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A traveler’s guide to amazing Calayan Island

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Weathered by the elements, Calayan is now set to welcome the visitor, too tired of so many tourism promises, only to be gypped by unscrupulous travel agents. Here, luxury can have a new dimension. Luxury in these jewel islands means the ability to discover the island’s many and varied attractions.

The island is only for the brave tourist. As every islander is prone to tell, ‘you have to pass hell before paradise’. Take that literally. From the ports of Sta. Ana, Aparri and Claveria, be ready to set sail on a rather treacherous giant waves. Here, ‘giant’ is again literal as the waves are biggest in this part of the Babuyanes. For some five to nine hours depending on where you take off, be ready for a wet party on board.

While on travel, you remember “The Ancient Mariner” from old English literature as it said, “water, water everywhere but not a single drop to drink’. Don’t fret. If you’re lucky, a family of dolphins will be on guard to your outrigger boats (lampitaw) or you can have the rarest of rare chance to meet the beautiful and gentle humpback whales which has declared that part of Cagayan’s creation as their feeding and breeding grounds for centuries.

Calayanos are beautiful people, literally and otherwise. Their character has been moulded by the challenges of their environs which they successfully tamed for their own benefits. Forget postcards, or uploaded social media videos. In Calayan, it’s Reality Tourism and nothing else. The long travel is all worth it, with a hundred and one bonuses awaiting the visitor.

Photo by Kurdel Paroy
Photo by Kurdel Paroy

A former part of Batanes islands, Calayan’s natural features are akin to that of the former. Gentleness here is spelled with a capital ‘G’. In fact, Calayanos are always mum about their natural wealth. They allow people talk about it. That way, the gentleness and humility are safety tucked on their sleeves.

Except for a few homestays organized by the Department of Tourism and one or two modest resorts, the visitor is allowed to explore and discover its secrets. Celebrated by the world for its discovery in 1998, the Calayan rail (Garillalus calayanensis) remains as elusive as ever and preferred to stay out of sight from prying eyes, deep in the mountains of the main Calayan Island.

The Calayanos don’t use paper or gas to start fire to cook their food. They simply use hardened sap of a certain tree to fuel the fireplace. There’s a small beach bird here where it lays eggs much bigger than its body and buries them on the sand. The bounty of the sea is all for the taking that the Calayanos will never go hungry.

Like Ivatans, the Calayanos are survivors and are eternally self-sufficient. In fact, there are times they feel neglected and abandoned by the national government but their environs have been so kind and generous that they just dismissed it as fate.

By now, the tourist have heard of Sibang Cove. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. Start by discovering ancient burial grounds. Coves abound and hidden swimming areas which can rival the best natural pools in the world are wanting discoveries.

Ever heard of ancient giant clams? Up in the mountains of Calayan, they are there, embedded on solid rocks. While in Calayan, forget lanzones and catch the Sidai season. On its windswept beaches are thousands of hermit crabs, in all their majestic colors and hues, you think they deserve to have their own barangays.

Photo by Kurdel Paroy
Photo by Kurdel Paroy

Once I travelled from Sibang Cove in Barangay Dadao to Centro Calayan one evening. I thought my eyes deceived me. There on the waters were thousands, nay, millions of colourful lights dancing with the waves.

“Those are jellyfish,” the boatman told me.

This writer will not pre-empt your discoveries and that is the reason why I didn’t mention the other offerings in the islands. You’ll go to Calayan to discover it yourself. That’s what adventure tourism should be. Meantime, forget this article and set your sight for Calayan summer of next year.

In Calayan, Calayanos don’t talk about their islands. People do.

By Benjie De Yro- northernforum.net

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