Disconnect And Reconnect- Calaguas, Camarines Norte


The Calaguas Islands can be found in the province of Camarines Norte. Its white beaches and crystal blue waters can rival the bigger and more popular beaches of the Philippines. Our adventure happened on Tinaga island, one of the two major islands.  Mahabang Buhangin beach is a virgin beach that has the advantage of it not being overcrowded and how staying here is a lot cheaper. There are plenty of activities to do on the island to get away from the toxicity of the city.

We travelled with TipidLakbay where Php 2500 includes a van to and from Cubao to Paracale if they reach 10 visitors for the date you picked. In our case, we were given bus tickets. It also includes the boat ride to and from Paracale and Calaguas, 5 gallons of water, cooking utensils, and a tent. It’s not as worth it if you don’t have the van because you don’t get to go to Bagasbas Island on your second day which was part of the package. This made me sad because you can go surfing on Bagasbas Island.

This is how our trip went:
We had to catch the 7:45 pm bus at Superlines Cubao, endure a 10 hour bus ride, a short tricycle ride then a 2 hour boat ride. It was very tiring. From Calaguas to Manila, we were advised to leave the island at 10 am. We arrived Paracale at around 12:30 pm, had lunch and finished at around 2 pm then they wanted us to wait for the 7 pm bus at Paracale. We didn’t like this because there was nothing to do at the place for 5 hours. They were uncoordinated. Their itinerary said we were supposed to go to Bagasbas but there was no way for us to go to Bagasbas without the van, and the money given to the OIC (officer in charge) was only enough for the bus trip home. None of them would answer our texts or calls. When a secretary talked to the OIC at Paracale, she was confused why we weren’t going to Bagasbas. We decided it would be too much of a hassle to go to Bagasbas with all our luggage since commuting there would require several vehicle transfers. They decided to give us the money and advised us to take a tricycle for Php 30 to the van terminal then take a van for Php 50 for kids and Php 60 for adults to Daet where the Superlines bus line is located then catch the 4:15 bus for Php 515.

I can’t say I was pleased with TipidLakbay and their unprofessional behavior. However, since I was still high on endorphins from the island, I didn’t mind as much. That’s how beautiful the island was.

There’s a Php 200 per head fee for the island  which included bathing water which was a good deal. Otherwise, we would have had to pay Php 10-Php 100 per pail depending on the size. Php 500 for the rent of the cottage, which is a good investment because it gives you a more comfortable place to change clothes, a table where you can eat, and you can keep your valuables inside the cottage and lock it. It rained while we were here so we took out the table from under the roof of the cottage and set up the tent there. The sand was softer than the bamboo floor of the cottage but it still hurt. The next day, I saw somewhere in the island that you can rent a mattress, so make sure to do that.

There is no electricity and absolutely no cellphone signal on the island. At night they have a generator and provide an incandescent lightbulb and extension cord per cottage.

The crabs and lobsters are very fresh and cheap so make sure to ask the locals about it. You can pay a fee for them to cook for you or you can cook them yourself. The crabs were for Php 200 per kilo and the lobsters were for Php 700 for 1.5 kilos.

The beach has crystal blue water, fine white sand,  and a scenic view. It was fun and not a lot of people were there. After swimming on the beach you can go island hopping for around Php 500 per head (it still depends on your haggling skills), but we decided not to go island hopping anymore. After swimming, we decided to talk to each other and the locals, play games, and just bond as a family. Then I decided to settle in with a book and just enjoy the ocean view. At nightfall, we watched the sunset then went stargazing. It was amazing since we were so far away from any light pollution.

The island has a lot of activities in store. I woke up at 6 am and started trekking. The weather was perfect, there was a cool breeze and I watched the sun rise as I trekked up. It was a 20-30 minute trip up. It was very steep at some parts and it was muddy because it was drizzling, but it was still manageable. At the top, I felt like you could see the entire island. There were kubo huts you could rest in and duyans or hammocks. They also sold fresh buko juice. There’s a Php 20 entrance fee at the start of the hike then another Php 20 just before you reach the very top. Some get a tour guide for another Php 20 but I decided not to since all they really do is bring you up the trail, but the trail is pretty defined. I heard there was another way, a shorter one but steeper that required a tour guide since the trail wasn’t as defined. I opted not to get a tour guide and just explore the mountain on my own.

