Gigantes Islands Travel Guide

Thanks Chito! See you Gigantes this October!!!

Liquid Druid's travel blog

The Gigantes Islands, with all its beaches, caves and rich marine life, is a real gem in the rough in the province of Iloilo.  Its sheer distance from Iloilo City and the rest of the Panay mainland however ensures that it almost always gets bypassed as a tourism destination of beach goers and backpackers in favor of the much nearer municipality of Concepcion or the more accessible province of Guimaras.

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Mt Isarog: Hiking at the Heart of Camarines Sur

Soaring at 1966 MASL, Mt Isarog is a paradise at the heart of Camarines Sur. It has rich biodiversity with its very own mossy forests and verdant crater, an overview of Bicol Peninsula, and a glimpse of majestic Mt. Mayon. Mt Isarog is the second highest mountain in Bicol.

View from Mt Isarog Peak

After 1 week of stay here in Bicol seeing once and again the jaw-dropping view of the white sand island of Calaguas and visiting my relatives and friends from different parts of Bicol, my last stop was Naga. Our group REDM or Relax, Extremely Daring Mountaineers, made this hike possible lead by Dio with help from Jojo Villareal of Kaddlagan Outdoor Shop in Naga. Jojo took care of our permit, guides and transportation going to the jump off at Panicuason. (See details of Itinerary and Expenses of this hike by clicking here.)

Since I was already in Bicol before the event, I stayed in Naga the night before.  I stayed at Sunny View Hotel and paid just 450 pesos. It was an air-conditioned room with cable TV, hot & cold shower and a comfy bed. It’s located just passed the bridge after you turn left coming from SM Naga. Their cheapest room costs just 250 pesos, perfect if you’re on a tight budget and is looking for a place to sleep.

Contact Details: (054) 473-9848 / 473-8771

Room Rates (per night)
Single Fan Room P 250
Matrimonial Fan Room P 350
Singe Air-con P 450
Matrimonial Air-con P 550
Twin Air-con P 550
Triple Air-con P 800
Family Room P 1200
Extra Person P 100
Extra Mattress P 100

Photos of are available on my other entry. Simply click here.

The following day, I met up with them at Naga Central Bus Terminal who all came from Manila. We went for a quick breakfast at a nearby food stall then went to buy return tickets for Manila then off we go!

After securing our tickets, we went to Peñafrancia Shrine for a quick stop as well as to get some supplies from a nearby grocery and market place.

 

After getting all the supplies needed and some picture-taking, we then head to Brgy Panicuason which served as the jump off of our hike. Travel time is around 30 minutes. We secured guide and fixed all our stuff before the actual ascend.

Off course non-stop picture-taking on our way up going to DENR for registration…

After registration, our trek began. The ascend was very gradual and relaxed. The only challenging part was actually seeing Limatiks (bloodsuckers). Everyone was conscious or should I say paranoid of having a close encounter with the little creature. Haha! Despite this everyone managed to stop whenever there’s an opportunity for a quick snapshot along the trail.

Limatiks were more active during the first 2 hours of trek and as you get higher the less chance of getting a close encounter. We decided to have lunch at Camp 1. The trail is mostly mossy forest-covered with big trees. Few more stops at Camp 2 and Camp 3 until we decided to stop at Camp 4 at around 5:30PM where we pitched our tent. We wanted to go to Camp 5 but water source were closer at Camp 4.

After pitching our tent, dinner was prepared then finally we had a chance to eat a full meal.We had Pasta and Bicol Express. Yum! Dinner was followed by Socials where we talk about all sorts of things, experiences, plans, and to simply have some fun. Camp 4 is pretty much safe from Limatiks. Luckily!

During our socials we managed to finish 7 bottles of GSM Mojito and 1 bottle of Emperador Light but no effect to everyone. It was cold that night but pretty much manageable as long as you have jacket.

The following day, wake up call was 6AM. After coffee and light breakfast, we started trekking the summit. Trail was easy because we didn’t have any backpacks but it would be quite challenging if you have one as you have to crawl at some point and go under or over some branches or roots to move forward.

We reached the summit 2 hours after at around 9AM. We didn’t manage to see the crater view as it was all covered with clouds, we went further up and climbed the trees to see the view from the top. It was magnificent! Thank God!

