Marooned: A Calayan Experience

When people talk about a trip to Calayan Island, the topic of being stranded there for days never fails to creep into every conversation. Well, aside from the occasional sightings of whales and dolphins by some few — which has become the envy of many and one of several reasons why people still want to make the trip despite the “odds”, including myself.

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When the boat that will take you home decides to make a “no show”.

Indeed, the prospect of getting marooned on the island municipality of Calayan is very high. While the main cause of “lampitaw” trip cancellations is bad weather, erratic boat schedules come in close second. To date, there are about five or six passenger boats servicing the island — the M/B Rosario and M/B Lance (from Aparri) and the M/B Lagadan 1, 2 and 3 (from Claveria) — each with a capacity of about 30-60 passengers. Smaller fishing boats doubling as cargo/passenger transport also ply the route.

Stranded in Calayan: A deconstruction

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First off, forget doing a Tom Hanks when you find yourself on an “extended stay” on this island. It is not going to be a Castaway story nor a Survivor game. In fact, one of the most inimitable place to be stranded in is this quiet town of Calayan — its rolling hills, fine-sand beaches, clean crisp air and the slow, quiet pace of everyday life seem to drown all memories of metropolitan Manila, or whichever city you are from.

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One of several neighborhood grocery  stores in the poblacion.

The town of Calayan is a vibrant municipality where commerce is very much alive. There are small restaurants (check out San Jose Inn) and eateries or carinderias in and around the poblacion or Centro.

Potable water is also not a problem. Small sari-sari stores and neighborhood groceries line the main street, selling bottled water and other beverages, as well as canned goods and other food supplies.

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Buying a “portion” of this freshly caught talakitok from a fisherman.

Sadly, there is no public market here (not yet, anyway); however, you can get fresh fish and other seafood directly from the fishermen. You just have to wake up early in the morning to catch them offloading their “loot” after a night of fishing.

While it is true that there are no ATMs in town, it shouldn’t be a cause for panic, as there are several pera padala outlets where you can have some funds sent your way.

And if and when you do find yourself without a ride home on your supposed departure date after you have seen the sights, don’t fret. Calayan still has more to offer.

You can:

play hoops with the local Mythical 5 (er, 3?);

cruise around town on a kuliglig;

 or just watch the sun set (I’ll never get tired of this one).

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So, what am I tryna say here?

Don’t be hindered by the possibility “of being stranded” — plan that Calayan trip already! Ooooops… since “plan” has been mentioned, do plan your trip within the months of April, May, June*, July*, August* and, if you’re lucky,  even September*, which is usually the monsoon break. In fact, why not go in August and join in the town festivities during the annual fiesta and be among the spectators of the Comedia, Calayan’s answer to Marinduque’s Pugutan

… you might also be among the fortunate ones to experience what we did: rappelling down Tapwaken Cove!

Thanks to Daryl Comagon for facilitating this activity and our sincerest gratitude to Mayor Al Llopis for allowing us to scale down Tapwaken Cove.

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The T’Embang Gang (from R-L): Harry, Daryl, Angel, Mayor Al, Eric, Lex and me.

 

 

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* According to most locals we’ve asked, the weather in Calayan is generally fine during these months, except when there’s a brewing storm somewhere in the country, which makes the waves go berserk (like the ones we’ve encountered during our trip).

Aliwagwag Falls: Inspiring Awe

Aliwagwag Falls

2012. When I first saw a photo of Aliwagwag Falls from an airline’s in-flight magazine, the ONLY word that I was able to summon was: AWESOME.

“Awesome” is a word I stay away from as much as possible. I generally file it in my “for-lack-of-a-better-term” folder, and only pull it out in “emergency cases”, where I ran out of adjectives: Last night’s party was “awesome.” Your new Fujifilm X100T is “awesome.” The extensive coverage given by the tri-media to the presidential bid announcements of Binay, Roxas and Poe, while ignoring the masses’ call for a Duterte presidency, is simply “awesome.”

