Tuesday, May 11, 2010

it's summer ... and i finally made it to the beach!

thanks to lingkod brothers who organized the trip, i finally made it to calaguas, camarines norte last weekend.

the trip started late friday night when all 16 of us met at festival mall, alabang. it was the weekend before elections and they'd anticipated that travelling by bus to camarines norte would be difficult, hence two vehicles to ferry us to paracale, camarines norte.

the trip was relatively long ... not to mention uncomfortable. while i appreciated the fact that riding a hired vehicle meant i didn't have to worry about where my tent and bags were, the legroom in most vehicles for hire (generally the ones used in "shuttles" within metro manila) leaves much to be desired. it was a relatively uncomfortable trip and i was only too happy when we finally arrived at a little past 9 in the morning.

since we were all famished (at least i was) from the trip, we first ate at cowboy restaurant (or was it cowboy eatery?) right at the town's center. i had lugaw with egg (P15 only!) and it satiated my hunger without making me too bondat to brave the almost two-hour long boat ride to calaguas. we also bought most of our supplies from paracale, including several five-gallon jugs of water and junk food.

after we had gathered our supplies, we boarded a fishing boat (without fish, thank goodness) and finally hied of to calaguas. the most winning part was the fact that the water was really clean, and the deep brilliant blue of the water was just breathtaking. be warned though that this trip -- even with the tarps -- could be very hot, and that your things will get very wet especially if the sea is choppy.

the boatmen said it was an hour away, an hour and a half at most, but i shouldn't have gotten my hopes up. as was promised by my friends who had been there in the past, it's a two-hour boat ride from paracale to mahabang buhangin, our destination.

it could've been the fact that we went there on a long weekend but contrary to the statements that this island was virtually a rustic paradise, there were a number of groups already camped out on the beach when we arrived. not only that, we found out much later on that most of the people on our part of the island had arrived via tour groups that organized everything for them -- food, tents, transfers, etc - for a very affordable amount. it won't be long, i think, before this island will be filled with adventurers near and far.

i couldn't wait to get to the water as soon as we arrived but that meant changing first, hence my first encounter with the bathroom facilities. if you're the kind who needs a nice bathroom, you'd want to avoid calaguas until some enterprising native decides to develop the island. there was one (yes, ONE) bathroom inside a bigger room whose only source of water was a manong whose job is to bring water from the pump a couple of meters aways to the bathroom.

the sand was hot, but the water was sooooo cool that i ended up burning to a crisp. note to reader: make sure to lather on huge amounts of sunblock -- it's easy to forget how hot it is when the water is as cool as the water on this beach.

in order to catch a different view of the sunset, a number of us decided to rent a boat to bring us to a nearby island. it was much smaller than mahabang buhangin, and there were more corals and rocks, but it had the same divine white sand and it was deserted.

unfortunately, the clouds were out, preventing most of us from taking beautiful sunset photos. then again, it could've simply been my lack of camera skils.

accommodations were limited to tents. we pitched ours right on the beach, in a circle, so that we could gather round the middle prior to bedtime. it could get really warm inside the tents, though, so be prepared to sleep either with the tent "door" open (even if our tents had that net-like door, most of us still chose to leave the door open just to make the tents cooler) or on the beach itself. (note: sometime in the middle of the night, though, it got really, really cold that i had to fish my blanket from my bag in the dark).

all in all, it was a nice adventure. i spent roughly around P3,500 for the entire trip (outfits not included ☺) -- P3,000 for the van ride, boat ride, and other incidental expenses, and P500 for the other things that were not included in the trip such as pasalubong, additional food, and snacks. there's a small store right on the beach which sells halo-halo for only P20 -- it's pretty good but it's even better after you realized that there's no such thing as cold water on this island and it could get really, really hot in the afternoon.

honestly speaking though, while the island was great, the views spectacular, and the beach lovely, it was the very long trip coupled with the single bathroom that got to me. by the end of the trip, i was so ready to go back to civilization and be where there was cold water all the time, and the bathrooms had running water. if you're the adventurous type though, this trip would be worth your while. make sure to go on a non-weekend -- it's hardly much fun with all those tour groups around.

there are hardly any fish to see too, so it might be best to leave your snorkeling gear at home to cut down on baggage. better to load up your luggage instead with a flashlight, lots and lots of sunblock, and extra batteries for your camera. forget your phone -- there's no signal the moment you leave paracale.

to my *inexperienced beach* mind (read: of minimal experience), locally, i still prefer the beach at dos palmas the most, closely followed by pandan island in mindoro. it could very easily be the reverse, though, as pandan island had gorgeous underwater views. would i recommend calaguas though? if you're a real beach person, and you like roughing it, and you're the type who gets a high from adventure, well, you should start planning a trip now. as in soon. before all the tour groups ruin the rustic beauty of it all.

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