CAMOTES ISLAND: THE LOST HORIZON OF THE SOUTH (Part 1)

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Camotes Island at dusk.

It has been more than a while since I last posted here, so let me make it up to you with the story of my recent journey.

It’s the month of April and from where I am living it could only mean one thing: SUMMER! And when you live in a tropical country, summer could get really into your nerves when the temperature starts to rise you need to find some place to cool off. And what better way to do this than to hit the beach. Luckily for me, I have a lot of options for I am surrounded by 7, 107 islands that has a lot to offer; all I have to do is pick one, pack a bag and go. This year, the wheels of the ship steered towards the east of Cebu: Camotes Island. I wasn’t familiar of this little piece of paradise until we started out planning for this summer escapade.

In all my past travels, I had only been with the same group of people. It’s normally with my family or few selected friends. The difference with this one (which is actually a good thing) is I am going with a whole new group of people. People whom I look up to, respect and admire. Okay, I’m gonna be honest, I actually had a little reservation about this trip because I had never been with this bunch outside the four walls of our working environment so I didn’t really know what to expect or how will things turn out. But as I have said, it was a good thing because now I know them better and I had created a more open relationship with them. And this is exactly what adventures are for, isn’t it? You go out into the world, you experience things together for the first time and you go back home bringing with you stories, memories and realizations – may it be about yourself or about building a better and stronger relationship with the people you work with that now have become your friends. So here is how our story unfolds.

Every journey begins with the cliche question: How to get there? You can reach the island from mainland Cebu, so if you are coming from Bacolod you can reach Cebu via land or air. In our case, we took the land route because we had a hard time getting promo airfare tickets. From Bacolod we took the midnight bus going to Cebu via Escalante. Like excited travelers we arrived a little too early for our departure time because we wouldn’t wanna miss the ride.The bus leaves at 10:00 pm and the fare is about Php 330.00 (inclusive of the RORO fare). I was expecting that it would be an easy-going roadtrip thinking that it was the midnight bus and that there would only be few passengers, but I was completely wrong. The bus was full, no scratch that, it was overflowing with passengers and in fact there were a lot of them standing in the aisle. It took us roughly 2 hours to reach the port in Escalante where the RORO that would take us to Tabuelan in Cebu awaits. We boarded the ship and took us another 2 hours or so to get to Tabuelan. As we arrived in Tabuelan the roadtrip still continues and we had a drop off at Danao City at around 4:00 AM where another RORO is waiting to take us to our final destination. It took around 3 hours to finally reach the pristine island of Camotes. The sun was already high when we arrived at the port and we were greeted by the blue green waters and the tall palm trees. There was a multicab already waiting to take us to Bellavista Mare where we would spend the next two days enjoying the beach. So if you are the type of traveler that avoids long road trips, I suggest that you fly from Bacolod to Cebu. But if you are the adventurous kind (like I am), the long road trip is totally worth the try. It was around 9:00 in the morning when we finally arrived in the resort and we were welcomed by our very accommodating hostess, Miss Amor, and the inviting blue waters and glistening white sand of the Santiago Beach.

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Santiago Beach

I get easily excited that upon seeing the view of the vast ocean waiting for us from the resort’s cafeteria, all the exhaustion from our lack of sleep and long travel was blown away. I even forgot that I didn’t have anything to eat since last night and that I was more hungry to explore the hidden treasures of this little paradise.

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Upon arrival and while waiting for our bruch to be served.

After eating a hefty meal that had served as our brunch, we decided to freshen up. After a couple of minutes we all decided to take a stroll down the shore. And it did not disappoint. Not even a bit. It was high tide and the bright sky casts a beautiful light that gives the sea a perfect glow. And the sand, so warm and so white. The shoreline is crowded with restaurants and eateries that offers delectable choices of meals. From fresh seafood, to native chickens, to grilled and sizzling dishes. There were also locals who sell souvenirs and trinkets you can take home. We further explored the shore and ended up in their local market where merchants are selling their goods, mostly necessities rather than luxuries. I was quite astonished by the quaint simplicity of island living – the quiet life away from all of the hustle and bustle of big cities. If only I can live like this forever.

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Santiago Beach shoreline.

On the way back, we picked a spot under a shade of the tree and stayed there for a while. We savored the moment of literally doing nothing and just waiting for time to pass by. While we sat there, there were two children selling home-made delicacies. We bought some from them and tried to get to know them. We quite had a good laugh while talking to them. Then another man passed by with ice candies and we bought some, too. While travelling, I couldn’t really avoid being a little curious about the life of the locals, so I would always try and interact with them. And in this trip, this was the closest interaction I had the chance of doing.

The kids selling their home-made goodies.

The kids selling their home-made goodies.

After that brief interaction with the locals we headed back to our room to rest as exhaustion started to overwhelm us. It was late in the afternoon when we went out again to take a dip at the beach. It was already low tide that we ended up exploring the rock formations on the sides of the beach. The beauty of the island did not only rest in its clear blue waters and fine white sands but also in the hidden rock formations and in its rich marine life. I never have had an appreciation when it comes to things like this but I must say I was in awe with the exquisite intricacy of the beauty that is hidden underwater.

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Boulders by the beach.

Silhouette

Silhouette

When you jump, I jump!

When you jump, I jump!

Fun-filled failed attempts to do a jump shot.

Fun-filled failed attempts to do a jump shot.

When we were quite satisfied with our exploration we quietly strolled back at the shore where our sumptuous dinner awaits to be devoured. It was almost dusk when we got to the restaurant and while waiting for our food to be served, the sky turned into a spectacle colors. It was a magical moment for me because perhaps I live for moments like this. I live for the 5:00 pm sunsets where you see colors in the sky that don’t usually belong. Rarely that this kind of moment shows up in my life, it lingers for only a split second, that I try to hold on to it and relive it by describing how I felt and what I saw in that instant but my words and my language desperately fails me because calling it beautiful or transcendent would be a gross trivialization of what I just encountered; there are just no words to describe it. And this is one of those moments.

That moment.

That moment.

My skepticism towards this trip was immediately turned into trust the moment we all hopped in the bus. This has been one of the most memorable trips I’ve had. And this tribe made it more special.

The tribe giving off the vibe.

The tribe giving off the vibe.

But this beautiful journey in the “Lost Horizon of the South” does not only end here. In fact this is just a sneak peek of what the real treat is. Watch out for the second part of this story-telling. Trust me, there is more Camotes island has to offer than this. For now, why don’t you dwell on this while you await:

“I will go on adventuring, changing, opening my mind and my eyes, refusing to be stamped and stereotyped. The thing is to free one’s self: to let it find its dimensions, not be impeded.” – Viginia Woolf

xoxo

J

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