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I have seen pictures of Sabang Port posted by a photo buddy, but I couldn't quite imagine how/why they looked so laid back...until I saw it for myself. There was no structure whatsoever that would identify the place as Sabang Port. When everybody got off the Filcab van we rode from Naga City, hubby and I knew that it must be the place. And when men came scampering to meet the van, and with loud voices offered to carry passengers' bags, we knew they were the porters.
We travelled light with only one traveling bag for our clothes (which hubby could have carried by himself in addition to his backpack), but we decided to get one porter. The porters walked so fast so we thought we had to be there at once to catch the boat. Our porter offered to carry my backpack, then breezed through small alleys, passed through sandy ground until we reached the beach. He put our traveling bags on a long bench made of bamboos. It turned out to be the waiting area for passengers, conveniently located under the coconut trees. From there, we had a good view of the coastline and Mt. Isarog.
It was a little past 9am, and we expected a boat to leave at 10am because we saw a boat arrive, but we were told that the next trip would be at 11am. Perhaps, it was that way during weekdays on lean months when there were few tourists. Most of the waiting passengers were students, teachers and other Caramoan locals who came from Naga. I was already feeling hungry (only had very light breakfast) and uncomfortable (personal necessity). I looked around but couldn't find a public restroom.
Thanks to my VT bag tag, a curious waiting passenger asked me what Virtual Tourist meant. I guess I warmed up on her, she asked me to join them to have a meal at a nearby carinderia. Hubby didn't want to join us because our bags would be left unattended on the bench, so only I went with them. More than alleviating my hunger pangs, my utmost concern that time was to find a comfort room. Fortunately, the carinderia was just behind, a few steps from the waiting area, and it had a CR for their customers (read about this matter in another tip).
At about 10:20 am, passengers were asked to write on the boat's manifesto. At about 10:30 am, passengers were already allowed to go to the boat. Our boat left Sabang Port before 11am, about 10:45 am. I looked back as we left the port, and appreciated the simple beauty of the small coastal barangay of Sabang.
When we returned to Sabang from Caramoan, I was surprised to see that we didn't dock at the same place where we left for Caramoan. We docked near the Caramoan market. I asked the skipper before I left the boat; he said they dock there when it is not yet low tide. Since we got the first trip (7am) from Caramoan, waters were still high, enabling boats to enter that side of the port.
Updated Apr 9, 2010
Address: Sabang, San Jose, Camarines, Sur
From Guijalo Port, Caramoan, take the ferry boat back to Sabang. The first regular trip is 7am. Next trip schedule: 8am, 9am and 11am (no 10am trip). Some boats carrying cargo leave at 5 or 5:30am. Some locals or tourists who have to go to Sabang early are allowed to join the trip.
Updated May 24, 2010
From Naga City, we opted to ride in the airconditioned Filcab shuttle/van to go to Sabang Port. Shuttle terminal is easily found, just across SM Mall. It is the usual practice to pay the fare (P90/pax ) to the dispatcher just before the van leaves. The van will pass through the towns of Pili, Ocampo, Tigaon, and Goa before reaching Brgy. Sabang in San Jose town. The ride will take approximately 2 hours.
1) For a comfortable ride, sit at the 2nd row, where you can strap your backpacks/bags on top, behind the driver's seat. Your lap will then be free of heavy load.
2) If you'd like to catnap on the way, sit on the left side, and be sure to ask your companion to wake you up when you reach the town of Ocampo, where you will have a nice view of Mt. Isarog. It is visible on the left side of the road.
Updated Apr 9, 2010
During low tide, the boat cannot dock near the beach. Instead of wading through the waters and getting wet, the passengers "ride" on the porters' shoulders. Its amazing how locals can balance themselves on the shoulders of porters; they straddle on the back neck of the porter or in the case of some ladies, they sit only on one side of the porter's shoulder, holding on the latter's head for support and balance.
I saw the porters carry passengers of the boat that arrived earlier. I admired their agility because the passengers were all dry.
