The Camotes Experience

A few weeks ago, Mel and I met up in Ayala to talk about a possible website project that he wanted to do with me. During the meeting, summer plans came up. He mentioned that he wanted to check out Camotes because his friends have been raving about it. I have never been there myself so I said that I would totally go if he knows how to get there and if we could afford it.

The next day, I told Gian and Harry about our plans and luckily they both liked the idea. (See, we needed more people to cut travel and accommodation costs) And so, it was set. We leave for Camotes on February 27, Saturday, and head back to the city on February 28, Sunday. Flawless plan.

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Cebu’s little piece of heaven – Camotes.

The next week, I busied myself looking for all available information online. I figured that we needed a place that was nice and affordable. I know those two words don’t always go together but well, it was worth a try. I found a website about a resort called Mangodlong Rock Resort. The gallery looked pretty mouth-watering and a single room was about 1,700 each night. That would be around 400 per person. Kinda steep, but not bad (if the photos in their website are real,) I told myself.

Two days before the big trip, Mel gave me the horrible news. He couldn’t make it because he had to go to Ormoc. Uh-oh! I had to make some changes to the plan. And I also had to text Gian and Harry a couple of times each day to make sure that they were 100% committed (I just really wanted to go. haha) They both promised they’d go. Thank God.

The night before the trip, me, Gian, and Harry agreed to have a small meeting at the IT Park in Lahug to finalize things. We couldn’t afford any more plan changes. Only me and Harry showed up at the meeting, though. Gian was still at the office and he said that he needed to go to a photo shoot the next day. He couldn’t say no to it. I was totally ready to drop all plans and spend my travel cash on a grand, grand midnight buffet at the Waterfront (naa ba? hahahaha) when Harry said that he was still willing to go. “Are you positively sure?” I asked. He said yes. “But can we afford it?” I asked. He just shrugged. For a moment, the idea of swimming the whole day and then going to bed hungry crossed my mind. “Let’s do it!” I exclaimed!

We both agreed to meet in Chowking in Mandaue at 8 sharp the next day. But I got there at 9 because I totally forgot that the 21B route was so long and that Mandaue drivers have this tendency to just stop in the middle of the road to chat up a complete stranger, smell the roses, or just do yoga or whatever. Anyways, Harry was kinda pissed when I arrived because he thought that I was still asleep. Haha. Sorry Har. So, yeah, after breakfast, we found a jeep headed for Danao City in front of D’Atrium Mall in Mandaue-Highway. I think the jeep route number is 24. I’m not completely sure. Fare is 25 pesos and you travel for around 30 minutes to an hour.

We got off at the Danao City Terminal and we flagged a tri-sikad to take us to the port in front of the Danao Church. We arrived at the port a few minutes before noon. Fortunately, according to the guard, a boat was set to leave for Consuelo, San Francisco Camotes in thirty minutes. (Boat scheds: 6am, 10am, 12:30pm, 2pm, and 5pm) So, we got our tickets and we paid the terminal fee.

Port in Danao City, Cebu

Boat tickets!

Harry and our boat!

We were taking some photos of ourselves, the port, and the boat when three Korean guys came to us. “Can you take our picture?” one of them asked. I took their camera and they posed with their fingers sporting the peace sign. They thanked us and we were on our way.

Okay, honestly, the boat looked pretty scary when I first looked at it. And it looked even more scary when I saw the wooden walkway swinging wildly every time the boat rocked. Then, as I was thinking about possible scenarios should the waves knock me off the walkway, an old lady with a big shopping bag and a pocketbook crossed the walkway ever so coolly like she was walking on a perfectly stable slab of concrete. She was a pro!

Our gigantic wooden boat.

The cute walkway. It’s like walking the plank, yo!

