At Kiudkad – The Last Resort, visitors can be part of a relaxed, off-grid community

Ysa Abad

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At Kiudkad – The Last Resort, visitors can be part of a relaxed, off-grid community
What was supposed to be just a family vacation spot during the pandemic has become a hot spot for visitors who want to go off-grid

Having traveled the world, photographer Randall Dagooc is no stranger to beautiful places. But it was an unplanned road trip in his hometown in Camarines Sur that he found his own “Neverland.” 

Located roughly 71 kilometers away from Naga City, the town of Siruma isn’t an easy destination to reach even for Bicol natives. 

When Randall first visited Siruma more than 20 years ago, he said that their jeepney ride from Naga took a total of nine hours. 

Sobrang hellish ‘yung daan (The road going there was hell.)” he told Rappler in an interview, adding that it was only around three to four years ago when a paved road from the municipality of Tinambac to Siruma opened. “For the longest time, Siruma wasn’t that accessible.” 

Grass, Plant, Outdoors
GORGEOUS SCENERY. Kiudkad is located in San Ramon, Siruma, Camarines Sur. Kiudkad’s Facebook/Randall Dagooc
Building a new home

On the fateful day that he discovered where Kiudkad – The Last Resort would soon rise, Randall was just driving aimlessly with his camping gear. He was initially heading to a long coastal beach that he found on Google Maps, but given the spotty internet on the road and the lack of a marked trail, he ended up in Barangay San Ramon of Siruma. 

Actually, parang naligaw lang ako doon sa San Ramon eh (Actually, I got lost and just found myself in San Ramon),” he said, but when he saw the raw beauty of the area, Randall couldn’t help but be thankful for the detour. 

Nature, Outdoors, Sea
RAINBOW. Kiudkad is located in San Ramon, Siruma, Camarines Sur. Kiudkad’s Facebook/Randall Dagooc

As he explored the area and hung out with the locals, Randall wound up spending a total of three nights camping out.

Sobra akong na-in love sa place, at thankfully, may nakausap ako na willing ako bentahan ng lupa (I really fell in love with the place and thankfully, I was able to talk to someone who was willing to sell some land),” he said.

When he and his partner Diana acquired the property in San Ramon in 2018, their initial plan was for it to be just a campsite for when their family visited Bicol. While both Randall and Diana were both born and raised in Bicol, they’d both moved to Metro Manila for their studies, and eventually for their respective careers – Randall as a photographer and Diana as a lawyer. They’d only been going back to Bicol for two to three short trips a year. 

Bringing their plans for Siruma to life, though, had to be put on hold since at that time, both Randall and Diana were still based mainly in Metro Manila.

It was around two weeks before Metro Manila imposed its first lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when they decided to rush back to Bicol and spend some time in Siruma. But their land in San Ramon was mainly for camping. And since Diana anticipated that they might stay there for a while, they decided to start building a little house where they could stay longer instead of just setting up tents. 

Yung buong Kiudkad, parang pandemic baby talaga ‘yan eh,” Randall said. “We just wanted maliit na house lang na mas makakatagal kami kasi wala naman talaga kaming plano noon na gawin siyang mala-resort kumabaga.” 

(The whole Kiudkad is more of a pandemic baby. We just wanted a small house where we could stay longer because we really didn’t have any plans of developing it into something like a resort.) 

While about 90% of the road from Naga City going to San Ramon, Siruma has already been paved, there’s roughly seven kilometers of gnarly, mud-rut-riddled trails that visitors have to go through first before they can reach Kiudkad. That’s why Kiudkad always recommends their visitors to have vehicles with high ground clearance, and with mud or all-terrain tires. 

Randall recalled, though, that the road situation was way worse when they first moved in during the start of the pandemic. 

Talagang off-grid siya eh. Kaya ‘yun ‘yung pinaka-toughest na challenge sa pag-build doon kasi parang almost 30% ng cost is ‘yung logistics, bringing over ‘yung materials. Tsaka ‘yung timing, sobrang critical. Dapat parang limang araw na hindi umuulan bago sila maka-deliver ng materials. ‘Yun ‘yung pinakamahirap na part.” 

(It was really off the grid. That’s the toughest challenge in building Kiudkad. Almost 30% of the total cost was for the logistics alone and bringing over the materials. And the timing was also critical. It shouldn’t have been raining for the past five days before they could deliver the materials. It was really hard.) 

Their next hurdle was setting up a water and electricity source. Now, Kiudkad prides itself in the fact that all lodges are powered by solar panels, though they initially started with small batteries and wells. 

Building Kiukad wasn’t easy – and both Randall and Diana had the locals of San Ramon to thank for helping turn their plans into reality. 

Coming from Manila tapos going there, wala talaga kaming ka-alam alam. Kaya ‘yung pandemic talaga parang dinala kami doon para matuto eh (It’s like the pandemic really brought us there so we could learn). We left the comfort and convenience of our lives in Metro Manila for us to experience the unfiltered and raw life in Siruma,” Randall said.

The couple shared that the locals taught them the basics of living an island life – from where to get fuel, to how to cook without advanced kitchen appliances. And in turn, they also shared what they knew about modern technology. 

