Catanduanes 2016

Funny how I opened up Stickies on my MacBook and evidence of my previous work greeted me. Just like how the other day, I opened up my browser after my official last day as SEO Officer at Yondu and I was greeted with Google Analytics, WooRank and whatever SEO website I usually visit, even when I’m not at work. I don’t know whether it was the “workaholic” person in me; there was no need for me to be a workaholic during the last 8 months of working there. In fact, the first couple of months after I started working there, I was already questioning on whether I wanted to be an SEO Officer.

I’m sitting on the floor of a balcony in my family’s home in the province, Catanduanes, Bicol. The day I handed in my resignation was the day I decided that I was going to drop everything and visit this place. It’s been 10 years since I was back here. 10 years ago, the main township, Virac, was just a small town waiting for its time too bloom. It had a hotel, a small supermarket, a couple of motorcycle shops, an airport with one runway and a couple of novelty stores. I’d only ever visit Catanduanes with family and we would go every June or November for the FIesta and All Souls day. We would usually overload our 4×4 with as many things and people as we could possibly fit. I remember one time, I sat on someone’s lap during the entire 12-hour trip, never mind that there were already 5 people seated in the back. It was our old Ford pick-up truck and half the back stored our bags and what-not and the other half was turned into a sleeping zone with mattresses and a canvass covering it. My dad drives like a maniac so sometimes, the usual 12-hour trip would actually take 8-hours. Once we arrive at a township called Tabaco, our car would then be loaded onto a boat that would take us on a 4-hours trip to Virac. From Virac would be a 15-20 minute drive to Cabugao where our family and relatives come from.

My family is famous in Cabugao and every second house on the main highway is a relative or close to the family. During Fiesta’s, we also held our annual family reunion and so everyday, a relative would always be at our house. Before our house was renovated into a 3-storey house, we all packed ourselves on the floor of the living room and we would spend most nights on the rooftop trying to find cellphone signal.

So that was 10 years ago. 3 days ago, I folded my bike, packed my rear bike bag and placed it in a recycle bag along with my helmet, jumped on a bus and took that 12-hour trip. It was the first time for me to commute by bus and travel to Bicol without family. After many years of traveling on my own, I didn’t feel scared at all and it actually felt liberating.

I knew I wasn’t going to stay long in Bicol but I just needed to get away for a couple of days. I was surprised with how a lot of things have changed. From being just a simple township, Virac now had large supermarkets, a Jollibee, more accommodation to choose from, motorcycle shops everywhere and even a couple of bike shops. There were more people, and more tricycles. I had to keep reminding myself that it has been 10 years and all this change was bound to happen.

I arrived on a Monday and on Tuesday, plans were ruined when I woke up with a splitting headache. This morning, despite the headache coming back after downing Ibuprofen pills for two straight days, I decided that maybe I just needed to get on that saddle and actually get a move on with what I’ve been wanting to do in Catanduanes for days.

My cousin, Kuya John and I started riding south towards Bato, stopping every once in a while to take photos and replenish our drinks. The plan was to just keep riding until we reached Puraran Beach; a surf spot, popular on social media and a place found to be one of the go-to places when visiting Catanduanes. Since Puraran Beach was fairly close to Cabugao (if you drove that is), we opted to head towards that spot. The route to Puraran Beach reminded me a lot of my first bike touring trip with Nitya minus the continuous uphills and dirt roads. After 4 hours and missing our turn (where we gleefully rode downhill only to realize we had missed our turn – and after walking back up the hill), we made it to Puraran Beach.

Puraran Beach, with its glistening orange sand, was so peaceful. There were a couple of surfers out in the water and a couple swimming near the shore, but what really made me love the place was how isolated it was. If you’re the type who loves beach parties and chaos, then this place isn’t for you. The place was no Station 1 or 2 in Boracay at all, more like Station 3.

We didn’t stay long, I opted out of getting in the water for the fear of not wanting to get out. But I did vow that I was going to come back to this place, and perhaps stay a night or two. The 4-hour ride was definitely worth it.

It’s now 1am. In a few hours, I would need to wake up, head into Virac to book myself an afternoon ticket to head back to Manila. I have obligations there waiting for me, and a mission to find a job of course. I’ve dimmed down my laptop screen so that every time I gaze up at the sky from where I’m sitting, all I see are the isolated stars in the sky. That’s one thing that I’ll definitely miss about Catanduanes; seeing those stars. If it were easy to just grab each star from the sky and take it to Manila so that they’d be as visible, then I would’ve come back to Catanduanes every year since I came back to the Philippines just to do exactly that.

Until my next solo trip. Here are some photos of the trip on my Facebook page.

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