Monday, August 24, 2009


A visit to Caramoan was not included in my itinerary when I went to Catanduanes last week. However in a conversation with the driver of Bp. Manolo de los Santos he happened to mention that Caramoan is just an hour away from Catanduanes by boat. I never heard that one can go to Caramoan by going to Virac. Hence, when I heard of this my radar-like instincts right away flashed with the idea of visiting these islands made famous by TV Survivor series of France, Israel and Bulgaria. Day two of my trip in Catanduanes was supposedly a tour around the island, but when I mentioned about visiting Caramoan Bp. De los Santos, my host, right away consented to the idea, he being a native of Caramoan.

The regular route in going to Caramoan that I have read about from blogs and other tourist info is a van ride from Naga City to Sabang which takes about two hours, then a boat ride to Guijalo, the southern port in Caramoan which is another hour and a half ride. Upon arriving in Guijalo one would take a tricycle for the 5 kilometer trip to the town center in Caramoan. From the center where most of the lodging houses and inns are found, one would again take a tricycle or motorcycle for another five kilometer ride in going to the northern part of Caramoan in Bikal or Paniman which are the jump off points for the island hopping. From there one would hire a boat for the island hopping. So if one comes from Manila by plane it would take almost one day just to go to Caramoan and one would no longer have the time to go island hopping on that very same day. However if one planes in from Manila to Virac in the morning he can right away go to Bislig, San Andres which is 25 kilometers away from Virac and from there hire a boat for the island hopping in Caramoan all in one day. That simple. The only downside to this is one cannot visit all the islands in just one day. One needs to stay in Caramoan for at least two days for island hopping.

In spite of its proximity to Caramoan, the province of Catanduanes has not exploited this possibility of offering tour packages to Caramoan. In fact there are still no regular boat rides from Catanduanes to Caramoan. A regular boat service to Caramoan would be a boon to tourists as they could stay in Caramoan for a few days going around the islands and not hurry back to Catanduanes on the same day. The usual ferry trips from Catanduanes go to Tabaco, Albay which is a three-hour trip. When I mentioned this to the bishop he reasoned that it could be perhaps that since Caramoan belongs already to another province tour operators from Catanduanes are hesitant to maximize this opportunity. If the project of a RoRo port from Codon, San Andres to San Vicente, Caramoan that the bishop of Virac has been proposing pushes through, that would be a big boost to the tourist industry in Virac as it would take only 30 minutes to cross to Caramoan from Catanduanes. However, if the project will not be started by the present national administration it would probably take several years before it will be finalized. At the very least, at present, there should be a regular boat trip which should serve Catanduanes and Caramoan.

It was almost eleven o’clock in the morning when we took the boat from Bislig in going to Caramoan as we still had to visit some tourist attractions along the way. Since the boat had no covering, each of us were given a colorful umbrella to protect us from the sun or the rain. However, we were only twenty minutes on the sea when suddenly the engine of the boat stopped. The operator tried to revive the boat for several minutes but the engine would not come to life. Good that the waves were not strong at this time or we would have drifted away or have been battered and probably sank. The bishop had to call for a back-up boat to pick us up. We had to wait for more than 30 minutes before a smaller boat came to fetch us and bring us to Caramoan. We could have right away proceeded to the northern part of the Caramoan peninsula where white beaches and islands are found but instead we followed the southern route and landed at Guijalo port on the south of Caramoan. Supposedly a one hour boat ride only but with the engine trouble our travel time almost reached two hours. Being my first time in the place, I thought that we already landed in the town of Caramoan only to find out that we still had to ride a tricycle as the town proper was still five kilometers away. We went to the house of Bp. Manolo which was in the town proper just near the parish church for our lunch. While lunch was being prepared I went first to visit the old church made of red bricks. The town proper of Caramoan is land-locked. The sea nearest to it is either on the north or the south which is five kilometers away.

