Back in 2008, I remember my officemates coming to work on a Monday with dark chocolate sunburns and raving about an island whose white sand doesn’t get hot even in midday and water as clear as a swimming pool’s. The “magical” island was called Tinaga Island which was part of the Calaguas group of islands located in Camarines Norte. When you get to the island the only available accommodation was your tent pitched on the powdery beach of Mahabang Buhangin and you answered the call of nature, well, by nature itself – it was definitely an unspoiled island.Eight years later, I had the opportunity to visit Calaguas, thanks to the great efforts of Aldous who runs the blog www.aldousatetheworld.com. After eight hours of a zig zag dark road trip and an hour of the not-so-calm part of the bangka ride, we were welcomed by a picturesque view of Mahabang Buhangin– the blue sky bordering the green rolling hills that meet the gleaming white sand being engulfed every now and then by the waves of a turquoise sea. From afar we could make the outlines of small houses and tents beside tall coconut trees spread across the shore but just over the end of it, an organized array of bahay kubos stood out where a dark haired dog was watching us – I secretly wished that place was where we were staying.When the motor was finally turned off and the boatman parked the bangka, we stepped out of it and our feet sunk on the creamy sand as we headed towards the bahay kubos I saw earlier, a smile spread across my face because not only did we make it alive in this beautiful island, we were going to stay in one nice place! As we walked nearer, I saw that a small wooden picket fence stood between the sand and grassy vicinity of the resort, near the entrance were two tree branches supporting a wooden plank that had a carving of a “W” logo and the words “Waling-Waling.”We entered through an opening marked by a tall coconut tree and was greeted by the friendly resort manager who led us to our designated rooms.The pathway was consisted of cemented wooden planks, upon looking closely, I saw charming printed details like leaves and a paw print – dogs seemed to be marking this place as their own too. Different plants such as ferns, anahaw, and baby palms beside bougainvilleas, gumamelas, and yellow bells blended with the orange and brown pottery spread across the lawn where a row of a two storied bahay kubos were erected on one side and a line of cabanas stood on the other.The cabana was elevated from the sand and two steps would lead you inside a small room enough for two people to comfortably sleep on the floor. There were no walls but kawayan blinds which falls down to the floor ensuring one’s privacy.
The resort manager stopped in front of one of the bahay kubos with the veranda and informed us that we were staying there.A set-up of bamboo furniture matched the abaca wall of the first floor landing; it was such a chill area – even the dog thought so too.Behind the wall was the open-air bathroom where I was so relieved to see it clean, had a faucet and shower with running water… and a toilet that perfectly flushed! The bonus part was the kawayan wall and tree branches covering its gaps so one can take a hot shower without fear of being seen.I wondered where will we sleep. We climbed the stairs to reach the veranda where a cushion and a couple of pillows laid on top of a bamboo bed frame overlooking the sea – it was time to finally get the vacation rest I needed.But I didn’t end up sleeping nor did my other companions; the sun and the salty breeze allured us to go for a dip in the beach and play All Saint’s Pure Shores in our heads. If Calaguas was a woman, she was stunning, with her blue and green eyes, silky white skin and curvaceous body; no wonder people would go though a long way just to see her.We almost forgot that we haven’t yet eaten if it wasn’t for the smell of food coming from the kitchen. The restaurant was located at the entrance of the resort, a long wooden table with benches on each side was positioned in front of two columns of rubber plastic picnic tables, all protected by a nipa roof from the sun and rain. Diners can enjoy the view of the beach while being served local dishes prepared by an endearing-mother-like cook. Our meal consisted of crabs and fried chicken paired with Bicol’s famous Sinantolan which is grated santol meat stewed in shrimp paste and gata garnished with some spicy green sili. The server informed us that meals are scheduled in the resort because some of the food items came from the markets of Paracale, the town where the port of the bangka we rode was in. Just imagine, everyday the staff travels an hour to the market and an hour back to the island to supply food for the guests because the island’s terrain is not enough to grow livestock and crops to feed its inhabitants.We finished lunch by 12:30 PM and there was nothing in our agenda until 5:00 PM so I decided to cool myself in the water. Facing the resort, I saw a Filipino couple sunbathing on the sand while listening to some lounge music, a foreigner walking towards the beach from the cabana, and children playing under the mushroom-like canopy of the tree. This was life without the city stress and mobile signal, everything was slow and people had time to enjoy the sand and sea on a hot afternoon.
At 5:00 PM, we started walking away from the resort towards the trail that led to the hill. Along the way, we saw that there were other bahay kubos offering accommodations as well but did not possess the aesthetic landscape and serenity that Waling-Waling offered. Mounted along the shore were several tents beside mocked-up cooking stoves.
We exited the beach and entered a gate onto the vast green field where cows were grazing, locals heading back home, and a couple of tombstones stood in the middle of the field. When you’re in an island having a vacation, it’s easy to forget that the paradise is also a home for others who live and die in it.
After ascending a muddy and rocky terrain we reached the flat part of the hill where tall grasses danced to the sea breeze and two bahay kubos stood together like an old couple watching over the vicinity of the island. Locals and vacationers enjoyed the view and pulled out their phones because according to legend, it is the only part of the island where one can syphon a mobile signal.A couple more twists and turns led us to the edge of the hill that overlooked the whole 1.27 kilometer stretch of Mahabang Buhangin.
Around six in the evening, we were welcomed back by the romantic side of Waling-Waling, its soft amber lights casting over the sand and the cold breeze carefully fluffing the nipa canopies of its bahay kubo – no picture can do justice. Scrumptious dinner was perfected with the view of the moon shining over the sea and the sound of gentle waves crashing on the shores.
The sleeplessness and tiredness wore on so we decided to call it a night and headed to the bahay kubo. My tummy full and the sound of the waves lulling my mind to slumber had me dreaming of a beautiful orchid called Waling-Waling that bloomed in an island, its petals alluring more people to visit the wonder that is Calaguas.
Beat the heat this summer and head over to Waling-Waling Eco-Village. For reservations email them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact them at +63915.100.0000 or +63912.600.0000.