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Captivating Camotes

Buho Rock Resort in Poro

Buho Rock Resort in Poro

IT WAS an emotional experience for some. Others thought of it as the perfect time for family bonding.

A couple appreciated the relaxed pace of the tour.

And there are many who were in it for pure enjoyment.

The three-day jaunt meant different things to different people, but one thing was certain—Suroy Suroy Sugbo: Camotes Isles Summer Interlude was a welcome treat for all, an experience that will not be soon forgotten.

CAMOTES ISLANDS

A small group of islands composed of Poro, Pasijan and Ponson, Camotes Islands is located in the northern-most part of Cebu. Accessible by ferry, it has a population of almost 92,000 according to a 2010 census, spread among its four municipalities Poro, Tudela, Pilar and San Francisco. Camotes boasts of fine white-sand beaches that gives dramatic contrast to its infinite blues—the sky, sea, and the pools.

TRAVEL

Assembling at Pier 1 in Cebu City at 8:30 a.m. last Friday, our group departed from mainland Cebu for an hour-and-a-half ferry ride to the islands.

Mary Grace Paulino, Cebu Provincial Tourism Office head, and her team met us at the port.

Upon arrival at Poro Wharf, visitors were received with fanfare, much like a typical town fiesta complete with a marching band and colorful flaglets. We walked the red carpet and were greeted with handcrafted souvenir necklaces.

A short walk away, two commissioned Ceres buses were on hand to transport us around Camotes.

FIRST STOP: BUHO ROCK RESORT

First stop of the tour was at Buho Rock Resort, where we were treated to a distinctly Filipino fare of “humba” or braised pork belly,  eggplant salad, a variety of seafood, and of course our famous lechon. Entertainment gave guests some insight into local  culture, like the portrayal of a man wooing two women and singing folk songs. Boy Rama, the town mayor, was present at the affair.

Located in Poro, Camotes, Buho boasts of a scenic cliff-diving spot and unique rock formations. Connected by a series of rock staircases, the rocky cliffs overlook deep blue seas —perfect for adrenaline junkies who have no qualms about diving right into the waters.

SECOND STOP: STO. NIÑO PARISH CHURCH

Also known as the Church of Poro, it was established in 1849 and is the oldest church in Camotes Islands, which celebrates its feast day every third Friday of January. The church’s original belfry was destroyed and a new one was built in the ’60s.

The church is famous for its healing ritual called “Patunob,” wherein the feet of the image of the Sto. Niño is made to touch the devotee’s body, supposedly to rid him of his ailments.

THIRD STOP: BUKILAT CAVE

Located in Barangay McArthur in the municipality of Tudela, Bukilat Cave is most famous among the numerous caves in the area. It was named after its founder who used it as a shelter from Japanese forces during World War II. Pools of crystal clear waters illuminated by natural skylight are found inside the cave.

BUKILAT Cave in Tudela

BUKILAT Cave in Tudela

But wait—there’s a folklore that prior to going inside, visitors must undergo a “test” to see if the guardians of the place would allow them. The requirement was for a man to position a raw  egg from a native chicken on a plate. If the egg stays in an upright position, the guests can go inside. Otherwise, the guests have to stay outside because  the guardians have deemed them unworthy to see the beauty of Bukilat Cave.

FOURTH STOP: TUDELA COVERED COURT

Cultural entertainment, a breathtaking scenery and amazing accommodations are not the only things that make every Suroy Suroy Sugbo a memorable experience.

Right after checking out the mystifying Bukilat Cave, guests were treated to a merienda at the Tudela Covered Court. An array of local delicacies like cassava cake, rice cake, budbod, salvaros, langka, and a variety of shrimp locally known as “takla” were laid out for the guests to enjoy.

FIFTH STOP: LAKE DANAO

One  highlight of the tour was going to Lake Danao on the second day. It is the largest and only natural lake in Cebu, with 700 hectares of fresh water, which used to be full of crocodiles and snakes until they were hunted down in the 1960s.

In the middle of a picturesque lake are islets and behind these islets is a timeless story that tells of how the lake came to be.

It tells the story of how a childless couple named Noy Isyong and Nang Isyang from the town of Daang Lungsod got into a fight to the point of angering the gods.

As punishment, the gods made it rain until the whole town was submerged. Two islets in the middle of the newly-formed lake were found by townsfolk a day after, which they believed to be the bodies of Noy Isyong and Nang Isyang.

Mangodlong Paradise Resort in San Francisco

Mangodlong Paradise Resort in San Francisco

Joey Jowia, one of the workers at the lake, said the two islets are known as Snake Island and Crocodile Island.

The Lake Danao tour capped off with a game of “Palo Sebo,” where participants  attempt to get to the top of an oiled bamboo pole to get to the prize.

AN EXPERIENCE

Overall, the participants found the whole tour well worth their time. And more.

Describing it as a perfect way to discover the real Cebu other than its urban landscapes, retiree Mars Sarmiento, who was with her friends, joined the tour to see what the province has to offer.

“Naka-strike jud nako sa sceneries was the simplicity of the place,” she said. “They have a charm all their own.”

For retired banker Alex Ong, who was with his family and friends, the trip was an emotional experience as well.

“I got somewhat emotional because I am here for the first time in the birthplace of my mother,” Ong shared. “My mother was from Tudela. It’s fortunate that she passed away at an early age and we didn’t get  to visit Tudela then.”

Meanwhile, the couple that nabbed the Best in Hawaiian Costume award during dinner on the second night, Ernest and Ligaya Sanson, found this tour more laid-back than the previous Suroy Suroy Sugbo tours they’ve joined. Now on their third time, Ernest, who hails from South Carolina, thought that the tour, for its price and superb accommodation, is a good bargain.

Rinche Lou Griffith of Florida, who was with her 14-year-old son Zoar Sean and six-year-old daughter Cheldion Hart, was on her sixth Suroy Suroy Sugbo and hopes to do more when their schedule permits.

She considers her Camotes escapade as the perfect moment to bond with family. She recalls how during her first Suroy Suroy Sugbo tour, her boy was about the  same age as her little girl.

And now, she’s happy to bring her daughter to her first Suroy Suroy Sugbo adventure.

TAGS: Bukilat cave, Camotes Island, Cebu, Poro, Suroy-Suroy Sugbo, tourism, tourists
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