From the article: “Caramoan continues to attract ‘Survivor’ crew”

CARAMOAN, Camarines Sur — For the second time around, Survivor Israel will pay to rent the whole of the Gota Villge Resort, a local-government owned and operated tourist destination in Ilawod, Caramoan, Camarines Sur, to film two editions of “Hisardot (Survivor).”

Hisardot’s non-celebrity shoot would last 40 days while the celebrity edition for 30 days, excluding the pre-production of one-month and a half wherein the equipment, props and sites are prepared for the show.

“Best place, good people and unique sites,” quipped Jimmy Binyamini, production manager, when asked Monday what made them comeback and film in the same place three times in a row.

They were here last year in the same month to shoot one edition of Hisardot which broadcast ended last month via Israeli national television Channel 10. At this time they would again start shooting on Feb. 28 and end filming sometime in late May or early June.

Binyamini said that aside from promoting the adventure appeal of Caramoan islands which will be shown throughout Israel, the Hisardot would also employ some 200 local crews to assist their 120-crew production.

Great adventure site

“Caramoan is a great adventure site ideal to our show that’s why we are here again,” he said.

He explained the Hisardot has two parts, the “reality” part and the game part where the participants’ wits and survivor instincts are tested.

Eran Michaelson, camp manager, said the participants had undergone rigorous physical and psychological evaluation and that they are very strict with it in which even a slight indication of mental imbalance would automatically disqualify the participant.

Like castaways in an island, the participants of Survivor are exposed to very primitive conditions for 40 straight days followed by ubiquitous camera 24/7.

They have to build their own shelter and hunt and gather their own food while they are rewarded in games which ease some cravings and vote out each other up to the last participant standing.

Hisardot is actually the second media outfit of Survivor that filmed their editions in small islands strewn in the northeast of Caramoan facing the island-province of Catanduanes.

The French Survivor, Koh-Lanta Caramoan, was the first media outfit that filmed Survivor here starting 2008 then followed by production of media outfits from Israel, Bulgaria and Serbia in 2009. It was shown in Europe with an estimated 12 million viewers.

In Koh-Lanta Caramoan, the participants of mixed interests were dropped off by helicopters in the bay near a cove where the camp site was located, then hovered above towering limestone islands and exotic places comparable to computer-generated images.

A top executive of the Camarines Sur provincial government, who asked not to be named because the negotiation is still on-going, revealed that Survivor U.S.A. is also set to film here to commence next year until 2012.

The Survivor U.S.A. production is expected to bring in additional site improvements here which will be provided by the media outfit. The improvements would be left to the care of the provincial government after the filming to include swimming pool and asphalted road.

He said the production crew of Survivor U.S.A. has searched many areas in the Philippines and found Caramoan the most ideal place for their filming because of the unique geographical features of the place and the available facilities that meet the production standards.

What makes Caramoan a favorite place for Survivor shoot was its variety of sceneries and unique sites which cater to adventurous spirit, according to Jovi Villareal, recreational officer of Gota Village Resort.

Ning Villanueva, provincial tourism officer, said the Survivor hosting of Camarines Sur’s provincial government had significantly brought in foreign tourists which made the province the most visited destination last year.

Citing records from the regional office of the Department of Tourism, Camarines Sur had been the top tourist destination in the Philippines in the first nine months with 1,022,092 of which 206,937 were foreign tourists.

Of the foreign tourists that visited Bicol, Israel figured out as the second highest number of nationalities visiting the province after U.S. citizens who topped the tourist arrivals. Other nationalities with significant number of tourist arrivals were from United Kingdom, Australia and Japan.

The regional revenue generated from tourism reached more than P1B of which P0.7B had been contributed by Camarines Sur.

Protected area

Villareal said the local-government owned facility is within the 4,000-hectare national park which the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) agreed to place under the provincial government of Camarines Sur its management responsibility for eco-tourism development covering some 2,000 hectares of protected area.

He bared there are still many unexplored sites like tiny lakes, subterranean passages and underwater caves in the small limestone islands here which can cater to more daring skilled adventurous tourists.

Within the eco-tourism area, small islands are scattered sporadically with dramatic vegetation of plants and weed trees festooned-like in the cracks of limestone rock. At the base of these small islands are a number of narrow beaches and coves accessible by boat or kayak.

On the fringes of the land within the Gota Village Resort towering vertical limestone walls suitable to rock climbing abound while a newly discovered subterranean river awaits exploration by adventurous guests.

Just within the one-kilometer radius from the built-up area of Gota Village Resort where the resort administration building and facilities are located, Villareal and Zulueta recently stumbled upon an entrance of the subterranean river.

Zulueta said the old folks here knew about the entrance of the subterranean river several meters away from the underground passage of Manapot River that cut across underneath a limestone hill hallowed by high-domed cave accessible only through a steep trek halfway.

“But nobody would explore it because it’s too dark. They call this place Kadiklom (literally means very dark),” he revealed.

140M years geological processes

The primary attraction of the Gota Village Resort’s tourist area is the scenic view defined by its unique geologic configuration in the middle of a wide coastal marine environment.

According to a 1981 study of the Bureau of Mines and Geosciences, Caramoan exhibits the so-called Karst topography or landscape defined by varied formation of limestone masses which were subjected to geologic processes that created vertical cliffs marked by almost vertical fractures, solution cavities (sink holes) and jagged surfaces.

“These now correspond to the different islands in the northern coast of Caramoan. It evolved from the geological and geomorphological processes which commenced about 140 million years and continue up to the present,” the geological study said.

Euphi Peñano, resort manager, admitted that the geologic features of the place undoubtedly serve as the backbone and highlight of the area’s natural tourism assets.

Peñano said the experience of the natural and unique sceneries of Caramaon is a hit to visitors which can be enjoyed through several tour packages from island hopping, trekking, spelunking, cliff diving, kayaking by the river or sea, bicycle riding, bird and firefly watching, snorkeling to rock climbing.

“And for the Survivor production coming back, they must be profiting from the sceneries here that draw television viewers to their show,” Peñano concluded.

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