I learned about Buhi, Camarines Sur through Bidibidi when we visited her workshop in Baao. BD would often joke that her art style is Buhi-mian (a play on the word “bohemian”) because Buhi is one of the sources for up-cycled materials used for her handicraft. Before this, Buhi was under the radar for me when we talk about Bicol. My inquisitive self was glad to get invited recently by Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) to Buhi. It was one of TPB’s recipient areas for their project to boost the livelihood of local communities by lending some resources and training them in marketing their products. While holding their Sustainable Community-Based Tourism (SCBT) workshop, the media team was also able to learn and discover more about Buhi and its surroundings.
Visiting Bidibidi Cafe in Baao, Camarines Sur is entering the lush and vibrant world of artist, Bernadette De Los Santos, fondly called, BidiBidi. The signage “Cafe des Artes” seen along Rizal St marks the place of Bidibidi Cafe. Inside the gated walls is a beautiful garden interspersed with wooden sculptures. Vibrant murals envelope the facade of the house known as the home of the Burikbutikan Artist Collective, BidiBidi Enterprise Handicrafts and Bidibidi Cafe.
I had fond memories of Caramoan Peninsula early in my years of travel. Low limestone islands, captivating azure waters, a few caves and pristine white beach on several islands of the peninsula. That was more than a decade ago. Before the popular reality show Survivor decided shoot here and placed the islands on the world wide spotlight. It was only recent that I had a chance to go back and see how popularity have changed the place. I may have not visited all the places I had been before but this day tour sojourn was enough to satisfy my curiosity.
I hear the heavy clacking sound of the engines as it starts and the loud honk of the train signalling any living beings to move away from its path. There’s a low grumbling noise under my feet as if something just woke up from a long time slumber. Yes, the Philippine National Railways has revived the Bicol Express and just last night, it started its first commercial run in years. Like a dragon that just woke up, the train howled as it cuts through urban Manila as it heads to Naga City in Bicol.
Scenic limestone formations at Gota Beach
We’re still in Caramoan and if you still haven’t bagged your shades, swim wear, sun tan or sun block lotion, it’s time to do so, because it’s the beach all the way from here and the peninsula has a lot of them!
360 view of Caramoan on top of Mt. Caglago
This will be the first in the series about Caramoan. Since there are some people asking how to get there, this would serve as a simple guide.
Dutch travelers in the 1600s call this island as Guta de Leche, a name that used t describe the milk-drop stalagmites found at the Gota Beach port. Later, the Spaniards arrived and called the place Carahan, due to the nuerous sea turtles found at the beach at that time. It was later renamed to what is called today as Caramoan in 1687 by Spanish friar Francisco De la Cruz Y Oropesa.
To get to Caramoan which is around 501km from Manila, you have to get to Naga first. Cubao has buses going to Naga even straight to Sabang port. If you decide to stop first in Naga, you have to ride a Van to Sabang which is around 2 hours. Then from Sabang port, you’ll be riding a boat to Caramoan port, Guihilao which is about 2 hours. From Guihilao you’ll have to ride a jeep to the Centro which is about 30 minutes more. From there you can ask for lodgings available at the area. The Centro will be your Hub while at the area.
First interesting stop would be climbing Mt. Caglago in Barangay Tabgon. It is one of the tallest mountains in Caramoan and one of the easiest to climb as well. They said it has about 527 steps, which I didn’t manage to count, but once you get on top, the large statue of Our Lady of Peace will greet you. It has an amazing 360 degrees view of the whole Caramoan and it will serve as a preview of the islands you’ll be visiting. Oh yeah, going up you have to bring one sack which contains very few rocks (about ¼ filled) when going up the steps. It’s a tradition.
Sabitan Laiya stretch of beach at Balibagan Island
Caramoan Peninsula has numerous stretches of beaches that would satisfy even the most discerning beach bum. With a number of islands each with unique features, you could just point to any stretch of beach you see and just enjoy the solitude with your friends. And to start it off, one of my favorite beaches in the peninsula located at the island of Balibagan, called Sabitan Laiya.