Aside from the Calaguas group of islands for which the province of Camarines Norte is known for, another contender gave a good and clean fight; that is the Mercedes Group of Islands.
Since our schedules could only permit us to do a 3 days and 2 nights of travel during the holy week, we pushed through for an adventure filled itinerary to the gateway of the Bicolandia, the Camarines province. It was a Wednesday night when we, together with thousands of filipinos, will be on their way home to their provinces, which is called the Holy Week Exodus. We lined up real early to get a bus bound for Daet at the Superlines Terminal in Cubao.(without any prior reservations) Luckily after several hours of waiting, we got seats as chance passengers on an airconditioned bus and the long way to Bicol started by 10:45pm. (515php/pax)
We woke up the following morning at Atimonan, Quezon after the traffic jam that happened at Lucena, Quezon that took two hours of our time. And by 8am we have officially entered the Camarines Norte province and white crosses are spread all throughout the highway. We chanced to witness penitence traditions along the road as part of the holy week practices in the country.
And by 9am we have already reached Paracale, Camarines Norte where our friends will be joining us on our 3-day adventure.
Upon meeting up, we then rode a tricycle (150php/trip) to Labo, Camarines Norte to climb Mt. Labo (1554+), a potentially active stratovolcano at the northwest end of the Bicol peninsula. As our initial itinerary suggests, we alighted at the Municipal Hall of Labo facing the Parish of St. John the Apostle and the Evangelist.
But since our arrival has been compromised by the traffic last night, the tourism officers at the municipal hall discouraged us to climb it that day. Instead of pushing through with the climb, Plan B was to visit the Mercedes Group of Islands which is an hour away. We then took the jeepneys bound for Daet (10php/pax) then upon arriving at Daet, transferred to Mercedes Port bound jeeps located at the Mercury Drug near the Daet Town Plaza. (15php/pax)
Upon arriving at the Mercedes Fish Port in which the “Bulungan sa Pandawan” or Whisper Auction of fish hauls are known for, we visited the tourism office and chartered a boat for an overnight island hopping adventure. After half an hour of waiting our boat arrived by 1pm and off we go!
Mercedes, was named after the wife of a spanish merchant who lived in the place centuries ago. You need to dig deeper to find what Mercedes has all in store for you. If Boracay is dubbed as the Heart of Visayas, Palawan as the Philippines’ Last Frontier, Caramoan as the Survivor Island, then Mercedes is best known as the Belle of the Pacific. Although it does not come as close to the above mentioned, each of them is unique in their own right.
Mercedes Group of Islands is composed of the Canimog, Apuao Grande, Apuao Pequeña, Malasugui, Quinapaguihan, Canton, and Caringo Island. Right after passing the Crocodile shaped island of Canimog, first on the list is the Apuao Pequeña Island.
Arriving at Apuao Pequeña, the water is really clear and turquoise from afar, starfishes thrive at the shallow parts. Agoho Trees similar to the San Antonio Coves of Zambales also thrives in here but a way better version. Add up the fine sand in the shore and the Mt. Balagbag and Mt. Man-Asupre from afar.
This island is connected to the larger Apuao Grande by a sandbar that was produced after a violent typhoon that wrecked the once private resort establishment in the island decades ago, making Apuao Grande an island open to the public again. One can do camping, swimming, trekking, snorkelling and many more activities in here, but the main highlight is the Fruit Bat Sanctuary located at the heart of the Apuao Pequeña island where wild boars also use to roam.
Upon entering the forest, the eerie high pitched screeches of the fruit bats are now heard, then as you go deeper into the woods you will be noticing them hanging in hoards above the higher branches of the Agoho Trees and from time to time flying around from tree to tree. They were enormous for a bat, bigger than kittens I must say.
You can continue the trek up to the end of the forest where the viewdeck opening up to the Pacific Ocean will be seen but we opted to go back and proceed to our camping destination.
We then proceeded to the Caringo Island where we will be spending the rest of the night. Upon arrival at 4:00pm, the friendly locals greeted us while having their midday drinks and we were also welcomed by the Brgy. Captain and even invited us for a little meal.