When it was our turn to get onboard our boat, I felt quite uncomfortable doing what the locals do in order to get into the boat dry. I was thinking of braving the waters since I was wearing leggings that day, but the waves were rather strong, even the porters had to stop while buffering the waves. No choice for me; I had to ride on our porter's shoulder. I had a difficult time balancing myself because I didn't know how to hold on the porter's head properly; I didn't know if I should pulll his hair or press on to his head for balance. Besides, I felt I should hold on to some part of his shoulder but I was holding my dry gear bag on the other hand. It was embarassing, but I screamed when a big wave came our way and almost toppled me down. Another porter came to my rescue. He offered to bring my dry gear bag with one hand and held on to my hand with the other. The porters allayed my fears and told me to just relax. They are so impressive, they put me on the boat safe and except for my feet, I was all dry.
It is customary to give each porter P5 - P20 tip per bag and per person.
Updated Apr 23, 2010
Don't expect a reservation and ticketing office at Sabang Port. It is customary for porters to go ahead of each other to reserve seats for the passengers whose bags they carry. They put the bags on the seats before going back to the shore to fetch/carry the passengers. When you're on board, you just have to look for your bags, and that's where you sit.
You don't pay in advance to get a ticket for the boatride. Just board the boat, and then when you're about halfway to Caramoan, someone will get your payment. I suggest you prepare the exact amount (the time we were there, the fare was still P120/pax). If you hand over a big bill and they have no ready change, you'll feel restless until your change is given. Besides, it is not wise to open your wallet to get your fare, with all eyes looking .
Written Apr 14, 2010
Bicolanos are generally very friendly and helpful. That's my impression of the people who befriended me. They saw to it that I was served well in the carinderia. They checked to see if hubby and I were seated comfortably in the boat. They even bid us goodbye before going their way.
It's nice to befriend Bicolanos who go out of their way to please you while you are in their place.
Written Apr 9, 2010
Unlike in Caticlan where passengers going to Boracay automatically wear their lifevests, or are reminded by the crew to wear their lifevests because it is a legal and safety requirement, I noticed that passengers don't wear their lifevests before leaving Sabang Port. The lifevests are available, but placed overhead the passengers' seats or hang on the boat's rails at the sides. When I asked if we shouldn't wear our lifevests, my co-passengers just shrugged off my question. I tried to get one, but it was proving to be a disturbance to my seatmate whose head might get hit, so I just settled down praying that that we dont sink;(
I hope the time will come when all passengers would be required to wear their lifevests on board so I don't look odd when I ask for one. If only they were as strict/consciencious like in Caticlan, then I would have no fear that a tragedy might happen on sea before the lifevest requirement is enforced by seafarers.
Updated Apr 14, 2010
Although the locals are generally friendly and helpful, it is still wise to keep watch of your personal belongings. Even if your porters offer to watch your things, exercise caution. If you need to go to the comfort room, go alternately with your companions so someone is left to watch your bags. If you are alone, bring your purse and other personal belongings like mobile phone and camera.
Written Apr 9, 2010
Beware of men who will approach you to offer the use of their pump boats to go ahead of other passengers to Caramoan. The same is true if you missed the last boatride. Be forewarned of touts and overcharging boatmen.
Updated Apr 9, 2010
Firstly, do not expect public restrooms, or even portalets at Sabang Port. Some carinderias have comfort rooms which can be used for free by customers, or for a minimal donation for non-customers.
Secondly, do not expect too much from the CR of the carinderia. The one I used didn't have a light (natural light peeped through the holes and gaps from door jamb); didn't have a lock to the door; didn't have a flush-type of toilet (only latrine type); didn't have anything (not even a nail) to hang your bag. I don't know if there are better CRs in the area, but at that moment, I didn't even think of looking somewhere else. My bladder was just about ready to explode.
1) Have a trusted companion guard you while you are inside the CR, and let her hold your bag meantime.
2) Notwithstanding any discomfort, do not frown as this might antagonize the locals. You cannot afford to have enemies in a strange place. Just look at the situation as part of your adventure.
3) Before it becomes of utmost necessity, discreetly look around for CRs that might have better conditions than the one I used. If you have the luxury of time, look for the barangay center which hopefully has a nice, clean CR you can request to use.
Updated Apr 9, 2010