Waking up early was not a routine of my son Cymon and my daughter Axl. But this morning was different ’cause they are coming with me. Destination: Bulusan Lake. Dubbed as the “Switzerland of the Orient”.
Boarded a jeep at the terminal near the Sorsogon Cathedral (Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral) to Irosin because there is no direct trip to Bulusan. It’s good that the jeepney left the terminal even we were only three adults and three children. But the jeep gets full by picking up passengers along the route. When we were at Irosin, there we feel bored while waiting for the jeep (to Bulusan) to get full of passengers. We waited I think thirty minutes. The driver of the jeep didn’t showed up until his jeepney was full. Along the way, there were still passengers being picked up and hopped in, even clinging and standing at the steps of the jeep. In the city, you could rarely see female hanging on the jeepney. But here in remote area, male, female, old or even young students have no choice ’cause there is only few jeep plying that route. And TAKE NOTE: the last trip back to Irosin is 3pm. I was sitting beside my kids (I paid their sits). On my lap was my back pack. One woman offered, or requested to hold Axl on her lap. When we approached the road under construction (very rough road) I noticed Axl’s face was so pale. I thought she feels dizzy because of zigzagging and bouncing ride. When there was an empty sit, Axl took it. I was worried she might vomit. But she didn’t. Later When I asked her what she feels on that woman’s lap, she said the woman was holding her so tightly on her tummy.
When we arrived at Bulusan proper, I just bought two liters of mineral water then hired a tricycle to take us to the lake. Actually, the jeep we rode passed by the entrance going to the lake. But we didn’t dropped by there because the lake was 2.5km from the hi-way and there were no tricycle at the entrance going in. We agreed to the amount of 150 pesos for taking us there. He tied my inflatable kayak at the roof of his trike. There was no chance of taking pictures along the way because of the road condition.
Bulusan lake was now different compared to ten years ago when I first saw it. It is now frequently visited by tourists often by the family of OFW’s. There are now kayaks for rent. The entrance fee at the lake is only ten pesos. While the rental for kayak is 200 pesos per hour (or was it per half our?). I asked the fee collector, if it’s okay if I use my own kayak. He didn’t got what I mean so I explained to him that we brought with us an inflatable kayak. Pointed to him the duffle bag beside my son. He explained to me that it’s okay but they will not be responsible if something happens to us in the lake. And I said I understood, and added that we brought our own PFD (personal floating device or life jackets). He asked a few more questions regarding my kayak. How much I purchased it, how and where etc. I think I was the first visitor who brought along kayak.
We took some souvenir photos and had our lunch. I prepared adobong manok as our baun. We were allowed to eat under the canopies of the trees at the foot of Virgin Mary grotto. After our lunch I started to inflate my Advanced Element kayak at the edge of the lake. As I was pumping the air, a man on his shorts, wearing t-shirt and a hat (similar to those scout rangers), and with a radio hanging on his hips approached us. “Sorry Sir pero next time wag na kayong magdadala niyan ha.” I was speechless to what I’ve heard. I just nodded voluntarily. But in my mind, i have a lot of scrambled words that I wished I could tell to this man. I want to tell him “you don’t want to bring us a kayak because you have kayaks for rent.” But instead, I continue inflating my boat. We need to hurry because we need to catch up the last trip going back to Irosin.
So there we are paddling in the Lake of Bulusan. Axl was in front, while Cymon in the middle. I paddled slowly towards the east. There were two motor boats at the lake. One was carrying a group of tourists, the other serves as a back-up. I snapped some photos from time to time. Finally we reached the other side of the lake. There was a pergola there. There is a hiking trail around the lake which I think I might try next time I come back without a kayak. After paddling and taking photos for an hour, we decided to go. There are no closed cottages by the lake but they allow campers overnight at the parking area. After I deflated the boat, we off to go. Unfortunately, we need to walk out of the lake area. No tricycles available. I told my kids, “it’s really more fun in the Philippines, but this is not funny anymore.” (Walking 2.5km with a back pack and a duffle bag on my shoulder.) My perspiration was dripping.
