Cam Norte – The Municipalities

Come Forth to Cam North – The Series Pt. 2

Day 2    Municipalities of Camarines Norte

Spanish conquistador Juan de Salcedo named this tourism gem, Camarines, which means “storehouse.” CamNorte is indeed a storehouse of cultural heritage, natural resources and untouched treasures. It is surrounded by the fertile soil of Quezon and the popular CamSur provinces. Hence, a melting pot of Tagalog and Bicol cultures.

CamNorte is the richest province in terms of gold deposits. When the Spaniards arrived, they noticed that locals were wearing gold ornaments. This discovery catapulted the 1575 expedition to amass precious metals (Gold and Silver) in the province.  With more wealth comes great power. Hashtag Mercantilism.

The 12 municipalities are grouped into two congressional districts, the Tagalog speaking which consisted the following – Labo, Capalonga, Sta. Elena, Paracale and Jose Panganiban; and the Bicol speaking – Daet, Talisay, Vinzons, Mercedes, Basud, San Vicente and San Lorenzo Ruiz. It was indeed amazing that out of the 6 we got to visit, 3 of which were Tagalog, the other three, you guessed it right, the Bicol speaking municipalities. Let’s get to it shall we?

DAET

First stop at the tourism office where we were warmly welcomed by Sir Bong. He was very eager to introduce us to the best attractions CamNorte has to offer. We couldn’t wait to see them all.
Bantayog Monument – a 20 ft tall majestic monument that forever memorializes Jose Rizal’s legacy along with the province’s unsung heroes. It was built 2 years after Rizal’s execution and the first ever monument built for our National hero.

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Did you know that CamNorte was the site of first ever KKK outside Manila?

Bulawan Museum – founded in year 2000 which houses a glimpse of the province history, culture and tradition from Amorsolo paintings, silver spoons, tea pot, wine glass, Katana, gold ornaments and filigrees. I am encouraging everyone to visit museums to continue heritage and culture awareness especially to our younger generations. Museums symbolize our care to our identity and race.

Moturista – 1st Tourism Extreme Challenge held in Daet where motorists were tasked to complete the 500kms in 12 hours. This initiative aims to drive tourism while promoting road safety through a seminar. The event concluded with a beach party, no less.
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Bagasbas Beach – This mile-long stretch is a top destination for surfers due to its consistent waves throughout the year making it the country’s first surfing spot and the world’s 62nd. Surfing lessons are offered at Bagasbas Aqua center at P400 per hour including board rentals.

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Dare to go extreme? Aside from surfing, Bagasbas beach is also a host to another extreme sport – Kitesurfing. International Kiteboarding Competition and Kiteboard Tour Asia were held here. Get your adrenaline pumping at Mike’s Kiteboarding during northeast monsoon season from November to March.

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Side note: LTE coverage in Daet is phenomenal! I got to watch Game of Thrones season finale when we stopped by the capitol.

JOSE PANGANIBAN

We got a courtesy call from the Mayor himself, Mayor Dong Padilla, and was gracious enough to host us in his ranch and answer all our inquiries regarding his work and future projects to the municipality. The mayor proudly declared that while promoting tourism, CamNorte will still preserve its beaches by avoiding commercial infrastructures. There’s also a 700MW power plant to be built thus addressing the intermittent electricity in the province. Insofar as accommodation is concerned, he’s aware that the province is somewhat behind from its neighboring lands. This needs to be pushed to be at par with other hotels, he said. I definitely agree, we were staying at Jocelle’s Garden and I was a first-hand witness to their shortcomings. Another challenge the mayor is trying to address is accessibility. And this is a major major, cue in Venus Raj who by the way was also here to promote tourism for CamNorte. The plan is to build a regional airport in JPang for domestic flights then connecting it to Bicol International Airport via skyway. He mentioned that there’s a Belarus company investing in this endeavour.

Here’s mommy Lariza interviewing Mayor Dong.

More of mommy Lariza’s discoveries at Moments Around the Corner. From formal to snorkeling real quick…

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After the courtesy call, we were summoned to the municipal hall for lunch. What better way to burn those carbs? Check out JPang’s attractions!

Bulalacao Beach
Pagasa Beach

JSM Yellow to Green Organic farm


Parola Island

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SAN LORENZO RUIZ

Calling all thrill seekers, this is the municipality for you.  San Lorenzo Ruiz offers the newest adrenaline attraction and longest zip line in the Bicol region! Going to the site was a bumpy ride, so if you can bring a moped or an ATV that would be perfect since the roads are still under construction. In any case, do check out the 750-meter Matacong Zip Line and conquer your fears for only 250php when sitting and 350php superman swoosh pose.

