Exploring Sorsogon through volunteering

Confession: Initially, I didn’t have much high expectations for this Sorsogon trip. What do you know? It turned out to be one of the most memorable travels I’ve had so far. Giving back to the community and exploring the best Sorsogon tourist spots made a mark in my heart. Looking back at this trip, I was certain I fell in love with this province.

This trip is a voluntourism event aimed to help the elementary kids in Calintaan, Sorsogon, and was organized by our outreach group, Alon ng Pag-asa. If you remember from last time, Alon is the outreach group formed from our last excursion to Jomalig in Quezon Province.

Aside from the outreach program, we have also planned several side trips to some of Sorsogon’s must-visit attractions.

The long trip to Sorsogon

We had limited options in buses going to Matnog, Sorsogon, that had an evening schedule and a comfortable air-conditioned system. Marics, our main organizer, just wouldn’t have an ordinary bus. Thankfully, after much asking around, we were able to reserve bus tickets in Elavil transport, in Cubao bus terminal, for about P900 one way.

The trip took about 12 hours. The bus dropped us off at Irosin just before lunch time, and then we hired a jeep to take us to the local tourism office in Matnog where we paid P70 for environmental fee. We stayed at a local house and bought supplies (mainly food), had lunch at a carinderia in the market and then finally rode a boat going to Juag’s Fish Sanctuary, our temporary accommodation for the outreach event and jump-off point to other nearby tourist attractions.

Day 1: Juag’s Fish Sanctuary, Calintaan Underwater Cave, Subic Beach

So far, I’d never stepped foot in Manila Ocean Park. I guess that shows the level of enthusiasm I have for fishes. My usual reason is, if I want to see sea animals, I’m better off going to the market instead, where I can at least cook them for dinner. But, man, I was so surprised and delighted at Juag’s Fish Sanctuary.

Arrival at Juag’s fish sanctuary. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

First, the place was just pristine. Even before the boat was docked we were already oooh- and aaah-ing. I was itching to take a dip! Alas, if only I could swim. However, since we arrived there after lunch time, we decided to simply leave our backpacks and other things in the cottage and proceeded to Calintaan Cave.

An islet across the cottages in Juag’s fish sanctuary. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)
It’s easy to imagine the sound of the curtain decors hitting each other along with the soft sound of the sea. Cottage in Juag sanctuary. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

Calintaan Cave is a small cave wherein you have to swim inside to find another lagoon. Kuya Alex, the very kind and accommodating owner of the fish sanctuary and our boatman during that time, had prepared a salbabida for those who were not good in swimming. So, we put on our life vests and held on, while he swam in front, dragging the salbabida toward the cave. Hali, meanwhile, is a fantastic swimmer so he simply paddled along the water, minus the safety contraptions.

Going back to the boat, Calintaan Cave. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

I hope I do not sound like an overexcited kid but I was really amazed that you could cross this narrow tunnel and find a secluded swimming spot. After a short stop inside the cave, setting up smooth stones on top of each other and swimming, we had to leave. The tide was getting treacherous.

Next stop was the Subic Beach, otherwise known as the Pink Beach. If you look closely, when the sand gets wet it turns a light color of pink. It was nice to walk along the shore because the sand, white and powdery, felt good against the feet. There were also some rock formations and a little snorkeling spot where you can see little nemos.

Subic beach, where the sand turns a soft powdery pink when mixed with the sea water (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)
Rock formation at the end of Subic beach (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)
Staying for a quiet afternoon in Subic Beach. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

Oddly enough, Kuya Alex said there wasn’t much to see in Subic Beach. If only he knew how us Manileños are continuously amazed by places such as this.

Before the day ended, we stopped to swim with the fishes in Juag’s Fish Sanctuary. Kuya Alex doesn’t ask for entrance fee to the sanctuary, and he was happy to show what kinds of sea creatures live in his little paradise: maming (the mother of all fishes in the sanctuary, at least that’s what I call her because of sheer size), kabibe, lobsters, starfishes and sea cucumbers among others.

At Juag’s fish sanctuary (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)
This large lobster would keep still and twitch around (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

I would grab some fish food, threw it at the waters and then watch as fishes flocked to have their fill. We then wore life vests and swam with the fish. It was an amazing, somewhat scary experience because there was this naive fear that the fishes were going to bite or just touch your skin with the eerie smoothness of sea-dwelling creatures.

We were not allowed to wear sunblock by the way. Also Kuya Alex said that the best time to visit the sanctuary is in the morning, when it is low tide and the water is clearer.

We spent the night re-packing our donations for giving. Although a cottage was available for us, most of us opted to sleep in tents we had brought. Although we pitched just beside the seas, the night was humid and we had to open the tent a little bit to let some air in.

Day 2: Calintaan Elementary School, Tikling Island, Bulusan Lake, San Mateo Hot Spring

On our second day, we held the outreach event in Calintaan Elementary School. On the way, we passed by several beautiful islets. Too bad we couldn’t just make stops.

An islet in Matnog, Sorsogon. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

Our boat docked in front of the gates of the school and I was simply amazed. Calintaan Elementary School is probably my favorite school thus far. If only it were closer to where I live in Manila, I would totally enroll my future kids here. Just outside the school gates is the sea, and not the typical brownish, floating-with-plastics, beside-the-local-households part of the sea you usually see in more developed communities. The water was blue and inviting. I can just imagine paddling there while the classes are on-going inside.

Old building in Calitaan elementary school. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)
Aside from giving school supplies, we also held games during the outreach. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)
Indeed, we love you kids! 🙂 (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

After the outreach, we took a short detour to see the lighthouse in Matnog. It’s in a standalone island full of rocks and corals. To be honest, I’m not really a fan of non-functional and crumbling lighthouses, but this might be interesting to those into historical structures.