I realized that it was kinda easy when I was finally able to get to the boat. It’s really just a matter of timing. We sat near the back part of the boat near the rest rooms. Strangely, I didn’t feel nervous at all. I’ve heard stories about the crazy waves in the seas between Cebu and Camotes, but they never really crossed my mind when we were there. Despite the wooden parts, the boat looked really strong and kicking!

The three Korean dudes walked animatedly towards the back part of the boat and sat beside us. Once again, they asked if we could take their picture. Why not? Then, they offered to take our picture. They’re a fun bunch. Haha.

Harry and his new friends!

The boat left at exactly 12:30. Based on my estimate, more than half of the people on the boat were tourists. The trip was one and a half hours long. So, if you get bored easily, a pocketbook or a PSP, or a fully-charged phone should come in handy. I saw that old lady joyfully finishing her pocketbook on the way to Camotes. She was awesome!

A foreign dude traveling to Camotes with his Cebuana wife.

As soon as the boat left Danao, Harry and I started asking around for directions and suggestions. We asked one old guy (who was part of the crew) how we could get to the resort. Instead of answering our question, he started talking about why we shouldn’t ride their competitor’s boat. Harry and I were like, Okay!

Our boat in action.

We spent the rest of the trip dozing off and taking pictures of each other. What else was there to do? Hehe.

We reached Consuelo, San Francisco, Camotes at around two in the afternoon. I thought that the sight of houses on stilts and some rundown seaside videoke joints would greet us. But I was wrong. The port was really clean and the water was crystal clear. The people were smiling and I saw a group of young boys leisurely swimming and fishing nearby.

The port of San Francisco. Look at the water!

Locals meeting the boat.

Welcome to Camotes!

We were walking behind the old lady with a pocketbook when a young man grabbed her hand and pressed it against his forehead. It was her son. And he was there to meet her. I couldn’t help but smile as he checked the bag that his mom was carrying. He asked her if she got him a new pair of slippers. She said yes. And I saw the smile on the boy’s face.

At that moment, I just knew that I was going to have a truly wonderful weekend!

A man asked us if we had a ‘sundo‘. We said no and we told him that we were going to Mangodlong Rock Resort. He said that he could take us there. 40 pesos per head. Deal! My friends later said that regular fare is only 25 pesos. But he was a good guide and driver. So, I guess that’s okay. 🙂

Our tour guide/driver – Manong Ban-ban.

On the way to the resort, he asked if we wanted to tour the islands. He said that he could take us to Santiago Bay, the Tumibo Cave, and Danao Lake Park for 300 pesos. We thought it was pretty reasonable. So, we agreed.  But first, we said that we needed to get a room and grab something to eat. After dropping us off at the resort, he said that he’d come back after an hour.

We felt like the luckiest people ever when we learned that the resort still had one non-aircon room (1000 per night) left. They had two more aircon rooms for 1800 per night. After paying a thousand bucks, they asked for a 500-peso deposit. We can get it back when we check out. On our way to our room, we realized that we got there just in time. Five groups arrived at the resort a few minutes later. The three Korean dudes got one of the two remaining rooms. The last room was given to a group of Tagalog-speaking dudes. The three other groups had to look for another resort. Oh yeah!

Link: Mangodlong Rock Resort

The name of our room was Mamsa. It’s a type of fish. And yes, all rooms have fish names. Pretty neat. Our room was not really just a room. It was a cottage, actually. But it was a few meters from the beach. But that’s not a problem at all. Our room had two beds – a single and a double. Harry and I both wanted the bigger bed. So, we did rock- paper-scissors. I lost. Dang!

Our cottage.

Mamsa!

We then went to the restaurant and checked if there was something that we could afford to buy. They have a pretty impressive menu. And the cheapest set meal was around 140 pesos. Plus softdrinks at 25 pesos. Okay, it looked like a terrible idea. Harry mentioned that he forgot to withdraw some cash in Danao and there was no ATM machine near the resort. But we were really hungry so we gave it a go.

Our lunch.