My reluctance on the use of “awesome” stems from a purely semantic point of view. Isn’t it strange, if not weird, that we describe such profound beauty that it inspires awe as “awesome”? Shouldn’t it be full of awe; therefore, awful? So, last night’s party was in fact awful, as was the camera and the media coverage.

But in the case of Aliwagwag Falls, I make an exception.

This beauteous stairway-to-heaven-like cascade is definitely awesome! I was mesmerized. Scanning the pages of the magazine, I excitedly searched its location, mouthing an inaudible “Whoopie!” when I found where it’s at: Cateel, Davao Oriental.

2013. Typhoon Pablo happened… and Cateel was among the badly hit municipalities in the region: and. Aliwagwag Falls was severely damaged. My hopes of seeing her was dashed.

#TeamBAMid 2014. I got a call from a friend who works at the Davao City Tourism Office that they’ve just recently visited Cateel, and that efforts to “restore”  Aliwagwag Falls is “well underway”. The news got me excited–and sad at the same time, because I wouldn’t be seeing the falls in all her natural splendor. Nevertheless, that didn’t dampen my desire to visit Aliwagwag a single bit.

Fast-forward to 2015, I was finally able to make the trip with these awesome people…

Aliwagwag Falls
Cateel, Davao Oriental

Aliwagwag Falls is a series of 84 falls, mimicking a stairway with various heights in between steps, ranging from 2m to 33.5m (7ft to 110 ft). The highest cascades are about 22m (72 ft) and 20m (66 ft). Overall, Aliwagwag Falls is 340m (1,120 ft) high and 20m (66 ft) wide. If upright, it is undoubtedly the highest waterfalls in the country!

The Philippines is such a beautiful country; and the fact that I can enjoy its beauty is wonderful. Life, indeed, is full of beauty and wonder.

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To Cateel by Grab Taxi-DavaoThere are two routes leading to Aliwagwag Falls: through Compostela Valley (which we took) and via Mati, Davao Oriental. The latter is the more practical option, as there are many trips going to Mati (via Bachelor Bus Lines), compared with only one trip (via Mallen Express) if going by way of Compostela Valley. Travel time varies from 6hrs to 8hrs.

Since we were pressed for time, we opted to hire an AUV for two (2) days: Davao-ComVal-Cateel-Mati-Davao route.

 

When itchy feet meet crazy peeps…

Mindanao Road trip 2015

I haven’t finished writing about my Northern Mindanao solo journey yet… when, off to another 7-day Southern Mindanao getaway I went… Life. Is. Good.

From SOCCSKSARGEN to North Cotabato and Maguindanao to the various Davao Regions, to the hills and over mountains, to the rivers and seas and above them… it was one hell of a roadtrip with these fun people: very different in many ways, but all together in one adventure!

So what’s the best recipe for a funtabulous journey?

Gather a bunch of crazy, thrill-seeking people, mix them together in an itinerary-less journey, sprinkle with a dash of anxiety [like not knowing what lies ahead], smother with tons of adventure, and garnish with lots and lots of laughter!

Actually, my MAIN purpose in travelling to this part of Mindanao is to witness this:

Tribu Manubiaw of Tacurong Pilot Elementary School, one of the performers/contestant in #Talakudong2015 Streetdance Competition.

Tribu Manubiaw of Tacurong Pilot Elementary School, one of the performers/contestant in #Talakudong2015 Streetdance Competition.

… the annual Talakudong Festival of Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat. More on this soon….

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I still cannot get my mind off this beauteous creation…

Summer is happiness

Sombrero Island, Burias, Masbate

Sombrero Island, Burias, Masbate

Festival of Flowers

The Panagbenga Festival is a month-long annual celebration in Baguio City, the summer capital of the Philippines, which depicts the city’s “season of blooming”.The festival, held during the month of February, is highlighted by street dancing and a parade of floats made from a wide variety of tropical blooms and other organic material.

The Panagbenga is the Philippines’ answer to California, USA’s Tournament of Roses Parade.

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