Archive for the 'Leyte' Category

12
Apr
14

Philippines : Kalanggaman Island, Again!


Kalanggaman is a stunning Philippine island destination located between Leyte and Cebu. During my  first visit to the island in 2011 the town of Palompon in Leyte served as our jump off point to Kalanggaman.  In 2013, I planned my second trip to the island from Malapascua in Cebu where I was spending holidays with my friends, a Dutch and Filipina couple, with their two adorable kids.  I wanted them to experience the island too.

IMG_7331It was a lovely day as we left our base, Malapascua Island in Cebu.

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We took a boat right in front of our beachfront hotel.

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Oh yes, we were all excited. Our boat was small so it took us around one and a half hours to reach the island.  A bigger boat can reach the island from Malapascua in one hour or less.

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The approach to the island gave me goosebumps.  The aquamarine waters around the island were stunningly clear.  The eastern sandbar was visible creating a thin white line along the horizon.

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The sun was almost mid-morning high and it made the stunning sandbar shimmered as we passed through it. I was caught between fainting and taking the perfect shot of the breathtaking view while the boat was drifting fast, curving the sandbar towards the northern shore.
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And this was the end of the sandbar.
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The north shore approach was also thrilling because of the glass-like waters.
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Finally, a signage of the island.  It was not there yet two years ago.
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As usual we situated ourselves near the northern beach.
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The scenery was just a feast to the eyes!
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And it was time to dip in the crystal clear waters!
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Then it was time to take our lunch.  The tour  operator included our food in the tour package. Chairs and tables were available for rent.
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After lunch, we rested for a while and the sandbar caught my attention again.
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The next activity was to take that long walk to the end of the sandbar.
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It was time to take my self shot on the sandbar.
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A few more minutes and I would be at the end of the island.
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Finally I reached the end of the sandbar.  My camera stand was not with me so I positioned the camera on top of a coconut husk, set the timer on, ran to the side of the  sandbar and  this photo was created.  Me and my favorite little island in the Philippines!
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It was already past noon time and with the sun slowly venturing down to the west, I went back to the main shore as we prepared to leave.
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We approached Malapascua as the sun was setting.
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As we reached Malapascua and alighted from the boat we were treated to a stunning display of yellow, pink, red-orange and purple in the skies.
I’d love to take this Malapascua route again to Kalanggaman, an island that I will never get tired of visiting.  My every visit to the island is always entirely a different experience.
Click HERE for my first visit to Kalanggaman in 2011 where we experienced an unbelievable sunset when we had an overnight stay in the island.
24
Jun
12

Philippines: The Top Beaches


I have always loved rankings of world beaches but when no Philippine beach appears on the lists, I would surely get disheartened. How could someone produce the list of the top 10 beaches in the world when in fact they have not seen all! They could have just come up with the title, “The best beaches we have seen so far!” Sometimes, you cannot understand why a beach in filthy Kho Phangan in Thailand is ranked higher than the immaculate beach in Playa del Carmen in Mexico. CNN produced a list of the world’s 50 best beaches and it created overwhelming disapproval when beaches in the Greek Islands, in Bermuda and in the Philippines’ Palawan were missed out. Also, Yahoo Travel featured an article ranking the Philippines’ best beaches and I thought it was not so properly done, placing El Nido at the top without specifically singling out any of El Nido’s famed beaches.

That’s why I came up with my own ranking of the Philippines’ best beaches.  This is supposed to be a counter post to the Yahoo Travel article and a counter punch to the CNN article that only had one Philippine beach. In this post I have ranked the Philippine beaches that are so underrated when it comes to world rankings. I have included in the list only the beaches that I have visited so far and those that are not private. At the end of this post, I have also mentioned beaches that could have been included on the list if I have visited them.  You can click on the hyperlinks that I have provided for more information and photos on the area or beach included on the list. Here goes the list of the top Philippine beaches that mesmerized me.

16. PINAGBUYUTAN ISLAND, EL NIDO, PALAWAN

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Survivor closed this island for months and I missed stepping on its beach when I first visited El Nido. I was extremely disappointed because it was not easy traveling 6 hours by bus to reach the stunning Bacuit Bay only to find out that one of your target island destinations has been shut off to the public. Anyway, this island took my breath away during my first visit even when we were just passing by it. The white sand beach shimmered at the base of the limestone island towering high above everything else in Bacuit Bay. It was indeed a memorable experience to spend some time on this island during my second time in El Nido.

