Wednesday, August 22, 2012

THE CARAGA ADVENTURES 6: Bucas Grande Island, Socorro, Surigao del Norte

After a very depressing sight, we look forward to experience something positive. Funny is, we were already at the boat that will take us to the neighboring island of Socorro. It was already 4PM, we're waiting at Hayanggabon Port but the captain of the pump boat was not yet around. We were told by his assistant that he was at the cockpit because it’s fiesta at Claver. So what to do? We asked for his mobile number and called him on my phone! (Hello Kapitan? Asa naman ka? Lampas na alas-kwatro. Ali na.)  Winner! That was just so epic! 

When you have these strong women as passengers, don't delay and better behave. :)

And what happened next is another memorable moment for all of us! The bayod (waves) are getting high! The elders were already holding on tight to their seats while we were yelling, laughing. Only to be reprimanded.”Ayaw mo sige kiat ba,” Ate Gie said.

Happy because we survived the ordeal.
Behaved and thankful to get away from the heartbreaking scene of Claver, we watch the boat ride with the waves. We are crossing part of the Pacific Ocean already and I’m excited for the next day’s activity.  The waves got on some of us. Frightened on the possibility of being stranded on the island, some wanted to end the trip early and go home. This entailed a long and emotional discussion. Thank God, we survived the night with a lengthy discussion on conflicting desires and fears.

Early morning preparation for the tour. Spend the night at Balanghai, Hotel just near the  port. 

alin-alin ang naiba? (:
The bosses with the Muse? tenee

Start the day with smiles. 

Early the next day, we eat an early breakfast and met our tour guide.  Off to greater adventure this time! The fishers from the main center accepted us and gave us an orientation. 

Welcome to the Sohoton Cove National  Park! Welcome to paradise!  :-) 

Groups will be divided into 4 and we will be touring Sohoton Cove and Hagukan Cave. 
The indefatigable team! 
Another set of tourists entering the Cove. 
The fisher-guides of Bucas Grande are very knowledgeable of the time of low tide and high tide here. 

Mirror Image. The peaceful cove. 

Horseshoe - The Landmark

The landmark that serves as a guide for the locals in identifying the cove amongst the other many islets/ cliffs is the Horsetail or horseshoe. It’s a rock with an oversized “stalactite” that barely touches the water.

Leaving the Cove. It feels like we're in Palawan, as my boss said.
Never been to Puerto Princesa so I cannot validate yet.

The time is very limited as in span of two hours or the high tide will flood the cover. We  will be facing more exciting thing to do! Hhhmm… 

Hagukan Cave

Entrance to Hagukan Cave

“Haguk” means to snore in Surigaonon. Our guide said that during high tide, the entrance of the Hagukan Cave will be flooded.  The entry of splashing water plus the strong winds create the sound of a snoring giant. Thus, the name.
The nymphs at the entrance
One must be careful with the sharp shells at the crevice of the entrance.  Our boat composed of the arigadas (gutsy ones) took the plunge without any second thoughts. If you’re claustrophobic (like Ate LIzzy) and a non-swimmer, tell your guides cause they will never leave you. The mothers from our group complained (jokingly) that the guides have discrimination between married and single tourists. “Ah kung minyo gani ikulob, kung dalaga gani ihayang ug di gyud bayaan! (If one’s married, they will make her face down, but if one’s single they will assist her and never leave them). Sorry. But that’s the privilege of being single. Of course, the guides will not let us go that easily! HAHA!

School of fishes.

There’s a stone you can step on at the center of the cove. And you’ll marvel at the formations. Gladly I brought a water proof camera and Kuya Nanding, our guide happily snap our pictures and even took a picture of school of fishes (going to school?! Hehe)


Magkukuob Cave

The next cave we entered is Magkukuob Cave. It’s smaller than Hagukan. Unlike Hagukan that’s too dark, this cave is more visible and the water inside is only waist-level. You will be at awe of the rock formations. The bats were busy taking a nap so were careful not to disturb them.

Once the elders realized that the water is only waist level, everyone now decided to climb down with their own bancas and joined us.

Finally, they went down! 

Then we were urged to climb into an elevated chamber of stalagmites formed as jugs which is very helpful for climbing. 

What await us is the most exciting and thrilling part. The tour guides were telling us: This trip is a mixture of swimming, spelunking and adventure. What they refer as adventure is jumping off from the 10 ft. ramp after entering the cave!

And even if I don't know how to swim, I said yes. There's no turning back. And besides, I trust our other guide who's waiting and will hurriedly give a hand and a life jacket. After all, We Only Live Once. So take the plunge! 
Look at my face! Walang ka-finesse finesse! haha!

SUCCESS! I'm still alive. 

Into the Jellyfish's Kingdom 

Another unforgettable part of this trip is meeting one of the most mysterious animal of animal kingdom. We have to change into boats (no pump boats allowed) that only need a paddle for rowing. 

Enter the magical world of the non-stingy brown jellyfish! It’s just amazing looking at them pumping their head/body, flowing with the current. Swimming inside the jellyfish cove is prohibited as chemicals from sunscreen applied by tourists caused some death of some jellyfish.  There’s a part of the entrance to the cove that tourists can swim with strayed jellyfish.

I left my camera with our colleagues and we stayed behind. Our guide and I had a very interesting conversation. He shared that they are promoting community-based tourism. The fisherfolks served as tourist guide and rowers and receive 60% from the amount payment of the tourists. The local government loaned out to them bancas which they can pay by installment. But the community faces another challenge: almost half of the island has mining application PLUS the concept of development of their provincial government is letting investors like the Koreans to “develop” the tourism industry. Investor infusion is not wrong but entry of multinationals most often than not, displaces community members.

Cinammon Island

Named after the cinammon tree which is abundant in the tree. You can stay here overnight and have the island for yourself. take a walk, meditate or have a candle light dinner (best place for couples! :D). Or taste the tea made from the bark of the cinnamon tree.

Snorkeling at Cinnamon island 
Table and brain corrals and blue starfish! :)
Yogi at Cinnamon. 
The are is managed by the community. If you want to stay here, you can contact the Strengthened Association of Volunteers for the Environment of Sohoton (SAVE Sohoton). You can contact  Roldan , the Operations Manager on his mobile #: +639488205835 . Rates of rooms are P2,500/room per night with free breakfast (for 1-5 person); additional P500/person in excess of five. 

Titktikan Lake

So peaceful and so beautiful!

Last stop is the lake surrounded/locked by mountain. You can also stay here overnight. You can contact Kuya Dodo of Sohoton Tourism Operations on his mobile number: +639399047019. Open air cottage is for  P150-200 per person. 

From freshwater to saltwater, from caves to islets, Socorro has it all! 

There are still lots of caves like the Bolitas and Crsytal Cave that we're not able to visit. But you will surely fell in love of this place. 

After a day long tour, we dropped by at the market and marveled at the colorful fishes (isda sa bato). We bought locusts and a huge fish. We just asked the eatery outside the hotel to cook the food for us. Ended the night with tired body but a very happy and nourished soul. ;) 

Happy kid! ^_^

Visit Surigao del Norte. 
Take the cave-jump challenge. 
Meet the brown jellyfish. 
Help the community-based tourism. 

Let us show the government that eco-tourism is the way to go. Not Mining! 
Let us protect these nature wonders! 



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