boys pushing a white van
Travel Stories,  Travels

Reroute to Mercedes Camarines Norte

boys pushing a white van
In 2017, my High School friends and I decided to organize a trip to Calaguas Island, Camarines Norte. As the travel organizer of the group, I did all the planning. Everything was well-planned; contacts have been established, everyone confirmed along with other friends outside my high school circle of friends. Everyone was indeed giddy about it. Little did we know that we’ll all end up in Mercedes Camarines Norte.
group of friends standing under the woods
The travelers from the South goes to the off the beaten path of Camarines Norte, Mercedes!

Day 0: Dooms Day

Come Holy week of the year 2017. At around 8:00 PM, we met at McDonald’s Pala-Pala, Dasmarinas since most of us were coming from Cavite. We had our dinner and shared stories. Our excitement could not be concealed. At around 9:00 PM everyone gathered outside since our van driver was waiting for us at the parking lot, ready to leave. Just when everyone settled inside, the boatman called me. It was a kind of call that you would never ever want to receive during that time. It sure felt like a glass of ice cold water poured on me. My head felt bubbly. My shoulders fell limp. I shifted my weight from a foot to another. My other foot started thumping. I could not absorb the other things Mang Boy was saying after his first sentence.
The Boatman’s Bad News
The boatman told me that the waves were rough that day and the coast guards were holding up the tourists at the port. Sea travel was currently suspended due to the Gale warning. See, the thing about my eyes is that, they are too expressive. My face could never lie about what I feel. The people around me would know it the moment they look at me. I mustered up the courage and swiftly but carefully drafted in my head as to how I was going to tell these people the news though it seemed like they have already known by judging my looks. I slid the van’s door open and told them what the boatman and I talked about. There was a dead air for a moment. The silence broke when my friend asked as to what were we supposed to do since we were all there and we could not just go home.
The Last Minute Change of Plans
Think fast, Queenie. In no time, I blurted out, “Guys, we’re going. We’re pushing through with this trip,” The van was half lit with the lights coming from McDonald’s and it was kind of dark at some parts but I could clearly see a sign of bewilderment etched on their faces. Some frowned but I told them to give me a minute. I went online and googled tourist destinations in Camarines Norte. Results gave me Mercedes, Camarines Norte – the Belle of the Pacific. I quickly searched for contacts and found some. As I was going through the search, the van driver approached me and told me that he could not drive for us anymore. Before I could say any word and burst right there and then, he told me that another van was on its way to where we at and that would take us to our destination. That got me pacified.
group of friends in a grass trail posing for a photo
Little did we know that we’re going to have an epic yet fun experience with our last minute change of plans
The Light in Uncertainty

After thirty minutes, we transferred to the other van and left the meeting place. I was sitting beside the driver. Uncertainty filled every corner of the van as the silence lingered. To break the awkward silence, I told them that we’re going to a place called Mercedes Camarines Norte. I tried to convince my friends with the photos and of course, my high-pitched enthusiastic voice. Doubts and uncertainty slowly faded from their faces. The excitement was somehow revived. While everyone started sleeping, I remained wide awake searching for contact numbers of boatmen in Mercedes Camarines Norte and tour guides in Mercedes. I was also talking to the van driver as I noticed that he was also feeling sleepy. There were times that the van would swerve so I constantly offered him something to nibble.

The Wheel and the Fortune

My lids felt heavy as we go the distance. The air coming from the air-conditioner was cold on my face and the music, though it was an alternative rock one, was lulling me to sleep. I was still taking to the driver but I was certain that some of the things that I was saying was non-sense. It was a struggle to keep myself awake though as it really felt as if I was drugged. I was almost asleep when something kind of exploded which got me bolted upright. We pulled to the side and it suddenly smelled like a burning rubber, too. The driver went out looking dismayed. I checked my phone for the time and location. It was 2:00 AM and we were at Atimonan, Quezon already. Everyone was awake, too. We all went out – some to stretch a bit while some just curious and concerned about what happened. One of our wheels’ interior actually burst.We ran into nails. Fortunately, the driver had a spare tire and the necessary equipment in changing it.
A Good Call
As the driver busied himself with the changing of the tires and the others were talking, I took this opportunity to call and text the contact numbers of the tour guides that I gathered. The first few ones that I tried to call were not in service anymore. My hopes were still up on the last one. I took a deep breath and dialed the number. After several rings, someone picked up! My heart shouted in delight. My face lit up and I was literally jumping for joy. The man on the other line seemed confused as he talked in a hoarse voice. I introduced myself and I confirmed if he’s really a tour guide and a boatman in Mercedes Camarines Norte. The new found hope and excitement got me talking fast. When he confirmed, I immediately told him that we’ll be in Camarines Norte in few hours and that we’re booking his boat for two days. I was doing my little dance of joy at the back of the van when I heard the engine started. After Kuya Ruel told me to meet him at Mercedes, I dropped the call.