15.  BULOG (DOS), CORON, PALAWAN

Getting off the boat for a short stop at the tiny, inhabited island of Bulog Dos in Coron, I immediately blurted out that it would be a perfect site for a beach wedding upon seeing an abandoned, huge hut.  Definitely, there will be no gate crashers!  I had a hard time choosing this over its neighboring Banana Island but I chose Bulog Island to be in the list because of its small size, double beach of fine white sand and a sand bar that connects it to a neighboring island.

14. LONG BEACH, SAN VICENTE, PALAWAN

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Hailed as the next major beach destination in the Philippines, Long Beach in San Vicente, Palawan has an incredible 14 kilometers of unadulterated beach, reputed to be the country’s longest.  Lately, land prices have risen five times in value as the area gears up for development. An air strip is already being constructed as San Vicente is currently a grueling 4 hours drive away (some on unpaved roads) from Palawan’s capital city of Puerto Princesa and 2 hours away from the world famous El Nido. Although the beach is not as white as the other beaches on this list, it is included mainly because it is still naturally pure as we encountered dragonflies and dolphins when we were hiking some seven kilometers of the overwhelmingly long beach. And I am not finished yet :  we had the entire stretch of Long Beach to ourselves!  Talk about a really remote beach.

13.  SIQUIJOR ISLAND

Just an hour away from Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental is the island province of Siquijor. Known for its witchcraft, magic and sorcery tales the island surprises every first time visitor. Coco Grove Resort owns approximately 800 meters of the finest stretch of white sand beach in the island. Be careful though as eager sea urchins wait to prick your feet as the beach guards do not clean them away to preserve the abundant aquatic life surrounding the island.  Diving is also excellent. To top everything else, the unbelievable sunset is the best and most fiery I have experienced ever!

12. DUMALUAN BEACH, PANGLAO ISLAND, BOHOL

Bohol boasts of unique attractions like the world-famous Chocolate Hills and the smallest primate in the world, the Philippine tarsier. Dumaluan Beach is located south of Panglao Island in Bohol.  A great stretch of the beach is fronting one of the exclusive resorts in the island, Bohol Beach Club.  A better alternative than the crowded Alona Beach 2.5 kilometers away, Dumaluan Beach is also a great spot for romantic sunsets.

11. LAHOS ISLAND, CARAMOAN, CAMARINES SUR

Caramoan Peninsula is composed of gorgeous islands scattered around its bay.  Lahos Island is one of them and it is one of the islands used for the Survivor series shoots. In fact, Survivor has inked a contract with the local government to use the islands for 10 years calling Caramoan the Home of the Survivor.  Lahos Island’s short beach area is actually double sided and is accented by limestone formations at its ends. It is quite a trip to Caramoan. From Naga City in Camarines Sur, you can take a 1.5 hour ride to the port of Sabang.  From the port of Sabang, you need to take a 2-hour boat ride to the port of Guijalo.  From Guijalo you need to take a 20-min land trip  to get to the other side of the peninsula that is a short boat ride to the different islands of Caramoan.

10.  MALAPASCUA, CEBU

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The northern part of Cebu island, the most visited island in the Philippines, has a number of great beach holiday choices.  One of them is Malapascua Island which can be reached from Cebu City in 4 hours.  Although the island is more famous for its world-class diving, the white sand beaches lining its shores are equally amazing especially the other side of the island where there are no resorts. 

 

 

 

9. PUKA BEACH, BORACAY, AKLAN

PukaNot as spectacular as White Beach in Boracay, Puka Beach has fans of its own though. This is a very good alternative when you want to get away from the crowd in White Beach. I have enjoyed solitude on this beach many times.  Just a 15-min ride from White Beach, it has no resorts fronting its shores but only tiny souvenir stores and a long-standing restaurant that easily became my favorite base in the area.

8.  BANTAYAN ISLAND, CEBU

Taking almost the same north bound route of the 4-hour land travel from Cebu City to Malapascua, taking a left detour will lead you to Hagnaya Port. From there, Bantayan Island is a short boat ride away.  Compared to its neighboring island, Malapascua, a diving haven, Bantayan is larger and has more mainstream beaches with wider shores.