Slowly the clouds covered the view so after almost an hour after few snapshots and group photos we hurriedly descended to reach the Campsite to prepare for brunch (breakfast and lunch). Some took water whilst some started cleaning and cooking.

After brunch, we started packing our things and cleaning our surrounding following the “Leave No Trace” policy. It was a bit challenging going down since the trail are slippery and are all covered with trees, you won’t see any beam of light touching the ground.

It was around 3:30PM when we reached the DENR station. Whilst waiting for the rest, we decided to go to Malabsay Falls which is roughly 15 minutes walk. Entrance fee is free of charge if you hiked Mt Isarog but if not, you have to pay 10 pesos.

We just wanted to see the falls out of curiosity but due to its grandeur and beauty we decided to take a dip on its ice-cold water. It was a relaxing feeling. The enjoyment didn’t last as we had to immediately go back to get to the jump off. After taking some photos we went back to DENR to get our things and trek back to  jump off station (GSP Camp Maria Aurora).

Due to lack of area where we could shower and tidy up, we went to Sulat Pool to clean up and change clothes before heading back to the main city. Entrance fee costs 50 pesos and cottage rental costs 150 pesos. The don’t have a descent restroom or shower room so don’t expect anything. Water is abundant as it all comes from the mountain.

We managed to leave Panicuason at around 6PM and arrived at Naga City Bus Terminal at around 6:30PM. Our scheduled departure was at 7:15PM and with so little time to spend, some decided to have a quick dinner and some just bought food. We wanted to catch a later departure but since most are fully booked we had no choice but to get the 7:15 bus

Only if we had more time to spend here…

This was my very first hike here in Bicol and is definitely going to be one of the most memorable. More than the Limatiks, cold breeze of air, beautiful flora and fauna, amazing view from the top, good friends, warm smiles and happy faces, it’s the unexplainable feeling and contentment only nature can fulfill that makes it memorable.

Camarines Sur has indeed a lot of things to offer. I know haven’t seen much about this place but simply having the opportunity to hike at the heart of Camarines Sur, you’ll surely fall in love and ask for more. Undeniably one of the best in Bicol and a must visit.

For details of the Itinerary and Expenses, click here.

Calaguas Island: The 1.9K Challenge

Among the Calaguas Group of Islands, Mahabang Buhangin in Tinaga Island is the famous for many campers and backpackers. They said Boracay was like it decades ago before establishments and hotels flourished. Powdery White Sands, Crystal Blue Waters, What more can you ask for?

It was three years ago when I first laid my eyes on this wonderful island and for some reason kept me coming back every year afterwards. It was just last May when I visited this island for the 3rd time. To get here for the last 2 years I booked for a package worth 3.2K covering all expenses from Tranporation, Food, Tent and all and it was all fine but what difference would it make this time if I continue doing the same thing?

A thought came to me while at work. Why not do it as a challenge? I am sure others have tried it so why not? With the help of Simang Gala, we tried researching and asking friends for advise and finally agreed to do a 1.8K challenge. We thought it was impossible knowing how much we spend on food so we raised it to 1.9K to give ourselves some room for adhoc expenses. To make it more achievable we invited some of our friends. A lot have shown interest but only 11 of us pushed through.

May 25, we booked for the 745PM bus going to Paracale via SuperLines. Since they only have few AC bus bound for Paracale, we managed to secure tickets in the morning. It was originally just 9 of us till 2 decided to join few minutes before the scheduled departure. Lucky for them, there were 2 extra seats. Haha.

It was a long 9 hour journey with few stops along the way. The bus has spacious leg room considering the fare price is just 515 pesos. This is the cheapest way to go if you want to visit Calaguas on a tight budget, even less if you ride an ordinary bus.

Upon our arrival in the Town of Paracale, some of us waited in the Superlines Ticketing area to secure tickets going back to Manila, while other went to the Market and bought supplies. Each of us had a share of 200 pesos to cover for lunch, dinner, breakfast, snacks and booze. We then met up with Ricky our friendly boatman. He was very accommodating, he managed to secure all cooking utensils, block of ice, big ice box and our drinking.