The Good Things Rolling

I sat on the passenger seat with a smile on my face and fastened the seat belt. I asked my friends how were they doing at the back and they said they were just okay. Wheels were rolling fast again against the pavement. I could hear faint chatters at the back but I could not tell who’s who.
The driver and I kept on talking about a lot of things – his married life, his business how he and his wife loved to travel. Seriously, I could already write this man’s biography. I had to keep him talking about anything under the sun to keep him up. As we talk, I could see the day breaking in front of us. The pitch black star-sprinkled sky turned blue to a deep shade of purple. Deep shade of purple slowly turned into pink then to warm yet faint shades of orange and gold. I rolled the windows down and felt the cold morning air brush against my face. A rainbow also appeared in the bright blue sky. What a good day.

Finally, Camarines Norte

Meanwhile, everyone at the back exchanged morning greetings and chatted. The sun shone through their windows to their morning faces. We stopped by a gasoline station to attend to our toilet needs. While everyone was having their morning stretch and attendance to the call of nature, I phoned Kuya Ruel and told him that we had arrived  at Daet, Camarines Norte. My eye lids still felt heavy since I pulled an all nighter. Kuya Ruel picked up the call and told me to meet them at Mercedes fish port since he was about to buy fish for our meals. We arrived at Daet at around 7:00 in the morning and we still had to travel few kilometers to Mercedes.

a beach with creamy white sand and pine trees

An unfiltered photo of Apuao Pequena at noon
Its sand color turns into gold like that of Jomalig’s
The supposedly 45-minute drive turned into almost  two long, excruciating hours due to series of traffic jams. We have completely forgotten that we were traveling on a holy week. We passed by a church and a roadside market. There was some kind of procession near the church and there were lots of tricycles and jeepneys turning and going here and there at the market. It took us around an hour to get through it. At around 8:30 in the morning, when we got into the fish port.The driver parked the van and we went out to look for some local canteens to have our stomachs filled. After a hearty breakfast, we went back to our van to get our stuff.

Last Minute Troubleshoot

Before I  could get in, Kuya Ruel talked to me and told me that the Coastguards at the port would not let any boats sail that day. No. This can’t be happening. Lack of sleep really makes my emotions heightened at the same time get me irritated in milliseconds. My face heated and it was as if the blood went up to my head, boiling. Again right before a sudden outrage, Kuya Ruel leaned and whispered, we’re sailing and departing some place else. My heart was still beating faster. I inhaled and exhaled to slow down my heart beat.

Adventure Begins

The next events happened fast. We arrived at Cayucyucan beach and that’s where we departed. After more or less than an hour, we docked at Apuao Pequena. Some of us pitched the tents and that’s when we started exploring the Siete Pecados of Mercedes. We enjoyed the island life for two days with thebest company in exploring the off the beaten path of Camarines Norte. For two days,  we shared of tropical vibes, laughter, jokes, stories and a lot more.

I had a good sleep in those nights. It always just feels so good to be lying on a mat inside a tent in an island with a not-so-distant sound of waves softly crashing at the shore. It was not bad after all – the last minute change of plans worked well.

a view of a mountain side and an islet facing each other

Tourists usually enjoy the view from the lighthouse but we beg to differ. We went down to that islet!

Until it’s time to go home. We washed up, changed and went back to our van parked somewhere near Cayucyucan Beach, Mercedes Camarines Norte. We had a bit of separation anxiety from the island life and it is evident from the exchanges here and there about their experiences.

Home Bound

We departed at noon and decided to have lunch somewhere in Daet. The conversations about the epic weekend in the island continued – how it rained early that morning in our sleep and how it got us waking up soaked and cold; how great the Saturday night was as we shared it with other travelers over the bonfire; how we thought about the boat capsizing due to the big waves when we sailed at the open sea; and most of all, how our bond got better after all that we’ve been through. The story was halted when the van’s engine suddenly died. The conversation died down with it. I asked the driver why and he said he’s going to check it. He tried to start the engine again. And again, and again. Nothing happened. It started to get hot in the van so we opened all the doors.

