We woke up to the gentle sound of lapping waves and the slowly escalating ruckus of the coastal folks starting their early morn routines. Our eventful DIY trip to Calaguas brought us to this coastal village after accepting Ate Vicky’s offer to camp near her place while we were on the passenger boat en route to Banocboc the previous day.
It was already dark when we reached the village so we decided against pushing on with the last leg of our trip to Mahabang Buhanging. I reckoned it wouldn’t make much difference where we stayed for the night. But after a futile debate with Lola Auring (Ate Vicky’s mother-in-law) about our safety in the tent, we found ourselves instead comfortably sheltered in her spacious native hut fronting the sea.
After a day of misadventure and a night in the care of a gracious and motherly host, it was finally time to bid goodbye to Lola Auring and continue on with our journey. My sister and I excitedly packed our things and meticulously water proofed our valuables. I stuffed my 60-liter dry sack with a few things and rolled it tightly to form an improvised floater (just in case!). A few minutes later, Ate Vicky came knocking on our door, heralding the good news. She had found a boat and would even accompany us to Mahabang Buhangin.
We gave her 500 pesos as down payment to buy some petrol and headed to the shore to wait for our rented banca. The sea was unusually calm and inviting perhaps because it was sheltered by the natural cove of the island. But it sure boosted our confidence especially when we saw how small the outrigger boat was that we were about to hitch a ride on.
We slowly cruised along the coast of Tinaga Island often battling the swelling waves, which suddenly became even more terrifying for me now that we had only a diminutive, worn-out boat as our refuge. It was another roller coaster ride replete with constant splashing of water and outpouring of expletives I haven’t uttered for a long time. Good thing we were just a few meters away from the nearby shores throughout our trip, which comforted me somehow.
Less than 30 minutes into our boat ride, we finally got a glimpse of Calaguas’ lengthy shores from a distance. The sand wasn’t gleaming white and the color of the water and the surroundings weren’t as vivid as I had imagined them to be. Perhaps because the sky was overcast and it was still early. But I could already see how clear the water was and how smooth the sand on the bottom as our boat struggled to dock in the rough waves near the shoreline.
At last, I fulfilled my long time dream of setting foot on this unspoiled tropical island. As the sun’s rays peeked through the thick gray clouds, Calaguas slowly revealed its charm. Turquoise waters and shimmering grains of powdery white sand broke the spell of the gloomy weather. It was indeed the perfect beach I have always imagined it to be. After pitching our tent, I changed into my swimwear and ran to the water as if it was my first time to swim in the sea. It was the 4th island I have visited within the week but it was the only beach where I actually swam this long and in total abandon.
I swam, played and floated mindlessly in the water for hours, took pictures to my heart’s content and even sunbathed topless later in the afternoon with my sister acting as the lookout just in case our very attentive caretaker came by. We were fortunate to have the whole beach for ourselves, a totally different scene from a recent weekend when it was filled with over 200 visitors according to the caretaker of the island.
Later in the afternoon another group of tourists arrived on the island, but they camped at the far end of the beach, which apparently was owned by another person. After some small talk with the caretaker I learned that the long stretch of Mahabang Buhangin is actually subdivided into three parts, each of which is owned by a different family.
We were perfectly content with our camping spot in the middle part of the beach. Being the only visitors under his ward, our caretaker had been more than accommodating to our every need. I was actually reprimanded thrice for pumping my own water from the deep well and using the common toilet beside it. He wanted us to use the nicer toilet in the nearby beach cottage. He also cooked rice for us and lent us utensils for dinner since we only had ready to eat canned goods and bread. Although he refused to be paid, we ended leaving him a small amount in addition to the entrance fee on the beach. It was a small tip for going the extra mile in his job.
We capped the day marveling at the lovely sunset from the beach and reminiscing about our misadventures on this trip. For me the name “Calaguas” doesn’t simply conjure up images of a gorgeous tropical beach anymore. It also brings to mind the generous and caring faces we met along the way. It was more than worth it that we did it in our own bizarre way. The adventure we experienced and the friendships we made were priceless and unforgettable. One day I will surely be reunited with this island, and if you ask me I’ll do it the same way again.
Until then Calaguas… I hope to see you again someday, unchanged and untouched … coz you’re amazing just the way you are.
Breakdown of Expenses
Pedicab ride to Philtranco Bus Terminal – P50 each (round trip)
Bus ride to Sta Elena – P400 each , non-AC
Daet Proper to Manila – P400 each , non-AC
Tricycle ride to Sta Elena proper – P120 (P60 each)
Sta Elena Proper to Daet Proper – P25 each
Daet Jeeney Terminal to Vinzons Market – P16 each
Vinzons Market to Daet Proper – P16 each
Vinzons Market to Minaogan Fish Port – P8 each
Minaogan Fish Port to Vinzons Market –P8 each
Passenger Boat to Banocboc – P120 each round trip
Banocboc to Mahabang Buhangin – P1500 round trip (P750each)
Total Fare Each – P1, 853
Camping fee – P100
Pangkape ni Kuya – P100
Pangkape ni Aling Auring- P100
Bottled Water – 120 each
Food – 400 each (2 nights of camping)
Total Expenses Each – P720
Calaguas Total Expenses – P2,573
*We missed the bus en route to Daet so we paid extra for the transfer from Sta Elena to Daet Proper by taking the Naga bound bus. The bus rate for non-AC bus starts at P400 depending on the season and the bus company. The sample expenses were computed assuming we would go back to Manila to give you a rough estimate of a DIY expenses good for two persons to Calaguas.