7. HELICOPTER ISLAND, EL NIDO, PALAWAN

With scenic views of neighboring Cadlao Island and the rest of  the islands around El Nido’s Bacuit Bay, the beach at Helicopter Island is for me the golden beach of El Nido.  A regular stopover for one of the 4 El Nido island tour packages, Helicopter Island does not have the usual white sand beach but the clear jade waters are so irresistibly inviting.

 

 

 

6. SECRET BEACH, MATINLOC ISLAND, EL NIDO, PALAWAN

Not a secret anymore to those who have visited it, the beach’s secret remains on where it is hidden. The only way to access the beach is by swimming through a very small opening beneath limestone cliffs that could be dangerous during monsoon season when the sea current is strong as the waves could bump you into sharp rocks when going through the small opening.  However, when you get inside, you could probably utter that you have never seen and experienced anything like it before! The short stretch of  white sandy cove at one end of the area enclosed by towering karst formations is said to be the inspiration of Alex Garland’s The Beach. Secret Beach in El Nido deserves to be in the top 5 for its uniqueness. It is a beach like no other.

 

 

 

5. ENTALULA ISLAND, EL NIDO, PALAWAN

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I have visited Entalula Island only during my second visit to El Nido but the beaches surrounding this island truly took my breath away.  Glass-like waters, soft white sand and stunning views of Bacuit Bay were the factors why I rated this beach so high.  Some part of the island is private and owned by Ayala Resorts but there are still parts of it that is open to the public so I still included this in the rankings.

 

 

 

 

4. CALAGUAS, CAMARINES NORTE

Calaguas Island‘s Long Beach is mostly drawing local tourists who want an absolute beach getaway especially during the summer months.  The tough two hours trip on mostly choppy seas can easily be shrugged off once you get off the boat and set foot on the amazing beach. There is no electricity, no resorts and no potable or running water. You need to bring your own food and drinks, your own tent and your own sane self.  During Holy Week, the beach becomes alive with organizers bringing generators, lights and speakers for that once a year Reggae Night.

 

 

 

3. KALANGGAMAN ISLAND, PALOMPON, LEYTE

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One of the islands creating great impressions lately to first time visitors, Kalanggaman has gorgeous waters surrounding it, the clearest I have seen anywhere else. Its stunning main beach and two sand bars are worthy of the one hour journey from either the port of Palompon town in Leyte or Malapascua in Cebu. Palompon is around three hours drive away from Leyte’s capital, Tacloban City and one hour drive away from Ormoc City. Malapascua is 4-hour drive away from Cebu City. An overnight stay here is needed to experience the island spreads its wings like a bird when it reveals its two sand bars located at its eastern and western tips. Kalanggaman got its name from “langgam” which means bird in Cebuano dialect.  Like Calaguas Island, there is no running potable water, no electricity and no resorts so the tiny island can give you a perfect natural beach experience. A full moon experience in the island will surely be unforgettable too!

 

 

 

2. WHITE BEACH, BORACAY, AKLAN

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Boracay’s White Beach has been consistently making the world’s best beaches list and it has been the standard of a beach in the Philippines. I only gave the number 2 spot because of the massive crowd especially during peak season.  It is one thing to enjoy people watching but it is another thing to be annoyed by the noise and commotion of eager tourists. I either escape to Friday’s or Boracay Terraces Resort located at the end of White Beach or hie off to nearby Puka Beach to escape the crowd. I still love White Beach after all these years. What made it almost to the top position in my list are its incredible qualities that also propelled it to the top of the world’s best beaches list: the gentle slope, the amazingly clear turquoise waters and its signature sugar-fine white sand that is probably the finest, softest and whitest I have ever seen.

1. MALCAPUYA ISLAND, CORON, PALAWAN

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Topping the list is a beach on an island located one and a half hours away by boat from Coron mainland in Palawan. Malcapuya Island has the best beach in the Philippines for me, for now. Pristine, lovely, unadulterated, tranquil.  The underwater scenery is also spectacular. One of the reasons why it maintains its natural beauty is that no boats are allowed to dock on its shores. The docking area is located at a rocky area at the back of the island a few minutes walk to the main beach.

So that’s how I have ranked the Philippine beaches I have visited.  What do you think?

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The following 4 beaches are surely to be included in the list if I have visited them.

