I first heard of Calaguas when I was still in college. The year was 1999 and the information came from a friend who lives in Daet, some two hours boat ride to Calaguas. She told me there is a beach not too far from her hometown that is just spellbindingly beautiful: uninhibited long beach, white sand, water that gently slopes into different gradients of blue, and people haven’t heard much about it. Calaguas, she told me, was a little secret.
I didn’t pay much attention to it, first because traveling was still such a luxury then that I can’t afford, and second, because my eyes were all set on Boracay, the country’s most-talked about beach that has become the epitome of how great Philippine beaches should be.
Had I known she was talking about this piece of land which white sand become blinding when hit by the sun, and which water changes into different hues of blue throughout the day, I would have coerced her to take me to this island the moment she told me she lives not too far from it.
Fast track to 2010. It was summer, Manila’s scorching heat was unbearable and I was itching to hit the beach. I just came from Zambales with my friends and was obviously still craving for the sun, sand, and the sea. On the look out for a beautiful beach that would serve as my escape from the city, I came across Calaguas on the Internet. A blogger had just written about how stunningly beautiful and peaceful Calaguas is, and considering the distance and the cost it would take me to get to the island, I hurriedly asked my friends A and E to come with me to the Calaguas.
At 10 pm the next day, we were on the Philtranco bus to Daet, with our tent, canned goods, some colorful buri hats, and a pocketful of positivity. The ride was short (between 6 and 7 hours) and cheap (fare was somewhere around PhP700). By 5am, we were already at the Talobatib junction in Labo, Camarines Norte. Since it was still a little dark, we decided to have pancit first in one of the carinderias and went shopping for other island essentials such as rice and water. After which we took a tricycle to get to Paracale’s fishport (fare was PhP200) and started looking for fishermen who’d be willing to take us to Calaguas’s Mahabang Buhangin (Long Beach).
The trips then weren’t organized yet and the boatmen didn’t have a fixed price for the boat rental. We approached a fisherman who had actually just got back from fishing (he must have been Kuya Mario, but I am not very sure about it now), and settled for PhP1,800 as boat rental. The deal was simple: he would take us to Calaguas, leave us there, and come back the next day by lunch time to fetch us up.
Calaguas is an island that belongs to the Municipality of Vinzons, but you can also take the boats from Daet and Paracale to get there. We decided to take the Paracale route since we’ve heard the ride here wasn’t as bumpy as the ride from Daet. The waves were indeed rough but manageable (I got a little bit scared) and the first half of the two-hour boat ride was bumpy. But we forgot all about the crazy ride when we first set our eyes on Calaguas’s clear turquoise water.
Some 30 meters behind us was another boat itching its way to Calaguas. I remember telling our boatman to get faster so we’d get to the island first and when we did, it felt like a big triumph to have owned the island for a little while.
It was a moment that required the use of expletives, the kind of reaction that would put Eureka to shame. We were the only persons on the beach!
We headed to the farthest end of the beach (left side if you’re facing the water) and paid the caretaker PhP150 as entrance fee. We learned that three different people (thus three different caretakers) own the beachfront lot. Aside from the caretakers’s small huts and some open cottages built for visitors, Calaguas was still very raw. Barenaked, if I can say so.
After our lunch, we had a good time enjoying Calaguas’ crystal clear water. We went gaga over the fact that we had a piece of this paradise all to our selves.
And spent some more time just doing mad mind-bending (!) stuff in front of the camera. With no one to block our view and with no other people’s sensitivities to offend, we basked under the sun taking photographs of our happy selves. 😀
The entire afternoon was spent just swimming and we momentarily took some time off to enjoy the sunset. After taking too many photographs for the day, my camera’s battery went dead.
Since electricity has not yet arrived in Calaguas (the village on the other side of the beach only enjoys power from 6pm to 10pm), the night was darker and creepier (if you’re the paranoid type who remembers all the details of a thriller movie). We tried to put up a bonfire but to no avail. We had dinner in total darkness so we ended up tossing all of our food in one plastic bag. It was a riot. It was juanderkid! Boodle fight has never been so much fun! And gross. 😀
The next day, I got up very early and while my friends were still sleeping, I walked towards the other end of the beach and discovered that when it is low tide, one can get to another part of the island. I went back to where my friends were and told them about it but since A was not really a morning person, he decided to lie on the beach after sometime walking (and had actually fallen asleep!) while E and I explored my discovery. After an hour, we saw A approaching us with a local he had asked for directions. We met Bernie, a young fisherman, and showed us around the mini-village where he lives. Life on the island was simple and peaceful, he told us. It was easy for us to believe him.
After showing us around, Bernie offered to walk us back to our tent and introduced us to another fisherman. We bought fish from him and asked Bernie if he could grill the fish for us. Bernie more than willingly obliged and came back with a bonus: fried dried squid! We had a sumptuous lunch on the beach and by the time more people started to arrive in Calaguas, we were preparing our stuff to go back to Paracale.
I was so stunned by the island’s tranquility that I made a mental note to come back one day. I didn’t realize that that “one day” was going to happen very soon. Exactly ten days after I have first laid my eyes on Calaguas, I was back on the island with my sister T, my brother-in-law S, and our nephews M and K.
We endured the ten-hour ride from Donsol.
This time, I came prepared. I had previously made an arrangement with Bernie, who picked us up from the fishing port in Paracale. Aside from the fishermen who were on a brief stop in Calaguas, we were again the only guests on the beach.
We were greeted by these lovely island kids. And the beach’s blinding white fine sand.
Everyone, myself included, was blown away by Calaguas’s allure at 10am. My sister was so taken by its charm, she couldn’t help but do a jump shot the moment she found an opportunity for it.
Lunch consisted of uber-fresh fish we bought from fishermen who had just gone fishing.
After lunch, my nephews went snorkeling (we brought snorkels and masks!) and was too happy to have seen different schools of fish just some few meters from the shore. Not too far from them was a boat of young men fishing.
We went around and found this rocky part of Calaguas on a low tide. This, for me, was good contrast to the beach’s smooth aura. When you go straight to where these rocks bend, you will be lead to another part of Calaguas where the sand and the waves are a little rough.
When the sun wasn’t too fierce anymore, Bernie took us to the nearby islands.
Where my brother-in-law climbed one of the rock formations and requested for this photograph like he had conquered Mt. Everest.
From the hills, we had an awesome view of the other islands which rolling hills reminded me of Batanes.
My sister and her husband sure had a great time in Calaguas and I felt good to have seen them this happy. 🙂
We ended our day by enjoying Calaguas’s equally-beautiful sunset.
After these trips to Calaguas, I find myself using it as my paragon of how great a beach experience should be. With no exaggeration, I tell these stories to friends like it only happened yesterday. The Philippines has a good number of beaches to choose from but not everyone gets to experience a beach like this in all of its rawness. I find myself fortunate to have come across this mesmerizing beach at a time when most people have been complaining of how our beaches have become spoiled and overly crowded to some extent. I wish I had gone to Calaguas earlier, but who am I to complain, right? 🙂
Plan your Calaguas travel now before it becomes the next Boracay.
Love and light, everyone. Go, juanderlust! 😀
- All photographs taken with a Sony T90 digital camera.
- I was back in Calaguas last Thursday and will come up with a different story on this one soon. 🙂