Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Calaguas Island, Camarines Norte


The Magnificent Calaguas Island
By: Marion Erika Macapagal






Whenever I would reminisce or if someone would mention anything about Bicol, I couldn’t help but smile and share my own experience of its rich culture, beautiful sceneries, magnificent beaches, wonderful people and great food. 

And as I share my 7 day journey in the Bicol region, may you be inspired to travel more and visit this place (if you haven’t been here) and share it to the world too. 





Why Calaguas? 

If you are looking for a spectacular white beach and would just want to spend your vacation with a laid-back atmosphere, travel bloggers including myself would recommend going to Mahabang Buhangin or popularly known as Calaguas Island (or group of islands). This is ideal for people who love camping since there’s no hotel or electricity here. You can bring your own tent if you’re doing a DIY trip or book for a tour package and they’ll bring the tent and food for you. The island is undeveloped which for me is preferable, and this means less people, less noise. Just imagine the powdery white sand and the turquoise water, plus you’ll feel like you have the place to yourself. Perfect! (You’ll definitely feel this especially during weekdays).


Where is this place?

Calaguas is in the province of Camarines Norte, located in the Bicol Region in Luzon.




How to get there? 

Via Bus:  From Manila to Daet
There are daily trips in major buslines (like Philtranco, Amihan, Superlines & DLTB) from Cubao or Pasay going to Daet. You may want to check online for schedules of whichever busline you prefer. Travel time is approximately 8-10 hours.

From Daet as the jump off point, you can reach Calaguas via boat from Paracale or Vinzons. 
Going to Paracale: From Daet, ride a public van for 60php. Travel time is about 1 and a half hour. Boat ride from Paracale to Mahabang Buhangin (Calaguas) is approximately two hours. You can rent a boat, and price ranges from 2,500php up to 5,000 depending on your haggling skill, number of passengers and the boat capacity. Since boats from Paracale are small fishing boats, you may want to consider the Vinzons route if you have a huge group for the boats there are bigger. If you are traveling solo or with a friend or two, and would want to go there the cheapest way (naman!), you may want to ride a boat that transports locals to and from Calaguas BUT this can be irregular. Journeyingjames mentioned in his blog that from Paracale, the boat usually leaves at around noon, and from Brgy. Mangcawayan, it leaves the island at around 7am. You will get off at Bgry. Mangcawayan which is a barrio near Mahabang Buhangin. You just need to walk 15-20 mins from that barrio going to Mahabang Buhangin. Boat fare costs 50-100php for each passenger.

Going to Vinzons: From Daet, hire a tricycle and get off the fishport. You can also ride a jeepney but you’ll need to ride a tricycle from Bayan going to the fishport. Travel time is only 20 mins. For the boat ride from Daet to Vinzons, as I’ve mentioned above, the boats here are bigger and ideal for passengers (with life vests), which means boat price can be higher. But I bet there are also fishing boats there which you can hire for a lower price but be very careful and make sure to check the weather forecast and choose the bigger boats if the weather isn’t too good for the waves might swallow your small boat. And some bloggers say that the waves are bigger if you choose the Vinzons route that’s why they have bigger boats there, which I did experience too when we chose this route in getting back to Daet. The weather was good that time, the boat was big, but the humongous waves can still scare you to death. I'm not exaggerating. That is how my companion felt that time. As for me who loves the water & is a risk taker, that was normal, I guess. haha. Boat ride is approximately 3 hrs. (I'm still researching and trying to figure out if there's really a difference with the movement of waves in Paracale from Vinzons. Is that necessary? argh!)

Or you can also ride a bus directly from Manila to Paracale if you choose this route. Then follow the instruction above (using the Paracale route).

Via Plane: The closest airport would be Naga City in Camarines Sur. From Naga, take a van going to Daet for 150php and travel time is approximately two hours. Then from Daet going to Calaguas, follow the instructions above.



The TRIP

“The trip to Calaguas has been long overdue!” I told myself. I planned the trip December of 2012 but due to tight schedule that month, I and BP Nick ended up exploring Real Quezon

