“#It’s More Fun in the Philippines!”
Admittedly, the Philippine tourism’s slogan is kind of lengthy but it immediately sinks in to everyone. Hope you are enjoying your summer so far.
There are many gorgeous attractions in the Philippines and so many places to choose from ika nga. Last week, I embarked on a long journey again up North. Never before had I embarked on a journey that required so much courage.
WHERE IS CALAYAN?
I am referring to the island town of Calayan in Cagayan which is in the middle of Aparri and the Batanes group of islands. If you look into the Philippine map, Calayan is one of the islands closer to the China Sea on the northern coast of Luzon. Calayan is a 3rd class municipality in the province of Cagayan, Philippines. According to the latest census, it has a population of 16,233 people in 2,654 households. Calayan boasts a white sand and sharp rocks that makes it a potential landmarks for tourists. The Calayan islands are one of the Babuyan Islands in the Luzon Strait northern region. It is composed of the four of the five major islands of the Babuyan Islands such as: Calayan, Camiguin, Dalupiri and Babuyan Island in Luzon Strait north of Luzon Island. Calayan Island is the largest of the Babuyan Islands.
12 barangays of Calayan
- Poblacion/Centro I
- Babuyan Claro
- Centro II
HISTORICAL SIDE OF CALAYAN
This island municipality is said to have derived its name from an Ybanag word “calayaan” which means “full of ginger.” Calayan is an Ybanag word that translates as “where laya (ginger) abounded.” When the first two Dominican Fathers, Fray Andres Sanchez and Fray Geronimo Morer visited the island group in 1616 they asked the locals what the island was called. The natives then replied as “Calayan”. Perhaps the missionaries sense of smell was attacked by the aroma of the root crop. So that’s when the word Calayan group started. Father Sanchez and Morer did not stay long in the islands. They were followed by other Dominicans: Fray Francisco Capillas as the first parish priest in 1639 and Fray Martin Real dela Cruz, who later became the first Rector of the University of Santo Tomas. Both also did not stay long in Calayan, leaving a word of faith among the islanders who had readily embraced the Catholic faith.
A more dedicated missionary was assigned as parish priest of Calayan immediately upon his arrival to the Philippines in 1684: Fray Diego Pinero O.P. He stayed in the island working with the natives, doing the best of his ability to alleviate and elevate their economic status and at the same time noted in writing the activities and progress of the people in their Christian life.
DAY 0 | 3PM ENROUTE TO CLAVERIA, CAGAYAN
The group decided to meet up at FLORIDA BUS along Lacson Avenue Corner Earnshaw Street, Manila.
So when the opportunity arose for me to join a group of wanderlusts, I never had to think about it and said YES with the thought of another fun filled week of summer holiday for the year 2013. Joining other travelers in the past it’s not relatively new to me so I did not turn around and decided to join the amazing Babuyan+Calayan+Aparri adventure. I previously got invitations to take a trip to Calayan Islands from a different group but I really had no intention of showing up. When I asked Mr. C who were joining us he replied Carla, Kara and other Pipho members. I then immediately responded “Join ako”.
The scorching heat and drought conditions aren’t hurting only the Philippine crops but humans too. I just realized masisira na talaga ang malaporselang kutis ko sa tindi ng init sa Manila so aarte pa ba ko? Lubos lubusin ko na ang pagiging baluga this summer.
Our pink bus (Florida Bus) finally arrived which at first sounded to me like a long boring bus ride. Pero good to go na ang mga lolo at lola nyo!
DAY 1 6AM ARRIVAL CLAVERIA CAGAYAN
In some cases, regardless of how prepared you are, things may not always go perfectly as planned. The weather may be too hot or cold, the service of the restaurant may seem very slow, vehicles, vans may go on strike but these are all part of the travel experiences especially in the Philippines. But the best travelers are understanding and perhaps open minded about the situations that we don’t have any control of and they somehow enjoy this aspect of the experience.
The unpredictable weather condition and rough seas are just some of the greatest challenges when visiting Calayan Island. In most cases, visitors get stranded for days or even weeks, during the rainy season. So I strongly recommend to monitor the weather conditions through your host and PAG-ASA or kay Kuya Kim before heading to the island.
When we learned that the weather and tides were unfavorable, the group went ahead and looked for a good place to stay overnight.
We stayed at the newest beach hotel in Claveria, Cagayan. It has 8 air-conditioned private rooms. 2 family rooms which is good for 6 persons for Php1800/room. Mr. C, Carla, Kara and myself stayed at the Twin-rooms at P1200 per night. For the frugal travelers, non-aircon rooms w/ common T&B starts at Php400/person. Clean rooms, linen and towels.
SMART TRAVEL TIPS: Feel the beach front, its total serenity and ambiance. Buy fish (lobster) at the local market and let the hotel restaurant staff cook the food for an additional fee. Make sure to request for rooms with a balcony. One can also use their video-ke machine for Php5 per song.