Natuto akong mag-troubleshoot ng mga maliliit na mga problema. Tapos ‘yung mga locals na kinuha ko to build the lodges, ‘yung alam lang nila before mano-mano pa lang. Tapos sabay sabay kami nanoood ng mga YouTube videos. Inintroduce rin naman sila sa surfing. Ngayon, mas magaling na sila sa amin. Win-win situation siya,” he said. 

(I learned how to troubleshoot small problems. And the locals whom I hired to build the lodges, they only knew of certain basic building skills before. But we watched YouTube videos together. We also introduced them to surfing. And now, they’re better than us. It’s a win-win situation for us.)

Aside from the natural gem that is the location, Randall and Diana also treasure the community that they’ve found in San Ramon, Siruma.

“We treat them as friends. Kasi ganun naman talaga, kahit ‘yung mga locals doon, mga workers namin, most of the time R&R (rest and recreation) lang ginagawa namin, inuman. Kasi hindi naman kami pumunta doon para paalisin sila eh. It was for us to experience the raw life na na-eexperience nila,” he added. 

(We treat them as friends. Because that’s how we really are, even with the locals and the workers we’ve hired. We spend most of our time in rest and recreation mode, like drinking. Because we moved there not to make them vacate the place, but for us to experience the raw life that they’re experiencing.) 

Welcoming others into their hideaway

From only allowing relatives at first, they started inviting friends to Kiudkad — until it became friends of friends and friends of friends of their friends who were coming over. 

What surprised Randall and Diana is how their visitors still push through despite the lack of creature comforts and the winding and rough road. They said that many of their initial guests even chose to come back, with others not even leaving Kiudkad anymore.  

This, Randall explained, is how “Daldagons” came to be. Coming from the Bikol word “daldag,” which is loosely translated to “grimy,” their group of friends describe themselves as a “ragtag assembly of free-spirited characters.” 

“But it’s not easy to entertain guests there,” Diana said. “Sabi ko kay Randall (I told Randall), we have to do something so we could also address our costs. That’s when we decided that maybe those coming can also contribute something whenever they visit.” 

Former guests started organizing shuttle services to make it easier for visitors who don’t have their own transport while locals were in charge of taking care of the lodges and supervising the activities. 

Kiudkad also initially started with two accommodations only — Hobbit and the Brownhaus, which Randall’s family manages. Randall was able to sell part of the Kiudkad property to two other friends, and they also set up their own lodges — the Kamarin and the Blackhaus. 

“I sold them land. Nag-usap usap kami ng ibang owners na why don’t we, as a community, magtulong-tulong para palaguin ‘yung San Ramon at Siruma (We owners talked about how we could help the communities of San Ramon and Siruma grow).” 

With Siruma being mainly known for its agriculture, venturing into tourism is new territory even for its residents and local government units. That’s why the Kiudkad owners also acknowledge that they should all cooperate with each other to pull this off.

What Kiudkad offers

When Kiudkad opened its doors to the public in February 2022, they made sure that only like-minded individuals would get to enjoy their home. 

It’s not your luxury resort na parang you go there and lahat andun na, ready na, kahit sa pagkain, handa na. Alam namin na hindi lahat ma-appreciate ‘yun kaya honest kami sa pitch namin na ganito ‘yung dadatnan nila,” they said. 

(It’s not a luxury resort that when you go there, everything’s already prepared — even food. We know that not everyone would appreciate that so we made sure to be upfront about it in our pitch.) 

In their social media posts, Kiudkad wrote that they’re a “sandbox for adventurous souls who want to experience nature in its purest form.” 

They also emphasized that their home is not for everyone.

“It’s quiet, raw, and unapologetic. But if you want to experience off-grid living in the middle of paradise, then this place is for you,” they added. 

All four lodges in Kiudkad are spread far from each other, with each accommodation having its own access to a private beach strip. This, Randall said, was a conscious decision among the owners to make sure their visitors would still get the privacy that they deserve. 

All accommodations are also fully furnished, with a full kitchen, common toilet, beds, and running water. Maximum capacity for each lodge also ranges from 6 to 15 people; meanwhile, visitors in smaller numbers can also opt to stay at the two campsite grounds instead. 

Visitors are advised to bring their own ingredients to cook their own dishes, but Kiudkad also has their own canteen that offers meals. There are no nearby convenience stores or ATMs either, so best to prepare all necessities before going to Kiudkad. 

Cell signal is spotty but a stable WiFi connection is available at each lodge. But with the number of activities that’s available in Kiudkad, best believe that visitors would rather disconnect from the daily grind instead. Visitors could go trek the cogon hill, free-dive among the live coral reefs, and snorkel at various accessible spots. 

But visitors of Kiudkad don’t need to be adventure-seeking and outdoorsy types to enjoy what the place has to offer. With how tucked away it is in the remote area of San Ramon, visitors have a front row seat to stunning sunsets and pristine, cream-colored beaches. 

In Kiudkad – The Last Resort, visitors have the full control of their time – no waking up early to catch the free breakfast buffet or rushing to not miss the set-up time for scheduled tours. One can go to sleep when the sun has long risen or spend hours watching the waves and no one will bat an eye. 

Kaya tawag namin sa Kiudkad ay ‘Neverland’ eh. Talagang time stands still. Parang hindi kami tumatanda (That’s why we call Kiudkad our own Neverland. Because there, time stands still. It’s like we’re never growing old),” Randall said. –

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