October 27, 2020
BY RICKY MONTECILLO
Gauging by the heavy traffic at the South Luzon Expressway on the way back from Camarines Norte last Sunday, the people from Metro Manila have started to travel on road trips to getaway from their homes and quarantine restrictions.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, but the people feels the need to go out, travel and socialize or suffer from anxiety and depression. We are social animals afterall.
We just need to observe the basic protocols of avoiding crowded places, keep social distancing, wear masks and always washing our hands. This has become our new normal and is actually a small inconvenience rather than being locked down at home living a sedentary and lonesome life.
The Long Riders Motorcycle group or TLR secured the needed travel and health permits as we planned on a 3-day adventure ride to Camarines Norte. TLR founding member Jojel Ecat, who has settled in Daet, Camarines Norte, was our local coordinator.
He is a great host. Together with his childhood classmate and adventure tour group organizer, Nano, they arranged for our hassle free stay in Cam Norte. They booked us in the Palm Farm Resort in Cayucyucan town. For a very reasonable per head fee, we had two big rooms, dormitory-style with aircon, clean bunk beds and toilets and baths. Our accommodations were a big plus and made it convenient and comfortable for us.
Our tents stayed in our bikes.
Our package included all our meals, prepared bicolano style from dinner, fresh seafood, pulutans, breakfast and picnic lunches by the beach.
From Manila, it is about 350 kilometers to Daet. Riding on our elephant big bikes, it was enjoyable and fast.
While we planned on this adventure more than a month ago, we didn’t foresee that Typhoon Pepito would pour heavy rains into Cam Norte on the days prior to our trip. Lopez town in Quezon was heavily flooded and two days before we took off, the highway was clogged by 6 kilometers both ways.
But we have guardian angels and the heavens smiled on us on the day of our departure on October 23. Pepito’s rains had gone and the floods in Lopez subsided considerably to allow us to pass. The waters were low enough for us to cross the flooded portion.
Cris, who rides a Harley Davidson, was worried because his bike is low compared to the other adventure bikes. He rode thru the waters without hassle. All part of adventure riding.
Jojel and his rider friends from Daet met us at the military check-point as we entered into Calauag, Quezon. From there we rode to Daet, had lunch in a road side carinderia where we ate local food like laing, sinigang, and paksiw na baboy. The elderly couple owners were overwhelemed as we hungrily ate their food. Normally, they would serve by the saucers and just count them afterwards to be billed.
We were so hungry that Restie, the leader of the pack, started to get the entire cooking Kalderos and served them to us. We had a hearty lunch, because we were so tired from the long ride from Manila.
And then the rains started to pour. Rain drops as big as coins fell and visibility became zero. We thought it was not stopping, but Jojel said that we just had to gear up and ride through it. He said that it was not raining in Daet anyway. And so we all suited up our rain gears and started to ride to Daet, which was still about 60 kilometers away.
Funny how fate plays tricks. In full rain gears from head to toe, no sooner had we got on the road, the rains stopped, making us all feel warm and suffocated. It’s like putting on your raincoats before going out of your of the house with rain boots. Then as you start walking, the rains stops and the sun shines. Again, such is adventure riding. You never know what comes ahead.
We arrived at the Palm Farm Resort just before dark. Jojel and Nano had prepared a welcome pica-pica spread for us, like VIP visitors. Dinner was also set-up consisting of fresh sea foods, and local delicacies. Nothings like fresh provicial food cooked local sytle.
They set-up a long table and chairs by the beach where we spent the night washing down our worries and city-stress over cold beer and high percentage alcoholic drinks. Enough to drown all seriousness away.
In the morning, most of us were up early to catch the sun rise. The day was perfect for the much awaited island hopping boat rides. Cam Norte boasts of its Siete Picadas or seven islands in Mercedes town.
We rented several bancas, and luckily ours had all the cold beers on board. Sael Requierme, called our boat the “mahiwagang banca” and its occupants were like the students usually seated in the last row of classrooms, Roland, Ron, Ruel, Sael, Doc Glenn and myself. A cast of characters straight out of the movie “Hangover”.
We got to see two of the best islands beause we chose to stay long in the last stop, Malasugui island. First was the Apuao island. It is an islet with white sand beaches on both sides. The entire area is also filled with pine trees, making for a picture perfect scene.
There is no resort there and it is being maintained by a private owner. Only the caretaker family lives there.
We also stopped by the nearby Barangay community, where the locals lived. We gathered all the young children in their multi-purpose basketball court to giveaway some toys, slippers, candies and some cash. Seeing their predicament, you can’t help but feel sad for them. So many poor children.
We promised to return one day to conduct a medical and dental mission for their Barangay. We’ll just wait until all quarantine restrictions are lifted.
Malasugui was our second island. It is a sand bar with a small dwelling in the middle. Doc Von Evangelio had the bright idea of having our lunch fetched in the Palm Farm resort and brought to the island.
We enjoyed the clear blue water of the beach with white sands. While wading in the cool waters, we exchanged banter and laughter. Afterwhich, we had a sumptous lunch boodle style, while observing safety protocols.
God was kind enough to grant us this one day of perfect weather, to enjoy nature, forget our woes and be away from our work and problems. Cam Norte is just the perfect place of moto-adventure riders like us to enjoy our bikes on the trip, discover the wonderous works of nature and relax. One day of fine weather was more than enough gift from heaven for us.
Before heading home, we went to see and ride along the Cory Aquino Boulevard in Bagasbas town. It is said to be “Longest Boulevard in the Philippines”, about 9 kilometers long. It is a scenic ride along the beaches of Bagasbas and connecting towns. Before the Pandemic, this is known as a popular surfing town. It might be a good idea to go back here once the surfing resorts and bars start to operate.
And as if making up for all the joy and good weather during our stay in Cam Norte, our trip back to Manila was as wet as can be. Typhoon Quinta had arrived and heavy rains accompanied us all the way from Camarines Norte to Metro Manila.
And just as we came nearer to home, the SLEX was jampacked with vehicles, making our ride home at night, amid pouring rains, quite challenging.
Still, all part of adventure riding.