HOW TO GET TO CLAVERIA, CAGAYAN: One can hop on a Florida bus in Sampaloc, Manila (near UST); route is Manila-Laoag-Claveria (travel time is approximately 12-13 hours Php730) VIA AIR: Cebu Pacific Air, AirPhilippines and Philippine Airlines fly daily to Tuguegarao. From Tuguegarao, one must hop on a bus going to Claveria or ride a plane from Manila to Laoag, Ilocos, then hop on a bus or van going to Claveria-Sanchez Mira-Tuguegarao.
I must admit I was a little disappointed when our trip to Calayan got cancelled due to weather conditions but everyone initially wanted to maximize our time in Claveria so we had our breakfast and started exploring some of the best attractions in the area. Thanks to our Tour guide/trike driver for taking us to Portabaga Falls in Sta. Praxedes, east of Centro 1. The falls has its simple yet unique charm however the surrounding areas look obviously altered and in need of serious maintenance work. Portabaga Falls Resorts and Inn is managed by the local government of Santa Praxedes. It has a total of 5 pools catering the needs of different age levels. If you want to get around Claveria, you can get in touch with Kuya Walter (Trike Driver/tourguide) at 09488290573 Php400/tricycle.
Claveria is indeed blessed with a gorgeous and scenic attractions which include the following: the Lakay-Lakay Lagoon, the Roadside Park overlooking the Claveria Bay, the rocky formation along the Camalaggaon Caves, Macatel Falls boasting a crystal waters that run throughout the year, the Pata Lighthouse which will surely give everyone a spectacular experience, and the Claveria Beach Resort along the peaceful white sand coasts.
Another way of learning experience is by taking a glimpse of local life. Charge your camera and take a lot of photos of the people, countryside, bay, hills and mountains, streams, rice fields and the scenes of their everyday life. PHOTO BELOW: LAKAY LAKAY LAGOON
DAY 2 AT 7AM
The northern part of the country specifically in Claveria witnessed heavy to medium rainfall so as expected our trip to Calayan got cancelled again. We were seriously about to lose hope so when Tito Homer suggested to take a day tour in Ilocos Norte, everyone gave it a go. 2008 was the first time I had set foot in the areas of Ilocos Norte and blogging is something new to me back then.
I have seen the Bangui windmills back when I was a child and admittedly I fell in love with that place right after I saw it. It reminds me of my childhood when I’m just walking around or on my way which is such a magnificent sight to behold dancing with the stars and I am always impressed with it. Other gorgeous destinations we visited are the following which I am about to blog in a separate entry: Blue Lagoon, Bantay Abot Cave, Kabigan Falls and so much more.
DAY 3 LAKAY LAKAY PORT | ENROUTE TO BABUYAN CHANNEL AT 6AM
Finally, our trip to Calayan Island went through OK. The Lampitaw (motorized pump boat) is predominantly the transportation since there were no other means to go to and from the island. The challenging part of the trip is when the rough water and big waves ( I am talking about HUGE WAVES) come at times. The locals from Calayan got used to it but for neophytes like me and the rest of my friends felt uncomfortable about the rough boat experience. I can imagine the bumpy boat rides when I visited the scenic island of Palaui but this one is extremely different. Once the Lampitaw nears Fuga Island, it means that you’re half way through Calayan.
VIDEO ABOVE: Enroute to Calayan PHOTO BELOW: Fresh seafood is a specialty in Calayan.
Fresh seafood is a specialty in Calayan.The lobsters were the star of our meal, but everything else was delicious! Tita Connie (our host) greeted us with a smile when we arrived.
WHERE TO STAY IN CALAYAN
San Jose Inn is privately owned by Mr & Mrs Conie and Francis Agudera, blessed with amazing children Jemar and Aldrin, who became our friendly tour guide for almost a week in Calayan. Rooms are located on top of the small grocery store that sells anything from dry goods and food like bread, fresh fruits, vegetables and a lot more things. Tita Conie is the most accommodating person I have ever met in my whole life I swear to God. She’s a fantastic chef and she served us a variety of special home goodies in their bar and cafe area. Tita Connie I love your GINATAANG lobster, halo-halo and saba con yelo.
Rates: P200/head per night
WHERE IS SAN JOSE INN: San Jose Inn & Mini Grocery. J. Madella St. Poblacion Calayan
Contact person: Tita Conie Agudera: 0921-534-9231
DAY 4 EXPLORING WATERFALLS OF CALAYAN
Aldrin suggested to visit Bataraw Falls first. On our way to Bataraw, a family of pigs of varying colors from the usual pinkish white, to black with white spots with a combination of Tangerine, brown and black. Pigs that come in all shades of black, grey, brown, brown with pink ‘spots or splashes’. Konti nalang at makukumpleto na ang color wheel. When Carla stated that Babuyan Island was named after its big population of wild pigs. I have come to think about it promise. Isa itong revelation do you agree Christian?