SABITANG LAYA, CARAMOAN, CAMARINES SUR

 
Sabitang Laya has probably the best beach in the Caramoan Peninsula.  The island is triangular in shape with two sides forming a V-shaped beach meeting at a unique formation of black limestone.We missed this island during a recent visit to Caramoan. You just have to get the right timing that the island is open to public and not used by Survivor shooting (yes Survivor’s the culprit again!).  Survivor has rented the Caramoan islands for 10 years but during shooting breaks the islands are opened to the public.
 

PULO BEACH, PAMALICAN ISLAND, PALAWAN

A stunning island among Cuyo Islands in Palawan’s north east coast, Pamalican Island has been chosen by Aman Resorts as the site for its only property in the Philippines, Amanpulo Resort.  The island boasts of powdery, white sand beach lining its entire coast!  It is quite a challenge to reach this island as only chartered 19-seater planes can land on the private air strip and only guests of the exclusive resort can set foot in the island with room prices starting from US$1,000 per night.  This island resort is often visited by famous Hollywood and local stars. Naomi Campbell, Mariah Carey, Claudia Schiffer, Tom Cruise, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert de Niro, and Diana Ross were among the past guests.

CAMIGUIN ISLAND

The island province of Camiguin is one of Mindanao’s paradise island destinations.  The volcanic island boasts of pristine white sand beach, cool waters and untouched jungles.  The island can be reached via Cagayan de Oro City with a short drive to Balingoan where you can take a boat to the island.

CALAYAN ISLAND, CAGAYAN VALLEY

Recently featured in Cebu Pacific Air’s SMILE magazine, Calayan Island is a stunning revelation.  Although it is a long journey to the island, the island is worthy of a visit with its clear waters, secluded coves and spectacular cliffs.
Philippine beaches rock, don’t you think so?
12
Oct
11

Philippines : Kalanggaman Island


It all started as a casual plan to escape the searing Philippine summer heat and hie off to a beach destination to cool off.  The unanimous, top pick by common friends was a pure, unadulterated island in central Philippines, Kalanggaman Island. Where is Kalanggaman Island?  First, we need to locate the Philippines in the world map.

The Philippine archipelago, made up of 7,107 islands, is located in Asia just above the equator.  It is directly south of Taiwan, southwest of Japan, southeast of China & Hong Kong and west of Vietnam and the South China Sea. Manila (its capital city) and Cebu (its oldest city) are the Philippines’ main international gateways.

Kalanggaman Island is located in the Philippines’ Visayas region (islands marked in green).

Kalanggaman Island is situated between the islands of Leyte and Cebu (another tourist island destination).  It is nestled off the shores of Palompon town in Leyte and can be reached in 1 hour by boat from Palompon jetty terminal.  How can one go to Palompon?  Here are the options.

  • From Ormoc City, Palompon is 1-hour drive away.  Ormoc City can be reached from Cebu City via a 2.5-hour ferry ride.
  • From Tacloban City, Palompon is 3-hour drive away.  Tacloban City can be reached via a 1-hour plane ride from Manila or via a  35-min plane ride from Cebu City.

Kalanggaman got its name from the word “langgam” meaning bird in Cebuano, a Philippine dialect spoken widely in Central and Southern Philippines. With its two sand bars at its western and eastern tips, when viewed from above it looks like a bird with its wings fully spread out.

We took the boat from the jetty in Palompon.  It was already pre-arranged by my friend who was from the town.

Introducing the cast of the island escapade: Cristina and her son, Kyle. Phines and his niece, Angel.

Bambi, myself and Adam.

Clockwise from left: Romana, Lea (our friend from Germany), Jonas and Adam.

From left: Jonas, Gay , Adam, Cristina, myself and Romana. We were all excited to go.  Among the group, only Jonas has been to the island.  He grew up in Palompon and his last island visit was many years ago.  He was our hero as he arranged mostly everything we needed for this trip from our transportation (van and boat), food and other overnight needs.

An hour after leaving Palompon, we finally caught a glimpse of the tiny island.

The light blue horizon line at the right was actually the submerged eastern sandbar.  It was noon and high tide time when we arrived.

Yes, that’s  Kalanggaman Island in the background! The approach to the island was absolutely thrilling!

A quintessential island paradise, Kalanggaman is surrounded by turquoise waters so tempting for anyone to quickly jump off the boat upon the final approach to the island.

This was the view of the northern part of the island where the white sand beach is located and where boats usually dock.

We initially camped at the northern part of the island near the immaculate beach less than a mile in length.