It was half past 8 in the morning when we left the port. I was quite surprised by the calmness of the sea. I was sort of expecting a rough ride and lucky for us considering the size of our boat, it was quiet all throughout. The view was just spectacular on the entire 1 hour 45 minutes ride going to the famous long white beach of Calaguas Island in the town of Tinaga.

It was a jaw dropping view, though this was my third time here it feels like seeing it again for the first time. A big Wow!

We immediately jumped off the boat and walked along the white soft powdery sand sparkling under the heat of the sun. It was an amazing feeling. We chose a nice spot under the trees which served as a shed under the torturing heat of the sun. We rented a cottage which served as our cooking/dining and resting area.

Not wasting any time, some pitched their tents, some started cooking and well the rest just stared blankly at the horizon.

After preparing food and pitching our tents, we then had our lunch.  Yum!

So whats best to do after eating? Sleep… Haha.. It was siesta time for most us. Life is a Beach!

It was time to hit the beach and do lots of cam-whoring, haha.. super excessive..

Whilst some are having some fun, Simang Gala busily prepared our Snack. Pancit!

Much to our surprise, a sand castle was made near where we were staying. We waited for some people to finish having their pictures taken there then we took the spot. It was Free!

Time flew so fast that we didn’t notice it.

Just before sundown, dinner was prepared for everyone to enjoy. Guess what?

I don’t remember how much I ate. It was delish!

After dinner, we then had our socials near the shore. We had some few drinks, lots of laughter and endless storytelling. In the middle of all the happenings, a big surge of wind came, then the stars disappeared. Imagine whats next. Yes, the rain.. It took a while for the rain to stop until the following morning. Some even managed to sleep in the cottages. We thought of the rain as a blessing after seeing how wonderful it is to wake up seeing the beach.

Not even done with Breakfast, some headed to the rocks for more pictures.

And so a vibrant breakfast was served. Dig in!

After breakfast, it was time to hit the water again. Heaven!

Yes they were using umbrella. It was scorching hot!

Oh well, after all the fun it was time to leave. A place you’ll definitely comeback. A place you’ll always miss. A place where you’ll find peace and happiness. A place you’ll fall in love with over and over again. Yes, this was my third time and it won’t end there.

Saying goodbye is hard once you set foot on this paradise. So it’s definitely a till-we-meet-again. Agree?

So we thought it’s over. Our nice boatman offered to bring us somewhere before heading back to Paracale. We tried asking but he doesn’t seem to know that name of the place.

We immediately jumped off the boat wearing our life vest. Hahaha. I love the beach but I still don’t know how to do threading in the water. LOL

It was all fun. Around the island, you’ll get to see colorful starfish, big and small coral formations, blue jellyfish and sea urchins. We even had our lunch on the boat. Yes, the rice and dried fish was cooked whilst we are on board. Cool!

She doesn’t want to leave…

Oh well, we really needed to leave to catch the last trip to Daet. Yes, my Bicol trip is not yet over. Whilst the rest of the gang are all booked for Manila, me and my girlfriend are going to spend the rest of the week in Bicol.

In order to tidy up, we went to Malayan Tourist Inn.  This place is just near where the buses stop and it’s in front of a gas station and van terminal.

With so little time, since the last van going to Daet leaves at 5PM and all shower rooms are being used,  Ate Karina of Malayan Tourist Inn openly offered her house for us to take a bath. Her daughter even brought us to their house via motorbike. It was the quickest shower we had ever. In just about 5 minutes we’re back. Haha!

We repacked all our stuff as quickly as possible but then we were told that the last van already left. So what now? Ate Karina gave us option to get a bus or tricycle passing through Talobatib then get a bus going to Daet. Luckily another passenger was left who was also on his way to Daet so we took the chance and left.

Check the continuation of our adventure after Calaguas on my next entry.

Indeed 1.9K is definitely possible specially if you’re on a tight budget. It was a bit hard for some of us to stick to the planned budget but that’s where we had so much fun. Imagine the urge of buying tuna for dinner, a big No. Imagine buying loads of booze and soda, a big No. Adhoc expenses in the island, also a big No. But it was all OK. Everyone enjoyed every single minute of the trip, we all gained new friends, experienced something new, faced some of our fears and realized that there’s more to life than work.

