TRAVEL: CAGAYAN CHRONICLES – CALAYAN, THE BABUYAN ISLANDS

Calayan is the main island of Babuyan Group of Islands found between Batanes and Cagayan Valley. Going to Calayan can be likened to a fairy tale – but not the princess kind. More like Hansel and Gretel, or Little Red Riding Hood. It is “a place far, far away”, with an air of mystic and sorcery; the landscape and seascape just seem unreal – like everything is made out of CG.

There are no big ferries that cross the Babuyan Channel from Cagayan to Calayan, just small outrigger boats or lampitaw – small fishing vessels that also double as passenger boats. The trip takes about 5-7 hours, depending on the boat size and the current.

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The lampitaw that brought us to Calayan.
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Passengers from Claveria heading to Calayan.
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Boat passengers. Not seen: a carabao (that just offloaded); a pig, and a crate of chickens

Sentro

After the grueling 5-hour sea travel, exposed to the scorching heat of the sun, we decided to take it slow and just stay within the town center (Sentro). Sentro is small – it would only take about an hour to explore it on foot – and even fewer steps to take you to Sentro Beach.

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The Sentro Beach sunset will give Manila Bay a run for its money. 

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Starry, starry night. (Note to self: Must buy tripod)

We stayed at TPS Homestay, owned by Ms. Tessie Singun. It was an old house transformed into a home stay. They offer basic accommodation and also do local tour arrangements.

Nagudungan Hill and Caniwara Cove

I had no fixed itinerary for Calayan, I just had names of places, without any idea what to see there. Ate Irene of TPS arranged for our motorbike tour the following day.

I showed our tourguide kuya Jaymar my list of places to see. He scanned the list and told us to hop on his bike, and off we went.

I will be honest. When we first set foot in Calayan, I was unimpressed and disappointed. People were telling us that Calayan was very similar to Batanes. But on our first day, a tricycle driver was already trying to rip us off by overcharging and people were unfriendly (actually, they are just painfully shy), the view going to Sentro was so-so. It was a let down. I was willing to cut the original 4-day stay to an overnighter.

But our second day in the island proved that first impression never last. What we saw during our bike tour made our mouths drop: We are in paradise!

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Barangay Paradise!
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The road is narrow and steep alternating between cemented and rough; while the view alternates between seascapes and lush greens.

Our first stop was the rolling hills of Nagudungan, south of Sentro. We got off the motorbike and started trekking, passing through a portion of Caniwara Cove, and up an open grassland. We hiked up the hills to go up the lighthouse, giving us an unobstructed view of the three coves: Caniwara, Sibang and Cababaan.

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Our first glimpse of paradise.
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A portion of Caniwara Cove.
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Mark Jay, kuya Jaymar’s adorable son.

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My travel buddy Faeska and her neon pink shorts.  We scrambled up the rock on the left.
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Me: Kuya, inaakyat ba ‘yan? (Bro, do people climb that?)
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Kuya Jaymar: Parang hindi po. (I don’t think so.)

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Caniwara Cove as seen from the top of the rock!

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The Babuyan Channel as seen from the lighthouse.
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A fourth cove that can only be accessed via lampitaw or by going down the rocky cliff.
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Trees perpetually looked like they are swaying because of the strong winds.
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Lower left: Caniwara Cove; Middle: Sibang Cove; Middle right: Cababaan Cove

Sibang Cove 

Afterwards, we rode further down the road until we reached the pristine and unspoiled beach of Sibang cove.

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A hint of turquoise.

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vlcsnap-2016-06-19-21h07m56s137.pngWe immediately decided that we were spending the night here. No tent? No problem. We borrowed a mosquito net from Kuya Jaymar and banig or sleeping mat from the nearest village. Here, we got to spend a little time with the locals, sharing a snack and drinking fresh coconut – the island has an abundant resource of fresh buko, they give it away for free!

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Getting drunk on unlimited coconut juice!

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Saitil: wild tiny mussel-like seashells. So wild, it even has sea weeds attached it.
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Butiki in Tagalog means Lizard. But here, it is the name of wild seashells with meat inside.

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Thank you for lending us your banig!
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Our home for the night.

A video posted by Lovel Aniag (@lovelaniag) on Apr 28, 2016 at 7:43pm PDT

After helping us set up our “tent,” our tour guide left us and we were left to enjoy the beach all to ourselves. Thanks to Faeska’s survival skillz and the numerous driftwoods scattered by the beach, we were able to make fire out of nothing at all!

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Powdery white sand beach that can rival Boracay.

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The rock formation (left) that separates Caniwara from Sibang. Nagundungan Hills in the background.
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Sibang as seen from the other end of the beach.

