Assuming your starting point is Metro Manila (the Philippine capital), Camarines Norte is south-easterly to the Metro, around six hours drive. Being where it is, it brushes the Pacific Ocean and is made up of several coastal towns. True to historical form, the name is all Spanish: camarin stands for “rice warehouse” or “granary” and norte stands for “North.”
The mines in the area–especially the rumors of gold mines–drew Spaniard Juan de Salcedo and his soldiers there in the early 1570s. Not only the mines, but the Chinese and Muslim pirates caused the Spanish administration to develop the area and keep a garrison there. While Camarines Norte may be overlooked (the internationally-known whale sharks, Mayon Volcano and Naga City are in Camarines Sur), it has its attractions; all the more pronounced because they are relatively untouched.
What’s In Camarines Norte?
A road trip to Camarines Norte should begin and end with its capital city of Daet; yes, every day. Since Camarines Norte is not a tourist magnet, the best (and safest) places to stay are in the capital. Simply drive out to the surrounding areas when you need to.
One reason you might want to commute in the area (take buses or trains instead of driving out) is the flood of tricycles you’ll hopefully avoid colliding with in Daet. These small sidecars hitched to motorcycles are the main forms of local transportation, and they create traffic for anyone who’s not a tricycle driver. On the plus side, you get an automatic GPS system in the form of the all-knowing trike driver.
You don’t need to go far from Daet to find unique sights to see. The very first monument to the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal, is in Daet. It was built starting 30 December 1898, when First President of the First Philippine Republic Emilio Aguinaldo declared that day a national holiday in honor of Rizal’s death 2 years earlier.
Most fascinating about the monument is that its origins are not completely patriotic–there are more Masonic (Free Mason) influences to be found even in the monument itself. One loyalty binding many of the freedom fighters of the Philippines, from Jose Rizal to Emilio Aguinaldo and General Antonio Luna was their membership in Masonic Lodges.
Go just a little way off to Vinzons, and you will find the burnt remains of oldest church in Region V (Bicol Region), the St Peter the Apostle Church. Although the centuries-old church was destroyed by fire in just 2012, the walls are still standing in testament to the strength of the building. For more natural attractions, find the San Vicente town’s Mananap Falls, Mercedes’ Colasi Falls, and the surf waves in Bagasbas.
Why Camarines Norte?
First of all, there are considerably less tourists. Everyone is in Camarines Sur, which is completely to your benefit. There are white sands beaches in the Calaguas Group of Islands just off the coast, with barely any other non-locals to compete with. There are less places selling artificialized gift-shop items, so you have a chance to discover more of the true local culture and cuisine. Why Camarines Norte? Because it is a trip back in time to the authentic local Camarines.