Food was great though and we headed back to our room after leaving our plates spanking clean! Haha. We both ended up sleeping, however, although the trip wasn’t tiring at all. Luckily, Harry was able to wake up at 4 pm and remembered that Manong Ban-Ban, our driver said that he’d return at 3pm. I hope he’s still there!

Yep, he was still there. And I can sense that he was a bit pissed because the sun would soon set and we’d surely miss some spots if we didn’t go already. Haha. Sorry, bossing!

First on the list was the Danao Lake Park. It’s a pretty impressive park around a huge huge lake. Entrance fee is only 5 pesos. We spent a great amount of time taking photos and scaring ourselves at the jog path. It was pretty creepy. I tell you. Plus, we saw something move in the trees. We thought it was a tarsier. But it was just a mouse. Hehe.

Link: Lake Danao Park

Don’t jump, Harry! We still need to split the bill!!!!!!!!!! Haha!

Creepy jog path. Well, it wasn’t really ‘creepy’ creepy. But, you know, it just gives me the creeps. So, yeah. Haha.

Next, we went to the Tumibo Cave. It’s a cave with an underground spring. Entrance fee is 10 pesos per head. The place is really gorgeous and the water is very refreshing. We didn’t stay long though because it was getting dark and we couldn’t afford to miss Santiago Bay.

Link: Tumibo Cave

Underground spring looking amazing.

Okay, what the hail is Santiago Bay? We had no idea. We thought it was another small beach with small cottages and stuff. When we got there, however, our jaws dropped. Literally. It was just heaven on Earth! White powdery sand. Great sunset. Tourists playing volleyball on the beach. It was a very lovely sight! Before I could begin taking photos, Harry was already running, jumping, and cartwheeling like a mad man. We took off our slippers and raced across the huge, huge beach like little kids. Ah! It was just gorgeous. But it was getting pretty dark really fast and we needed to go while it wasn’t completely dark yet. [FYI: Camotes doesn’t have street lamps, street lights, jeeps, buses, etc]. We made Manong Ban-Ban promise that he’d take us back there the next day before dropping us off at the port. He promised and we were both like little school boys given two packs of Bobot. LOL.

Link: Santiago Bay beach

Gorgeous ain’t it?

Sunset at the bay

We reached the resort just in time for dinner. Which reminds me, can we still afford to buy dinner? LOL. We were busy calculating how much we needed to spend the next day when I happened to check my phone and saw one text message. It was from Gian. He sent it around 2 pm. He said that if the pictorial ends early, he’s coming. He also said that he got a little cash from the session and that he’s going to buy us dinner or something.

Harry and I were very happy. What a joyous moment! So, we headed towards the restaurant and ordered dinner. After eating, we waited until 7:30 just to be sure. Well, at 8 pm, Gian obviously wasn’t coming. So, we went back to our room and got busy calculating again. Haha. After dinner, the only money we had was the 500-peso deposit at the counter. Fascinating!

The beach at night.

The next morning, Harry and I were resigned to the idea that we’re never going to taste food again until 5 pm. Our computation was:

Boat : 180 X 2 = 360
Habal2x 40 X 2 = 80
Jeep to City 25X 2 = 50

That’s like 10 pesos extra for the both of us. Plus we had to check out of the resort at noon. So, we still had 2 hours to kill before the boat leaves. We were doomed.

We were both sitting quietly in our room. Nobody said I word. I tried to check my wallet again just in case I missed a spot or something. Then, there, in one of the small pockets of my wallet, I saw 300 pesos! The crisp bills were neatly folded and hidden behind a bunch of calling cards. I remember I kept it weeks ago during a motorbiking trip. But, OMG! We were the luckiest people ever! We both cheered. We were literally jumping on our beds. Yeah! So, we went to the restaurant all confident and stuff. We got breakfast meals worth 110 pesos each (including drinks. Yahoo!) And we still had 80 pesos left to spend! Yehaa!