We waited at the highway for more than hour before the last jeep came. There was a resort beside the main entrance of the lake but there was no available room for overnight. The caretaker said, she still needs to clean it ’cause the owner had just left last night. If there was only a vacant room, we could spend our night there. Hoping, that would be available rooms next time….
One day in the summer of 2012, I’d been rushing up the modifications of my inflatable kayak. I’d added up a sail. After lunch, I went to sorsogon pier to check the water. It’s high tide. Decided to test my sail on that day, but waited for my nephew to accompany me. My plan was to kayak along the Buhatan river going to rompeolas.
It was 3pm I think when my nephew got ready. We inflated the kayak and loaded it to my trike. With the help of my brother, he drove us to Buhatan bridge. It’s good that there are concrete steps going down the river. The water was subsiding so I was rushing before the it’s completely low tide. My concern was, we might be grounded at the mouth of the river if its low tide. But it was only my anticipation because I have no idea what is the river looks like at the mouth. We brought our boat down the river and set up the mast and the sail. But the sail was not yet up.
I feel happiness inside of me while we were paddling along the river (suba). Since the current was going out, it didn’t require us much effort paddling. It was cloudy day and the rain was pouring from time to time so I didn’t brought my dslr with me. I have a point and shoot camera with me but got no chance to capture the scenery because we were catching up the tide. Along the river, we passed by a number of banata (fish traps). It was really fun because we didn’t know exactly the direction to open sea. We just follow the current. In a few minutes, we saw its mouth. We saw the Sorsogon Bay.We rest for a while enjoying the view. The mountains behind us, and the rompeolas from a distance. I tried to pull the sail up. There was no wind so paddled a little further. Then we started moving.
I don’t have knowledge about sailing. Only inspired by the videos I’ve seen from You Tube. Tracking was not easy as I imagined maybe because my boat don’t have a rudder or le board. I also noted an error with the height of the sail and the rope that supports the mast. The sail was too low and the rope abstruct the shifting of the sail from one side to the other. I just used my paddle to change direction avoiding the fish traps that scattered on the bay. But we enjoyed the experience. When we were at the middle, I took out our merienda (pinakro na palawan). I wished, I also brought hot coffee with us. We took a few snap of ourselves before we moved on. When were near the pier, we saw my brother waiving on us. It was agreed that he wait for us at the pier to take us back home.
It was an unforgetable experience indeed. A dream come true. Planning to do it again some time to snap pictures along the river. Also planning to do it in Matnog river. Supposedly it was my plan to paddle along Pilar river. But didn’t pursue it bacause my family was worried. (insurgency issue again). g300
It was already been my dream to see Caramoan with my own two eyes even before the Survivor reality show made it famous. I first saw the pictures of it since I discovered Google Earth. Since then, I became obsessed to see it. Being a nature lover, I didn’t worry of the perils might be in going to that isolated place of bicolandia (alone). I asked my ten years old son if he wants to come, he said he is afraid to ride in a boat.
April 28, 2012, it was past six in the morning when the Queen bus line left Sorsogon. One hour passed, and I was there in Daraga, Albay waiting for a bus to Naga. At past 7am, I boarded Ibea bus line bounded to Manila. But most of the passengers were only as far as Naga City. And the bus was frequently stopping, picking up passengers. I was sure to myself that I will reach Pili, Camarines Sur by noon. Will surely be missing Raymond Bus from Manila bounded directly to Caramoan.
As I was expected, it was almost 12 noon when I dropped at the crossing of Anayan Pili. I boarded again a bus (JC Liner) and dropped at central terminal of Goa, Camarines Sur. From there, I boarded a jeep bound to Sabang. Upon reaching Sabang, porters calls for passengers going to Caramoan. I let the porter carry my duffle bag (my inflatable kayak) to the waiting area at the beach. There were already passengers waiting for the 2 pm trip. Some of them, a group of Taiwanese tourists. A big passenger boat was anchored a few distance from the shore. But it left for unknown reason. And later before 2pm, it was announced that the boat was not able to cruise. So the passengers will be divided in two smaller boats waiting by the river of Sabang behind the wet market.
