A Bittersweet Exploration in the Land of the Howling Wind

Rock Formations, Puraran Beach in Baras, Catanduanes

January. Virac, Catanduanes.

We're supposed to be doing island hopping in Caramoan, our main destination that weekend. A Bicolana friend recommended making Codon Port in Catanduanes our jump-off point, said to be the fastest way to reach the famed group of islands. Prior to the trip, being the "Ms. D-I-Y Planner" that I am, I was able to contact a boatman who offered us the cheapest rate among others for island hopping. I was expecting an epic Caramoan beach bumming kind of tour, thinking I was able to cover everything there is that I need to know for this trip.

swimwear - check!
waterproof camera - check!
cheap accommodation - check!
Cheapest Island Hopping Tour - check!
Super discounted plane ticket (Mla-Virac-Mla) - check na check at last year pa namin binili yung ticket!

There's just one big problem and a major factor I failed to (seriously) consider - the WEATHER!

(the night before the trip)
Me:  Kuya kamusta weather diyan? Maulan ba?
Boatman: Ma'am malakas po ang alon ngayon. Malakas din po ang hangin.

Oops! This isn't happening (again)! Last June, I was forced to cancel the Anawangin trip and had to put up another trip from scratch within 2 hours because of this 'alon issue'. That I can totally understand, it was June when we scheduled the camping trip, but January? Come on!

Actually it's not really about whether it's rainiy season or not, it's about how huge waves can be in the month of January which I'm obviously not aware of. When I booked the plane tickets, I was thinking about the Philippine weather in general for the month of January, so I thought  assumed the weather should be fine. I guess I underestimated the idea that Catanduanes, being part of the Bicol region is often visited by typhoons and being situated in the easternmost fringe of Luzon is first to face the mighty waves of the Pacific.

Onboard Cebu Pacific to Virac

Our 5:45am flight was smooth. Weather in Manila was perfect, cold but no rainshowers. We bid adieu to the city of lights, accompanied by an awe-inspiring sunrise view above clouds and then greeted Catanduanes with a gloomy weather. Just our luck.

T'was my first ride inside a twin turbo propeller plane, the smallest aircraft I rode so far. The monsoon wind was undeniably strong when we arrived, it's also drizzling every couple of hours. I asked a final update from the boatman, hoping for a positive response. We were disappointed, but still hopeful the wind and the waves would allow us to reach the Caramoan peninsula the following day.

It dawned on me, this may be the reason why only a few people takes this Codon Port-Caramoan route. Yes, it's way faster than the long grueling hours on the road,  but doing this means you have to take chances. So be informed.

Our planned route failed (whines)

We rode a tricycle at airport's gate to reach Catanduanes Midtown Inn, our home for 3 days. Yael, my travel buddy for this trip and I talked about plan B - visit the nearby tourist spots for day 1 and pray for a possible Caramoan trip for day 2.

We rented a non-aircon room which fits 3. It's one of the best decisions we made since it's practically cold throughout our stay. Using air-con would freeze us to death as we both have low tolerance for cold temperatures! It's a decent room with the basics - bed, fan, tv,  table, chair, clothes line (no toiletries included). The common CR is located just outside our room (lower your expectations though), it's what we got when we availed the cheap Php280/pax room for 3.

non-aircon room for 3

Catanduanes Midtown Inn

The province has no fancy hotels but there are a few decent affordable accommodations in Catanduanes you can choose from depending on the area you wish to visit. What I love about Catanduanes Midtown Inn is its strategic location. It's in the heart of Virac city, sits across the mall, beside the port, short drive away from the airport (very helpful for an early morning flight back to Manila) and walking distance from the Tourism Office.

I asked a couple of questions from the inn's receptionist about nearby places we can visit. She named a few and recommended that we visit the nearby tourism office. We just walked across the inn til we reached the DBP Building where the tourism office and Museo de Catanduanes is located.

Tourism Office Building

Ammonite Fossils - Key to Catanduanes Geological Past

There we met Ms. Carmel Garcia of the Provincial Tourism Office. While Yael was estatic upon seeing her article for a travel magazine reached the island of Catanduanes, Ms. Carmel handed me a couple of brochures as well as CDs then guided us to upper floor where the museum is located. That one display I couldn't get my eyes off - the ammonite fossils.

According to the National Museum researchers, there could be fossils of ancient marine predators buried under the rock at the base of the Silungan rock formation. One of the marine monsters that could be possible found is the long-necked plesiosaur called elasmosaurus, which lived 70 million years ago. Fossils of ammonites, which lived at almost the same time, have been found by Alberto at the Silungan and he has donated his find to the National Museum. 
Source: Catanduanes Tribune - 22 April 2009

After that quick visit, we hopped on a tricycle that would take us to Bato Church. We waited as the  driver needs to fill in all 7 passengers in just 1 tricycle! (Spell siksikan).

So the road trip begins.

We passed by farms, parks, a river and more farms.

Until our crampy trike dropped us off at this very old church facing a riverbank. It was so quiet and scary for a while as there was no one around. St. John the Baptist Catholic Church also known as Bato Church was built in the 19th century under the polo system of forced labor which lasted for 53 years.

Bato Church

Its exterior resembles a Filipino-Spanish architecture and the inside holds a Renaissance inspired altar. Adding to the church's character are the  moss naturally plastered on its mortar and coral stoned walls.

After saying a short prayer, we hopped on another tricycle to bring us to Maribina Falls, Twin Rock Beach Resort and then bring us back to our inn. This time, we rented the whole trike for Php500. It was a good decision to just rent a trike considering the weather, rain poured so hard after we visited Maribina Falls. We could have been drenched had we walked from the falls to the road.

Maribina Falls

Continuing with our last destination for the day, we drove down southeast of Virac to enjoy yet another idyllic spot. Away from the sun, I sat still inside the tricycle, enjoying the refreshing wind of the cold island weather, shutting my eyes off that I eventually fell asleep. I woke up at the very entrance of Twin Rock Beach Resort.

Twin Rock Beach Resort

We were seriously hungry when we arrived so we went straight to their restaurant with a good commanding view of the 'twin rocks'. The place is gorgeous but only a few were there since it's basically off season. Felt like we have the beach all to ourselves. Later groups of people started to arrive, mostly extended families enjoying a beach picnic style.

After a delicious barbecue lunch and some friendly chitchat with a family sitted beside us, we started touring the area. 

The resort offers a number of water activities such as kayaking and snorkeling. Exciting physical activities like wall climbing, atv ride, zipline and canopy walk awaits adrenaline junkies.

We planned on swimming but the cool full blow of the wind was too much for us to handle. Instead, we took a relaxing walk, simply admiring the views and the raging waves.

Our first day in Catanduanes may not be as travel-perfect as I imagined it to be. Snapshots of Caramoan islands kept flashing at the back of my head. Oh well, this little detour was a learning experience, as I've come to respect a province's geography more. With this island first to kiss the Pacific Ocean, making it directly open to the path of tropical cyclones, it's just rightly to be called "The Land of the Howling Winds".

So can we cross the raging sea from Catanduanes to Caramoan in day 2? Find out on my next post.


Popular posts from this blog

Baguio: 2 Days 1 Night Itinerary

Pagsanjan Falls: The Php150 Challenge

Laguna: 2 Days Itinerary and Budget Expenses

2Go: The New Way to Travel to Boracay

Boracay: Itinerary, Expenses and Tips