Our breakfast. 😀

We were just overjoyed. We spent the rest of the morning swimming and running on the beach and swimming. Harry and I hardly talked because we only had a few hours left and we wanted to make the most of it. Haha. After a short break, we’d go back to the beach and drink sea water some more. LOL.

Local kids enjoying the water. That’s exactly how we both looked. Haha.

We checked out at noon and we just sat in the shade while waiting for Manong Ban-ban. He arrived 30 minutes later and then he took us to Santiago Bay. We took lots of photos there and we just enjoyed our few remaining minutes on the island. We arrived at the port thirty minutes before 2 pm. We still had enough time and money to get lunch. Well, if you call ready-to-cook noodles lunch. Hehe. We bought two bowls. And two bottles of water. Balance: Php0.00 Hahahaha.

The boat, this time a bigger one, left around 2 pm. We saw the same familiar faces on the boat. It was, after all, the last trip out of the island. I saw the Korean dudes, and the Tagalog-speaking guys, and that rowdy group of call-center peeps.

Our ride home.

In the middle of the trip, Harry and I were talking about the whole experience when the passengers on the other side of the boat started clapping and cheering. Apparently, they saw a dolphin. I wanted to go to the other side of the boat but it was too late. Suddenly, the ladies sitting beside us said that they just saw some dolphins, too. Really? Where?!?!!?!?! I turned my camera on and switched it to video just to be sure. I was ecstatic not only because I’ve never seen a live dolphin before but also because I didn’t know they still roamed our seas. The idea was just WOW!

My fingers were crossed when I saw what looked like the back of a shark. “There they are!” the other passengers exclaimed. I pressed record and just focused on them. I was so excited. Then, they disappeared. I was about to turn the camera off when they reemerged just below us. Wow! There were four of them!

Harry and I were shouting like mad. Apparently that was a common sight for locals because they didn’t even bother looking at them. They were looking at us, instead. Hahaa. Oh well, I don’t care. It was my first time and I’m doing what first-timers usually do. Haha. It was still an awesome experience.

We reached Danao City at around 4 pm. We didn’t ride the tri-sikad this time. Well, you know, because we couldn’t afford it. We walked all the way to the terminal. LOL. By 5 pm, we were in SM City Cebu.

Except for our skin color (mine, most especially,) people couldn’t tell that we’ve ever left the city. But what they’d miss is the fact that we’ve seen dolphins and we’ve cartwheeled on a gorgeous beach. That we’ve made new friends and got a taste of Camotesanon life. And most of all, that we’ve spent 2 days and 1 night in a beautiful island resort most people wouldn’t even hear about their entire life. In February 2010, we were tourists. In February 2010, we experienced Camotes! 🙂

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Break it down, yo!

Jeep – Cebu City to Danao City – 25 pesos
Trisikad – Terminal to Port – 10 pesos
Boat – Danao City to Consuelo – 180 pesos
Terminal Fee – Danao Port – 5 pesos
Habal-Habal – Consuelo Port to Resort – 40 pesos
Hotel Room – Mangodlong Rock Resort – 500 pesos
Lunch – Mangodlong Resort Restaurant – 165 pesos
Entrance Fee – Danao Lake Park – 5 pesos
Entrance Fee – Tumibo Cave – 10 pesos
Dinner – Mangodlong Resort Restaurant – 165 pesos
Breakfast – Mangodlong Resort Restaurant – 110 pesos
Habal-Habal – Resort to Consuelo Port – 40 pesos
Habal-Habal Tour – Manong Ban-Ban – 150 pesos
Lunch – 25 pesos
Water – 15 pesos
Boat – Consuelo to Danao City – 180 pesos
V-Hire Danao City to Cebu City – 40
Grand Total – 1665 pesos/per person

Never mind that I’m totally broke now and that the next couple of days will be spent in hunger. No regrets! Hahahaha. 🙂