Last October 21, 2016, my unquenchable thirst to join run events took me to Catanduanes, the Philippines’12th largest island, situated easternmost of Bicol Peninsula, in order to take part in the event, 1st Isla Catanduanes Ultramarathon (ICUM) organized by Lao Ogerio and John Henri Alsol Mariano. Catanduanes, which according to travel bloggers is popularly referred to as “Land of the Howling Wind” due to the fact that like Batanes, the province is also often visited by typhoons. Just recently the 500 kilometer diameter Karen with an international name Sarika made a landfall less than a week before ICUM and two days later the Super Typhoon Lawin with an international name Haima missed Catanduanes when it veered towards the northern portion of Luzon. This province, which the local Provincial Tourism Office would rather promote as “The Happy Island” was 1 of my last 3 out of Luzon running trip for the year with the two being Antique and Tacloban.
For this event I am accompanied by Alberto whom I shared accommodation with at Marem Pension House nestled along Rizal Avenue, Sta. Cruz, Virac- I live in Manila at Sta. Cruz near Rizal Avenue. Both Alberto and I were among the originally 48 registered runners at the 65k category. However, only 35 were able to actually come to ICUM. On the other hand from the original 44 registrants of the 110 kilometers category only 39 were able to attend. The gun start for the 110k took place at the covered basketball court and plaza in front of the refurbished Immaculate Conception Cathedral at 10:00 pm while we of the 65k category were still deep in our slumber or others were getting drunk. Heavy rain dogged them during their evening run towards San Andres. By the time the gun start for the 65k was given at 4:00 am rain had already dissipated. From the starting area we ran along the National Road that soon gave way to the sight of the coast still bathe in darkness at the right side of the road. We have not gotten farther away from the main town when we encountered a runner from the 110k being attended by an ambulance. He would be the first among the 8 runners who DNF in the 110k category. For my part I was soon dropping behind the other runners because like before I was again suffering acid reflux that was causing tightness in my chest area. A fellow runner whom I had spoken with at the airport advised me to avoid meat three days before run to lessen having acid attack.
Pretty soon first time 65k runner, Alberto was running along side of me. He was convinced that he would finish last in this event if he will finish at all. At around the 8th kilometers we were crossing the Bato Bridge. We encountered our second 110k runners the BDM finisher, Shiela whom we thought was already among the last runners when in fact she was actually among the lead. Not farther away we passed by the St. John the Baptist Church, which originally when first built in the late 16th century was of cogon and nipa then later in 1830 with coral stone and mortar material transforming the original church into its current Baroque style look. We were officially at the Municipality of Bato whose name was derived from stone well. On the long flat road I saw a couple more of the 110k runner and the other 65k runners all making headway. I tried to run pass as many as I can but as soon as I hit an uphill I eventually slowed down. At around the 13th kilometer at the Aid Station BJMP runners, John and Eina caught up with me and soon Alberto as well. Eina recognized me from Mt. Batolusong Mountain Run Event in held at Tanay, Rizal. From this portion until Buenavista we encountered more and longer uphill which I cannot help myself compare the similarity with what I encountered in Puerto Galera and Caliraya. The portions with deep rocky ravines that were constantly smothered by crashing sea and the view of Cabugao Bay meeting up with the hilly portion of Barangay Igang, Virac seemed to be a reminisce of Batanes seen from the road on the way to Mahatao. The only difference between Batanes and Catanduanes was the clime, which in Catanduanes was hot as I remember Albay was when I ran there in the event Mayon 360.
Along the route maybe around the 15th kilometers we passed by the tower like PAGASA Weather Radar Station, which again Batanes also has but instead of tower like structure a more prominent half golf ball structure that was destroyed by another earlier typhoon. I soon left behind Alberto and the two runners from BJMP to pursue a solo flight. Along the route I chance upon another 110k runner from Naga. Aside from the rolling hills the route also has flat areas that ran along rice fields and towns. Aside from the Philippine Red Cross and PNP manned Aid Stations there were drinkable water and water for dousing provided by each barangay we passed by along the route. The Municipality of Baras, whose name was derived from the plant badas which is use for building houses, lies about 14 kilometers from Bato. The main town has the view of Calapadan Bay that seemed so inviting to stop by and watch it. Along the way another 110k runner was seen. As I began to tackle a series of uphill three of the leading 65k runners were already on their way back one of them was Swoosh who would end up 1st runner up. On the other hand I was already catching up with the other 65k runners. One of the popular destinations in Catanduanes is Puraran Beach, which is a surfing beach that produces barrel wave. 2.5 kilometers from Puraran Beach entrance lies the 65k U-turn while the 110k’s U-turn was situated at Balacay Point still farther away about 5 kilometers. I rested at the waiting shed and waited until Alberto arrived.
When Alberto came to the U-turn he turned out to be not the last runner. There were at least two more others behind him and when we left the U-turn we left behind about three runners who arrived earlier but still resting. In spite of the sun was beating down on us relentlessly the pace we were running on had enabled us to cover the first 32.5 kilometers in 6 hours. We could therefore accomplish the remaining distance in 7 hours and a half and still finish the race within the 14 hours cut-off. But at this point Alberto and soon the couple BJMP runners elected to walk most of the remaining distance, which might affect our chance of beating the cut off time. As we retraced our way back to Virac whose name was derived from a flower named Burac, we were passing by other 65k runners who seemed to have began slowing down due to exhaustion and heat. More 110k runners were coming our way who were still heading for their U-turn among them the Runn’ Active Race Organizer Rodel Mendoza. The last of the 110k runner we met were DM and Aleli who will finish the race just a few minutes before their 24 hours cut-off. At the last 3 kilometers of the race I left Alberto once again to try to overtake a couple more of the 65k runners I spotted ahead. I finished the race with a time of 12:35:19 ranking 22 out of 35 starters. Alberto finished 28th with a time of 12:39:06.
I came to Catanduanes not knowing what I would see. It turned out there were actually a lot but out time was short to visit even the closest beach resort. When I ran in ICUM I was thinking like what happen in Batanes I could have a glance of the wonders Catanduanes could offer. But the distance I ran prove to be too short to grant me my wish. The best option is to plan a longer period of stay to be able to at least sample some of the places. I don’t know whether it would be accomplished if I ever decided I wanted to attempt the 110k or just to accompany fellow runners who would be running ICUM just as Alberto and I talked about. For now we try to enjoy the moment we conquered Catanduanes.