Total Expenses = 1870 Pesos / Head
1100 Bus Fare vv / Head
400 Boat Fee / Head
150 Resort Entrance Fee / Head
20 Brgy Tax Fee / Head
200 Food (5 Meals) / Head

Contacts:

Ate Karina: 09157959350 (for accommodation and bus reservation in Paracale going to Manila) – Ate Karina can try to help you book for a ticket back to Manila during peak season. Try their restaurant, food is really nice. You can also take a shower for just 20 pesos or even get it free. ☺

Kuya Ricky: 09127365717 (boatman) – you can get a boat for as low as 3K depending on the number person. Kuya Ricky can also take care of your cooking utensils, drinking water (you just have to pay 50 pesos/5 Gallon), block of ice, icebox and grill at no extra cost. Text him for help.

Suggested Itinerary:

Day 0 Day 2
1945 ETD Superlines Cubao 0700 Wake Up Call
Day 1 0730 Prepare Breakfast
0530 ETA Paracale Terminal 0830 Breakfast Time
0600 Market 0900 Free Time/Swim
0730 Secure Tix for Manila 1100 Break Camp/Tidy Up
0830 ETD Paracale Port 1200 ETD Calaguas
1015 ETA Calaguas Island 1230 ETA Unknown Island
1100 Prepare Lunch 1400 Lunch
1200 Lunch 1530 ETD Unknown Island
1400 Swim/Free Time 1645 Paracale Port
1600 Merienda 1700 Shower/Tidy Up
1630 Free Time 1800 Dinner
1800 Prepare Dinner 1945 ETD Paracale Port
1900 Dinner Time Day 3
2100 Socials 0400 ETA Manila

Mt. Isarog (Panicuason Trail) Itinerary and Expenses

Brgy. Panicuason, Naga city, Camarines Sur
1922 MASL – Major climb
Difficulty Level as per PM 5/9
Estimated Budget: Php 2000-2500

See details below:

via Mt. Isarog (Panicuason Trail).

Mt. Mayon via West Face Baligang Trail

Mt.Mayon is a Major Major climb (9/9 rating)
Trail Features: Treeline to Cogonal to Rock Scrambling w/ Sulphuric fumes at the Summit

see Mt. Mayon via West Face Baligang Trail.

Mt. Sicapoo Traverse

Approx Budget: Php3,500

MASL

  • Balbalitok Hill: 1100+masl
  • Saulay: 1286masl
  • Bubuos: 1410masl
  • Balbalite: 1585masl
  • Pakpako: 1620masl
  • Matalindong: 1685masl
  • Sicapoo: 2354masl
  • Timarid: 1527masl
  • Simagaysay: 1341masl

*Observe Basic Mountaineering Course… Please put all candy wrapper/chocolate wrapper/cigarette butt in your packet during trek… LEAVE NO TRACE!

***Extracted from Relax Extremely Daring Mountaineers Archives

see Mt. Sicapoo Traverse.

Mt. Napulauan Traverse

ITINERARY (HUNGDUAN-HAPAO TRAVERSE)

*Observe Basic Mountaineering Course… Please put all candy wrapper/chocolate wrapper/cigarette butt in your packet during trek… LEAVE NO TRACE!

***Extracted from Relax Extremely Daring Mountaineers Archives

via Mt. Napulauan Traverse.

Mt Batulao Traverse

*Observe Basic Mountaineering Course… Please put all candy wrapper/chocolate wrapper/cigarette butt in your packet during trek… LEAVE NO TRACE!

***Extracted from Relax Extremely Daring Mountaineers Archives

via Mt Batulao Traverse.

Magalang-Arayat Traverse

Along the way

*Observe Basic Mountaineering Course… Please put all candy wrapper/chocolate wrapper/cigarette butt in your packet during trek… LEAVE NO TRACE!

***Extracted from Relax Extremely Daring Mountaineers Archives

via Mt Arayat Traverse.

Bakun Trio

*Observe Basic Mountaineering Course… Please put all candy wrapper/chocolate wrapper/cigarette butt in your packet during trek… LEAVE NO TRACE!

***Extracted from Relax Extremely Daring Mountaineers Archives

via Bakun Trio.