental which accommodates two to five persons (P500).

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The densely forested Mt. Bulusan could be climbed by enthusiast mountaineer. Group of avid adventurer can camp at the crater summit. What you need is a local guide. Just ask for assistance at the information booth if you are planning to do these activities.

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We have no time to enjoy the water rides because we have to go back to Rizal Beach before it gets dark. It might be chaotic going down for there was no electricity along the road.  Anyway, we were so thankful that we saw another Sorsogon’s wonderful scenic spot.

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Next time we will take the route to Irosin so we can swim in the natural hot and cold springs. Perhaps next year if our schedule permits us to do so.

From beaches, waterfalls, rivers, caves and lakes, I’m proud to say that Bicol region offers so many natural wonders that are worth visiting.

Bye now Bulusan Lake, have to go back to Rizal Beach for a swim.

Tagaytay City – An Afternoon Escape

We enjoined my brother-in-law Noel to go with us in Tagaytay for a Saturday escape from the stiffing atmosphere in Manila. He’s been working abroad for so many years and before he leaves for another wonderful opportunity in California, we wanted him to see and explore some of our country’s exciting places to visit.

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We chose Picnic Grove, the most visited park in Tagaytay City. We’ve been to this park for so many times, but it’s nice to go back again and again because in every visit, there is an exciting activity to indulge with. We had an exciting ride in zipline the last time we went here.The other new activity is the Cable Car which is ideal for a family ride.

Entrance fee was P50/head.Rion was free of charge since she is one year old.

Noel is from Baguio.The cool climate in Tagaytay was an ordinary thing to him. What awed him much was the breathtaking view of Taal Volcano and the lake. He got so busy capturing photos of every scenic spot that amazed him much.

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Horseback riding is the oldest common activity in Tagaytay with rate of P150 to P200 depending on the sizes of horse.  Since we already tried this activity in Baguio, no one  from us wanted to do it again. So we headed down and occupied a picnic shed (P150) near the zipline station. We toured the eco-trail and just like our last visit, we enjoyed walking again to the concrete walkway with metal hand rails. We savored the moment looking at the panoramic view of Taal Volcano. It took us twenty minutes before we went back to our area.

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We let Noel roamed around at the lower part of the park where lots of people flocked to capture a better view of Taal Volcano. While sitting, we enjoyed watching those kites hovering in the blue sky.  Later, what was left were those two big bat kites soaring freely and so mighty.

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Since it was summer and week-end, rate of zipline with photo and a mug with photo too was P500. Whew! What a price.  It was only Pao and Miko who dared the ride again. We waited for their thrilling fly and cheered them up as soon as they were released into the air. Noel was scared to try it and so with my sister Gi. I guess it has something to do with age.hehehe.

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Everyone was starving when the two teens went back from their activity. We all sat together and eat our yummy meryenda. Bringing back the traditional picnic activity was really delightful.  I was thankful that there’s a park like this which keep family bonding so alive. An afternoon stay in Picnic Grove is indeed a relaxing family getaway.

There are lots of souvenir stores that sell t-shirts (100 to P250), key-chains (P35), table display (P75), bags and coin purse (prices depend on sizes and designs). Of course for every visit, it’s a must to buy cute collections. There are also fruit stands where we bought pine apple and banana in affordable prices.

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It was almost 7 pm when we finally bid good-bye to the park. Noel was very grateful visiting Tagaygay as he shared his valuable experiences on our way home. He appreciated the scenic view as well as the warmth of our family bonding.

I will never get tired being the organizer in our provincial getaway because my heart is always filled with joy when we are all together in a beautiful place like this. Indeed, It is a rewarding threat seeing their happy faces having fun. For the remaining days of my sister and her family here in the Philippines, we will bring them next to Boracay, Albay and Sorsogon for a more meaningful adventure.

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