Sorsogon - more than just butanding watching
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When we decided to visit Sorsogon, the original plan was to go and watch the infamous butandings (whale shark) in Donsol, Sorsogon. We were informed later on that at the time of our visit (July-August 2014), there was no (or very few) butanding in the area due to the rainy weather. One of our travel buddies who grew up in Bicol suggested that we go to Matnog -- the town located at the southernmost tip of Luzon in the Bicol area.
More than just watching the famous butanding, other activities in Sorsogon include firefly watching, mangrove eco-tours, hotsprings, old churches, island hopping and more. Since we only have a day to spend in Sorsogon, we decided to go island hopping in Matnog.
Arriving at Matnog town proper, we saw a signage saying "This way to Samar" and an arch with the words "You are now leaving Luzon". It was nice to think that a few hours boat ride from here and we would already be in Samar. A Southern road trip to Samar-Leyte area was one of my dreams which is yet to be realized. Let's get this done maybe in 2015.
Our contact Kuya Eddie, a councilor in the barangay, was already in the area waiting for us. He led us near the port where we could park our vehicle. He also lives near the area so we were assured of the safety of our vehicle.
The port was quite busy that morning. Fishermen (and women) were selling their catch for the day at really affordable prices. Kids were playing in the sandy part of the port, playing hide and seek between the parked boats. Other men were hanging out and chatting in a shaded area and didn't take their eyes off us until we got to the boat. It felt like they were not used to having visitors and that they only had a handful of them in the past -- which was somewhat good. :)
It was very exciting to hop on a boat again, despite being in El Nido only a few days back. And despite being very cloudy and windy, the water was very calm. On the way, we saw the damage left by the typhoon Glenda on the islands. The roofs and walls of some cottages were blown away and some cottages were left leaning towards the ground.
But despite the temporary eyesore, we saw islands carpeted with green grass and decorated with tall palm trees seemingly unaffected by the recent storm. The green islands stood off beautifully against the blue waters and blue skies. About 50 meters from Subic Beach, the water was shallow and so clear, I could almost see the corals underneath the boat. We would later on snorkel in this area.
In less than 30 minutes, we arrived at Subic Beach -- light blue water, powdery pinkish sand, no tourists but only locals going about their business, wooden cottages on stilts, a poso and an open shower area -- my kind of beach! ;)
We spent time swimming in the beach and taking pictures of the island. When we got tired of the shore, we decided to swim farther away to see corals and other marine life. It was supposed to be more exciting to swim to the snorkeling area but as we were such cowards, we just asked our boatman to bring us there instead. Kuya was actually very nice who agreed to our every request.
We got to the snorkeling area in no time and jumped off the boat one by one. Fishes and other sea creatures were noticeably abundant. School of fishes swim by, unthreatened by our presence. Underneath some corals were blue starfishes that pop out here and there.
Seeing that it was already a little past 12 noon, we decided to go back to the island to have lunch. To make the most out of the experience, we asked the boatman if it's okay to just swim back. At the last minute, I got too scared and backed out. As the one who proposed the idea and as the best swimmer in the group, it was quite embarrassing.
And because of little killjoy me, we had to climb back on the boat which was harder than expected. With my less-than-100-pound body, it took me 4-5 minutes to get up the boat. The boatman was very helpful and took most of my weight to push me back up. His assistant was also helping me pull myself up.
We were welcomed back with lunch of Bicol Express (with calamansi), adobo, steamed crab and fried fish. It was all perfect with a glass of Coke! :) FYI, this is not advertising. :)
Even at noon, the sun remains elusive, which was good since we could freely roam around the island without worrying too much about the heat. We went to the other side of the island where we met some locals repairing their boats that were damaged by the typhoon. They had to fix it soonest possible to be able to get back to fishing and selling the day's catch in the town's market. We were also able to meet the owner of the beach who was very simple and humble. He told us stories about the island and how he does not want to charge visitors with an entrance fee. He merely asks for a reasonable charge for the usage of the cottages which he, in turn, gives to his caretakers. He does not have any plans to develop the beach as he was already satisfied with how it is.
After lunch, a few more boats arrived in the beach. We chatted with the visitors for a while then had to leave to see other islands and to visit the fish sanctuary.
So our itinerary was:
Breakfast was difficult to find in Matnog. There was one cafeteria who offered a few choices of -silog meals and day-old fish meals, which was not our preference. The owner however, was very nice and tried his best to give us what we wanted so we couldn't really complain. Next time, it would probably be better to bring own breakfast or have breakfast somewhere else.
Part of the tour was to see the Calintaan cave in Matnog, which was a few minutes to the west from Subic Beach. The caves were definitely a sight but what captured my attention was the green vegetation covering the island. It was a green carpet of grass, palm trees and other plants sprouting from the rocks. If we only had the time (and if I was as courageous as I think I am), I would have climbed up, see the view from the top and jump off the cliff. :) We explored the cave for a little bit -- the cave's small opening accommodates only one person at a time. The waves were a bit choppy so the swim into the cave was a bit challenging, reminded of the swim into El Nido's Small Lagoon. Now that we've mentioned it, Calintaan Island is actually a bit like the El Nido limestone cliffs, only shorter and greener.
Despite the damage, the island remained picturesque. From afar, the pinkish shade of the sand is quite noticeable. They said it was the crushed red corals that gave it this distinct color, similar to Subic Beach. There are no cottages in the area but the owner/caretaker allows visitors to spend the day or camp overnight for free. Visitors just have to ask for permission.
Tikling Island was next in our itinerary. The boatman showed us the island a few feet from the shore as it was severely damaged by the typhoon Glenda and was not as interesting as it originally was. The island supposedly prides itself with an abundant size of sandy shore which the typhoon ate up and left only a short stretch. The island's original form will come back in time but it might take a while for it to fully recover.
As the last stop, we headed for the Juag lagoon fish sanctuary at around 3:30 PM -- right on schedule. Unfortunately, the owner was not around so we were not allowed to come over. Sadly, we were not able to see the fishes bred in the sanctuary and the only thing I could do was to take a photo of the lagoon from afar. The sanctuary is said to be privately owned and was opened up for public education and enjoyment.
We headed back to Matnog port to get a proper shower and to bid goodbye to Sorsogon for a little while. Since we only allotted a day for this trip, we are definitely coming back to explore the province more. Maybe next time, I'll finally get to see the Manta Bowl and Paguriran Lagoon. <3
how to get to matnog, sorsogon
Manila to Matnog by Bus:
There are several bus liners going straight to Matnog including Philtranco, Penafrancia, Raymund and Amihan. The trip takes 12-15 hours depending on the traffic.
Manila to Legazpi City by Air:
Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines fly daily to Legazpi City from Manila. Legazpi City is about an hour travel by plane from the capital.
Legazpi City to Matnog: To get to Matnog from Legazpi City, ride a tricycle going to the bus terminal located near Gaisano Mall. Ride the bus bound for Sorsogon. From Sorsogon, ride the jeepney heading to Matnog and ask to be dropped off near the port.
arrange for your trip:
To arrange for an island hopping tour, contact Sir Eddie at +63 (928) 2538607
where to stay in sorsogon:
Visit my list of hostels, inns and backpackers' lodges for less than P1,500 per night or search for Sorsogon hotels/resorts in the Agoda search box below.
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to post them here: