“Why are we doing this again?” I huffed as I strained my right knee to make the next steep step.
“400.” I heard a guide say to his group before me.
Immediately, I felt relieved. I thought I was only at 200+ steps.
I breathed in the fresh air, a mixture of the ocean smell and the cool breeze from the trees. I turned from the hundred more steps to take.
The view from the 400th++ steps was already enough to give me strength. It was beautiful. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
I turned back to the stairs and started up again. If I didn’t want to feel that pain in my knee, stopping to rest wasn’t an option.
Finally, when I reached the top step, I heaved a sigh of relief. Boy, that was a long way up.
But it wasn’t over. To get to the Grotto, I still had to climb the steep hill to the church and an even more steep hill to get to the statue.
I stopped at the chapel and sat down and waited as a soft breeze blew. I fanned my shirt, as it was practically dripping of sweat.
At that point, we were already at a great advantage to take overlooking pictures – of the Caramoan islands!
It was these kinds of views that made all the sweat, pain and time worth it.
While the rest of the group continued on to the statue, I preferred to stay at the chapel and rest. I didn’t really want to push my frail, uncoordinated knees when I was about to do spelunking after for the first time.
***apologies for the mistake in the pictures, this is in TAGBON, CARAMOAN. Not Tabon, Caramoan***
Once everyone had time to cool off, we headed back to the tricycle that would take us to the Tagbon Cave.
Tagbon Cave was about 25 – 30 minutes from the port and the entrance to the Grotto climb. The road getting there was also pretty rough at some point but once we got to the main highway leading to the cave, we still had to walk another 30 – 40 minutes to get to the entrance of the cave.
Yes, it was about 30 – 40 minutes walk under the sun, along the rice fields and the rivers. Once we decided that we can no longer wait for the lamp (that was being brought from the other group), we started our journey inside.
Have I told you I’m a little bit claustrophobic? Well, I am. This is why spelunking wasn’t such a bright idea to me at first. But what the heck. I’m already here, anyway.
It was a good thing that the walls were huge and it wasn’t too crowded inside. Most of the time, we were in large rooms that didn’t feel so closed at all.
However, there was one portion of the cave where we were required to crawl to get through. It was a good thing I’m tiny, otherwise, that could have prompted any symptoms of my claustrophobia.
If there was one thing I’m proud of in this travel, it was conquering my fear of closed spaces. Maybe someday I can finally do Sagada.
The cave was beautiful, but it was also everything that I expected a cave to be. It wasn’t small, and it had natural staircases that looked amazingly “man-made”.
We took about an hour or more inside the cave before walking back to the entrance where the tricycle would pick us up to take us back to the port.
By the time we reached the port, it was already noontime hot.
Sensing that we needed to eat, our boatman took us to the nearest island on his list to start lunch.
Beautiful Sabitang Laya Island was similar to Nacpan and Calitang Twin Beach. There were two beaches, separated by one stretch of white sand, mangroves and palm trees. However, unlike Nacpan and Calitang Twin Beaches, the island didn’t have a hill or a higher level to climb to and photograph both ends of the beach.
On one side of the island, the sand was soft and fine, its long stretch dotted with palm trees that emphasized the azure color of the slightly rough current waters. On the other side, the sand was sugary soft, slightly cream with mangroves lined along its stretch. However, the blue waters on this end was much more calmer, the reason why we parked on this end instead of the other side.
After eating lunch and taking pictures (well, I fell asleep, but the rest of the group had their own photoshoot), we had to quickly get back to our island hopping. The first part of the tour (the grotto and the cave) had taken up a lot of our time and we still had to get to a few more islands to finish the day.
Our next island took about 30 more minutes. The stretch of sand was visible, even from afar. Not because it was white or long, but because it had no trees or anything standing on a huge part of the island – just the huge stretch of sand.
Cotivas Island was a stretch of cream, soft sand that stretched above the calm waters of Caramoan. Half of it had huts that you can rent for lunch. But on the other half, there was completely nothing, except for the sand and the blue, shallow waters that would eventually engulf that part of the island during high tide. Yes, that half vanishing island that would shorten automatically when the tide goes up.
We took pictures in the sand and eventually crafted the words “Welcome to Caramoan” with some seaweeds. Under the scorching heat of the sun, we danced and pranced around the beach. Unfortunately, after awhile, we could feel the intense heat of the 3pm sun. Since there was no tree on the island, the only way to get out of the sun was to go back to the boat.
Our next island is Bugtong Island. Technically, it wasn’t the island that we went to, but the row of floating cottages that you can rent for lunch or resting. We didn’t rent a cottage, but we were allowed to jump from it, in hopes of getting a good jumpshot over the water.
Curiously, the waters which the cottages stood on were pretty shallow, even if we were quite far from the island itself.
While I didn’t swim at Bugtong, I enjoyed my last swim in Caramoan at Manlawe Island, another island were a few floating cottages were built. While the sand was softer at the Bugtong Island, I enjoyed the heat of the Manlawe waters (no idea why it was hot) that I didn’t even need to be convinced to get out of the boat. Swimming at Manlawe Island definitely felt therapeutic after a few days of long bus rides and climbing limestone rocks.