Taking a break from the mundane of everyday, climbing mountains, watching my favorite variety show Running Man and eating mangoes, I headed out to the beach with Extreme Outdoor Club team.
As Edzhel Sr. cruise on the road to a small island in the Bicol region for a last hurah for the summer, the healthy green on the trees we passed by mark its impending nostalgic end while Keith Urban’s ‘Till Summer Came Around occupied my small world of thoughts.
Like most Filipinos who doesn’t own a swimming pool, going to the beach always makes me excited like a small child waiting to unwrap a gift.
And we’re on for that long drive to Camarines Norte with it’s winding highway that could upset your head and stomach. It took us almost 12 hours to reach Vinzon where we disembarked and waited for a boat ride to one of the Calaguas Islands.
An array of people crowded the small pier with its numerous bobbing boats. Busily waterproofing their shoulder bags, backpacks and purses are pretty girls wearing shorty shorts showing a lot of skin, some were still wide eyed and are just going with the flow. I spotted a few hardcore travellers having animated conversation with boatmen.
There were the rowdy boys in oakley shades sporting vulgar colors trying hard to impress, look at me and they just whiz past my vision BUT there were those select few who, although standing quietly, still exuded such overpowering charm and manliness, men who definitely stood out from the boys.
In the crowd too are kids, some running around in excitement and some too sleepy, clinging on their mother’s neck tightly.
And then I found those who are in their twilight years, hoping to enjoy the last years of their lives. Some had the look ofexcitement and it showed in their eyes and then some who just looked plainly bored, like they just made an appearance for attendance sake and they reminded me of a question posed by Tim Ferriss.
What is the pot of gold that justifies spending the best years of your life hoping for happiness in the last?
And then there were those who, like me, makes a hobby of watching people. Once in a while a glance will meet, a sincere smile – gestures shared between total strangers, a perk of travelling.
When I got bored with people watching, my attention focused on two mountains on both sides of me. Curious about it, I struck a conversation with a local (he looked like someone who belongs to the local government) holding a walkie-talkie (he talks to someone about the boat traffic) and a camera with a long lens which he’ll raise once or twice to capture some distant subject.
We instantly fell into a deep conversation about Mt. Labo which stands on the Municipality of Vinzon and Mt. Bagacay on Pacarale. He gave me some specifics and before we knew it, we were both engrossed about the mountain that Edzel had to tap my shoulder to tell me it was time to board the boat. We shook hands and before he even suggested it, the mountains were already on my bucket list.
It was sweltering hot when we stepped on the powdery white sand of Tinaga Island, a part of Calaguas Islands which also includes Guintinua Island and Maculabo Island. The first two are under the jurisdiction of Vinzon while the later is part of Pacarale. During the 2 hour boat ride, I also spotted smaller uninhabited islands.
On the beach were some courageous beach bods lounging on the sand or bobbing on the water not minding the heat of the sun and the humidity of the air.
The powdery white sand stretched out until the contour of the island has to curve but continuing on the other side. The sand was so fine that one of the men in my group voiced out what everyone was thinking,
I can put it in a glass and it’ll turn into a glass of milk
That is how fine the sand was.
Adding to it’s allure is the crystal clear water that allows one to see the sea floor at 15 feet or so with the fine sand consistent all throughout. It was absent of any coral fragments, shells or seaweeds, just one or two stones a few meters apart.
But shells must be abundant too since someone bought a huge one as big as a fan. It gives off the gift of hearing the amazing sound of the sea on a sea shell.
The sea creature was long dead and only its skeleton remains yet it retains the sound of which it had lived, whatever scientific explanation there is for the sound, I feel that it’s how the shell shows gratitude to the sea that nurtured it to life.
Several huts made of lightweight materials, mostly of wood and palm leaves, were constructed some 20 meters away from the beach front. This serves as a resting area/dining/kitchen for several tour operators and their guests which range from 30-60 pax each tour operator.
According to Edzel of Extreme, the huts were personally funded by the tour operators that ply the Manila-Calaguas, Camarines Norte route. Next to Extreme Outdoor Club’s hut is Pilipinas Roadtrips’ where the howl of Reden, the big man, can be heard.
There were also public changing rooms and toilets strategically placed some hundred meters away from the camping area which for now is full of colorful tents of different brands.
What is also notable are the manual pumps which provides water and paid at php10.00 per balde . If you forgot some ingredients, the local settlers can provide the additional supplies from their small sari-sari stores with a huge mark-up. Also available is the island halo-halo at php35.00, a heat quencher along with the buko flavored ice candy which is being sold at php20.00.
What to do on the island? One can enjoy the scenic view of the island’s sunrise and sunset atop the highest vantage point, snorkel, swim on the clear water, discover the small islands and islets around Tanaga, walk on the beach and have a round-about tour of Tinaga Island or just enjoy the conversation at the camp. Bring a guitar and sing some songs with your friends underneath the trees sprinkled on the beachfront.
The island hopping cost php120.00 per pax which includes an hour of island tour and environment fee, another separate environment fee is collected from tour operators. Where that goes, only THEM knows.
It is said that there is a push to assign a docking area for the boats to avoid encumbrance among swimmers, this I feel is the most pressing concern although the boats cam be a good subject matter when taking sunset photos.
The influx of tourist and travelers which includes toddlers and elders, is a matter of concern for the local government and tour operators in terms of safety. With the recent installment of the Coast Guard that oversee the general safety, a more on-site safety for swimmers should also be in place. In case of drowning, no one would notice until its time to get back to mainland and someone is missing.
With a typical Filipino aphorism of buntot mo, hila mo it is a mindset waiting for a disaster to happen. The island does not deserve it, for it is too beautiful to be marred by death.
As the view of Mount Labo came nearer and the settlement on one of the islands came into view, the Calaguas Islands slowly shrink from the horizon.
My last vision of Tanaga Island is a haven in the midst of a calm sea.#
How To Get To There:
★ Contact a tour operator for ease of transportation, tent and food. I recommend Extreme Outdoor Club which offers cheap Calaguas tour with side trips to Bagasbas surfing area at php400.00 per pax with instructor. Also included on their menu are mountain climbing, local tours to Sagada, Banaue and Ilocos and they also offers extreme activities like paragliding. Visit their facebook page or drop a message to Edzel Herrera at 09081111203 / 09276811641
★ DIY, check out The Pinay Solo Backpacker’s blogsite.