Located at Camarines Sur (popularized now as CamSur) in the Bicol Region, Caramoan possesses a captivating spirit and a raw beauty unlike anywhere else in the world. Its breathtaking appeal has captured the hearts, not only Filipino vacationers, but likewise foreign travellers who continue to marvel at the island’s awe-inspiring splendour. Proof of this was when Caramoan was chosen as venue for the French version of the worldwide hit Survivor. In fact, Caramoan is now dubbed as the Survivor Island’s destination of choice with countries like Israel, Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey shooting year-around this 2009.
Very little is known about Caramoan. It is a cluster of islands isolated from the rest of CamSur truly blessed by nature, and dubbed “Philippine’s Secret Paradise”. It is a bastion of serenity with its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, beautiful sunsets, ancient caves, and bountiful marine life.
Governor L-Ray Villafuerte, CamSur’s trailblazing leader who has catapulted Camsur and Caramoan to unprecedented development describes, “ When I first assumed office in 2004, I was appalled that such a beautiful island with so much untapped potential is one of the poorest in the country. It’s truly one of the Philippines’ hidden gems. I knew that we had to do something to change Caramoan’s destiny – from being backward to what it is now, a dream destination for film and television producers.”
This is not to say Caramoan is strictly for the extreme sports and adventure lovers because it actually gives “island hopping” a new meaning. Villafuerte describes, “We have of course the great ocean adventures for kayakers, snorklers and scuba divers to experience the diverse marine life. Others can trek and search for the lagoon, rock climb the limestone cliffs, and explore the caves. We also have other activities such as camping, mountain biking, spelunking, and more.”
The young governor has a genuine gift of vision and savvy. At the get-go, he envisioned a province with a unique branding and character. A marketing natural, Villafuerte spearheaded the launch of the CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC), the biggest and most prestigious cable wakeboarding complex in the world. Landing CamSur in the international map, the world-class facilities of CWC has been recognized as the mecca of wakeboarding as it has hosted two of the World Wakeboarding Championships, only typically held in countries like Australia, France, and the US.
A wakeboarding enthusiast himself, Governor Villafuerte saw the country’s most premier photographer and fellow wakeboarder one afternoon at CWC. After an inspired conversation, Caramoan X6 was born.
Caramoan X6 (Caramoan times six) is the brainchild of Villafuerte as envisioned by De Leon, a winning collaboration of two forward-thinking visionaries. The idea was to invite the country’s best photographers to see the island through their own eyes, and share its beauty the way they see it. De Leon assembled today’s top photographers to join him in assembling Caramoan X6, the exhibit. Featured works are by Sara Black, Jo Ann Bitagcol, Paolo Pineda, Mark Nicdao, Jake Versoza, and Jun de Leon himself.
Expounding of their respective inspirations as they click around Caramoan’s Gota island, model turned photographer Sara Black begins by staying true and honest to the essence of her surroundings. She describes, “As a photographer, whenever I go to a place, I always observe how the light there falls and how that affects the color of everything. Caramoan has its own color palette and I enjoyed tremendously photographing that in its simplicity… the color in the little things. For me, it’s such a sincere joy to appreciate something as miraculous as color.”
Another model who traded her lipstick for the lens, Jo Ann Bitagcol, on the other hand, captures everyday scenes in the island. “Everywhere I go I make it a point to discover its beauty, life, and soul. And I saw all of this in Caramoan,” she says.
Paolo Pineda is the man on top. He shares, “We rode the chopper going to Caramoan from CamSur, and seeing it from that vantage point was just surreal. I wanted to capture the island like a classic painting… timeless.”
Meanwhile, Jake Versoza uses blacks, grays, and whites in his docu-photo treatment. “I wanted to document the daily lives of the people there because they thrive off nature’s bounty both in land and sea.” How do you capture warmth on film? He answers,” I was there during a strong typhoon but found peace hanging out with the locals. That’s warmth.”
Mark Nicdao describes the inspiration for his shots, “It’s the emotion and feeling of the place. It’s a rollercoaster ride. Caramoan has the balance of things you need when you’re on vacation mode. It has a bit of everything you want.” A natural portraitist, Nicdao captures smiles, gleeful eyes, and innocence in his photographs.
Lastly, Jun de Leon captures the early morning of Caramoan Island, inspired and reminiscent of a juvenile Sanso. He shares, “Photographs capture a precise moment in a still image. How you take the subject the second you click on your shutter will not be the same the second after. There are numerous moments to be captured in such a breathtaking island.”
The result of putting together their respective artistry is a marvelous compilation of visual tales enveloped within this enigmatic place. To celebrate, Caramoan X6 will be unveiled in fashion walk of Greenbelt 5 on December 17, led by Governor Villafuerte and the host of creative minds that brought a mere “inspired conversation” to reality.
A coffee table book was also produced showcasing the photos featured in the exhibit. These photos will be auctioned off during the event and all book sales will be for the benefit of CamSur’s educational fund.
The exhibit is continues in Ayala Malls Greenbelt 3 on December 18, 19, and 20.
To know more about Caramoan, visit http://www.caramoanislands.com.