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LABO

What better way to cool down from the zip line rush? We headed over to Binuang Falls where we got to have not one but three levels of rapids, it’s just a 15-20 minute hike to get to the top so no biggie.

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These seemingly endless adventures took a toll to our rumbling stomachs. Good thing, Villa Eusebia was next in our itinerary that served a sumptuous feast.

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And this restaurant comes with a goddamn view of Lake Labo. Loboc River feels, I know.

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Nap time! Where to? Well, I can recommend two great resorts to check in and chill; Maria Fatima Farm Resort and Paradiso Verde Farm where everything is organic.

PARACALE

Before our day comes to a close, we’re off to Paracale where we were welcomed by Julius and the hashtag #ParacaLetsGo. If this sunset won’t make you make your way here, I don’t know what is. Paracale is known as the Gold Town which also means “canal digger.” There are still small scale gold mining operations persist in the outskirts of the town. Then Julius led us to Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Candelaria, established in 1611, making it 406 years old! Still standing fabulous as ever and not a single scratch from the deadly earthquake that hit its neighboring provinces where century old churches were damaged and others totally destroyed to the ground. Perhaps it can be attributed to the protection from the canonically miraculous image of Our Lady of Candelaria. Not far from this magnificent church is another century milestone – the leaning light house.

Pulang Daga Beach

MERCEDES

#LoveKoSiMercedes is the municipality’s tagline but it was hard at first since we had a gloomy and wet welcome, no thanks to the tropical storm making its way out of the country. The group was supposed to visit all the seven islands, famously Siete Pecados: Caringo, Canton, Quinapaguian, Malasugui, Caringo, Apuao Pequeña. Apuao Grande and Caringo islands. Due to heavy rains, we just managed to explore the last three.

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Nonetheless, these islands are perfect if you are longing for peace and quiet. The islands will give you privacy and perfect spot for self-realization.  It’s pretty obvious on the faces of my blogger friends casually walking from one island to another – Kenneth our Dubai Travel Blogger, Jerny of TheJerny.Com and Rona of Travel With Maria.

Going back, you are welcomed by their busy fish port where fresh seafood are being transported for public consumption.

 

[Continue Reading]                  Day 3  Unspoiled Beaches

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Camarines Norte Travel Guide

Come Forth to Cam North – The Series Pt. 3

Day 3     Unspoiled Beaches

I have been to the best beaches in the country, but CamNorte serves the off white, the pink, the brown and the red beach all in one plate!

Don’t believe me? Indulge in their four course menu:

Off white appetizers – Apuao Grande and Apuao Pequeña with Pagasa beach sider

Apuao Grande is a secluded island where you can camp underneath the pine trees with crystal blue waters for a dip. On the other hand, Apuao Pequeña, is the sanctuary of flying foxes and wild boars, this private island offers breath taking view of the Pacific. Both are connected by sandbar and just two of the seven islands Mercedes has in store for us!

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Apuao Pequeña
Apuao Grande
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How to get here:

By Land (Philtranco, DLTB and Superlines)

8-10 hours- Bus from Cubao/Pasay, Mero Manila  to Daet, Camarines Norte

15 mins- Jeep/ Trike from Daet, Camarines Norte to Mercedes

By Air (Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, Philippine Airlines)

45 minutes- Plane from NAIA, Pasay to Pili Airport, Camarines Sur

15 minutes- Bus from Pili Airport, Camarines Sur to Naga City, Camarines Sur

2 hours- Jeep from Naga City, Camarines Sur to Daet, Camarines Norte

15 minutes-  Trike from Daet, Camarines Norte to Mercedes Camarines Norte

Contact person: Ms. Nanette Ibasco – Municipal Tourism Officer

‘+63 54 444-1261 | +63 54 444-1151 | discovermercedes@yahoo.com

Pagasa beach

Pagasa beach

Entrance fee Php20
Open cottage or cabanas at Php 250-300; Closed cottages at PHP 500 to 700. Camp for free! Tricycle (special) going here will cost you Php 100 one way. There’s a nearby fish sanctuary where you can snorkel or scuba dive, just bring your own gears.
For more info, contact Ruth at +63910 – 827 – 3547.

Red salad – Pulang Daga / Pulang Lupa beach

Yearning for a fiery sunset? Fret not, Pulang Daga beach is exactly what you’re looking for.

How to get here:

Hop on a Superlines bus in Manila that will directly take you to Paracale, it can cost you to about Php 900-1000. If you are in Daet already, take a van going here at Php 60 or bus at Php 45.

