TRAVEL: CAGAYAN CHRONICLES – PALAUI ISLAND

If you’ve read my previous post (and if you are still following my Cagayan series, despite the long period in between updates — sorry and thank you!), you’ll know that getting stranded in Calayan is highly probable. Good thing for us, we chanced a small lampitaw sailing back to Claveria.

When we left early in the morning, the water was so calm, it looked unreal!

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To completely erase the bad impression the island of Calayan gave me, 20 or so dolphins swam with our boat. They were so close and so many, it was magical! I was so in awe, I was only able to catch the last few dolphins in the video below:

Just tilt your head sideways. Hehehe.

 

We rode all sorts of transportation to reach Sta. Ana: van, jeep, and bus and arrived at around 7pm. Total travel time was 12 hours.

The following day, we headed straight to the island of Palaui.

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BTS
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Our foster home owns a boat, behind their house is a marsh that opens up to the Babuyan Channel.

Palaui is an island northeast of Cagayan, about 30-minute boat ride away. The island was declared a protected land and marine reserve in 1994; was used as a location for two seasons of US reality show Survivor; and was also included in CNN’s 100 Best Beaches around the world in 2013 – all that while being untouched by modernity and maintaining its raw beauty. If Palaui was a person, she’d be the shy and quiet but overachieving classmate everyone admires.

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Palaui is small, the main attractions can be done in a day via boat tours or via a guided walking tour. Our island exploration started with a hike via the Leonardo Trail from Punta Verde going to the famed Cape Engaño Lighthouse on the other side of the island.

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Let’s go!

Leonardo Trail (Punta Verde to Cape Engaño)

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Mangrove crossing

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DSC_0053_3.JPGThere are two trails hikers can take going to the Lighthouse: Leonardo and Lagunzad, both named after scientists who discovered and profiled the flora and fauna of the island. Leonardo trail is the more challenging between the two. However, the thick foliage and the hooting and chirping sounds of birds and other insects and animals in the forest makes it relaxing and enjoyable.  P1070902.JPGP1070915.JPG

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Dos Hermanos as seen from a Leonardo trail viewpoint.

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#squadgoals

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How the most expensive coffee (Civet Coffee) looks like pre-harvest.
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Palaui probably ranks within my top 5 best hikes ever. (Blog topic idea!)
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This small waterfall was unnamed, so I christened it “Laglag Falls” – for two reasons: 1) Laglag in Tagalog means “to fall down”; and 2) I fell down several times trying to cross the cold water after refilling my water pack.
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A few seconds before falling.

Cape Engaño

The trail ends on Cape Engaño beach, an ideal stopover after the 2-hour hike before going up the hill to the lighthouse. The beach is lined with refreshment/sari-sari stalls selling halo-halo, snacks, gamarong or forest crabs, dried octopus, and souvenirs.

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Cape Engaño beach. The lighthouse is on the hill on the right.
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Dried octopus. Wasn’t able to try this.
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I imagine it would really taste good, though. Next time.

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Forest crabs or Gamarong.

The men of the group asked to be left by the beach. The rest of us went straight up the hill through the well-established trail leading to the lighthouse.

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Why is taking the stairs more tiring than hiking up rough trails?
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Cape Engaño beach as seen from the hill.
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Ganda! (beautiful!)
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The Lighthouse.

Building the structure started in 1888 and was finished in 1892. Cape Engaño is one of the few remaining lighthouses built by the Spaniards.

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Wishing well
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124 year-old Steel Staircase.
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124 year-old wood (which we weren’t allowed to step on) and marble floors.
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Dos Hermanos as seen from inside the Lighthouse.

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Kitchen sink and stone oven used by the guards manning the lighthouse

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Dos Hermanos. These islands have never been reached by a boat because of the strong current surrounding it.
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Dos Hermanos and Punta Verde as seen from the lighthouse.
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Dos Locas and Dos Hermanos.

Lagunzad Trail and Baratubot Falls

Going back, we took the easier trail of Lagunzad. While it was definitely a breeze, the trail passes through open fields and ends with a walk by the beach under the scorching heat of the sun. P1070972.JPGP1070973.JPGP1070976.JPGP1070979.JPGP1070981.JPG

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Mabulbul Beach
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Kids looking for seashells.

DSC_0119.JPGBecause of the unforgiving heat of the sun, we decided to do a detour to Baratubot Falls, a 15-20 minute hike from Punta Verde.  Admittedly, it wasn’t the grandest waterfall I have ever seen; but its tiny pool is reminiscent of a bathtub, the lush greens surrounding it and the gentle stream of water gives this three-tier falls its unique charm.DSC_0126_1.JPGP1080012.JPGP1080017.JPGP1080016.JPG

We walked back to Punta Verde afterwards for lunch where I had the tastiest crabs I’ve ever had: Gamarong.

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Gamarong and my “taong bundok” (mountain person) food staples: Ulalam and Skyflakes

 

Siwangag Cove

After lunch, we continued with out island exploration, this time heading toward Siwangag Cove. This part of the tour is usually taken via boat. Our guide told us that we were only the second group (or pair, since Uncle Goyong and Kuya Francis asked to be left behind) to ever do a multi-trek around the island – the last one being in 2012.

That being said, the trail going to Siwangag Cove allowed us to pass through the small community of Punta Verde, through isolated, open rice fields and through thick forests. And it was literally thick – some parts were actually dark, as light couldn’t completely pass through the dense foliage. It can be likened to being out at 6pm during rainy season, except we were there at the peak of the summer, and it was only 3-4pm. Our tour guide said that it was because the trail was rarely used, even by locals.DSC_0151_1.JPGDSC_0152_1.JPGP1080024.JPG

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Hello! 🙂

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The community school

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Just like in Calayan, coconuts abound in the island. But unlike in Calayan, these were sold at 10php apiece.
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This was taken at one of the more lighted spot of the trail around 4pm.
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Our tour guide “handcrafting” a fan out of banahaw leaves.
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There were no soul in sight. It felt like an un-scary ghost town.

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Siwangag Cove
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Thank you, Uncle Goyong and Kuya Francis for lending us your boat!

After 2 hours of trek, we arrived in Siwangag Cove, where out boat was waiting for us. We took a quick dip to cool ourselves off. It was almost sunset when we left, making the ride home quite a dramatic visual feast.

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I’ll leave you with a video edited by my Cagayan travel buddy, Faeska. (video includes a sneakpeak of our Sta. Ana adventures, up next!)

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How to get there:

There are passenger boats that regularly go to Palaui from San Vicente port in Sta. Ana. I am not just sure of the rate, since we just hired our foster family’s boat.

 

Tips:

Like any other isolated island, there are no ATMs in Palaui. Bring enough cash.

Guides are mandatory. Guided tour for Cape Engaño and Siwangag Cove is Php350.

Palaui has one of the kindest, knowledgeable and organized  tour guides I’ve met. Tip generously.

Going around the island can be done via boat tours or treks. I recommend doing the latter as it allows you to see the community and interact with locals.

Tours can be done in a day, but I would definitely recommend staying here overnight, just to see the sunrise and sunset and enjoy each attraction more. There are homestays and areas where you can pitch tents.

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

 

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