And since my January and February were fully booked (hotel lang?), I promise myself to hit the white beach of Calaguas in March even if I’ll travel SOLO. And here comes March and I’m all set. Two weeks before the planned DIY trip, I created a 5 day (originally) itinerary for an ultimate Bicol experience. That would be visiting Bicol’s finest destinations: Daet & Bagasbas Beach, Calaguas Island, Naga, Legazpi and Sorsogon. You might be wondering where’s Caramoan from the list. Well, I would love to go back in Caramoan but I prefer to go back there with friends rather than just by myself.
Since my backpacker friends were all busy and had their own plans, I decided to go on a solo trip. Though this is not the first time that I’ll do solo backpacking, this will be the first time I’ll be on the road for 5 days by myself. Good thing a friend of mine who lives in Daet humbly offered her home which became my shelter for 2 days. And that just lessened my supposed-to-be hotel expense which I was really grateful for.
I left Manila via Philtranco bus in Cubao seven o’clock in the morning of March 23rd. And I reached Daet Camarines Norte at around 5:30 or 6pm (same day). My friend, Maecel, was waiting for me when I got off the bus. When she asked how the trip was, I smiled then complained after, telling her my head hurts due to that long zigzag road in Sta. Elena (another town before reaching Daet), which by the way caused that throw up incident inside the bus. Yikes! That was unexpected and very embarrassing! Good thing I had an empty plastic bag beside me that time. Oh yeah you got it right! The vomit girl was me! Haha. And she was laughing when I told her that. And I laughed at myself too.
Before we could reach their house, she was asking me of my plans and itinerary the following day. Since I was already in Daet, I wanted to go to Bagasbas first and go surfing. But Maecel requested me to change it and go to Calaguas instead. She wanted to go there because she haven’t been to that place (just so you know, she isn’t that kind of person who loves the outdoors) and she needs to go back to Manila in two days too, so hearing that from her, I was kinda surprised. After revising my IT, I told her we’re set to go the following day, then I went to bed early that evening for I was really exhausted in that butt-numbing bus ride. She had bought the supplies we needed for our Calaguas getaway and again I was surprised ‘cause she’s all prepared for it. She cooked our baon early in the morning and prepared all the things we needed to bring. What a sweet friend huh? I wish I have friends living in different parts of the country or the world, so that whenever I would visit a place, I can have that friend sponsor my stay. Hahaha :D


Maecel & her mom
 
Flowers outside Padolina's residence in Daet



Getting to Calaguas – the backpacker way

Maecel has a friend who offers tour packages for Calaguas but I told her that I want this trip to be inexpensive since I would like to visit other places in Bicol. And I was successful in doing so, getting in and out of Calaguas the cheapest way.

We left Daet at around 8 in the morning bound to Paracale. We arrived before 10am in Paracale fish port and since the boatman named Kuya Allan (which was recommended by journeyingjames in his blog) does not have a contact number, I kept on asking the locals where I could find him. One local asked me, “Allan?”, and I couldn’t answer him for I don’t know what his full name/last name is. LOL. For more than 5 people who asked me the same question who Kuya Allan is, I told them “Yung namamasahero lang po. Dadalawa lang po kasi kami.” Many people will offer their boats so just tell them you already have contacted someone, not unless you plan to hire one. Good thing, a very kind local accompanied us to find Kuya Allan until we reached the docking area, and after few minutes of searching, another local told us that a boat is about to leave which was hired by a family going directly to Mahabang Buhangin, and guess what? It’s Kuya Allan’s boat! (From there I got confused if the Allan recommended by journeyingjames in his blog was the same Allan who was hired by the Hipolito family). I was really grateful that the family agreed to let me & Mae hopped in. Though I wouldn’t mind waiting ‘til noon for the passenger boat of Kuya Allan, this was really a big blessing because we did save a lot of time and money and we didn’t have to take chances. The family didn’t want us to pay for the boat ride so I decided to give the money to the boatman. I told them “pangmerienda”.
 


Green and Blue



a boatman and some other islands we passed by



Hipolito Family - a family that travels together stays together forever :)



The Island



Maecel on top of the rock for our Photo session :)





As the boat approaches the island while the sun was shining so brightly that day and the lustrous water and sand captured all my senses, I can’t help but stare and stare and stare until the boatman said “Ma’am pwede na po bumaba.” I was speechless for a moment and when we got off the boat, Mae who looks excited uttered “Ang ganda naman dito.” which I couldn’t agree more for now I do understand why many people loves this place so much. Oh yes! It’s undeniable! I fell in love with Calaguas! And it’s definitely in my list now for the top beautiful beaches.

BP Marion - Certified beach lover ♥


Mahabang Buhangin has three ‘stations’ if that’s how you want to call it. The two areas with colorful flags are owned privately. While the one in the left side with few cottages (without the flags), which they call Calaguas Beach Resort, is considered ‘public’ which you only need to pay 20php for the barangay fee. The caretaker here is Mrs. Cleotilde and Mr. Roberto Delos Santos (contact info can be found below). They have a small store where you can buy food and drinks, even toiletries such as shampoo & soap. Cottages are available for 300php and there are also restrooms there. The only main problem here is water. Mang Roberto recently made a (water) well, but this can be inconvenient especially for girls. During my conversation with him, they (the barangay) wanted to put a water pump but they don’t have the budget yet to do so.

