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.
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.
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!
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.
Afterwards, we rode further down the road until we reached the pristine and unspoiled beach of Sibang cove.
We 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
We 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
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org