Containing 7,671 islands, Philippines is one of the largest island nations in the world. Philippines offers a wide variety of go to holiday places, such as world famous beach – Boracay and popular whale sight-seeing spot – Oslob in Cebu. From the food, to white sand beaches and natural wonders, Philippines offers so much for the tourists. Even though I was born in the Philippines, whenever I go back there is always a new place to explore, making me feel like a tourist. Kinda ironic I would say. In this Explore Series, I will take you to a place close to my heart, my hometown: Camarines Sur.

Credits to Google Maps

Camarines Sur is located north of the capital city of The Philippines, Manila. It is a 7-hour drive (depending on how fast you drive) or a 45 minutes plane ride from Manila. Camarines Sur consists of two cities: Naga, a more developed and urbanised city where most financial, commercial, industrial and business centers are located. And Iriga, a less developed city compared to Naga. I was born in this city where I grew up for a few years before I eventually moved to Singapore. Even though I go back at least once a year, it is only recently that I have discovered some hidden gems in the province.

Caramoan Islands

Compared to the more famous and very populated tourist spots such as Boracay, Cebu and Palawan, Caramoan Islands is one of the country’s unexplored paradises. It boasts of having perfect white sand beaches, tranquil lakes, secret caves, stunning rock formations and rich marine life. I wonder why it took me so many years to visit considering that it’s not so far away from where I lived.

Fun fact: Do you know that the popular reality TV show Survivor regularly films their series in Caramoan Islands?

Island Hopping

One thing I love most about Caramoan Islands is that it is a secret paradise that remains unexploited from commercial tourism. Every island that we hopped to, we did not see anyone else. It almost felt like we had our own private islands! It is definitely an ideal tropical destination.

For some reason, turquoise water felt warmer compared to clear water

Caramoan is truly beautiful, I was amazed at how every island was different from one another! Some islands provided blue waters, some turquoise and some also crystal clear waters.

Snorkelling

The beautiful turquoise waters surrounding the Caramoan islands were incredible. I would definitely recommend taking full advantage of the location and go snorkelling! The islands provided beautiful marine life with thousands of marine species and corals. It was a sight to see!

Is it really a star fish if it has only 4 legs? 

That’s right I’m still alive after holding a sea urchin

Debunking the theory and misconception for sea urchins, it is actually quite safe to hold them as long as you do not harden your hand. They only “activate” their spikes if they feel threatened. Also, sea urchins are considered a luxury in the culinary scene, meaning it is super expensive! I was lucky enough to be able to catch and eat a lot of them.

If you do not know what this is, it’s a Sea Cucumber!

The marine life was nothing short of amazing. My only regret was not having a GoPro camera with me to capture the amazing scene underwater.

Limestones Cliffs

Don’t let that smile fool you, it was definitely a technical climb to get to that spot right there. The climb was worth every single second and every single scratch I received. Overseeing the beautiful sea and various islands, it was a breath-taking scene.

Can you see the hidden lake?

There were also several lagoons and lakes hidden in the islands itself. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to explore every islands more for a couple more hours but our schedule was tight and we also had many other islands to visit.

Very little is known about Caramoan. Isolated from the rest of Camarines Sur, it is no surprise why Philippines’ Secret Paradise remains unexploited from commercial tourism. Caramoan peninsula has a range of esteemed natural wonders, where you can experience the tranquillity of nature. It is the perfect place for your dream vacation getaway.

Deer Farm

I came just in time for their feeding session!

Yes, it is an actual farm filled with deers (just like Santa’s rein deers)! Located in Ocampo, it was about an hour drive from Iriga city. Ocampo Deer Farm is located at the foothills of a famous mountain in the province called Mount Isarog. It is a place where you can hold, interact and feed hundreds of deers up close and personal. It was truly a sight to see as they wander around the large, open field. With its open nature, perfect blue skies, surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains, the farm will provide you with picture perfect photos fit for your Instagram!

One of the most beautiful deers I found! Look at those anthers!

Getting near a real deer… or should I say hundreds of deers definitely makes you feel like you are Santa. It was definitely a magical experience! If you’ are ever worried about getting there without a GPS, do not fear as you can simply ask for directions from any friendly locals there! They will be more than glad to help.

In my hometown, Camarines Sur, we have the Camsur Multipurpose Cooperative. As stated in their name, they are a multipurpose cooperative that provides in multiple industries such as, finance, agriculture and various support services to improve the socio-economic condition of the members and the community.

In Philippines, especially the rural areas, the agriculture industry plays a crucial role in the economy, feeding millions of people in the country. There is a saying in the Philippines, “if one farmer quit, 24 families will have no rice to eat”. This truly shows the extent and importance of every agriculture cooperatives in the Philippines.

 


This article was brought to you by Erwin Pili Saysay who is currently interning in SNCF, Marketing team. He is in his 3rd year in Ngee Ann Polytechnic and is pursuing Business & Social Enterprise motivated by his passion to help others.

 

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