CAMOTES ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE | Camotes Island is a less known island destination in northern CeThese past few months, I was alienated from mountains because of stupefying vertigo attacks—a migraine aftermath, I hope, and not something life-threatening such as brain cancer or tumor. Vertigo made me incoherent—or to put it bluntly—plain stupid. But the body and the mind longed for the beauty of restlessness, and beachineering and townhopping temporarily substituted for the mountains.
To Camotes at Four in the Morning
For nocturnal creatures by habit, Pie and I had to force ourselves to grab an hour sleep before heading to Camotes. Partially unprepared, we didn’t know White Gold Terminal doesn’t have a 24-hour operation, so we asked the driver to head to North Bus Terminal. We fortunately arrived in the nick of time for the bus bound for Danao.
Susceptible to cold temperature, I geared in bonnet, jacket, and scarf—a fictional bus robber attire. Although we hardly had a wink of sleep, I could not sleep while in-transit. After an hour of bus ride, we reached Danao City Port, which would ferry us to Camotes Island. We grabbed a quick breakfast before boarding the ship. It was packed. The passengers wore varied expressions: boredom, anticipation, sleepiness, exhaustion.
We found a place by the ship’s rail, giving us a wide view of the vast sea. Sleep kicked in and forced the rather small bench to accommodate my bloating figure ;-). Yes, I gained weight. And, yes, I should blame you, Vertigo.
“It’s not yet developed,” said Kuya Alfred, our guide and driver for the entire trip. Isn’t that a good thing? Once it’s developed, everything will have a price tag. He pointed out the beach keeper in one corner, oblivious to her surroundings as she kept staring at her cellphone. Perhaps, it’s relationship issues of some sort.
It seemed our arrival and departure didn’t occur to her. A chance to let us cheat on our five-peso entrance.
“Similar to Boracay, some guests said,” Kuya Alfred informed. “But we couldn’t confirm that. We haven’t been there,” he added. From afar, perhaps it is similar. I often joke about aesthetic distance. Anything can be beautiful in the distance. Boracay’s sand is in its finest; Bakhaw Beach isn’t. But that doesn’t make it a lesser beach.
Coconut trees are everywhere, their canopy a good resting place.
After snapping some pictures of the flotsam-lined shore, I took a dip. Everyone refuged in the shade, away from the glaring sun except for a couple of kids who played on the shore.
Pie—the companion—only played for a few seconds and was afraid to have her hair wet with saltwater. It is said saltwater is damaging to newly rebonded hair. I couldn’t care less about mine. It’s witchy. It has a life of its own.
Satisfied with the water, I got Sammy—my Samsung ES10 camera—from the lone shrub on the shore. We left.
The road is scented with saline water.
One of the mysteries and wonders of geography: an underground natural pool in the middle of seemingly waterless and mountainous area.
Timubo Cave is the main water source of the locals in Brgy. Sonog and neighboring barangays. And perhaps tourism snatches it away from them. But I hope not. If it does, I will feel guilty since here I am again writing about places—hoping the imaginary readers will pay them a visit.
Since we already experienced caving before, entering the cave sparked a sense of adventure in us. Caves are unrevealed, hidden. And what is hidden never elicits boredom rather it entices excitement. Clandestine affairs are often regarded as adventurously sinful.
We arrived there with our habal-habl drivers/tour guides. A Camotes girl with her Californian husband already dipped in the shoulder-length water. I asked her how’s life in America. She answered it was nice. But her eyes said otherwise. Or perhaps I overread again, which becomes a hobby these recent months
I tested the deepness and coldness of the water. “Highly appropriate and doable for swimming for non-swimmers.” I teased Pie, who doesn’t have a fish or a frog in her. I am a crossbred of both. 😉 I swam to the farthest end. The spring stretches to a smaller, narrower cove.
Two more Whites arrived with their Filipinas, a Cebuana and an Illongga. “Don’t look at this way,” the Whites said. We did. They faced the wall and stripped. We saw their old-man’s-face butt. We laughed. Their comfort level with their body astonishes and sometimes shocks us Filipinos.
A manmade grotto of Mama Mary stayed silent in one nook. I smiled, remembering the story of a writer friend. Mama Mary, the witness. How does it feel to be “sinful” in her presence.