Meanwhile, Caanawan Falls is a 30-45 minute trek to reach the enchanting falls. The route up to the falls is quite rugged and usually quite slippery, I remember Carla was too concerned with her DSLR and almost fell on the slippery rocks. This waterfalls should be categorized as semi hard which reminds me of Ditumabo falls in Aurora.
SCENIC SIBANG BEACH
Getting off the beaten track of Calayan Island makes for an extra rewarding experience while you stay overnight at the Sibang Beach. We wanted every moment to be a learning experience for all of us. Our camping adventure at the Sibang beach also reminds me of our trip in Calaguas in 2012.
DAY 5 JAW-DROPPING LANDMARKS & MORE WATERFALLS
It looks like a Batanes’ famed landscape – Goats wandering and carabao grazed at the quiet area of Nagudungan hill. I have never seen such a jaw-dropping cliffs that are noticeably and distinctively marked by a number of superficial land formations and caves. Needless to say, Nagudungan Hill could be one of the most scenic seascapes in the Philippines.
It may be marked by strong wind, hail, thunder and/or lightning but the powerful winds and waves brought by frequent thunderstorms that hit the area made a thorough and dramatic scene of landscape into a countless of spectacular cliffs seemingly dropping towards the narrow crossing of Babuyan Channel. Birds and eagles can be seen and dominating the sky. Sea eagles catching a prey is a sight to behold but there’s something more to seeing large birds like eagles from the sky to catch their meals. The jaw-dropping black to gray-colored reef limestone rocks of this island will certainly complete your day. Its black & white landscape causes optical illusions and reflects colors when the sun goes down. Most of the rock formations, including its wave, are just spectacular.
OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN CALAYAN ISLANDS
- Didicas Island Camiguin
- Camiguin Islands Whales, Dolphins
- Piddan Point
- Kumanabang (a small island)
- Lighthouse Near Sibang
- Magsidel Punta
- Dipari Island-Dilam
- Smith volcano, Babuyan Claro
- Katanapan, Dibay
THINGS TO DO & SMART TRAVEL TIPS TO CALAYAN, CAGAYAN
- No ATMs or banks in Calayan.
- GLOBE is totally useless. Only Smart and Sun Networks are available.
- Electricity starts from 12:00 nn to 12:00 midnight. Maximize time for camera and phone charging.
- Sunset Watching at Centro Beach in poblacion
- The best time to go to Calayan is in the summer months of March to May. Bad time is during September to February, where the southwest and northeastern monsoon winds come.
- Explore waterfalls, caves and beaches.
- Setting Expectations- There’s no night life, no airport, no restaurant, no resort and no public market.
- Riding a Lampitaw is a moment you will certainly remember so prepare to be under the heat of the sun for hours. Apply a sunblock to protect your skin and protect your gadgets valuables with plastic.
- Hire a motorbike, tricycle or kuliglig (farm trailer) to get around town.
- Boat trips and weather conditions are unpredictable so prepare to extend for a couple of days in the area.
- Try to local Banayuyu Wine – A local wine made from banayuyu, which is a wild berry from the grape family that can only be found in Calayan.
HOW TO GET TO CALAYAN ISLAND:
From Manila, hop on a bus for about 14 hours land travel to Claveria or Sta. Ana or Aparri, or fly to Tuguegarao in Cagayan, or to Laoag City in Ilocos Norte. That three mentioned towns are the gateway to Calayan. The closest municipality to Calayan is Claveria.
From the fishing port in Claveria/Lakay lakay port or the Aparri port, take a lampitaw boat ride (motorized pump boat) to Calayan. Boats leave between 5 to 7am if there’s cargo that needs to be shipped or if the weather condition permits. Boat rides cost P500/person and can last 5-7 hours from and to Aparri or 5 hours from and to Claveria. For your convenience one must have a local contact in Calayan or Claveria to arrange ticket reservations. You may contact Tita Conie Agudera: 0921-534-9231. She’s our local contact in Calayan Island.
These are the places that I am sure you have never heard of. With the help of cheap travels or cheap flights online, many of these gorgeous sites are easy to get to, but often go unnoticed. Sure one can visit and travel around the globe but have you ever driven outside your own towns, cities and seen what lies in the countryside? Do not miss these gorgeous places when you take your next trip!
Traveling in group can be a lot of fun. Imagine those remarkable, day-to-day experiences that can lead to a lasting memories together. Traveling with other people can help you feel like you have a real companion with you. In addition, you never have to worry about going to a particular destination alone and feeling awkward or having nobody around to talk to during a trip. Thanks to Xtian, Kara, Carla, Tito Homer, Tita Lanie, Harold, Harvey, Karlo, Karla, Ron & his girlfriend for being part of my perfect summer holiday in Calayan Islands. Looking forward to get a copy of our silly and funny group shots.
EXTERNAL LINKS: CAGAYAN GOV