Brown main course – Bulalacao beach

Bulalacao beach is located at Luklukan Sur, Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte. It is approximately 49 kms away from Daet. You will see a creamy fine sand, crystal water, coconut trees, fruit bearing trees and beautiful rock formation with some corals around it. Bulalacao beach is another good spot for picnic, swimming, kayaking and pictorials.

Bulalacao beach

How to get here:

  • You can ride a van for only 70 pesos or a bus for only 50 pesos going to town proper of Jose Panganiban.
  • When you reach Jose Panganiban, you need to ride a jeep for only 25 pesos going to Bulalacao Beach, Luklukan Sur.

Pink Dessert – Parola beach

I managed to capture the beauty of this uninhabited island with the help of these gorgeous bloggers Travel With Maria & Charlotte Anne. Go check these ladies out.

For details on how to get here and relevant information, please visit my article in this pristine island here.

Tip: If you have more time to spare, you can do a side trip to Mercedes from Vinzons in 30 minutes and do this!

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By the way, that’s Marco, our Pinoy Traveler, go check out his Parola travel guide, too.

“CamSur is popular but CamNorte is handsome” words of our tourism officer Sir Abel.

 

Day 4     Locals, heavenly Bicolano cuisines and worthy pasalubongs

Aside from the colourful beaches, secluded islands, historic land marks and century old churches, Camarines Norte boasts its good natured and gallant people where our past can confirm how this lands became the cradle of heroism in Bikolandia.

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Mercedes’ Tinapa : Perfect Pasalubong

Undeniably the best tinapa in town! So thankful I hopped off the van and bought my one kilo of tinapa, fresh from Camarines Norte waters! I enjoyed it, my mom and brother loved it, my officemates devoured it! The best indeed. Whenever you are around the area, make sure to bring these goodies with you back to Manila. 

Some of the famous delicacies I tasted and complemented my food palette were these jaw dropping menu –

Villa Eusebia’s: Sinantol (You should not miss this!)

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Mercedes’ Tinapa plant

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Sugar cane juice at JSM Yellow to Green Organic farm

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Candist’s Kitchen: original bicol express and tinumok

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Mamitas’ burgers

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Jannah’s Pasalubong

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As we head back to Manila, we stopped by the pasalubong center in Daet. Normally, I don’t bring home pasalubong but it’s a good thing I made an exception this one time. For one, their tarts are the bomb! Legit AF. The tinapa from Mercedes sold out like pancakes at home and in the office!

Still craving? Let the expert take you to a gastronomic ride, here’s Rowena’s five must try Bicol dishes.

As my sponsored trip comes to an end, I can’t help but say my huge thanks to the people behind this effort who made our CamNorte trip fun filled and memorable. Thank you to the locals for your heart-warmingly generous welcome, even though the weather was giving us a cold treatment (literally with strong winds and heavy rains). #ByeJolina

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Thank you to Sir Mike of Katooga Ph and my new found friends slash bloggers during this 4 day adventure – I won’t forget all the laughs and good times we shared. You guys really opened my eyes on the ins and outs of the blogging world, while CamNorte offered such a humbling, memorable and educational experience all rolled into one.

Quickies, out.

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Parola Island’s Unspoiled Pink Sand

You read it right, there’s a pink beach and it’s near you. Well, technically a half day joyride. But I guarantee you, this destination will be your next escape.

Calaguas group of islands is undoubtedly the most famous destination in Camarines Norte. It will surely captivate your itchy, beachy hearts. The downside here is that it’s so touristy the solitude island life you long for is forever lost to oblivion. Not to mention the one hell of a boat ride going there.

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Enroute to this so-called pink beach.  Yes, this is how calm the waters are going there!

Worry no more, I always search for the off the beaten path and this is what I found – the unspoiled pink beach of Parola Island, some 40-minute peaceful boat ride away from mainland Camarines Norte.

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Breathtaking aerial shot from Come to CamNorte

It was scorching hot when our boat arrived, but hey I’m not complaining, in fact I’m thankful since I got to witness the beach giving a pinkish glow when the sun’s rays met the shore.

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I give you…Parola Island

We were welcomed with a bunch of tourists on their camp sites and hammocks while we settled in the one and only cottage in the island. I couldn’t care less if there’s no electricity, no sari-sari store, no accommodation, well there’s a portalet at the very least. My point is, all your second thoughts in going to uninhabited island will be eradicated just by looking at this view.

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100% Island Life, 100% Twinning

The island pose such a rudimentary lifestyle that when you want to eat, you can just stand near the shore and go fishing. No kidding. Just tie a hook on your line, attach any crawling bait you can find. Throw the line at probably 2-3 meters then wait until you feel the fish at the other end.

