If your idea of a great trip is more stimulating than lying on a beach sun-bathing and more challenging than a group package holiday, then read on. Here’s an inspiring destination that may look appealing to you as an independent traveler who has the nerve to escape out from your comfort zone. Try Calaguas Island. The rewards are amazing.
Not for the faint-hearted, this “pristine” island has a variety to match. Despite rich pockets of natural resources, this paradise does not have electricity but only lights and light fans powered by generators, restaurants, shops, rooms or beds you can sleep on, etc. Away from the normal resort or island escapade, it gives you the perfect chance to do whatever you want to connect to Mother Earth and not to the Internet this time ’round.
How We Got to Calaguas Island
1. On May 24, 2013, Friday, after work, I went home from work to have dinner and take our bags for the trip. Daddy drove Mom and me to Jollibee Farmers Plaza (open 24 hours), Cubao, where we were supposed to meet with our fellow travelers at 11PM.
2. 16 in the group plus the driver, we rode the coaster from Cubao at 12MN and reached Daet, Camarines Sur at around 10AM. There we had late breakfast at RL Eatery.
3. Two hours after, some of us headed to the nearby market to buy food to cook for our meals, while the rest of us waited at Paracale Port to get ready in boarding a passenger boat to Calaguas Island. The wait was exactly an hour.
4. The boat-ride took two hours and we reached Mahabang Buhangin, Calaguas at about 3PM. Thus began our journey…
Our Calaguas Island and Sinagtala Resort Simple Itinerary for 2D1N
May 25, 2013 (Day 1)
Dazzling landscapes welcomed our view, as soon as we reached Calaguas after a very long drive from Cubao. The high altitude, clean waters and broad sunlight took our breaths away, literally. I thought this was an island similar to that in Lost, the American TV series. 😯
Since there’s no proper brick-and-mortar kitchen, no gas stove, oven and electricity, we had to depend on building fire from a portable burner and butane to cook and heat our food. I’m glad that the designated cooks in our group had done their job well.
Being unfamiliar with these methods, I suggested earlier that we bring and eat canned food for all convenience’s sake. But the idea of creating meals from scratch seemed fun [to them] anyway. Experienced campers in our groups set up hammock, roof and tents at the same time.
We had lunch from 4PM and went beach bumming afterwards. Those, like me, who were afraid to get their skin exposed to the harmful sun rays and have tan lines stayed in our rented open cottage until sundown at 6PM. It was a nice place to hang out — the closest we could get to feel like home.
From 6PM to 7:30PM, we went swimming, played Frisbee, took pictures and explored the other parts of the island.
After taking my goggles off, salty water got into my eyes and I could hardly open them. Mom got me a towel rinsed with clean water to wash if off immediately. While it took her some time to come back at me, I was left there on the shore alone with both eyes closed. One could possibly think I was meditating on deep recollections and practicing a yoga pose on the sands. 😛
At 8PM, we had to stop these beach activities and resort to showering then prepare for dinner. Taking a bath at night was extra challenging as we had to pump water and take the filled bucket inside the small shower room – and go back again to refill water if it’s not enough.
In addition, queues on the shower room/changing room and toilet were always long. Only one light bulb outside illuminated the four rooms. We watched how people suffered in the process. So Mom and I bathe ourselves in the water pump area itself and changed clothes there using only a towel as an “instant curtain” draped like that of those in some department stores’ fitting rooms.
As for cooking, we used lamps and flashlights to see the ingredients and tools. Et voila! Though cooking time took two hours, results were nevertheless okay. On the menu were: chicken afritada (from lunch), pork sinigang and grilled pork liempo with ensalada.
I can’t imagine how I can do the same with smashing success; I’m sure I’d be fraught with pitfalls and paved with errors. Easy conclusion: I can’t stay long in an island like this by myself!
Our cottage was at the farthest end of Mahabang Buhangin and so we wondered what was happening on the other far side. There were loud booming music and disco lights that could be heard and seen. When compared, we were like scavengers in the dark. Mom and I walked for 10 minutes to visit the “animated crowd” and discovered that the lively activities were powered by travel agencies for customers who opted for the packaged tour.
