Part 1: LOOKING BACK
Of Survivor and New Beginnings

FEB 2013—The bus took the long road to the south that Valentine’s Day. On the third stop, the driver finally announced the arrival at Naga City, and the hobbit, half-awake, grabbed his backpack and hopped off the bus. For the first time, he was travelling. He was wandering solo to the popular location of the reality TV show Survivor.

Before lunch, the hobbit showed up at Residencia de Salvacion, his home for four days and three nights. Ate Gina and her nine-year old daughter Ingrid greeted him with a warm welcome.

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Residencia de Salvacion in its old location.

After settling down, the adventure started with a walking tour around the town. There was a short line of commercial establishments that include a bank, grocery stores, and some carinderia. It was easy to see how laid back the whole place was. Quiet, sleepy, and slow-paced.  Surely, there was little to do after sunset when all the locals would just head to their homes, sit down in front of the TV until they dose off watching Bea Alonzo and John Lloyd.

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A quick motorcycle ride to the fishing village of Paniman capped the day. The long shore, from where you can see some beautiful rock formations, has a row of houses and resorts. The people are friendly, accommodating, and happy. At dawn, the locals start the day by pulling their nets to the shore. The village then becomes busy the whole day to get tourists on their boats to explore the beautiful islands. And when the sun sets, a bottle of beer and the company of friends, is all that’s needed to be merry.

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The second day was gloomy, close to awful. Despite the rough sea, the hobbit got on the boat to see the nearby islands of Matukad, Cagbanilad, Lahos, and Minalagos. Climbing the rocky jagged mountain just to see an echanted lake was an achievement. Eating lunch under the rocks while the rain poured hard was solitude. Swinging on a branch of a tree was happiness. The angry sea could have swallowed a hobbit anytime that day. Still, the adventure turned out safe as much as it was, to a weary heart, bliss.

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A short walk from the main road of Salvacion is the Hanopol Dam, best for a morning jog and sightseeing.

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The foggy mountainside is a great sight for an early morning trek to Hanopol Dam.

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On the last day, there was company—Miria and Enio from Italy. The tour to the farther islands, although it was a long ride, was worth the effort. The view was captivating. The long talks about cheese and grapes and Bologna, about family, roaming the world, and being vegetarian was memorable. A puff of cigarette (the second stick you ever puffed in your life) in between sips of soda was one heck of a funny experience.

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The first trip to Caramoan Islands was unforgettable. It was a revelation of many things, the start of a new beginning. At that moment, there was only a black and white photo of the island, a weary spirit that needed to disconnect from the world, and the universe to tell him he was in the right place at the right time.

In Tolkien’s words, “Not all those who wander are lost.” But this hobbit was. And then no more.

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Photo Credit: Tim Duenas

HOW TO GET TO CARAMOAN:
Naga City is the gateway to Caramoan. From Manila, you can book a flight to Naga City, or take a night trip bus from Cubao or Pasay terminals. There are several bus lines that go to the Bicol Region and pass by Naga City including DLTB, Isarog, Penafrancia, RSL, and Philtranco.

  1. Take a bus from Manila to Naga.  The trip lasts for 8-10 hours and the fare is P650 to 850 depending on the bus line.

  2. Get a tricycle to the van terminal and take a van to Sabang Port. The fare costs P150 as of April 2015. Travel time is approximately 75 minutes. If the bus arrives early, take some light breakfast and rest. If you want to hire a taxi, there are also taxis waiting in front of SM Naga. The fare can be way more expensive, however.

  3. At Sabang port, take a ferry bound to Guijalo Port. The boat ride costs P120 and the travel time is about two hours. The last trip of the ferry going to Caramoan is 11:00 AM. If you want to catch the last ferry trip to Caramoan, make sure to leave Naga City before 9 AM. Missing the last ride can cost you more, as you have to pay for a special boat ride that costs about P2,500 to P3,000.

Coming up:
The hobbit returned to Caramoan after two years. Look out for some jaw-dropping scenes from the 2015 trip.

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This story was published on Choose Philippines. To view Aris’ page, click here: http://www.choosephilippines.com/user/aristotle.mape/

ArisMape

ArisMape is a travel insider at ABS-CBN's Choose Philippines. He loves orange, halo-halo, and PowerPoint, and hates beef, slow internet, and long taxi lines. His pastime is watching people watch other people. He swears on the power of smartphone. His half-life? Thirty.