Bicol Special – the Journey

Mayon 2014-11-08

Bicol Special will guide you during one week through these beautiful, yet unknown region of the Philippines. The coming highlights will be Naga City, the cultural capital, Daet-Bagasbas surfing, the Pili wakeboard center and Legazpi and nearby Mount Mayaon. If there will be time left, we’ll guide you to Caramoan – the wild nature on the Pacific shore.

But first of all, we had to get to Naga City. From Camiguin it is only 530 kilometers. The challenge is the big lot of water in between.  It is possible to travel from Camiguin to Naga City by car or bus. The name of this solution is “Strong Republic Nautical Highway“. This trip needs some 2 days or 48 hours. With your car or several bus lines you move first east and then north using some ferries. With Philtranco you can do the whole journey in the same bus.

Philtranco bus

Sorry, we didn’t want to spend 48 hours in a bus. Ferries aren’t a solution for this trip, mainly because Bicol has not many ferry ports and the sparse ones are far away from Naga City. Finally the only reasonable solution had been flying – maybe …

Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) and PALexpress (PALEX) fly to different destinations in Bicol. All the flights are again from Manila since CEB cancelled the direct flights from Cebu to Legazpi “UFN”. We hate this “UFN” meaning “Until Further Notice”. UFN means that an airline can cancel a destination any time. The notice will almost never reach you. If you already have a confirmed flight, you get a text message the evening before your scheduled flight. But that’s another story.

Our initial flight schedule had been:

CGM – CEB 07:20 – 08:10
CEB – MNL 08:55 – 10:10
MNL – WNP 14:10 – 15:05

There had been no alternative. All airlines in the Philippines fly the same route at the same hour. Within 10 minutes you have 3 flights from Cebu to Manila or from anywhere to somewhere. There is no coordination between the airlines. Each airline flies at the time when they expect the biggest number of passengers.

Anywway, the Cebu Pacific sales staff in Mambajao told us that our schedule would not be feasible. 45 minutes to connect in Cebu were too short. We were a bit astonished. 45 minutes in this small airport and with the same airline should be sufficient. But no! Cebu Pacific does not accept such short connection time because: a) the flight from Camiguin to Cebu is always late and b) Cebu Pacific does not check through the luggage for these flights and c) Cebu Pacific does not want to pay for a missed connection. Ah bon!

We then found another solution. Here in the Philippines you do not only need a plan A and a plan B. You need at least a plan C and if possible a plan D. The latter one is in case everything but really everything fails.

We chose to take the Oceanjet fast ferry on Thursday evening from Camiguin to Cagayan de Oro. Then sleep one night in our preferred hotel in CdO and continue with the 09:05 flight from CGY to MNL.

Oceanjet

The Oceanjet arrived on time, the journey on the open deck in the back hat been noisy but very pleasant.

 Camiguin

Bye bye Camiguin, see you soon again little island.

The first leg of our journey had been without problems. At 6:15 p.m we arrived in Cagayan de Oro , took a taxi and went to our hotel near the Divisoria. I asked the taxi driver how much he charges for the trip to the airport. Knowing that the vans and shuttles cost 200 pesos per person, I expected to pay a bit more. He offered 700 and agreed to go down to 600 pesos. He promised to fetch us at 6:30 a.m. next morning.

We passed a nice evening with a good dinner at the Sentro.

Next morning at 6:45 a.m. still no taxi. We then flagged down another taxi. We offered the driver 600 pesos to the airport and he immediately agreed. I was a bit astonished that he turned on the meter. The driver told me that he had 7 children and that he needed the job. He neither would cheat the taxi-owner nor the passengers. Honest! The final fare on the meter after one hour’s trip was PHP 450.00 This means , one could bargain down to 500 pesos for this trip. We enjoyed our honest driver and wished him a nice day.

In the next article you’ll read about the timeliness and congestion and our arrival in Naga City. We wish you a nice day.

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