I was never a fan of camping outdoors, so my initial response when my friends invited me to go to Calaguas was, “let me check my schedule first.” I wasn’t too keen on the idea of doing a long road trip, let alone sleep by the beach – devoid of all basic necessities. I've always been the type of traveler who likes comfy accommodations. But my love for my friends was far too great to decline an adventure-packed weekend away from the city. And I’m glad that Calaguas didn’t disappoint.
Calaguas is actually a group of islands in the Camarines Norte province, of which Mahabang Buhangin in Tinaga Island is the most visited (Guintinua Island, the minor Maculabo Island, and other minor islands). You can reach the long seashore via an 8-10 hour bus trip to Talobatib, a 45-minute trike ride to Paracale Port (shorter travel time if you get on the bus), and a 2-hour boat travel to Mahabang Buhangin beach.
We decided to stay at Mahabang Buhangin, which provided us a beautiful vista. I was ready to jump into the water the moment we drew close to shore. But I wanted to wait until we’ve settled our things. The beach itself had one of the clearest waters that I’ve seen in the Philippines. Its powdery, white sand was the kind that blinded our eyes during the day. I wouldn’t dare compare its fine consistency to that of Boracay’s sand. But it’s close enough.
I won’t be surprised if the small isle turns into another Boracay, given the influx of tourists that come in and out of the island. Despite not having any affordable food and accommodation options (there was a resort on site but was too pricey), camp sites can still be arranged under small trees that are not too far from the shore.
I do hope that the local government unit would be able to regulate this, as not to disturb the natives, and not spoil the beauty and peace that is being observed in the islands of Calaguas. Further promotion of a local and responsible eco-tourism is definitely recommended.
THE CAMPING EXPERIENCE
Camping "in the wilderness" in Mahabang Buhangin would’ve been my first time sleeping outdoors. If you knew me, and how I am as a traveler, then you know that I have specific needs when it comes to traveling, and one is to secure a place that has a clean bathroom. Anything else, I can stand, even bathing in cold waters. Though I wasn't afforded that luxury, which was very hard on my end. But I did survive.
Of course, there were some eye openers too during our weekend beach trip. I got to help set up a tent (though I eventually flaked out of frustration), and got to assist in cooking our food using just hot coal. I also got to experience bathing amidst a sea of people (with clothes on of course!), several whom waited in line to pump their own pail of water; and got to change clothes in the dark, while wrapped in my malong. I also got to sleep underneath the stars (even without a blanket and pillow), while lying on the sand. It would've actually been perfect if we had an outdoor movie screen arranged near the shore [Need an inflatable backyard screen?]. Watching some feel-good chick flick by the beach would've been nice.
Of course, I woke up with a lot of sand in my hair the next day. But waking up to a gorgeous view of the sea was definitely worth the trip. I loved the adventure of it all, but I don’t think I could ever do the same thing again.
HOW TO REACH MAHABANG BUHANGIN
There are two ways to reach the islands of Calaguas. You can either travel via bus or plane.
If you don't fancy long bus rides, then taking the plane is your best option. You can fly to Naga, and then take a 2-hour bus ride to Paracale.
Choose to ride the buses that are Daet-bound (i.e. Superlines, DLTB, Philtranco). There are bus terminals in Cubao, Buendia and EDSA-Taft in Pasay that you can choose from. The usual fare for a one-way trip ranges from P450-P700 per person. We took the DLTB bus in Taft and got on the night trip, and asked to be dropped off at Talobatib. [NOTE: Make sure to book your seat ahead of time, especially if you're traveling on a peak season].
Once you're at Talobatib, get on a trike (special price in the morning costs P300) or bus, and request to be dropped off at the Paracale Port. From there, charter a boat going to Tinaga Island, where Mahabang Buhangin is located. Renting a boat costs around P3,000-P4,000. But the price offered will still depend on the boat's capacity. Since we were a group of 9 pax, we were able to get the boat for just P500 per person (round trip). You can contact Kuya Ernie at 0947-110-9451 for more details.
Do note that the community in Paracale is trying to organize the boats going to Calaguas. They now have the following tariff rates as of 2014:
1-8 capacity boat - P4000
9-15 capacity boat - P500 each
16 and up - P550-P600 each
Guests are also allowed to trek/climb up Tinago Hills for an entrance fee of P25 per pax. You should definitely do this while staying on the island. A panoramic view of the beach and its surrounding isles can be appreciated from this vantage point.
To know how much I spent for this weekend trip with friends, check out my travel expense sheet HERE.
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