Mangodlong Rock Resort
I lied on my back on the bench. In the furthermost cottage. The one overlooking the wide blue blanket named sea. The one on the edge. The one atop the isolated rock and just connected with others through a bamboo bridge. Yes, what is naturally hermetic should be connected with the rest. That’s how humankind works.
This is the last. The last destination of an escape from the clamorous city. Yet, I’m writing it now. The third entry of the Camotes Island Series.
I frog-swam, bathed in saltwater. Tired from swimming, I rested in the cottage again. From the slit, two sparrows stilled on the rail, aware of our presence, resting. Birds. Why do they always look calm and contented? Perhaps because they have the freedom of flight.
I sighed. I smelled Tuburan sea in my skin.
Santiago Bay Garden and Resort
I know you would have something to say about the room we chose. It was perfectly cramped for two women who planned to wander their day away. An island—or the idea of it—is for lovers, for romance, don’t you think? It provides the
illusion of refuge, of an escape, of isolation from our immediate lives. It is enclosed by water yet vulnerably open on all sides. But this time, you were not here. And Pie, my companion, had to endure my senseless ramblings.
Remember my favorite pair of slippers? They surprisingly gave up on me—and not on a mountain but on the beach! The strap suddenly broke when I jumped from a relatively short wall to take a better photo of the beach for you. Perhaps my slippers died with a bruised ego. What a shameful way of dying. They survived varied rocky trails, the euphoric Kanlaob River, the slippery Mambukal River, but they surrendered on the calm Camotes Island. But I do hope it wasn’t a shameful death, that they don’t feel such a way. Braving rivers and mountains wasn’t painless after all. They served their worth, don’t you think?
Anyway, you will love Santiago. Its beach is designed for idle walks, not for dipping. It forms a cove; the beach stretches inward like a lazy cat from its afternoon nap.
That night, we took a dip in the outdoor pool. The sky became a canopy of stars, I wished you were there beside me looking up and admiring their distant beauty.
Danaw, a lake, a water trapped, locked up in lands, forgot how is it to flow to another body of water. Just found out “danaw” means “lake.” There are more than three Lake Danaos in the Philippines, their existence a redundancy.
What is stagnant is considered dire, intimidating. Stagnant. Silent. Lake.
“Did you swim there?”
“Nobody does. Locals are afraid of what lurks deep in the water.”
Indeed, it is wide, and it is silent.
There was a child’s Sunday suit
Pinned to a tailor’s dummy
In a dusty store window.
The store looked closed for years.
I lost my way there one
In a Sunday kind of quiet,
Sunday kind of afternoon light
On a street of red-brick tenements.
How do you like that?
I said to no one.
How do you like that?
I said it again today upon waking.
That street went on forever
And all along I could feel the pins
In my back, prickling
The dark and heavy cloth.
—Charles Simic, “The Little Pins of Memory”
Kids remind us of our own childhood.
Transportation around Camotes
We arrived. Drivers and negotiators huddled in the entrance of Consuelo Port. I looked at their faces, weighing their worth and trusthworthiness through the lines on their faces, through the width and height of their nose, through their gait. It’s crude, I know.
A tall, lanky man approached me. He nonchalantly asked for our destination. It’s Santiago Bay Resort. It’s 50 pesos. I did my research. There’s nothing wrong to be a complete vagabond in a foreign place; but as a woman traveler, cautiousness should be a prime characteristic.
On our way to the resort, he said he used to live in the city, in Guadalupe—if my memory serves me right. He asked for our itinerary. I dropped some must-sees. He nodded and asked for our budget. I was born a haggler, so I did haggle. He agreed.
It’s sad some habal-habal drivers have ripped off visitors, especially foreigners, he bemused. I couldn’t attest if he’s trustworthy or not as I only talked to him for a couple of hours; and a person’s worth can’t be reduced or weighed in such a short period. But he put me at ease for the entire trip. That would do.
For an imaginary reader, who is looking for the right, if not trustworthy, transportation on Camotes Island, look for him, Alfred Lim, once you arrive in Consuelo Port. I asked for his number, but as klutzy as I tend to be, it got lost in the woods inside my tote. Kindly comment here if you have his number.
It’s good-for-two P500 tour with free conversations about life and what-not.
He had my strap-snapped slippers.