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Exploring the beach to look for water source.
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Moonrise (?) (like sunrise, but for the moon?)
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This look way awesome in real life. It looked like CG.

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I had the best sleep that night, lulled by the sound of the crashing waves, warmed by our bonfire and watched over by the full moon.

“Kung lalake ka lang, ang romantic nito. Wala nang makaka-top nito.” (If only you were a guy, this would’ve been romantic. Nothing can top this.) – Faeska to me.

Yep, I know what you mean.

The following day, we woke up to this glorious sunrise.

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Why I get up really early: Sunrise!

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Had to even out my skin color.
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I can live like this forever.

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Random locals we met for a morning drinking session.

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We spent the day lazing around. Being in an isolated beach, you might be wondering how we dealt with “comfort.” Let’s just say that our experience was very, very similar to the show Survivor. We had to make do with what we have. Fortunately, we found a fresh water source nearby. We used it for drinking and for taking showers.

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Can you see the water source on the lower right corner? We had to walk the entire stretch of Sibang and past the rocky beach to get to the source.
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The water source!
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Clean enough to drink!

Had we walked down further, we’d be in Cababaan beach. But the sun was really scorching and we decided to just stay within Sibang. Kuya Jaymar picked us up after lunch, and we were able to squeeze in a couple more hours of joyride, this time headed towards Dibay.

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P1070838.JPGP1070841.JPGDSC_0088_1.JPGP1070822.JPGWe spent another night in TPS and left the island the following day. 3 days here is too short. I plan to go back and stay for longer to explore the rest of Dadao and Dibay by foot (they say it’s possible).

How to get there:

From Claveria, go to Fish Landing or Blue Lagoon to catch the boats heading to Calayan – be early! 5am is ideal: Php 500

From Calayan Sentro port to TPS Homestay via tricycle: 10php

Where to stay:

TPS Homestay : 0908.399.8062 or 0939.915.8667

Tips:

There are no ATMs in the island. Bring enough cash.

Having a flexible schedule is recommended. Prepare to be stranded on the island due to weather and current conditions. We were lucky to catch a boat leaving on our third day, otherwise we were prepared to stay two more days.

Being an isolated island, people here are extremely shy, and might come off as stand-offish. Always be nice and smile.

Always be respectful of the people and their surroundings.

Ingat and see you on the road!

Update:

On our last full day, Ate Irene of TPS Homestay told us that a crew from the show Kapuso Mo, Jessica were arriving the next day. See their produced video below:

While I’m excited for possible work and tourism opportunities this promotion will provide the people of Calayan, I hope that this small island paradise will be ready for the impact that the influx of tourist will cause to the environment.

Up next: Palaui Island

Know a place I should discover? Or want to travel together? Email me at emaileatpraylovel@gmail.com

 

 

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7 thoughts on “TRAVEL: CAGAYAN CHRONICLES – CALAYAN, THE BABUYAN ISLANDS

  1. Good Day! Hi, Sir Elmer! Thank you so much for sharingwith us your travel expereince in Calayan Island. Your write-up convince me to pursue my original plan to visit the island this coming May. I just want to ask for a little favor from you. Hope you would not mind if I ask for the contact number of your tour guide, Kuya Jaymar. Honestly, I would go to that place by myself alone. So, ang gusto ko po sana eh magkaroon na ng mga contact person sa nasabing lugar na makakatulong sa akin para malibot at makita anf kagandahan ng islang ito. Please could you share it with me.

    Thank you in anticipation of your favorable action on my request.

    Sincerely yours,
    Edward

    Like

  2. Hi Edward! Naiinggit ako that you are going to Calayan! When are you going? I really want to go back! Anyway, Here is Kuya Jaymar Enteria: 09295993711. Ang alam ko, he is willing to welcome solo/couple in his humble home. Baka he can accommodate you. He also has his own motorcycle! Have fun! 🙂

    Like

    1. Hello po! First of all, I would like to thank you for sharing with me Kuya Jaymar’s contact number, your tour guide in Calayan, Cagayan. Malaking tulong po ito sa aking pamamasyal sa nasabing lugar. I just hope na available po siya by the time na bumisita ako sa kanilang lugar. I am planning to visit Calayan Island by May, most probably mga 1st week po. Just like what you have mentioned on your TIPS, I need bring more cash so I still have time to save money for my trip. Mahirap na pong mag-byahe nang alanganin especially i am travelling alone. I have to make sure na enough ang dala kong pera.

      Ma’am, thank you po talaga for sharing with us your travel experience thru your travel blog. Sana po one day ay makilala ko po kayo ng personal at kasama sa isang paglalakbay. MARAMING SALAMAT PO!

      Like

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