The Bumps on the Road

We continued chatting as the driver checked on everything that might have caused the sudden stop of the engine. The driver appeared at the window and told us a bad news. He said that the van ran out of gasoline. It could have not been that bad if, one, we were at or at least near the town proper; and two, we were not in the middle of a long narrow road with a vast vegetation on each side at the same time kind of far from the civilization and with no mobile network reception. “Wait, Kuya, what? How?” He explained that he thought we could make it to the gasoline station at the town proper but he admitted that he overestimated what’s left of the gasoline.

With all of what happened even right before we left Cavite, I think my hair line moved an inch back with all the pushing back I’ve done. I constantly felt like taking all the blame for all of what had happened and what was about to happen since I was the one who organized the trip. What if a tricycle didn’t pass by? How we could make it out there before night fall?

The Divine Intervention

Our driver approached the riders of the tricycle and asked some help. He asked politely if he could get us some gasoline from the nearest gasoline station. Luckily, they agreed. Saved! I am and I will be forever thankful for such people. We waited patiently for them to be back.

Small Plight Diversion

Everyone seemed bored so we pulled out two sets of cards: The playing cards and the Uno cards. The boys mostly played ‘tongits‘ while the rest played Uno. I sat with the circle playing with the Uno cards where the loser gets drawn with something on the face using a lipstick. It was more fun than what we have thought. All of us had our faces cleared from any drawings except from Jonas who had lost in all rounds we’ve had. The boys were also having fun as we could hear them shouting and laughing out loud. This isn’t bad at all, I told myself. It made us closer to one another, it’s but another story to tell about this trip.

For a moment, we have forgotten why were we stuck in there in the first place until the tricycle driver came handing a bottle of gasoline. We kept the cards and hurriedly went back to our seats. I was looking at our driver through the left side mirror who seemed dismayed.

Kuya, okay na po ba? Or may problema po?” [Kuya, are we good? Or there seem to be another problem?]

Second Chance for the Divine Intervention

The driver looked up with apologies drawn all over his face. He scratched his head as he tells me that the tricycle got the wrong type of gasoline. Oh, shit. The tricycle driver, fortunately, offered to go back to the gasoline station to get the right gasoline. This time, our driver decided to come with them to be sure. They left in no time.

We talked about a lot of things that we could think of. Some played games like little children finally out in the streets. To kill the time, we did everything we could as we’d rather not think of how bad the situation was. The good thing about traveling with friends is that, you can find light in such situations.

When our driver and the tricycle driver arrived, they refilled the tank with gasoline and we once again got back into our seats. We thanked the tricycle driver and I tried handing them something, just a gesture of gratitude; but they refused. Faith in humanity, restored.

A boy and a girl joining hands for a high five at a beach
Jonas and I, just being us at the beach

Pushing our Luck

The driver tried starting the engine several times but it failed. Oh-oh. He requested for the guys to push the van. Everyone got off and the boys positioned at the back of the van. They tried to push start it as we watched on the side. You know the good thing about having gay friends and traveling with them is that, there will never be a dull moment. Jonas, though woman at heart, joined the guys push starting the van. He, apparently, was the biggest of them all. Jonas kept on cracking jokes about how the other guys should push, too because he felt like it’s only him who’s doing it. They pushed and pushed to several meters until the engine finally started. Black smoke came out of the exhaust. Everyone burst into the loudest laughter I’ve ever heard in the entire weekend. The boys’ reaction varied and that’s what made us laugh. The other guys jumped out of the way real quick, Jonas ran like a little girl and Jay-R; well, since he was the nearest one to the exhaust, he couldn’t do anything but stay in his place and fan out the black smoke with his surprise! arms, yes with his arms.

a selfie of a group of boys and girls inside a van
The CamNorte Reroute group!

We got in, settled once again and finally bade Mercedes, Camarines Norte goodbye but not the friendship, good times and the bad that we’ve shared through out the trip.

The Tales of Untold Misadventure Series

The last minute change of plans to our trip in Mercedes, Camarines Norte is an episode to my Tales of Untold Misadventures Series. Tales of Untold Misadventures is a series of my unfortunate experiences while traveling. Let these stories entertain at the same time inform you of what might go wrong when traveling, how can you deal with it or what can you do to save yourself from the inconvenience of the mishaps.

Anne Elizabeth Gumiran, also known as Queenie, is a 20-something, full-time public school teacher, a part-time travel blogger and a freediver. She started putting her stories of adventures and misadventures into words and pictures in 2017 and continues to do so as she shares her advocacy, Sustainable Traveling.


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