It took two and a half hours to reach Guijalo port in Caramoan with that boat. And it was already 4:30 pm. I asked one tricycle driver who has a passenger, if I could join the ride going to sentro ng Caramoan. Thanks God he agreed together with two other passengers. The sceneries along the way to Caramoan proper was nice but was not able to grab may camera ‘coz my right hand was gripping the hand bar (I was at the back of the driver) and the other hand was holding my back pack. But the road was far better than my tricycle ride from Bulusan proper to Bulusan Lake.
I bought three liters of mineral water, 2 cans of sardines, 2 instant noodles and worth ten pesos of bread. I didn’t starved much because I bought puto (rice cake) and baduya (fried banana) on my bus ride. It was getting dark already when I decided to proceed to the beach. I asked the tricycle drivers if how much if they will take me to Paniman Beach. They said, since it’s getting dark already, and will be no more passengers going back, they will charge 150 pesos. But they are not greedy ‘coz they suggested me to take habal-habal (single motorcycle) instead. So I rented two habal-habal. One for my self and one for my duffle bag. Fifty pesos each, so I saved fifty pesos. We let the motorcycle with my bag to lead the way so that we could keep an eye with my bag if it’s about to fall. It’s already dark when I set my foot at Paniman beach. I found myself just in front of Breezes and Waves Resort. But since I don’t have a plan to check in a hotel, I asked the caretaker if I could set up a tent there at the beach. The old man was very kind to me. And he assured me that nobody will harm me if I wished to camp there. So I started setting up my ‘hotel’. I brought a sleeping bag with me but it’s too hot to sleep in it. So I just used it as my sleeping mat.
I woke up early morning. My sleep was not as comfortable as sleeping at home but I could say “I survived the night”. I used my handmade camping stove (out of tin can) to boil water for my coffee. Which I partnered with the bread I bought from sentro yesterday. After breakfast, I started to prepare my first day exploration. The caretaker stayed around and watched me inflated my kayak. When everything was set, he assisted me putting my boat in the water. Caramoan here I come!!
I have printed copy of google map inside my duffle bag, but didn’t took it out ‘coz I already familiarized it. I asked the old man if that island we saw from a distance is Matukad, and he said yes. My orientation was correct hehe.
My first aimed Island was Matukad but did not paddle directly there. I paddled in between islets, literally exploring the place. Thanks God the water was calm and crystal clear. I constantly checking the depth of the water, not getting in too shallow where there might be protruding sharp rocks that could rip off my boat. I placed my snorkel set in front of me ready to grab just in case my kayak capsized. I also wrapped my camera in a plastic bag and placed it behind me, taking it out from time to time to capture the view. It’s a wonderful place and you could really appreciate how great God is, by His creations. Since it is still early, there are less sounds of bancas in the area. It’s so peaceful out there.
I reached Matukad Island before 7 am. And feeling proud that I was the first visitor on that day. There were no traces of footprints at the beach, except on higher grounds where had not reached by the waves during high tide. I tied my boat on a rock and submerged myself on its water. So refreshing…..
After a few minutes of snorkeling in the area, I climbed the huge boulder. It looks like a puzzle rock, stacked on top of each other that forms one boulder. The view on top was breath taking. You could see how clear the water is. On the eastern part from where I was standing, I could see the beach of Lahus Island (as per my familiarization of the place via Google Earth). A few minutes later, here comes the visitors. First boat….. second boat. A visitor from manila approached and asked if he could have a picture of himself with my kayak. In return, I asked him to snap me too. (I didn’t bring a tripod). . I left the island before the third boat came. (I shall return.)
Next stop over is Lahus or Naglahus Island. Some call it Bichara Island. It’s an island with two beach fronts (east and west side). And luckily again, I was the first visitor of the day. I anchored my boat and took some pictures of the island. The rocks of Lahus are very sharp.
