There are more than 7,000 islands in the Philippines, inhabited or not. You can’t leave without finding one that amazes you, that you’d want to go back to—at least in your mind whilst busy pounding on those keys or thinly shredding those chicken breasts for shoarwa, whatever your job is.
But be also prepared to be overwhelmed by pollution and beset by disappointment. Pictures normally are a far better representation of reality. Kalanggaman is no exemption. But I’m not saying I wasn’t swept away. Though I must say I’ve seen better—the likes pictures could not at all give justice to.
Of my Philippine trip, given the limited exposure I had with sandy and sunny locations (shame, I know), I can say Kalanggaman was the highlight, and would love to go back there in a heartbeat, and camp overnight surely.
I went there with my brother whilst in Cebu! From Cebu Northbound Bus Terminal, we took the bus to Maya (PhP300, air-conditioned) bearing in mind we should be there before 3pm—the time boats to Malapascua stop operating for the day. The ride took about 4 long hours due to two-lane roads and many road maintenances along the way. A far-cry from some of the major highways in Luzon and Mindanao—wide and free-flowing there’s hardly any traffic. A few meters away from the Maya drop-off point, boats lay in wait for passengers who wish to go to Malapascua. The boat fare was PhP100 for a 30-minute ride. Not far, in fact you could see the island from Maya.
It wasn’t long until the creamy-white sandy stretch was in plain view. Since it was high tide, a smaller boat had to fetch us to the shore—getting to the smaller boat will test your aligning/balancing skills. Greeting you would be porters offering to have your luggage carried for you to your accommodation. They’d try to also arrange for you to join the following day’s tour to Kalanggaman Island.
Easily, Malapascua is your best option to getting to Kalanggaman Island. It’s the easiest and cheapest to get to and the most convenient stopover. Although displacement-wise, the main island of Cebu is closer, there aren’t known organized boat tours from the mainland. The relatively most-organized are those coming from Malapascua. There were tourists I later learned who got to the Kalanggaman from other islands by renting a boat for themselves and ended up paying a hefty.
Kalanggaman isn’t crowded—at least outside the summer season. Despite the fact that there are plenty tourists coming to Cebu and the neighboring big islands. Maybe Kalanggaman isn’t much of a draw. Thanks in part to non-existent development and more famous relatively nearby heavens on Earth—Coron and El Nido.
The Island of Malapascua, its sand, relatively clear waters, simply put, wasn’t bad. It’s known more to be a diving destination hence the noticeable number of resort accommodations that cater to the diving visitors. There are PADI diving schools naturally. Slicing through the island on foot, you get a taste of island life—playing cards all day, karaoke-ing easily reaching the narrow thoroughfares, the two-wheeled road killers speeding through the swampy dirt roads. We stayed SLAM’s Resort Hotel.
We agreed to join in the Kalanggaman Island day-tour with our porter. We paid PhP100 for the transport of our luggage and made advance payment (PhP500) for the following day’s island adventure. That was to ensure our attendance as well and just so they’d have money to buy food ahead of the tour—we’re having lunch buffet we were told.
We took the porter’s number and was reassured by the hotel’s receptionist she knew the porter—it’s a small island for any local not to know another local—and that the transaction we made with him was legit.
The following day, we ringed the porter to tell him we were ready for pick-up. Minutes later, he showed up ushering us to the assembly point—different than yesterday’s drop-off point. We had to wait a bit until all tourists—an aggregate of each of the boat crew’s draws—were all seated and had settled payments.
It was a windy day, the seas were rough, but on this part of the island. And as the boat sailed past the safe, still waters, waves started pounding our little wooden makeshift of a boat, winged by bamboo, hand-painted and apparently built for functionality hardly thinking of design.
But the boat proved sturdy, resilient, fighting off beatings—slaps, slams and smashes. A lot of it had to do with the captain—yes apparently anybody manning the steering wheel here is a captain. The awe-inspiring maneuver—the stopping of the motor, the speeding up to evade big waves and the slicing through approaching waves—all while the half-traumatized tourists are holding on, proved a sight to behold.
