Waiting to Exhale in Calaguas
Camarines Norte’s priceless Calaguas has carved its own name as one of the rising destinations in the Philippines. But going there isn’t a walk in the park. Writer Alvin Cruz shares his experience and his realization that in travel as in life, good things come to those who wait.
Text by ALVIN BULAONG CRUZ
Photos by AJ ORPIA AND ALVIN BULAONG CRUZ
WHAT THEY SAY about traveling to Calaguas is true: timing is everything.
The first time my friends and I set out on what was supposed to be a weekend out-of-town trip to Calaguas Islands, we were prepared for everything this new adventure promised to be except for one thing: the weather.
After traveling for eight hours on a bus, we reached Daet in unexpectedly bad weather. The heavy rain and strong winds made it impossible and unsafe for travelers to cross the sea from Paracale town to Calaguas Islands. Drenched, drained, and disappointed, we vowed to come back on a clear day, sooner or later.
And come back we did, not later but sooner. And this time, we came on a hot, sunny day in summer.
Because of our experience the first time, I chose to suspend my expectations and thought to myself: “We get there when we get there.” But getting there takes some getting used to, with hardly a good night’s sleep on the bus and a bit rough journey in the open sea for nearly two hours.
LIKE THE OLD BORACAY
But in travel as in life, good things come to those who wait. And what awaits you in Calaguas is like nothing you have ever seen before. Or perhaps, you thought you’ve seen it before, because somehow it reminds you of the old Boracay, of what it used to be—a lonely island that held promises and secrets.
In a way, Calaguas is similar to Boracay in that it boasts of powdery white sands, crystal-clear water that changes color from emerald green to aquamarine, a breathtaking sunset, and a night sky dazzling with stars.
Yet Calaguas is also everything you never imagined. The main beach named Mahabang Buhangin (Long Beach) is true to its name, a cove with a long stretch of white sandy beach and dotted with volcanic rocks on both ends. It’s located in Tinaga Island, one of the islands of Calaguas in Camarines Norte.
You know you’re in Calaguas when you see Waling-Waling Resort’s row of quaint cabanas facing the ocean. These native-themed beach huts are perfect for unwinding in the lazy afternoons while waiting for the sun to go down.
Right behind these cabanas are cozy rooms in hidden gardens. Each kubol has its own bathroom and a veranda with bamboo furniture. The room on the balcony can accommodate a group or family of six, and offers a scenic view of the ocean. Although Waling-Waling is the only high-end resort on the island that offers accommodation in kubol-style, there are other smaller, cheaper resorts on the far end of the cove. But if you’re looking for a more private and quiet place, then Waling-Waling Resort is your best option.
Calaguas is also open to campers who like to camp out in their tents on the beach. A few resorts, such as the Calaguas White Sand Resort, provide a camping experience by the sea that includes meals and use of tents.
Because Calaguas is still relatively undeveloped as a travel destination, one who’s used to doing leisure activities and seeing many attractions may find it challenging to while away the time on the island.
DISCONNECT TO RECONNECT
Life on this island is plain and simple for both the locals and travelers. In fact, you will find yourself disconnected from the outside world the moment you set foot on Calaguas because here there’s no cell phone signal. And with all your gadgets rendered useless, it feels as if you’re living backwards. But then again, that’s what traveling is for- to leave the outside world behind temporarily, to open our eyes to another world, and to reconnect with ourselves.
In Calaguas, there’s a whole new world to experience, if you’re curious and adventurous enough to step back from the picture-perfect beach scenery and venture into the other side of the island. This is where you get a feel of the local life. We explored the countryside on foot and followed a trekking path in a wide open field. A narrow road led uphill to a nearby community. Along the way, cows and carabaos grazed on green pastures as the locals walked by, smiling at us as though they knew us. I knew then that Calaguas is one of those few places where you feel you belong just by being there.
We continued trekking up a mountain until we reached the top. It was a short but steep climb From that point on, my perspective changed completely. Looking down the entire beach, I felt an overwhelming peace. How could such a small island give a sense of contentment and serenity?
From the top of the mountain you can also see the other islands of Calaguas. Tired of taking pictures and selfies, we rested in one of the nipa huts overlooking the sea and waited for the sunset.
If anything, this journey to Calaguas was all about waiting– waiting for a good weather, for the right waves, for the golden light, for the perfect sunset. Looking back at the long hours of travel on the road and in the sea, and the lessons that waiting while traveling taught us, Calaguas was definitely worth waiting for. TP