Excel V. Dyquiangco
Photos by: Excel V. Dyquiangco
A perennial proverb says that, “The best part of life is sometimes not the destination but the journey.” The same can be said of a ride to Calaguas Islands, except that journey and destination are both exciting and fulfilling.
The sun was already shining lazily upon the town of Paracale in Camarines Norte as we got up and headed to the port that would take us to Calaguas Island. Surprisingly, it was a short, distance from our hotel. Once there, two large pump boats greeted us, one of which was our ride. Getting to the pump boat proved to be the first challenge for me. There were no ropes or fences that we can grasp on to get to the ship. Instead there was a thin plank we need to cross, much like the ones you see in pirate movies. I am not really good at balancing so I had someone accompany me, as we walked the plank together. All that time, my knees were shaking and I felt like falling over.
Once this deed was done and over with, now came the second challenge. The engine of the pump boat started. It almost became a harrowing experience. Although the weather was quite hot and humid, the waters of the Pacific Ocean and the winds were not. For two whole straight hours, these two forces of nature kept on tossing the ship—and us—around. The waters had the power to make everything wet and in the middle of the journey when I realized that my backpack was all drenched, I had to cover it with a plastic bag. My eyes were halfway closed because of the fierce attack of the winds and the waves and I couldn’t see a thing. My lips tasted salty and looked off-shore white. Because of the noise of the engine, there was no talking among us travelers. We barely looked at each other, and I had just the time to take a glimpse of several islands we were passing by.
Finally, after the tumultuous boat ride, Calaguas Island came to sight. It wasn’t what I expected. There were a couple of huts, some trees and bushes, and it was almost barren. But the sands were a delight—fine, powdery, and almost virginal in nature as if no type of creature has ever laid foot on this fertile soil. Civilization hasn’t wrapped its dangerous arms to it yet which was the most attractive allure of the island. Calaguas Islands is indeed paradise.
As soon as I jumped down from the plank to the shallow waters, I noticed how everything looks luminescent. The waters were so crystal clear that I can almost see my reflection smiling down upon some fishes swarming mainstream. And all the more as I made my way to Calaguas Islands to see untouched nature at its finest.
The 1.2 kilometers long shoreline of Calaguas Islands known as Mahabang Buhangin or Halabang Baybay (Long Beach) is a cove found in Tinago Island which is part of the 17 islands in Calaguas.
Dotted with volcanic rock formations on both sides, the island was almost desolate if not for the few people mingling around. As soon as our feet touched the sands and after grabbing our bags, we immediately tried to find shelter in one of the camping sites as it was searing hot that day. I was told that Calaguas has five camping sites in general and the entrance fee is around Php100 (±USD 2.36) a night. The camping site was complete with picnic huts that cost Php200 (±USD 4.72) a night, a makeshift cooking area to grill and fry your food, a long table for dining, and a water pump for washing off sands after taking a dip in the waters. One pail cost around Php10 (±USD 0.24). There is also a bathroom for your bathing and other needs. Unfortunately don’t expect to receive or send text messages in the area—there is no signal whatsoever.
After setting up tents, having lunch (we bought food at a nearby marketplace) and resting for a bit, we decided to get a signal atop Tinago Hill which was just a few meters from our site. On the way we passed by the other camping sites and several huts that serve as homes for the caretakers. Interestingly we also passed by a small pond that went beyond the distance, and where several carabaos were bathing. Their glass-eyed stares seemingly invited us to join them in the pond.
Finally we reached the entrance to Tinago Hill. In spite of the hot and humid weather, the trail was quite muddy. Loose hanging branches were often in my way and I had to either swat them or use them to help pull myself up. It was just a few minutes before we finally reached the clearing. The view was majestic and awesome. Calaguas Islands came alive with its trees swaying errantly in the breeze and the sands on the seashore sparkling and shimmering a vibrant color of hues. It looked like some gold dust had been sprinkled atop the long shoreline. The crystal and clear waters meanwhile had visitor boats staying afloat.
We took a different route on the climb back down, passing through the slope in the middle of the mountain instead of going through the almost-rough muddy terrain. Our guide then led us to a trail behind the mountain to a remote village. The walk was around thirty minutes; the trail was cemented (good thing!) and when we got there it was really nothing special. Just a bunch of kids playing around, and some fisherman waiting for the next catch. There we couldn’t resist buying a humongous fish the size of a child for dinner. The fish was really fresh out of the bait, its eyes transparent and shocked from an unexpected pull out of the waters. It cost around Php800 (±$18.90).
By the time we have finished with the trade and decided to head back, the sun was already inching its way down the horizon. We then decided to experience the waters of Calaguas. Despite the earlier heat, the waters were pretty cold, shivering as I was immersed the whole time.
One thing about Calaguas Islands that you’d want to go back again is that there is no electricity. The whole island grew pitch dark—with only the lights of the cellular phone guiding you to your camping site. Fortunately the guides brought emergency lights and as we sat there eating dinner, the sound of still silence can be heard. Not even the buzz of the flies or the bees or the croaking of the frogs. Just still silence—nothing more, nothing less.
Here are the essential things you should bring: buy a supply of food and water from the market, sleeping bags and blankets, sunblock or lotion, camera and shades, extra batteries and flashlight, trash bag to keep your baggage from getting wet on the ship, and anti-medicine tablets.
Telephone numbers: (02)414-3321 or (02)414-3319
Boy Quijano at (0917)449-2445
Kuya Putoy at (0909)301-5417.
Distance – 210 kilometers from Manila
Travel time – Travel time is eight to ten hours
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