I was also surveying for a good place to camp when the night comes. And there was an ideal place. And I told myself, I shall return…. A few minutes later, the first motorized boat arrived. I chit-chat with the bankero. He said they came straight from Guijalo port, and his visitor will pay him 2,500 for the island hopping. I have seen them yesterday at the waiting shed. One female, and two male. And I think they were siblings. I asked the bangkero if he knows where Tinago Cove is, and he said it’s too far from here. I said no, it’s just somewhere here. I didn’t argue with him because I am sure with myself. I’ve planned and researched for this trip for years. Maybe he was referring to different ‘tinago’ because he came from Guijalo. I joked to myself, how could I found it if is hidden. And he offered his services, “if you want, I could tow you going there….” Oh really… how nice of you…. But thanks anyway, what is the used of my paddle if you will tow me.
Tinago, tinago, sino ang nagtago? I paddled toward south-east near the coast line. If you are far from the coastline, you will not notice that there are islets and coves before the shore or coast. I found a passage in between two huge rocks. I slowly paddled in, stop, look, and listen…. (paran tren lang ano.) And then I saw a short strip of white line. A small beach. I continued paddling in until I saw an opening channel on my left. Voila!! This is it. I found the Tinago. As I get nearer to the beach, I smell something like a cologne. Does God sprayed cologne on this place? I asked myself. Maybe it’s a fragrance from the wild flowers in the area. Once on the beach, I texted someone (yes there was signal on cp). “ I found Tinago. But I would like to call this “paradise”. The color and texture of the sand is like washed sugar. One thing that saddened me was the traces of bonfire right at the foot of a tree. The tree is already dying. Irresponsible campers are destroying the place. There were also empty cans of beers. It’s a good thing that bangkeros were the one collecting the garbage of their clients. I asked one bangkero who arrived later to take my empty can of sardines.
I was about to snorkel when I heard the sound of a motor boat. Alone no more! So instead, I cooked my lunch even if it’s still past 10 am I think. I’ve positioned my DIY camping stove between the crevice. Then more boats came. They even had pictorials with my kayak. After I had my lunch, I decided to leave the place because it’s getting crowded already. Although there were beautiful girls on their swimsuits, some kababayans and some foreigners, I didn’t dare to take snap on them. I might get in trouble.
So I traced my way out of the cove. But stopped in the middle to take some pictures of the cove before returning to open water. Tracing the coastlines eastward. My next quest was to find the Tayak Lake. I did found the beach that serves as the entrance to hidden lake. But before I reached the shoreline I was met by a shirtless man with a hand held radio and a jungle bolo on his side. He said they will not allowed visitors to get in because Suvivor will shoot. I know he was lying because the caretaker of the resort where I camped told me that the cast of survivors are on 10-day vacation. Bu I did not insists. Frustrated, I turned away and paddled back to Lahus Island where I spent my siyesta and watched the tourists came and go. I was surprised by the volume of visitors on that island alone. Sometimes three were twelve bancas docked at the same time. Squeezing each other on the beach. I talked with bankeros while waiting for their passengers. We where there at the foot of the rocks hiding from the sun. They said, the rental of the boat ranging from 2, 500 to 3,500 pesos depending on the number of passengers and depending on how many islands they will visit. Some tourists hired tour guides so that will be an additional expenses. If you’re about to go, you could save by not hiring a tour guide because boat men themselves knows the place and they will be your tour guides. However these boatmen don’t have access to internet so you can’t book or negotiate with them prior to your trip.
When I feel bored watching the people on the island, I decided to leave and headed back to Matukad Island. I found more interesting views of the island. On the east side of the island, there was a huge rock that looks like it was placed on top of rocks. Just like a canopy. I paddled to the other side of the island looking for the small beach that I remembered from google map. I found it but it was creepy. I mean I feel being enchanted. I was there floating on the water for more than an hour figuring out how to get to the beach without being slammed by the rocks by the waves. I could see the beach behind the tower rock that seems like guarding the beach. This rock has holes that serves as nests to birds. I really want to get to that beach but was afraid, my boat could be ripped off by the sharp rocks. I wish I have a company with me to take care of my kayak so that I could snorkel in between those rocks to the beach. Ant that is the thought of coming back some time. Would you dare coming with me? 🙂