Church and Museums
Paracale Church, a centuries-old edifice, which has a façade of hardwood and adobe blocks, is neatly tucked in the gold-rush town of Paracale in Camarines Norte, just a couple of minutes away from Calaguas Island. Its crumbling structure signals its 400 years of existence, but also beautifies it. The statues on the three corners of the exterior are newly painted. Some scholars believe these represent the Holy Trinity. Paracale Church is distinguished by its bell tower whose bells still ring for the Sunday Mass.
The Museo Balawan is also known as the gold museum. Among its many collections are various items donated by townsfolk: kitchen utensils passed on by the first governor of the province, Governor Miguel Lukban; and the boya or the floater, a ball which is attached to a fishing net to keep it floating on the water and other seemingly ordinary artifacts.
Another museum not to be missed is the Museo de Labo, located beside the municipal library in the town of Labo. The museum has paintings and photographs of the governors past to the present, the map of the whole province of Camarines Norte, and the travails of a homegrown hero, former governor Wenceslao Q. Vinzons, after whom a building at University of the Philippines in Diliman was named after.
One famous home in Camarines Norte is often the setting for movies, I was told. Located on Vinzons Avenue, it's famous for its cobblestone walkway and quaint exterior. The maroon and white Pabico ancestral home, a two-story brick structure built in 1917, has a well-kept lawn with an octagonal fountain in the middle. The caretaker, Francisco Temoner, is the grandson of the owner. I thought he looked like a veteran movie star (think Cris Daluz).
The interior holds the memorabilia of the previous owners, their photographs adorning the entryway. Arches and columns meander towards the second floor. Among its furniture is a quaint-looking tea table. A grand piano sits on the second floor. There are abstract paintings on the wall. Intricate woodwork, carved walls and hardwood floors evoke a nostalgic feeling.
The Malatap Falls in Labo is less than an hour away from the town proper and is easy to reach, just 100 meters away from the highway. With boulders and huge stones surrounding the falls, tourists can have a refreshing swim at the base or lie among the rocks for a natural hydro massage by the cascading water.
The town of San Lorenzo Ruiz, meanwhile, prides itself on having Mampurog River, which is touted as one of the cleanest rivers in the country. True enough the water is refreshing and pure, and can soothe your aching back as it did mine. The place is also ideal for picnics. Huts can be rented for around P100 – P150 ($2.30 - $3.50). A hanging bridge looms a few meters high from the river.
Go to Bagasbas Beach on the Pacific Ocean and grab a surfboard. The cost for surfing is around at P400 ($10) (P200 for the surfboard rental and P200 for the fee of the instructor). For overnight stays, a row of apartments and hotels are available. Head on also to Baybay Beach in the town of Mercedes, a famous spot for kayak-surfing (surfing with a kayak and a paddle). A warning though – the waves are fierce; it's better to kayak-surf at sunrise or sundown. Kayak rental is P200 ($5) per hour.
Getting to Camarines Norte
From Pasay or Cubao in Metro Manila by bus or the van, UV Express Vans and Superlines buses go to Camarines Norte. Cost is P550 (around $14) per passenger. There are also daily flights to Naga City. Once there, you can take the buses to your destination.