Maecel & the (water) well
Behind the beach, going to Brgy. Mangcawayan


For the other ‘resorts’ in the island, you’ll have to pay 100php per head, per day. What I’m not too sure about is if they have a different water source or if they have a better restroom or bathroom for their guests, which I forgot to inquire about. Sorry. I was too busy that time pampering myself, just enjoying the view and relaxing. hehe



You can pitch your tent anywhere. You can roam around the island. You can swim anytime at your own risk. Though there are caretakers there and some locals, don’t expect them to watch over you all the time. You can go snorkeling but bring your own equipment and gears. You can go to Brgy. Mangcawayan and buy fish there (go there early in the morning, ‘cause fishes will be delivered to the mainland around 7 or 8am) if you plan to stay here for more than a day. You can take beautiful photos literally everywhere. You can sun-bathe all you want. And at night, get out of your tent and go star gazing. 


BP Marion and the sunset

our tent and the cottages behind it are where the restrooms are

What to bring? Enough drinking water, food (raw or cooked) cooking equipment (if you plan to cook your food there or if you plan to stay for more than a day), tent, insect repellant, flashlight, eating materials such as spoon, fork and plate (other things not listed such as swimwear, clothes, towel, toiletries, sun protection etc should never be forgotten)
Optional: sleeping bag, pillow, picnic cloth, hammock, snorkeling gears
 
Thank you Lord for a very nice weather ♥


Cottages in Calaguas Beach Resort


The Sunset in Calaguas



Do you see the heart-shaped clouds? :)


The Sunrise in Calaguas


How did we get back to the mainland?
 
It was actually a good idea to hitch in whenever a group would hire a boat but this was not planned at all and I only did it as a last resort, and good thing the boat could still accommodate us. So when Ate Glenda offered me their hired boat in getting back to the mainland, I felt so lucky. But the problem was, they’ll stay in the island for 2 days and we need to leave the island for Maecel has to get back in Manila at night that day. There was also a miscommunication between me and the boatman for when I told him “makikisabay”, and he responded yes, I taught he’ll fetch us at 7 in the morning in Mahabang Buhangin and he did not instruct us to go to Brgy Mangcawayan and so we waited. While waiting for the boat, the Hipolito family gave us some coffee for breakfast as we were munching on our bread and crackers. When the clock hits 8 and the boat still didn’t arrive, we decided to walk and head to the barangay and when we got there, the locals told us that Kuya Allan left already. I went around and asked if there might be any fishermen’s boat that’ll leave that time but all of them left already and I was told they usually leave as early as 6am. And hopeless, when we get back, another boat just left the island while we were in the barrio. And instead of panicking, when we were in the barrio, I bought 1 kilo of dalagang bukid (fish) for 40php which we feast on during our lunch. Since we did not bring any cooking material, Mang Roberto cooked it for us and even gave us rice. He even let us stay in the cottage without needing to pay for it. And while we were taking some rest in the cottage, a boat loaded with tourists arrived and the boatman offered us his boat and told us we can hop in and they’ll leave the island in the afternoon. But I didn’t like the way he talks, so I told him “No, thank you.” Well, that’s not the only reason why I declined his offer. It was too pricey! I was like “huh? We could have hired our own boat kuya!”. Then Maecel got this great idea to go to the other side where the private resorts are. Since Mae is a Bicolana, she was able to converse well with the bangkeros who’ll transport tourists to Vinzons. This big boat is actually owned by a tour group and thanked God, they were able to accommodate us. We paid 300php each which was acceptable considering that the seats were very comfortable for a 3 hr boat ride plus the life vests (rereklamo pa ba ako?hehe). Aside from the boat ride, from the Vinzons’ docking area, the tour organizers also offered the jeepney ride from Vinzons to Daet’s town proper for FREE. Aren’t we so lucky huh? I think ‘charm’ really helps most of the time. LOL. We were able to get back on time and Maecel didn’t miss her trip.


Maecel and BP Marion in Calaguas
Hipolito Family in Calaguas. Thank you Angelica Hipolito for this picture :)


I would like to sincerely THANK the following awesome people who made my Calaguas & Daet trip memorable:

Maecel Padolina and her family

Mr. Boy Hipolito, Glenda Jamelo and their cute kids, nephews and niece

Mr. and Mrs. Roberto Delos Santos (caretaker of Calaguas Beach Resort)

 May you all be bless more by the Almighty for your kindness and generosity.

Thank you also to journeyingjames for the guide and tips.

Contact Persons:
Boat Rentals
Kuya Allan - 09099519991
Kuya Ricky / Ate Francia – 09293771670
Cristy Dimas – 09186927818

Calaguas Beach Resort
Contact Person: Mrs. Cleotilde Delos Santos or Mr. Roberto Delos Santos
Number: 09208035771





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