Beautiful (untouched) beaches, warm people and mouthwatering food, these are the words that I can think of whenever I remember my first Camarines Norte visit. Going back to the place popularly known for the powdery sand and clear waters of Calaguas Island makes me very excited to discover more its beauty.
We have 2 main agendas on this visit (and a lot of sub-agendas aka food haha).
To explore more islands we didn’t able to visit.
To experience the annual festivity called the Bantayog Festival.
The only thing I dread when going to Cam Norte is the almost 8-hour drive from Manila to Daet (the capital of the province). Long drives really isn’t my thing, especially with winding roads along the route. The only saving grace to this is that you know that you will be in paradise the moment you step out of the bus… or just book a flight to Naga, Camarines Sur.
ISLAND HOPPING IN MERCEDES
The first time I visited the municipality of Mercedes, it was raining hard, the reason why our island hopping was very limited. This time around the weather was PERFECT!!!!!
Mercedes is well known as Camarines Norte’s biggest fishing port and along with it, are the famous 7 Islands. (Siete Pecados). For this trip we planned to visit as many islands possible!
Geared with an overnight bag (with mostly swimming wear….and charging ports haha) the moment our bus arrived in Daet, we went straight to the port in Mercedes.
Fast forward, we ended up visiting 5 out of 7 islands and stayed overnight at one. Here are the islands we visited:
Our first stop is the island called Malasugi. It is the smallest island among the seven. They said it even looks like a big sand bar. On a perfect day it is a good place to lounge and soak in, but unfortunately our visit here was cut short due to some jelly fish spotted. So off to the next island!
After that jelly fish encounter, we were more careful and observant before rushing to take a plunge. Good thing our next island destination was clear of any threat (haha big word). Caringo is a village-island, I am not sure if this is a proper term for it, but, among all the islands we visited this one is a proper “barangay” (town), complete with a functioning school and a church.
Things to do here aside from exploring the town proper, where you can find the oldest recorded house in Mercedes, you can also hire a small boat and go snorkeling. We also had our lunch here, which is a super spread of the fresh catch from the ocean with an easily voted favorite dish, sinantol.
Third island in the list is actually the largest one. On our first trip in Mercedes, we originally planned docking here, but because of the strong waves, it wasn’t possible, even if we use our puppy eyes to the boat captain. So to finally explore this island is such a treat.
The main thing to do in Canimog is to make a short trek to the lighthouse to enjoy one of the best views in Mercedes (this I guarantee). I wasn’t really expecting a lot but when I saw the beautiful rolling hills and the untouched shore from the viewing area, I was in awe.
The only thing, I am not sure if there is a good spot here where you can swim. There should be? right? Also if you are planning to go for “the trek”, don’t be intimidated if it looks far, in reality you’ll be there in 5 min (less than 10 min for sure) and the path is paved, easy breezy!
An island with a lush forest! This is how I can describe Apuao Pequena Island. Aside from the obvious perfectly laid out pine trees, there is a patch of large forest where you can trek and watch bats fly above you. WILD! I must admit that doing the trek was a bit scary, especially there are also wild boars roaming around.
Aside from “bat” watching, at the end of the trek is a cliff with a breathtaking view. Which is a perfect sunset spot.
Last but not the least, we ended our day in Apuao Grande. It is a short walk from Apuao Pequena (connected by a sand bar–how cool is that?). We stayed here for the night. At first, I thought we will be camping here, I was happy to know that there are cabins in the island where we can take a shower, charge our gadgets and also a bed to sleep on. YEY!
It was a tiring day but with all the things we saw, it was worth it. I can’t believe even, that seeing the beauty of Mercedes is just the beginning of our visit in Camarines Norte.
To book a tour around the 7 Islands of Mercedes visit and contact the Mercedes Municipal Tourism Development Operation Center
Address: Mercedes Fish Port Compound, Brgy. 7, Mercedes Camarines Norte
Contact No.: +6354444-1261
REVISITING JOSE PANGANIBAN
With another day to explore the province before we head immersing at the month long festival happening in the capital, we thought of revisiting our steps in Jose Panganiban. After a meeting at the mayor’s office, with our limited time, we plotted things we missed during our first stay in the province.
Again, this is one of those places that we originally planned to visit during our first Cam Norte blogger trip. However, during that time, it was closed due to the weather. Our supposed to be tour became a time to munch on freshly baked breads and coffee (talk about a good counter offer haha). But this time, we were back with the vengeance (not quite..but yeah you know what I mean).
It is a short hike from the small sari-sari store at the entrance of the compound. The view from the hill looks amazing! The best part is, you can actually book it overnight and have bonfire and camp. Hmmm smores with a view.
Eventhough to be honest, it is not the best beach in the province, this is indeed one of the most accessible in town. Only a few minutes drive from Turayog Place and just on your way to Pulang Daga beach. This can be a good stopover to dip and catch the waves.
We had a short stop to get wet and to chill a bit. There is a small cluster of chalets where you can sit down and enjoy the view. If you are lucky you can even catch a mang babalut passing by.
THE BANTAYOG FESTIVAL
Finally, our visit in the province ended with a big celebration in Daet. We watched the annual street dance festival participated by some of the towns from Camarines Norte. This is part of the month long celebration called the Bantayog Festival (which also coincides with Cam Norte’s 98th Founding Anniversary)
FYI: Bantayog Festival is unlike any other festivals in the country, where most of the fiestas are in honor of the town’s patron saint. Bantayog Festival celebrates the first “bantayog” (monument) in memory of the late Dr. Jose Rizal.
The main reason why we are here in Camarines Norte. To celebrate #Bantayog Festival and watch the colorful street (dance) parade from different municipalities around the province. Kuddos to all the kids who participated, super init pero super game parin sila!! Swipe left to see some street parade snaps. cometocamnorte #gocamnorte #katoogaph #katoogacam #Philippines
I’ve been to several festivals around the Philippines and I love how the kids participating dance like their lives depend on it. With the energy of the performers and enthusiasm of the people watching (even on a hot, scorchy day) this street dance kicked off very promising.
Aside from the street parade, there is also a main performance inside the town gymnasium. The crowd went crazy cheering for their municipalities (even us haha). Can’t wait to share with you guys my vlog during the festival (visit my youtube channel here).
For the meantime here are some snaps I got from the 14th Bantayog Festival Street Dance Parade.
It was indeed fun to be back in Camarines Norte. I experienced the same hospitality and warm welcome with even more food haha.
Now looking forward for my 4th visit!
To know more about Camarines Norte, you can read also
OFFICIAL PROVINCIAL CONTACT INFORMATION
Provincial Tourism Office:
Tourism Office of Jose Panganiban:
Ruth Marie P. Forteza- firstname.lastname@example.org
Tourism Office of Mercedes:
Nanette N. Ibasco- email@example.com
This post was in partnership with the Camarines Norte Provincial Tourism Office and Katooga.ph .Check out all social media posts at #KatoogaCam and #ComeToCamNorte #LovekosiMercedes #TripleTheFunInJosePanganiban0