Kayaking was very fun for me. For only Php 250 per hour, I got to explore the water a bit more. I also decided to rent snorkeling gear (just goggles and a tube though, I couldn’t find fins) for only Php 100 per hour. You have to get these at different booths though since the place with the gear doesn’t have kayaks for rent, and the kayaking place doesn’t have gear for rent. This way, I could get off the kayak at the deeper parts and see the corals. In the last picture, I’m pretty far from the shore and my mom asked a local to tell me to come back since the current is a lot stronger there. Make sure that if you’re not kayaking with anyone, you have someone watching you if you’re getting too far, or you be extra mindful. I didn’t even realize that I was too far from the shore already since I was so relaxed.

Everything about this trip was definitely outside of my comfort zone, the restrooms looked like they were set up overnight, sleeping conditions were pretty bad since we didn’t find out about the rentable mattress, there is no electricity so there are no electric fans or air-conditioning. Don’t worry though because there was always a nice breeze, which was nice. Most importantly, there is no cellphone signal and Wi-Fi. I had to disconnect from civilization. I had to disconnect from my friends, from the comfort of everyday living, from the internet. This also meant I was able to disconnect from the stresses of everyday living, from all my responsibilities because I had no way to check up on them and they had no way to contact me. I was able to reconnect with nature, to really just enjoy the simple things of life and admire the beauty of the earth. I got the chance to reconnect with my family, having fun with them without any distractions. Our phones have always been like a wall between us, and this trip helped us bring that wall down. I reconnected with myself; I got to do what I loved without thinking “oh I have to put this on Snapchat or I have to tweet this.” I was able to read a book, be in peace, and reflect on life. It was like going on a mini retreat.

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Calaguas isn’t an easy trip. It takes long hours to get to the place, the place isn’t luxurious, and your body will probably hurt from the awkward sleeping positions. Do I wish there was a comfortable room with a bed and air-conditioning? Maybe. Somehow though, it was all worth it. The place is beautiful, the locals are very friendly and helpful, and you feel at peace after the trip. Best of all, I got to reconnect with what’s important. Calaguas, isn’t an easy trip; it’s an adventure.

A fun, less challenging and different kind of adventure can be traveling to Bolinao, Pangasinan.

Cost breakdown with TipidLakbay:
Transportation, tent, cooking utensils, 5 gallons of water- Php 2500
Island and water fee- Php 200
Cottage- Php 500
Trekking with a tour guide- Php 60
(Trekking without a tour guide- Php 40)
Kayak rental for an hour- Php 250
Snorkeling gear rental for an hour- Php 100
Island hopping- Php 3,000 for 5-6 people or Php 500- Php 600

Total: Php 4,110-Php 4,210
(Php 4,090- Php 4,190 if you opt not to have a tour guide)

Cost breakdown if you’re not traveling with travel agencies:
Air-conditioned bus from Superlines Cubao to Paracale- Php 515
Boat from Paracale to Calaguas- Php 4000 for 5-6 people or Php 670- Php 800
(This can still depend on your haggling skills since some boatmen charge more than Php 4000 for 5-6 people. I’m not sure, but some locals said that if you are less than a group of 5, you will still have to pay Php 4000)
Bus from Paracale to Cubao- Php 515
(This isn’t advisable however because there are less available seats when it arrives at Paracale. You may have a hard time getting a seat, especially if you’re a big group.)
(If you decide to do what we did:
Tricycle to van terminal- Php 30
Van to Superlines Daet- Php 60
Bus from Daet to Cubao- Php 515)
Island fee- Php 150
Water for baths assuming you take a bath twice a day and use three Php 20 pails: Php 240
(This may not be enough though because it’s difficult to get rid of all the sand)
Cottage- Php 500
Trekking with a tour guide- Php 60
(Trekking without a tour guide- Php 40)
Kayak rental for an hour- Php 250
Snorkeling gear rental for an hour- Php 100
Island hopping- Php 3,00 for 5-6 people or Php 500- Php 600

Total: Php 3,500- Php 3,710
(Php 3,260- Php 3,690 if you opt not to have a tour guide)
(Php 3,570- Php 3, 800 if you opt to travel home the way we did)
(Php 3,550- Php 3,790 if you opt not to have a tour guide)

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