“Ang mahal naman ng 170 pesos”. That was my comment when the ‘caretaker’ of the portion of Calaguas where we stayed asked us for entrance fee. I have read blogs posted several years back that they did not pay entrance fee and that forced me to say that. But just like what Rhan and Ruby said, 170 pesos is nothing compared to the beauty this island has to offer. And that is true in so many ways.
How it happened:
My college friends and I were originally scheduled to fly to Bangkok by mid May. However, due to the recent political unrest in Thailand, we decided to skip the trip and just go somewhere nice in the Philippines to cap off the summer season – and that was Calaguas. I think saying nice is an understatement. Anyway, after almost a month of planning and a cancellation once, it pushed through. The number of people who first planned the trip did not materialize but going there ‘threesome’ style was an experience I will never forget – we did not have enough utensils and manpower to carry our supplies but it was a ‘survivor’ edition like no other.
Rhan, Ruby and I met up at the Superlines bus station for our 9:15PM schedule. We were getting worried the day before since most of the bus stations offering trips to Daet and Paracale (Superlines, DLTB, Philtranco) were mostly fully booked. Luckily, when Ruby went to Superlines during lunchtime they still have few seats left for the last trip. Whew! I was already thinking of other ways to go to Daet if in case we ran out of bus tickets. We paid 515 pesos for a ride from Cubao straight to Paracale.
I left the office early since it was payday Friday weekend. That was the best decision I made that day. The situation at the bus stop in SM Megamall made me thank the gods that I live in the south. I don’t know how I will survive scenes like that every night. People were hurriedly running everytime a bus will arrive. Some of them were already at the door of the bus, squeezed like sardines. Did I survive the battle to get inside a bus? Yes but with a minor casualty. My eco bag did not survive. I immediately texted Ruby to bring me a new one. So much for the first few hours of my vacation. Haha.
I arrived at Superlines (the one located Southbound; beside Victory Liner going to Baguio) at 8PM. There were many people lined up at the station going to Daet. That time, I already had an inkling that it will be a jam-packed weekend in Calaguas. Ruby arrived a few minutes before 9PM while Rhan barely missing the trip. Ruby and I were thinking of alibis so that the bus driver will wait for Rhan. Saved by the bell, Rhan arrived at the station. Just in time before the bus paved its way to Paracale, Camarines Norte.
The trip was 9 hours long but I was never bored. The bus seats were comfortable and has charging outlets and it has free wi-fi. Rhan and I chatted our way to Atimonan, talking about things from our favorite Hallyu stars to politics. After 4 hours, we stopped by the Superlines terminal in Atimonan, Quezon and had a quick breakfast – lugaw with egg (costs 30 pesos). The journey continued as well as our conversation for another 5 hours. We talked about my recent Indochina trip, listened to Kpop tracks and marveled at the night sky and morning view of the Bicol region. We were getting really excited.
By 6AM, we reached the bus terminal of Paracale. From there, there were many tricycle drivers waiting for passengers. We hailed one to get us to the public market where we will buy our food supplies and look for Mang Nelson’s stall – R. Gomez. He was our contact for our boat going to Calaguas (Mang Nelson – 0909 525 9821). The tricycle driver was kind enough to even go to his friend who is a reservation agent at Superlines. Too bad he wasn’t there that time. Then off we went to the market. The driver again showed a kind gesture by looking for the stall. Then he introduced us to the wife of Mang Nelson. So many nice people at that place early in the morning. (Trike fare from the bus stop to Paracale market is 20 pesos each)
Mang Nelson arrived a few minutes later to ask what time we plan to go to the island. We told him to give us few minutes to buy our supplies. Good thing everything that we needed was there – mineral water, meat, eggs, some fruits and vegetables, condiments, gas and charcoal. What was nice after buying so much that we could not carry them all anymore? We only spent half of our budget – 750 pesos.
After buying our supplies, Mang Nelson introduced us to Mang Ruben (0912 978 4528) who will be our boatman for our Calaguas trip. He helped us carry our things and led us to the port. The port is few minutes away from the market. Before taking the boat ride, we had breakfast in a nearby carinderia for 34 pesos only.
Mang Ruben was with his son-in-law (sorry kuya I forgot your name). They helped us getting in to the boat and made the ride carefree. It only took us 1 hour to reach the island. Regular trips, especially the large boats, would take 2 hours. Ang bilis namin! (Roundtrip boatride for 3 costs 3,000 pesos)
A few minutes after leaving the port, we could not stop admiring the beauty of the place. We weren’t even at Calaguas yet but the sight of the nearby islands were already breathtaking. The clear blue sky, vast ocean and green mountains were all the prelude to what was waiting for us when we get to Calaguas.
And there it was, after an hour of waiting and a few splashes of salty water, we reached the famed Calaguas Island. I couldn’t remember how many times we said “wow” or just became speechless, in awe of the incredible beauty of this island. Part of me was wondering why this was just new to us and another part was also worried that while the place is getting more exposure, it will lose its purity slowly. I hope and pray that it will not come to that.
