The highlight of my summer was no doubt my very recent (tiring but worth-it) trip to the Caramoan Group of Islands found in the province of Camarines Sur. Last Monday, my friends and I arrived on the first island we visited after a total of four hours of traveling by land and sea. From Naga City, the driver of the resort we were booked at in Caramoan fetched us promptly at five in the morning. At past 7:00 AM, we were already on the cramped ferry banca to the town of Caramoan. After two hours, upon arriving, we took a thirty-minute tricycle ride to our humble accommodation in Caramoan, the Riverside Inn.
Immediately after arriving, we changed into our swimming apparel and set off for the port where the bancas or boats for the islands are docked. After twenty minutes, we finally arrived on the first island.
It was beautiful. It was as if we were on a mound of fine, white sand locked between two giant rocks. The water was pristine, almost as clear as gin, and amidst the blazing sun, the overwhelming view of the ocean and other islands charmed its way into my heart. This was also on this island where we feasted, with our bare hands, the food that our resort packed for our lunch. The simple menu consisted of perfectly-fried tanguige fish that was undoubtedly fresh due to its creamy flavor and soft texture, pork adobo that was sinfully but deliciously oily and salty and chopsuey that was excellently cooked because of the veggies crispness and the sauce’s moderately viscous texture. Of course, rice accompanied our meals as any Filipino meal should be.
We also had our bottles of Red Horse beer to keep us jolly and tipsy but because there wasn’t any ice or cooler to keep the beer cold, it became rather cumbersome for us to take sips of awfully warm beer. It was good that this happened because one thing I greatly appreciated from our trip through the islands was how sober, alert and open I was to take everything in: from the luscious color of deep blue sea, to the delicate feel of powdery white sand, as well as the different sights, sounds and smells that made our island hopping adventure not only breathtaking but also meaningful.
We toured three more islands. The second island, though heavily visited by other tourists, had the finest sand among all the islands we visited. Every step taken was like stepping on powder, the sensation so good it was totally unforgettable.
Our next island was a virginal island which has a beach that was small, almost only measuring about 10 meters long. It was here where we spotted and (and invaded!) the intimacy of two foreigners basking in the company of each other and under the tropical sun. We stayed quite long here, enjoying the portions of the beach found under rock formations. We also took plenty of photos here because it was said that right across this island was the island where a season of Survivor America, a famous TV show about people being stranded on an island, was being filmed.
Finally, we went to an island with an ocean floor that had an almost flat terrain, bereft of rocks. The sand here wasn’t purely white but a mix of gray and white. The texture, however, was also very fine. We played games in the water when were on this last island, savoring every last moment we had in that paradise group of islands.
One thing I realized during this trip is how nature, beautifully preserved nature, can compel and inspire us to look back and experience our humanity. With only shorts for the boys and bikinis for the girls, we also realized how having only the barest essentials can help us renew and reconcile one’s more to our humanity, and to the believer, to one’s God. I totally fell in love not only with the environment but also with my humanity because of my short, day-trip to the Caramoan islands.
The trip surely led me to so many much-needed realizations (apart from the much-needed rest and sea breeze). It was very meaningful that on my first year as a member of the labor force, and on the eve of the feast of San José Obrero (St. Joseph the Worker), May 1, which is also acknowledged by most countries as Labor Day, I spent those days reflecting in an environment bereft of the demands and chaos of the corporate world, a superimposed world constructed by “the market” and its forces. Without thinking about salaries, tasks, bosses and looking professional, I was there, in the middle of nowhere, enjoying nothing else but the beauty and grandeur of creation in the company of my fellow humans also equally charmed by the marvelous works of nature that laid before our eyes.
Finally, I realized that the Philippines is really a beautiful country in need of constant attention, urgently in need of a government’s love for its people and territory. It would be indeed more fun in the Philippines if the poor fishermen, tricycle drivers, carinderia owners, barangay tanods, boats men would have access to the revenues raked in by the resorts and the local governments. It would be more fun too in the Philippines if Filipinos realize that these places that offer peace and quiet, beauty and harmony, are places we need to visit (Boracay is noisy and filthy) to renew our humanity and shed off the superficiality plaguing billboard-infested Metro Manila, a city congested with unpaid cars and tacky-looking homes.
Without the follies of Boracay (e.g. Boracay body, excessive alcohol binging, congestion) Caramoan and the other many remaining virginal beach destinations of the Philippines offer people the chance to rediscover the beauties of nature and the human spirit. As I was looking out to the ocean from one of the islands, I couldn’t help but gaze into the open sea and think of how many things we ought to be thankful for. It is when we do not have a lot of things that we realize how to be grateful for the more important aspects of our lives: our families, our education, our bodies, our very lives.