Finding the Remedy in the Beauty of Calaguas

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

March 13 to 15, 2015

We can all feel it - that importunate itch. It is as palpable as the layer of sweat over our foreheads, making our faces glint like polished things under the glare. It is as detectable as the scent of seabreeze, compelling us to let loose and jump and swim and dive. And inspite of the bizarre weather, we - the ones who long for it all year - know, with every frayed fiber of our being, that Summer is finally here.

The aforementioned itch came to afflict me as the last leaves of March began to fall away. At its outbreak, it was unforgiving. It took every bit of my willpower to control it. I needed to postpone, for I had accepted, at that time, that the matter which I had preoccupied myself with was more important. And there are but a few things I can say the same, so make of that what you will. But the point is this; the more I try to palliate, the more it bubbled and boiled beneath the surface.

When the more important matter was finally settled, at last, the only proven cure to the ail was entertained. And that unguent, that fix that would surely rid me of the ruthless itch, goes by this name: Calaguas.
via Hannah Morales
Calaguas, in the province of Camarines Norte in the Bicol region, has been producing quite a stir in the community of travelers. And with good reason, I must say.

The journey to this place begins with a roughly 10-hour drive from Manila to the port town of Paracale which serves as the jump-off point to the island. From here, one will ride an outrigger for two hours - give or take.
At the Paracale Arch
At this point, I must tell you that the itch I have been yakking about had been, up until now, metaphorical. Perhaps because of my constant suppression and my futile attempt at ignoring it, what was once a figurative image had manifested physically. I'm trying to find a more delicate way to put this but I doubt you'd appreciate me wasting your time over such trivial matters. So, here it is: I got seasick.

Yes. During the two-hour boat ride, I regurgitated everything I had consumed the day before. In my defense, I was already feeling a tad terrible all throughout the car ride, coughing and having a feeling of general unwellness. I was informed later on of my harrowing pallor and my asking for my Mama, which makes me all the more certain that I'd lost consciousness somewhere along the way because there are chunks of that boat ride I cannot remember.
I don't even remember posing for this picture
Seasickness and grossness aside, upon arrival at the island of Tinaga - one of the islands that form Calaguas, the sight of white sands, rolling hills and an almost empty beach filled me with enough energy to heave my seasick self off the boat. The place, on the surface, is breathtaking.
via Hannah Morales
We then took to setting up our austere accommodations: tents.
There are no hotels nor lodges in Calaguas. Nipa cottages and tents are the primary accommodations.
via Hannah Morales
Moments later, inside Dennis' and my designated tent, despite the heat from the near-noon sun, I fell asleep.

It was a little before noon when I woke up, and I felt a whole lot better. Sweaty, yes, but the malaise was gone.

I went outside the tent and everything was in full sharpness. The unforgiving sun had seemed to put the whole island in a "filter" that resulted into everything looking more intense. The sky was my favorite shade of blue, but sharper. Not a wisp of cloud in sight. The sands were glittering in the noon light. And the water looked immaculate.

I stood there for a couple of minutes before I walked towards a cottage where my other companions were. They then informed me and Dennis that lunch was being prepared. And minutes later, lunch was indeed served.
I was famished, obviously. I momentarily forgot that I don't eat rice.
We spent a good amount of our Day 1 upping our chances of getting melanoma, having several photo ops under the glaring sun. The rays were harmful, yes, but they sure made for a perfect lighting. But a quick look at my phone confirmed that we were off the grid. No cellular reception, so all of us were forced into a social media hiatus. I needed it, though, if I were to be truly honest. Facebook can wait for two days.
Lovely and Hannah posing with the pristine beach
via Hannah Morales
Lovely and Nessa. Look at that water!
via Hannah Morales
A Cartwheel for Calaguas
Trying out the GoPro Go Throw
Fight Scene!
Waiting for the sun to mellow allowed me to get to know my companions. Conversations ensued. Jokes were made. And our laughters seemed to meld with the sound of the waves.

When the sun finally tempered down, some of us took off for a game of beach volleyball. Some, I included, went to lose ourselves in the waters of Calaguas.

The water of Halabang Baybay Beach (that's Bicolano which translates to "mahabang buhangin" in Tagalog, and literally "long sands" in English), has the clearest, bluest water I have ever had the pleasure of swimming in. The water is a spectrum of the color blue. Aquamarine, sapphire, turquoise, cerulean, teal, and other shades that I don't even know the name of. It was surreal. Almost unbelievable.
The water was so clear it was perfect for underwater photo shoots.
"Your songs remind me of swimming."
Being surrounded by an incredible clarity and impossible blue made me realize that this was it. This was the cure to both the metaphorical and literal itch. I could almost feel the pent up desire leaving my body. The water gladly taking it in, which made its pulchritude more marvelous. Of course, I knew it was temporary. But at that moment, I allowed myself to be washed over with contentment. I relished it. And it was wonderful.

I capped off my first day in the island by stargazing. It reminded me of Anawangin - the place that had inspired a song. Many times I spotted shooting stars as I watched the earth turn.

The next day, we went for a minor trek on one side of the island. One part of the hill overlooked Halabang Baybay Beach. Further up, we were greeted by a spectacular vista. The cogon grass, the ocean and the sky gave an almost Batanes-like vibe.
Group Picture before we go trekking
Amidst cogon grasses
Halabang Baybay beach can be seen from this side of the hill
Batanes? Close enough.
That backdrop is perfect!
via Hannah Morales
We then made our way to the other side of the hill where a different shoreline welcomed us. This one was even more beautiful since there were no tents, no boats, and almost no people. A small islet provided a great contrast to the blue-dominated background.
The "other side" of Tinaga island
How can you resist that background?
The place is highly photogenic
Later on, after we had our breakfast-cum-lunch, we packed our things and dismantled our tents. We went aboard the motorized boat and made way to the open sea. We then stopped by a snorkeling site where the water was so clear, it was like liquid turquoise. Several feet below the water was a thriving marine ecosystem. The crystal clear surface like a glass lid over an abundance of coral reefs and schools of fishes.
Brunch before we leave the immaculate island
The turquoise water looked good on camera
The water at the snorkeling site was so clear it was like glass
This was a perfect finale to an equally perfect First of Summer.

As the outline of Tinaga island and the rest of Calaguas receded behind us, the engine of the outrigger roaring, I knew that the charm of this little piece of paradise shall get me through, well, at least for another week.
I will miss your waters and your sands, oh Calaguas
Cheers to the next adventure!

This was an organized event by Oh My Guide! For inquiries on how to get your own Calaguas adventure, check out below:

Oh My Guide

Ms. Charisma Ponce
+63 906 528 9111

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