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Easy as 1, 2 ,3 fishing. No rod needed. Photo Credit: Darius Mirasol

Grab the line and voila, there’s your lunch right there.

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Here’s what I caught. Felt sorry for this fishy fishy though.

From my hook to being cooked. Freshness guaranteed. Well I didn’t catch these guys, they were brought by the local tourism officers of Jose Panganiban for us. We couldn’t ask for more.

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After lunch, you can take a quick nap just make sure you bring your tent or hammock with you. Me being resourceful, I can sleep on any flat surface with a makeshift sheets of leaves. And if I’m being honest, I don’t usually sleep after socials cause there’s no ending socials for me. Not unless, the sun’s out and time for me to take that gorgeous sunrise.

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I asked Kenneth to pose for the camera against this instagrammable jungle backdrop.

How to get here:

You can drive from Manila to Daet by car, rent a van or take a bus that will take you 8 hours. Check buses and fares here. There used to be a direct flight from Manila to Daet but have long discontinued their services. What you can do though is to take a local airline to Naga, Camarines Sur which is 2 hours away from Daet via public utility vehicles.

Once in Daet, hop on another bus or van going to Jose Panganiban. Or waze your way here.

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Another jaw dropping drone shot from Come to Cam Norte

Suggested Itinerary for 2D/1N
Day 0
07:00AM – ETD Manila – Jose Panganiban, Cam Norte

Day 1
07:00AM – ETA Jose Panganiban | Breakfast @ Evias
08:00AM – ETD for Tailon Island (Parola)
10:00AM – ETA Parola Island
Set up tent / hammock / air beds
Explore the island
12:00PM – Lunch
01:00PM – Free time (explore three nearby islets if low tide, swimming, snorkeling)
06:00PM – Dinner
07:00PM – Socials
10:00PM – Lights out (not for me)

Day 2
06:00AM – Wakeup call
07:00AM – Breakfast
09:00AM – Break Camp
10:00AM – ETD Jose Panganiban
12:00NN – Lunch / swimming @ Turayog Resort
02:00PM – Surfing in Bulalacao beach
05:00 PM- Rest
05:30 PM – ETD Jose Panganiban – Manila

Inclusions:
– Port Fee
– Environmental Fee
– Boat Transfer
– 3 camp meals (buffet)
– 1 plated meal at Turayog Resort
– Resort Entrance fees
– Life Jacket
– Unli Cocktail drinks (Mobile Bar) uhmm hells yeah!
– Land transfers from port to Turayog and Bulalacao Beach

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This is Bulalacao Beach!

Package Rates:
Php 2,200.00/head pick up Jose Panganiban (min. of 12pax)
Php 2,500.00/head pick up Daet (min. of 12pax)

DIY It!
Alternatively, you can ride a bus taking you directly to Jose Panganiban. Or rent a van which usually cost you around Php 12,000 round trip for 12 – 14 pax. Go to Larap Port in Jose Panganiban, from there you can rent a boat going to Parola island that will cost you about Php 4,000.00 to Php 4,500 which is good for 30 to 40 people. You have to be granted permission to visit the island by the local tourism office. Contact info below.

More so, you can side trip to Bulalacao beach to surf and Pag-asa beach to chill.

For more information: Please contact the Jose Panganiban tourism office or Ms. Ruth Marie Forteza at +63910-827-3547.  For your van transfers, inquire at Northlink Events and Travel Services under Sir Darius Mirasol. Tell them Dean of The Quick Escape sends his regards. Haha!

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Not only you get the beach to yourself, but this well maintained tropical walkways, too.

I’d still recommend Calaguas, for sure, it’s one of the beaches with long stretch of finest sand and turquoise waters, but way too touristy. If you opt for serenity,  Parola Island is definitely on top of my mind.

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Be back soon!

Quickies, out.

Captivating Calaguas

“One hell of a ride yet heaven when we arrived!”

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I have used that line back when we went to Dicasalarin Cove; but I think, the trip to Calaguas toppled it all in every aspect.

Why is that? Let’s go back to where my quick escape started…

But wait, check out first our happy faces and the beauty of Calaguas caught on cam here:

I am always a DIY person when it comes to traveling and soul searching. But whenever I’ll be organizing a trip for more than 8 pax, I’ll ask for someone else to do it for me – hence; Cookies Travel and Tours is my go to agent. Full list of itinerary and expenses below.