I remember my boat ride to Sohoton Cove. We had a similar smaller transport. A boat for locals getting from the main island to Siargao that doubled as a tourist boat, was far scarier, braved the far more violent Pacific Ocean waves. One could easily separate tourists from the locals. Other than the sunblock-glazed skin and the I-saved-for-this glow of the branded sunglasses, tourists would hold on to whatever sturdy material they could and fight the movements, while the locals just went with the movement with no hint of anxiety. Like it was just some rocking chair kind of hurly-burly.
Back to my Kalanggaman trip. An hour into the ride, we came across a diver-packed boat that had some motor malfunction. It had to be tugged to the shore.
End of summer, start of rainy season, I expected some last-minute weather changes, which was the case as we neared the island. It was the last few minutes until we could get off the boat and dip our feet onto the sea. Torrential rain poured that elicited screams initiated by Japanese tourists (we later befriended staying in the same resort), like it’s some acid raid that by all means had to be avoided. People retreated to the back side of the boat, under the protection of some makeshift roofing causing the boat to tilt backwards. My initial reaction was to get to the front allowing the boat to level off. The captain quickly demanded for his crew to get to the front to join me to brave the really harmless but cold rain. Every unessential people on board marched forward, levelling the boat.
We got so near the shore, the crew went on to do the disembarking procedures when a few started jumping off. Everyone finally got off the boat and was told lunch would be prepared for us. The crew made precautionary instructions/announcements for the passengers’ safe stay on the island.
The island had a concrete structure—some communal hall where we had lunch eventually. There was another half-concrete structure selling water, ice, and what-have-you. Other structures were made out of bamboo lined across the less-rocky but this time wavy beach line. There were tents scattered everywhere of tourists who stayed or are staying overnight. There weren’t that many people either as I mentioned already so it did not feel at all hectic nor commercialized.
First order of the business was of course to check out the sandbar that supposedly stretches far to the sea. But since it was high tide, much of it was submerged. But hints of its beauty were visible and it was good enough for now, we thought. We ran around chasing and getting chased by waves until we decided for a dip.
We went to the still side of the island. There we dipped until our bodies got tired. We then got to the wavy side of the sea for some thumping and whipping masochism.
Until we checked out the hall for our much-awaited lunch. We were served grilled pork belly, grilled fish and eggplant, some sour vegetable salad, seemingly unlimited rice and watermelon, and retail soft drinks in bottles too.
We paid the island entrance fee and decided to walk to the far side of the island. We walked and found this really serene, rocky part, a beach line that wasn’t attracting any crowd. It felt like we were the only ones on the island for a second. Then we got to the tip of the island. There was a treehouse standing.
We were the only ones here. You kinda figure why. As you go deep into the sea, you feel the sharp corals or stones. Unless you enjoy a bloody bath, I discourage getting your lazy ass dipped here. So we headed back to the finer-bottomed part, getting some salt for the skin and some tan to be told our boat was leaving soon. We walked back to the boat now docked by the sandbar. As we got near the boat, we could see the sandbar slowly revealing itself. The tides were receding. Ahhh, the seeming endless elusive heaven was showing up just when we’re about to sail back.
Surprisingly, the sandbar was deserted. And while the crew was sorting out the island entrance fee collections (a couple was accused of not paying, but insisted they did to some crew they could not remember who), we all had the chance to just take pictures of this piece of heaven. We saw what we came to see. Wished I could stay longer!
Get to Cebu City. There are plenty daily flights coming from Manila and other major cities. Mactan-Cebu International Airport is Cebu Pacific’s hub.
Take the bus from Cebu North-bound Terminal to Maya (4 hours, PhP300).
Ride a boat from Maya to Malapascua (30 minutes, PhP100).
Malapascua-Kalanggaman boat ride takes about 1.5 hours and costs PhP 800 for a day trip with lunch, plus PhP150 (PhP 500 for foreigners) Island Entrance Fee.
We stayed at SLAM’s Resort Hotel. It doesn’t have its own beach line. But beach is walking distance. For rates and other accommodation options, check out Booking.com.