For lunch, we feasted on the food that we brought. Shown here is a popular Philippine beer, one of the boozes we brought into the island.

Just as we were busy munching on our savory food, tourists from nearby Malapascua in Cebu, a diving haven two hours away by boat, were arriving in the island past lunch time.  A 1-hour Kalanggaman stop is usually included in Malapascua diving tours itinerary.

Afterwards, most of us immediately went to dip in the beach under the scorching heat of the midday sun.  The sleepy heads went to take the needed nap.

Then, we had the group jump shot; well some could not really jump!

The ladies jump shot.

The men jump shot.

Around mid-afternoon we relocated to the eastern tip of the island near the sand bar as the hut fronting it was vacated by day trippers.  There are only about less than ten huts that island visitors can use.  The Palompon town government needs to be advised if you are visiting the island as they need  to make sure there is no overcrowding in the island wherein everyone needs to pay the 200 pesos per person environmental fee that goes to the maintenance of the island.  There is no developed resort, no potable water & no electricity in the island. Only two squeaky clean toilets, the island police and the huts including the one where the police camped. The island police are always ready to help cook freshly-caught seafood and they can give you advise on anything you want to do in the island.

Our camping site was surrounded by the blindingly white sand that was a few steps to the…….

…eastern sand bar, shown here with the high tide slowly receding.  If you want to truly experience the island’s beauty specifically its two sand bars during high and low tides, you need to spend overnight in the island which we did. Unless you visit the island very early in the morning and leave in the late afternoon of which the latter is usually not possible as the waters become dangerously choppy.

We spent more time having fun on the beach waiting for the perfect time to visit the western sand bar.

Even if you can visit the western sand bar via a speed boat during high tide it is still useless to go there as it is completely under water. As the high tide receded, we ventured into the western part of the island via its southern slimy rocky enclave…..

…passing by colorful shells.

We arrived at the western part of the island just as the sun was about to set.  This view (the camera) was facing south.

This was taken with the camera facing east with the sun setting in the west providing excellent lighting to expose the island’s finest white sand.  Yes, the western part of the island has the best sand.

And so we had the group jump shot again.

Well, with the camera facing northwest, it just had to be me, alone.

And finally with the camera facing west, the sun created a sensational golden, dramatic & endless backdrop . And that concluded our tour of the western sand bar.

A short downpour and the fast approaching sunset prompted us to race back to the tip of the eastern sandbar….

…to catch and watch the sun finally disappear behind the beautiful island.

So captivating a sunset that without myself in the portrait would be a grave personal mistake.

With the sand bar completely visible, it was a joy to just sit on its banks…..

..and watch the sun completely allow darkness to set in.

And so it was night.  This was the main hut where the island police stayed.

Time to party and drown in the music of our deafening stories and laughter…..

We shouted, we jumped, we danced, we created our own music, we did whatever we wanted as we had the island to ourselves!

And suddenly we were on the beach….

then back to our hut.

We lost track of time and in just a wink of an eye, we were…..

…awake again!

We were stunned by the early morning view!  This absolutely took my breath away! I almost cried in disbelief that I was seeing this!

With or without me, the view of the slowly submerging eastern sand bar was truly amazing!

With the amazing view, it was just fitting for everyone to be truly crazy capturing those memorable shots.

Being thrilled was an understatement of the emotions I had then to see the glaring white sand meeting the turquoise waters and clear blue skies!

This was the cove leading to the eastern sandbar. I had to race against time before it became submerged again so I had to….

…slowly move away from the main island until….

.. I fainted (just kidding).

Back to the other characters, many were having fun….

…others were just lazing in the crystal clear waters….

…and some were just contemplating and enjoying the amazing views realizing we would be leaving in just a few hours. And most of us did the “jump”!  Here’s how everyone fared.

Cristina.
Jonas.
Phines.
Romana.
Lea.
Bambi.
Myself.
And it was time to say goodbye.
I could say this was truly an unforgettable island experience. Maybe it was because I was completely immersed in admiring every detail of the island’s serene beauty having been completely cutoff from the outside world with no access to the internet and television. Or maybe it was because of the sheer enjoyment of being in the company of fun-loving, adventure-seeking and down-to-earth individuals. Nonetheless, the island itself was an absolute gem on its own, outshining every other possible reason why I have ranked this trip as my best island adventure ever.






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