Mobile bar attendants gave out free drinks (mixed, as requested) which were enough to call it a day. We tried three kinds and we most especially liked the “black forest” drink for its uniqueness. It consisted of Tanduay Cossack Blue, white cocoa liqueur, Cowhead milk, cherry syrup poured in large ice cubes.
Then we watched fire dancers perform with poi balls, listened to the band onstage and visited a stall selling Calaguas Island souvenir items such as shirts, pins, ref magnets, bookmarks and bag tags.
This part of the island has been started to be developed by the same group who developed Waling Waling Boracay Beach Resort. Thus larger and more decent cottages for PHp 3,500 a night are growing in number. Inside is a ceiling fan and mattress surrounded by seating.
Back at our area by 11PM, we saw our camp-mates still having their own discussions on a mat near the water. The others were already asleep. We went inside our big tent and slept without a mattress on. Yes, it was completely uncomfortable!
May 26, 2013 (Day 2)
At 1:30AM when it was mid daylight, I felt an inclination to go to the toilet and urinate. I thought I won’t be lost after going to the toilet many times, but there was a slight change on the path since other people had put their tents that blocked the way.
My eyesight was blurry from sleep and I relied on my instincts to motion to the right direction. Good thing I found the way after two turns. There was no one inside the toilet rooms and I relieved my bladder at once. Getting back was another problem. One of the campers in our group helped me and signaled the right way. 😀 I returned back to Dream Land, still with the horrible back pain.
Wake up call on our agenda was supposedly 6AM. But as soon as bright light shone on our tent, I woke up and began stretching at 5:30AM. In the toilet area, there were no mirrors so I didn’t have any idea on what my hair looked like. Oh I know, it might be so disheveled like Kristen Stewart’s favorite hairdo: the just-got-out-of-the-pool hairstyle.
I called Mom to help me pump water to brush my teeth and wash my face. She was so tired she could not get up. A kind woman passed by and offered help which I accepted of course, else I’d appear as a blind person again – pumping water and then getting water without basin, bowl or pail while eyes closed.
We cooked breakfast at 7AM and ate at 8AM. Food served were: Chinese and American spam, longganisa (Filipino sausages), garlic rice, wheat bread and some leftovers from last night.
The passenger boat was set to bring us back to Paracale Port at 10AM. Having a little faith, I looked at my watch and the beachfront almost every 15 minutes to check if our boat has arrived. Wherever it hasn’t, we continued changing topics in our conversation and even pulled jokes and verbalized our silly reasons for his tardiness. One of us got it right: His passengers for the day from Paracale were late and he could not go without them.
In sum, the boatman’s arrival was delayed for two hours. Tsk tsk. Our planned itinerary was ruined, and I was totally irritated. We were supposed to go to Bagasbas Beach (Daet, Camarines Norte) to surf against baby waves. Instead, our organizer proposed another nearby place for a cool swim.
The option sounded fine. It was another chance to see what Camarines Norte offers, but my mind didn’t quite absorb that. All I knew was that we would be arriving at Cubao later than expected and my body would be missing about four hours of rest. I could not take the risk of fainting or passing out during a presentation on the next day at work.
Add to the unfortunate event was that one of the tires of our coaster got deflated. Several minutes were spent waiting while some men removed the flat tire and replaced it with the spare tire. We had to wait another hour for the vulcanizing shop to inflate the original tire and put it back properly.
Everyone didn’t turn out to be a winner in the terrible saga, and I thought no one is to blame when cascading sets of tricks turn to tragedy. The ghastly outcome was no one’s desire, so okay lah, we had to move on and just accept them.
We had the famous pancit bato for lunch, at 2PM. Cooked with soy sauce, fish sauce and a dash of Knorr liquid seasoning, the noodles were fairly the same as the usual pancit canton except for the seasoning. Each plate of pancit bato was priced at PHp 10 and it was ample to get us moving to the next destination without feeling much hungry.