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Our group met at 9pm Friday night in SM North and braved the place where forever existed – EDSA. We stopped at 2nd pick up point in McDonald’s Buendia to meet the other groups the travel agency was hosting. All in, we’re about 4 groups (40 people displaced in 4 Grandia vans). This was the major setback – we didn’t have control over our time. We had to wait for other people to arrive, not to mention, how frequent they insisted on having stopovers after a couple of minutes cause they wanna pee (they’re already drinking along the way). Another thing that prolong our already long agony drive was that one van lost his way and we had to convene and discuss the plan (which I thought, they already had since they won’t be a travel agency for nothing, right?) Our estimated travel time of 7 hours became a dragging 12 hours. It’s safe to say I am reverting back to DIY trips be it a large group or what not. We reached Paracale, Camarines Norte at 9am.

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But that was not the worst part.

We only got half an hour before we board our boat– our group dispersed in buying last minute essentials – (2) 5 gallon water, plastic bags for waterproofing our things, pulutan, coffee and booze. We hopped on to a 25-capacity banca hoping against hope – a safe, smooth ride.

Safe? Debatable. Smooth? That was the craziest, bumpiest,stomach- turning, worst boat ride I experienced to date. We’re like survivor castaways (yes we’re dripping wet, wet from the rain and waves!) with no staff and crew to help if the boat stumbled over. A normal person could’ve endured that ride given enough rest. Luckily, our case was entirely the opposite. Hashtag no pun. The other groups had it worse, yup the ones I mentioned drinking, you can imagine how comfortable their trip was –stretch it to freaking two and half hours of seesaw motion.

Finally, our faces lit up when we saw the captivating Calaguas’ coast!

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Huge surfer waves welcomed us as we alight the boat. I couldn’t care less since I was already soaking wet – I jumped off as soon as we reached the shore. The struggle was real when we needed to transport our belongings off the boat.
Tips: Waterproof your things! Bring raincoat or plastic jacket too!

We were exhausted from the trip that waiting for our travel agency to cook us food would drove us nuts. Good thing, one of our friends, prepared a packed lunch good for 10 pax. What a relief. Another tip right there!

Now a bit energized, we faced yet another roadblock – setting up the Vango (the humongous 10 people tent where you can glamp all night long). After an hour, we managed to erect the goddamn shelter. And the food from our agent were ready too. Round 2 of Man Vs Food commenced.

With no cellular service, we were left to enjoy what we have around – good company, majestic view, fine sand, amazing beach. who am I to complain right?! Sometimes, it’s exhilarating to disconnect from the world and strengthen your relationship to the real connections you got – your family, your friends. The virtual world will still be there when you get back, trust me.

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With our phones just for snapping pics, playing JB songs, and occasionally as flash light, time surely can pass slowly. We partied the night around in our rented nipa hut and drank til we drop in the sand. Dancing and shouting  in the shore like crazy, oh boy, hashtag no regrets. I remembered sleeping in the tent only to wake up an hour later. That’s my body clock telling me to sleep anywhere but here.

I was greeted by a cool island breeze as I step out of the tent. My friends and I decided to play volleyball and cap it off by a morning swim.

Ronnie of PlanB tours invited us for a quick 10 minute hike to a hill at one end of the island. We got to see an awesome scenic view of Calaguas and its neighboring islands. What a sight!

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The waters of Calaguas isn’t for the weak of heart – especially when you easily get sea sick. But for those who can endure the ride – this piece of heaven is for you. Boracay can boast its impeccable white sand and crystal clear waters but Calaguas can rival its spotless, powdery sand and the serenity this virgin island has to offer.

Itinerary 

Day 1

9:00 pm Pick up point SM North

10:00 pm McDonald’s/ Shell Buendia bound for Paracale

9:00 am Paracale, Camarines Norte

9:00 – 10:00 am Waterproofing, last minute shopping

10:00 – 12:30 pm Epic boat ride

12:30 pm Lunch, set up tent

1: 30 – 6:00 pm Beach time

6:30 pm Dinner

7:00 pm – 5:00 am Walwal aka party all night long

Day 2

7:00 am – Breakfast

8:00 am – 11:30 am Volleyball, swim, hike

11:30 am – Depart Calaguas

1:30 pm – ETA Paracale port

7:00 pm – ETA Manila

Expenses:

Cookies Travel and Tour: Calaguas

2D/1N stay at P 2,999/head

Package includes:

Roundtrip van transfer

Environmental fee

Entrance fee

Roundtrip boat transfer

3 Meals – Lunch, Dinner and Breakfast

Personals (transpo and dinner at McDo)  x contribution (booze, food, essentials): approximately P 1,000
I’m pretty sure my friends won’t be back here anytime soon. As for me, I am open for any invites!

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