We got off the boat and immediately looked for a spot with shade and a good view of the island and ocean. We found a nice place under some small trees and marked that as our territory. We set up our tent and placed our supplies and bags inside. We paid 170 pesos each for the entrance fee and a shared 100 pesos for the corkage. And off we went to enjoy the island.
The place can rival that of Boracay and Palawan, that I am sure of. The shoreline might not be as long as that of Boracay but the white sand, water with different shades of blue, the green mountains and blue sky during the day or blanket of stars at night make this place an exceptional beauty of nature that the Philippines should be proud of. There were cottages and small nipa buts but you will not see hotel buildings or restaurants. Simplicity is beauty, indeed.
We had few hours before lunchtime so we decided to have fun and enjoy the beach. We soaked in the blue water, played with the fine white sand and even had a ‘photoshoot’ in a nearby rock formation. We could not stop admiring the island and the other islands around it.
After basking under the sun, we decided to prepare our lunch. We cooked chicken franks and liempo. How we survived without bringing our own knife and grill? Thanks to the kindness of the other visitors. It was a simple meal but do we have the right to complain after everyone’s generosity and with this kind of view? Hehe. Because it was scorching hot that time, we decided to pair our meal with ice-cold coke from the store. We paid 80 pesos for the 1.5 coke and 15 pesos for the ice.
It was still hot after lunch so we skipped the beach and just enjoyed the shade of the tree beside our tent while laying on the sand. We talked about our life, lovelife, Kpop (of course) and just basically everything we can think of. Side note: It was hot inside the tent from noon till late afternoon. Even our food became warm that I even joked that we do not need to reheat our leftovers anymore and that our mineral water can be used for cup noodles. No kidding! Even the jellyace and pringles were warm. Ganoon ang level ng init. Kaloka!
At 4PM, we decided it was time to swim again. There were more people that time since it was not too hot to swim anymore. We enjoyed swimming and people-watching (wink). The sunset at the island is also picture-worthy. You get to have a clear and unobstructed view of the ocean and the sun in a dramatic color.
It was getting late and the light will be limited in the area so we started preparing our dinner. We had red eggs, tomatoes, ripe mangoes and our lunch leftovers for dinner. And yes, Coke too. Candlelight dinner under the stars. Romantic indeed.
After dinner, we originally planned to wash our dishes and take a bath but the number of people lining up at the CR/poso was long. We just stayed near our tent, laid on our back, enjoyed the vast night sky and looked for constellations (that apparently we do not know how to find. Haha!)
An hour passed and we decided it was time to take a bath. I did not enjoy taking a bath outside with everyone staring but for the sake of cleaning myself, I just did.
We weren’t sleepy yet so we went to the campsite near us to listen to the band. They were having sort of a party – with mobile bar and music. I did not specifically enjoyed that scene but the music from the band was nice. A good background while staring at the stars. Madrama.
The tent was hot and the sand was hard on my back but I immediately fell asleep that night. I zoned out and forgot about the music playing and people talking outside. I could not even remember what time the electricity went off.
Later in the morning, the rainfall served as our wake up call. After the rain, we went up and decided it was time to enjoy our last few hours in Calaguas. And just as we were leaving our tent, a beautiful rainbow was painted in the sky. What more can we ask for? 🙂
We had a quick breakfast of oatmeal, cup noodles and pork and beans before going back to the beach. Even if the sun was too hot that morning, we could not resist the beach and enjoy this beautiful island for the last time.
It was already getting hot and we were already burned so we went back to our tent and decided to break our camp. We collected our things and cleared our space. It was bittersweet.
Before we finally leave for Paracale, we asked Mang Ruben to give us 5 more minutes to swim, enjoy the water and say our ‘see-you-later’ to this truly magnificent island. Yes, there is no saying goodbye, just see you later. Because right when we set foot in Calaguas, we knew we are definitely coming back.
The ride back was bumpy and we were soaking with salty water by the time we went back to Paracale port. Mang Ruben offered his house’s CR for us to take a bath which was way nicer compared to using the CR in Calaguas. Thank you Mang Ruben and Ate Lani. The kind gestures of the people there were unending.
After having lunch in a nearby carinderia, Mang Ruben’s son-in-law drove us to Talobatib with his trike. There were many people waiting at the bus stop when we arrived. Gladly a nice lady at the store told us that if we wanted to secure seats, we should go to the Daet station. We took another bus to Daet then another tricycle to Superlines’ station.
There were many people already lining up at the station and we got lucky for getting the last 3 seats for the 5PM schedule. Soon enough many tourists began flocking the station unable to buy tickets. I think even the evening trips were sold out already.
The bus ride home was not as sweet as that of going to Paracale. It was 2 hours longer and I was getting really tired. Good thing I was able to come home safe and still sleep well to prepare for work.
I am not so much fond of beaches because I am not a good swimmer. But going to Calaguas made me fall deeper in love with the Philippines and its beaches. Right now, I am already thinking of coming back, buying a waterproof camera and tent, and saving for my next ultimate beach bumming experience. It is definitely more fun in the Philippines!
You may check our detailed budget and itinerary here.