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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Calaguas Island Beach Weekend


Calaguas Island
Calaguas Island

“Aaaaaahhhhh!” our boatman screamed as we were about to tackle a big wave. After getting drenched from this big wave, I looked back at our boatman and saw him squatting and scooping water out of our small boat using a small can (or dipper). This was the first of the three times I saw him do it during our 2-hour boat ride going to Calaguas Island. And we were only about 20 minutes into the ride. Imagine how terrified I was during that looong boat ride. I was seriously checking my life vest (a poor one at that) so many times, thinking of ways on how I would survive if ever our boat topples over. That boat ride was torture for me.

But it was all worth it after seeing this – those different shades of blue and green, of the 1.2 km stretch of fine white sand of Calaguas Island.

Calaguas Island

It’s been so busy at work since the start of the year that sometimes we even had to go to work during Saturdays. It wasn’t exactly stressful compared to my old job, but I was beginning to notice the first signs of burnout. I just really wanted to get out of the city, relax, and enjoy a weekend not doing anything. And I wanted to go to the beach and see one I’ve never been to before. And Calaguas seemed to be the perfect destination. It was accessible by bus, it’s an island where we can camp, and there was no cell signal there too. Good thing my kaladkarin friends (Zye and Emil) were up for it, and Emil has been to the island back in 2010.

Our trip started Friday as we took the 7-hour bus ride from Manila to Talobatib via Philtranco. Talobatib is a small stop in an intersection along the highway. After having coffee, we started waiting for the bus that will get us to Paracale. People can already hire a tricycle from Talobatib for PHP250, but we decided to just take the local bus. What was interesting was that the tricycle drivers kept on telling us that there was not going to be any bus that day because of a certain celebration by a big religious group. We really didn’t know what they’re talking about, but they just kept on pushing us. Eventually, a bus came and we only paid PHP30 per person.

The sun was starting to rise that time, highlighting the greenery of the rice fields we passed by. I breathed the fresh air and felt so happy to be back on the road again even for just a few days. The people in the bus were very helpful telling us where to stop and which way to go to.

After less than half an hour, we arrived in Paracale. Had breakfast in one of the small food stalls (carinderia), the owner Tita Jun was so helpful along with Ate Baby. They allowed us to take showers there too, and told us about the island and what to expect. After a bit of confusion over the boat, we were finally off to the island. After our experience, I would suggest getting a bigger boat because the Pacific can be rough.

Calaguas Island

Calaguas Island

Calaguas Island

After two hours, we arrived in Calaguas Island. Tourism has made it to the island, and was already partitioned by at least five owners. There was one relatively upscale resort, some areas with small huts and cottages, while the others were still bare and served as camping grounds. We found an area with a few cottages, and there was only us as guests. We rented a tent good enough for 3 people, and a cottage where we can put our food and drinks.

Calaguas Island

Calaguas Island

Calaguas Island

The whole afternoon was spent just lazing around and just really having a relaxed weekend. We could have walked to the other side of the island to see the cove or trekked a few minutes to get a good view of the island from the top. But yes, I intentionally did not do the trek, because I was lazy and was just enjoying the beach. The waves were a bit strong that day, but the water was still clear and the sand so fine. I guess what I loved most about the island is its wide shore where despite the number of groups that time, we still had our own spots to chill at.

Calaguas Island

Calaguas Island
(photo by Emil)

Calaguas Island


Calaguas Island

After cleaning up, one of our boatmen helped start a bonfire. We found out later that night, that it wasn’t actually allowed, so let me apologize now for our group. ;) Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see the sky that night as clouds hovered over the island. And it drizzled from time to time. But of course it didn’t stop us from enjoying the night. Despite not having proper food (we only had bread, canned goods, and chips), we still had a great time by the bonfire and finishing the drinks we brought with us. Soon after we decided to join the group beside us and made new friends. We learned things about the island and the best time to go there (June and July with smaller waves) from the tour’s owner.

Calaguas Island

Calaguas Island

Calaguas Island

We finished at around 1am, and got to see the moon for a few minutes. Oh, that moment was magical. It was full moon, no artificial source of light at all, with the white sand making the whole island seem brighter.

Five hours after, we were woken up by one of our boatmen telling us to pack up right away because a low pressure area was about to pass the island in a few hours. Despite our state, no breakfast, not even coffee, we packed up and cleaned up our camping area.

And then our morning officially started to be not so good. We knew that we will be sharing the small boat with another person that day, but they forgot her vest in the mainland. Given how rough the sea was, and the LPA they were telling us about, we didn’t want to leave the island with one of us not wearing a vest. We stood our ground despite them joking that it’s going to be okay, the waves wouldn’t be as bad as before. Luckily, they got an extra vest from another boat.

We were all on the boat now, a few meters from the shore, then our boatman found out that our machine was drenched from the rain. So yes, the boat wasn’t going to work. We were stuck there for more than an hour. Despite our plea (yes, plea), that they just bring us all back to the shore first, our boatman wouldn’t budge. He just said that it’s going to work. Groups from the shore were looking at us, wondering why we were just there. It was already raining when I finally told the boatman that he should really bring us back to the shore and move us to another boat. He just wouldn’t budge, until I told him I wasn’t comfortable anymore riding the boat going back to the mainland. I really didn’t want to get stuck in the middle of the ocean in that boat. I guess it worked on the younger boatman as he got the rope attached to the boat and swam to the shore. Eventually, we were moved to another boat, a bigger one. And I guess it was a blessing in disguise because the ocean was rougher that day. The swells were pretty high. Good thing we were going with the waves, I can just imagine how it was for those who are on the way to the island. You know when you’re surfing and you can feel the wave under your board going up and bringing you to the shore? Yes, there were a lot of times that we felt that during our boat ride, like our boat was surfing.

Finally we made it back to Paracale, the mainland. After eating lunch and taking a shower, we rode a van going to Daet. Bought our bus ticket for that night, and made our way to Bagasbas. There we saw again the group we met in the island. They felt so bad for us, that their tour leader almost asked us to just ride with them out of the island. But of course it wasn’t possible at all, because we were just drifting off by the shore the whole time.

Bagasbas, Camarines Norte
Bagasbas Beach, Daet

I’ve been to Bagasbas two years ago with another friend. The place is famous for being a good spot for surfing beginners. And that’s what we did, and learned from a surfer pro Ate Mocha. As always, it was fun. But the waves were pretty strong which made us tired easily. But we still had a great time.

Calaguas Island
(photo by Emil)

Calaguas was the perfect early summer beach getaway. And the island is really gorgeous. Make sure to include it in your must-visit beaches in the Philippines.





Other beautiful beaches and islands in the Philippines:
Port Barton, Palawan
Coron, Palawan
Puerto Princesa, Palawan
El Nido, Palawan
Cebu
Anawangin Cove, Zambales
Boracay