Who would refuse local cuisines such as the Grilled Tuna and Squid, Ginataang Pagi (Stingray in coconut milk), Supsuping Tabagwang (Freshwater shells in coconut milk) and vegetables. Such island hospitality that we first experienced in Mercedes. The island is made up of a fine beach shore with lots of shells while it is facing the San Miguel Bay. The end of the shore is called the Falconette Point where the view of the looming Mt. Isarog lies in a distance.
And the sunset finally came together with all the golden hues of the last light.
Night came and we set up our tents. The moon slowly rose above the horizon in all her glory while fireflies emerged from the trees all over. That was a one of a kind night. Lights off by 10:00pm.
In the Niche:
- Belle of the Pacific: Mercedes Group of Islands Day 02 on my next post.
Camarines Norte Itinerary
2 Days, 1 Night
2045 Bus to Daet, Camarines Norte via Superlines (515php/pax)
0900 – Arrival at Paracale, Cam Norte (longer travel time, holy wednesday, average travel time 8-9hrs)
0930 – Early Lunch, tricycle to Labo (150php/trip)
1130 – Arrival at Labo, Camarines Norte, ride jeep to Daet (10php/pax)
1200 – Arrival at Daet, Camarines Norte, transfer to jeep to Mercedes Port (15php)
1220 – Mercedes Port, hire boat for island hopping, haggle (3000 overnight/5pax)
1300 – Start Island Hopping (Apuao Pequeña-Apuao Grande-Canton-Quinapaguian-Malasugui-Caringo)
1600 – Arrival at Caringo Island, set up camp
2000 – Socials
2200 – Lights off
0500 – Wake up
0600 – Break camp
0700 – Boat ride to Canimog Island
0720 – Arrival at Canimog Island
0840 – Depart back to port
0900 – Mercedes Port, take jeep back to Daet (15php/pax)
1000 – Daet Central Terminal
Safe Budget: 2500php/pax (group of 4pax)
●Mercedes Tourism Contact Details:
Tel No. (054) 444-1261
Facebook Page: Love ko Si Mercedes.
●Mercedes Tourism Boat Rental:
Day Tour – 3,000php/8pax
Overnight – 4,000php/8pax
(Every boat has a capacity of eight (8) tourists plus the boat crews and tour guide; with life vest and tour guide included)
Within Mercedes – 150php/hr; 500php/day
Outside Mercedes – 1,000php/day
Entrance Fee – 15.00php/pax
Paraw Rental at Caringo Coral Sanctuary – 50.00php/boat (w/guide)
Snorkel Rent – PhP100.00/set
Homestay Accomodation = PhP250.00
●Apuao Grande Island
Entrance Fee – 30php/pax
Picnic Cottage Rental (Small) – 200php/group
Picnic Cottage Rental (Big) – 400php/group
Open Cottage – 1,500php
(Overnight, w/ electricity from 6pm-12mn, w/ complete beddings)
House Rental (3 houses) – 3,000php
Overnight, w/ electricity, good for 10-15 persons, 3 rooms with CR, w/ bathing water)
Entrance fee and boat landing fee – 300php/boat
Nature Walk at Sanctuary – 20php/pax
Cottage Fee – 200php (day tour);
500php (Whole Day); 700php (Overnight)
● If you can’t get enough of Mercedes Islands, you can top off the experience by visiting the Colasi Falls, located at Brgy. Cayucyucan, Daet, Camarines Norte which is a 1-2 hour trek deep inside the forests of Mt. Man-Asupre, and you can also visit the Hinipaan River that is popular to the locals
● From Daet, there are many possibilities of extending your second day, you can visit Bagasbas Beach at Daet or the Pulandaga Beach at Paracale, if extending up to third day, Calaguas Island must be on your itinerary
● Another option for Day 02 to 03 is to hike up the Mt. Labo of Camarines Norte and explore its pristine beauty, its dense jungle and get a glimpse of Angelina Falls or even see a rafflesia in full bloom
One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.
– William Feather
Go, Carve That Niche,