Sinagtala Resort in Labo, Camarines Norte was about an hour away from Paracale. Quiet ambiance, lush tall trees, roaming insects and sparkling pool water were the highlights.
I was quick to decide that I’d just enjoy the surroundings and document their swimming escapade in the running river.
I was just happy to see my mom enjoying herself and mingling and laughing along the members of our travel group. She surely had an amazingly wonderful time.
A cool respite for the weary, Sinagtala Resort is a favorite of locals for picnics and escape from the searing sun. It’s only open to public until 6PM.
We hit the road at 6:30PM and looked for a restaurant nearby. There wasn’t any that fall into the category of “acceptable.” We drove through dark streets and reached a carenderia at 8:30PM in Gumaca, Quzeon where our organizer was kind to treat us dinner.
We left Quezon by 9:30PM and landed at Farmers Plaza, Cubao at 4AM. Dad and my sister were waiting since before 1AM. I could not hide my excitement when I saw them wave. 🙂
That’s about it. I can’t say much for Sinagtala Resort because we barely stayed for an hour there. I’d share my 25 cents on Calaguas at least:
Key Takeaways from Our Trip to Calaguas Island
I’ve heard it say that Calaguas Island is like Boracay Island 30 years ago when it was not that commercialized and populated. They both have powdery white sands, serene waves and beautiful sunset.
To me, Boracay wins ten times over by these points: accessibility, more water and land activities, restaurants and hotels.
If one argues that Calaguas’ winning factor that it’s an “unspoiled” beach, I can argue back saying that it’s an invalid point. At one glance, you can see that there have already been lots of tourists and people who had left their mark and some damage to the place. Also because there’s no proper administrator who manages the cleanliness of the island, we have seen garbage and loose leaves around that smell strongly awful (more in the toilet area).
It’s good to go to Calaguas and challenge yourself once, if you can make it through without electricity, without network signal (no texting and calling using Sun, Smart and Globe except when you struggle to reach the top of a hill when cell site can be located), and without everything that nearly matches the comforts of your home.
For those who cannot afford to lose luxuries and experience this kind of living, I won’t be pushy either. Calaguas may not be your “cup of tea” even in a million years of Sundays. But who knows, unless you try! Go on and bring some vibrant color to your rather dry world.
Things to Bring:
• Sleeping bag and tent or hammock
• Clothes: Fleece Jacket/Down Jacket/Shell, Rain Gear (Rain Jacket/ Poncho or makeshift, like a garbage bag), Bonnet/Head Gear/Scarf/Malong, Rash Guard (if you are surfing)
• Toiletries: Tissue paper, personal medications, first aid kit, shampoo, soap, conditioner, towels, alcohol and sun-block lotion
• Food: Rice, snacks and pickas
• Water bottle to refill water to
• Cooking materials and mess kit (plates, bowls, utensils, frying pan, casserole, griller, knife, mugs, etc.)
• Large garbage bags (at least two pieces)
• Flashlights and headlamp (plus extra batteries)
• Plastic bags (for water proofing your bags, clothes, cameras and other items)
How to Get to Daet, Camarines Norte:
Book a flight with SeAir and other similar smaller airlines that have direct flights from Manila to Daet, Camarines Norte. If you cannot find tickets, you may choose to take a flight via Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines. But the latter choice will give more hassle as the airport in Naga City in Camarines Sur where you’ll land is about two hours away to Daet by land.
By land (public transportation):
Head to EDSA Cubao, Quezon City and buy a bus ticket from Philtranco. Their buses for long drives have reclining seats and comfortable legroom. Less attractive choices but with cheaper fares are Superlines and Amihan. Expect travel time of 7-8 hours.
By land (private transportation):
Drive to SLEX from Makati and take the exit to Batangas straight to Maharlika highway going to Lucena City. Check Google Maps to know the rest of the directions. ^_^ Or check Calaguas Islands’ blog for more detailed directions.
This tour was arranged by SOLE (Society Of Lost Explorers). Budget per person is PHp 3,000.
To more travels and fun, cheers! 😉