It was already past two o’clock in the afternoon when we rode motorcycles in order to go to the sea for our island hopping. Since each of us had a motorcycle, Vincent and I were brought by our drivers to Bikal north of the center which was the jump off point for island hopping. During low tides, it is difficult to take the boat from Bikal as the place is muddy which they said could reach up to the knees as the place is near a mangrove area. Hence the other take off point is Paniman. In Bikal we waited for sometime for Bp Manolo only to find out that he was in the other beach in Paniman which is the nearest point to other beaches going east along the Caramoan peninsula like Hunungan and Gota Beaches. As we made our way to Paniman which was about 4 kilometers away from Bikal there was a heavy downpour of rain. Because of this Bp Manolo decided that it was not anymore advisable to go island hopping, besides it was already three o’clock in the afternoon and we had to go back to Catanduanes before five. So we just took a bath at the sea there in Paniman. The sand in this part was brown. There were some foreigners there and we were told that they were members of the crew of the Survivor TV show from Serbia. They are the fourth foreign nationals who had tapings of the Survivors in Caramoan after the French, Israelis and Bulgarians. The roads in Caramoan are just being bulldozed and widened hence during rain the roads are muddy and slippery. With the influx of tourists, it is hoped that in a few years time the roads there will be cemented already. We left Caramoan by 4:30 and arrived back in Bislig, San Andres by 5:45 p.m.

Indeed, I have been to Caramoan but not quite as I wanted as I was not able to go and see the famous white beaches and islands. Along the way from Catanduanes we did get to see beautiful rock formations and limestone cliffs along the Caramoan peninsula which reminded me of El Nido and Busuanga in Palawan. There were also a few white beaches that we could see from the boat. But it’s really different to be there and frolic in the white sand and crystal clear waters of the sea. Bishop Manolo was saying that every island in Caramoan has something uniquely its own. Among the beaches and islands that could be visited include: Minilahus, Lahus, Lahuy, Pitogo, Sabtang Laya, Covitas, Tinago, Guinahuan, Luksuhin, Masay and Malibon. There is also a sandbar in the middle of the sea which can be visited only during low tides as it gets underwater during high tides. Another tourist site is the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Grotto in Mt. Caglago. All these I have to do some other time. Caramoan, I shall return.

We were given umbrellas to protect us from the heat of the sun. It came in handy when we had to wait for more than 30 minutes when the engine of the boat conked out.

We transferred to this boat in the foreground when the engine would not start in the boat we were riding.

The boatmen had to paddle their way back to Bislig as we continued our trip to Caramoan.

The port in Guijalo.

Guijalo port is the port of entrance to Caramoan from the other towns of Camarines Sur.

Map of Caramoan with Catanduanes below on the right side.

The house of Bp. Manolo delos Santos in Caramoan.

A street scene in Caramoan.

The Parish church of Caramoan dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel.

The church occupies a block and there is plenty of open space around.

The statue of St. Michael on top of the church door.

The statue of St. Peter on one side of the front of the church

The statue of St. Paul on the other side of the front of the church.

Church altar of Caramoan

A close-up view of the risen Christ statue and tabernacle on the altar

The port in Bikal which is the jump off point in going to the islands of Caramoan. The usual rate they ask here for the boat in going island hopping is 1,500.

Paniman beach, the other jump off point for the islands in Caramoan.

In Paniman service speed boats of the crew of the TV Survivor Series from Serbia that are filming now in Caramoan are on stand by.

Limestones cliffs dot the shoreline in the Caramoan peninsula

Another beautiful rock formation on the southern shores of Caramoan

A white beach along the southern part of Caramoan before reaching Guijalo from Catanduanes.

With Bishop delos Santos and Vincent on the boat going back to San Andres, Catanduanes. With the engine of the boat repaired the boat came back to pick us up.

The contact no. for the boat from Bislig, San Andres, Catanduanes is 0921-3351987. The name is Dolly. The rate of the boat for a one day island hopping tour depends on the size of the boat. The minimum is 2,500. Another boat which could accommodate 50 persons has a rate of 7,000.


Anonymous said...

Nice. Thank you for the information. This is very helpful for us who are planning to go there.

Viagra Online said...

I just love those imagines! I am a Catholic guy and I want to know more about each sculpture, its colors and fabrics have something special. Absolutely.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for some info.I am planning to go there with friends next year.Actually I have some friends there in San Andres,But I don't know exactly where they are."Rodriguez family."

kamagra said...

That most beautiful mountains with its beautiful rock that not only protects but gives sculpture to its beauty, and the boat is beautiful