This old light house stands in a tiny isolated island, whose land area is filled with large stones and corals. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)
Is it possible for this tiny island to be consumed by water in time? (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

We then packed our things from the sanctuary and stopped for lunch at Tikling Island, with its blue-green waters and a view of a hill reminiscent of Batanes. Unfortunately, we did not have time to stay long in here. But we still enjoyed lunch on the boat — creamy pasta cooked by none other than our very own caterer Kuya Danny — and spent a couple of minutes taking photos.

The alluring waters of Tikling beach. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)
Happy when chasing the sun! (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)
Holding a pretty pink shell. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)
View from Tikling beach, hills reminiscent of Batanes. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

Tikling island marked the end of our bonding with Kuya Alex, whose generosity and kindness I could not emphasize enough, as we had to go back to the mainland.

From the mainland we hired another private jeepney to take us on tour. We stopped for kayaking in Bulusan Lake, just days before Mt. Bulusan erupted. From the picture I saw before this Sorsogon trip, I thought the water is Bulusan Lake is too green, almost mossy looking. In person though, it was still and beautiful, like nature calling.

It was my first time to kayak, actually. Hali was commandeering from behind, saying “left, right, left, right” even though I had made it clear that, since I was the one in front, I was the boss.

Some of our companions enjoying the kayak. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)
Hali, “look here.” (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

We stopped shortly thereafter at Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm. There were lines of bee houses and little black bee workers, unlike the striped ones I usually see on television. There were ponds that felt a little lame after visiting the lively fish sanctuary in Matnog, but I loved the long walkway littered with different flowers.

Lines of bee houses. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)
Walkway littered with flowers on the side, at Balay Buhay sa Uma bee farm. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm occupies a large area, and I suppose it’s a perfect location for those who’d like to have a garden wedding.

We stayed overnight at San Mateo Hot and Cold Spring Resort to relieve our tired bones. What’s to say about this place? Well, the pool water was indeed warm and soothing and the water level was a bit higher than my preference (I had to stand on tiptoe). So Hali just carried me around the water and gave me a short swimming lesson.

I could’ve post a better, lengthier review, but the receptionist in the front desk was terrible at customer service. We were not informed of additional fees and when confronted, the receptionist said we should’ve have asked and suggested that we could still leave and find another place to stay overnight. It was 8PM and our jeep had already gone.

San Mateo Hot and Cold Spring Resort seems like a good place to stay after an exhausting day, though in the future I hope their staff will be able to provide better customer service.

Day 4: Barcelona, free lunch for fiesta, surfing in Gubat

As per Kuya Freddie’s request we were supposed to go to this light house in Parola Island. However there was no boat available so we had to abandon this little trip. Personally I wasn’t very sorry, as I’d seen enough of beautiful beaches and light houses the last days.

We were not able to see the light house, but at least we have this picture. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

We went for a short stop in Barcelona, where we stumbled upon a couple having a pre-nup shoot in one of the ruins. The ruins were interesting, but there weren’t enough of the structures left to recognize what they once were. We also went inside the Barcelona church, considered one of the oldest in the Bicol region, and admired it for a short while. There isn’t much to do in Barcelona except to take pictures, in particular with the large Barcelona signage.

We then drove toward our surfing destination, Gubat.

Before setting our bags down in Lola Sayong’s Eco-Surf Camp, we went to the market to look for lunch. We went inside an eatery and mistakenly thought they were open for business. Unknown to us, a fiesta was being celebrated that day and the food on the buffet table was for guests. The owners of the eatery however were very kind and welcomed us for a free meal. This was truly a memorable experience and I suppose one that could only happen in the provinces.

Thank you RLF eatery for letting us partake in your fiesta celebration! By accident. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

Our third day was spent surfing or, in my case, just swimming in the beach. Still, it was nice to see our companions try it out for the first time. Hali has acceptable surfing skills, and unlike most of us he didn’t need an instructor.

Everybody keenly listening to the instructors. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)
Marics, our main organizer. You go girl. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

Day 4: Hello Mount Mayon, Goodbye Sorsogon

After exhausting the list of our must-see Sorsogon tourist spots, we searched for a ride back home.

We were lucky to have hired a private van whose driver agreed to take us first to see Mount Mayon, the main landmark of Albay province. I was delighted because this day should’ve been dedicated to commuting only and, of all the times I’ve been to Bicol, I never had the chance to see the touted “perfect cone.”

Guess where. (Photo credit to Hali Navarro)

After walking around the area and a short photo-op, we also ate ice cream with sili and compared the taste to the one available in commercial stores.

On the road, for dinner, we stopped at Chowking and had a slice of cake the group had given me. Had I mentioned this day was my birthday? So there. Overall a meaningful celebration of my 25th existence. I’m a quarter of a century old!

 Afterword

Thank you guys for this wonderful trip. Thank you Hali for that gift and, most especially, for spending my birthday with me. Aside from doing volunteer work and spending my birthday away from the house (planned, which is a first), this trip also served a milestone for Hali and me. We had our first petty fight. Hah! 🙂

For those who’d like to ask, our budget was approximately P4000 for this 4D/3N trip, including the fourth day.

Contact numbers:
Kuya Noli, Lola Sayong’s eco-surf camp: 0905 242 1693
Kuya Alex, Juag’s fish sanctuary: Facebook page, 0907 957 7748 or 0918 304 5437

Also here’s a video that sums up our Sorsogon experience. It documents the outreach program and highlights of the Sorsogon tourist spots we visited. Hope you enjoy this as well as we did!

 

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2 Comments

  1. This place looks amazing! Thanks for sharing. Can I ask what organisation runs the outreach program? Thanks

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