CAGAYAN, Philippines- Lying in a vast blue sea in the northernmost Luzon, the Calayan Island is now rising to be one of the most unexplored destinations in the entire Philippine archipelago.
Here in the island, luxury can have a new dimension. Luxury in this jewel island means the ability to discover the island’s many and varied attractions.
Calayan Island is one of the 29 towns in Cagayan province. It is neighbored to the country’s northernmost province, the Batanes Islands.
The island is only for the brave tourists. As every islander is prone to tell, ‘you have to pass hell before paradise’.
From Metro Manila, the capital of the Philippines, you have to travel to the ports of Sta. Ana, Aparri and Claveria towns in Cagayan province, and be ready to set sail on a rather treacherous giant waves. Here, ‘giant’ is literal as the waves are biggest in this part of the Babuyan Seas. For some five to nine hours depending on where you take off, be ready for a wet party on board.
While on travel, you’ll have to pass different islands, including the Camiguin, Fuga and Dalupiri Islands.
Don’t fret. If you’re lucky, a family of dolphins will be on guard to your outrigger boats or locally known as, 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.
As you arrive at the ports of Calayan, you’ll be welcomed by smiles and hospitality of the local residents. There are no taxis, or cars for rent in the island. You will have to ride an improvised cargo motorcycles, or a rural vehicle called kuliglig.
Now slowly waking up as a serious threat to other established destinations, the island municipality including its barangay islands can give others a run for their own money in terms of attractions. As many other islands in the country, Calayan has its own unique attractions to offer. One of them is the Sibang Cove.
Sibang Cove, with its high walls of rocks, offers adventure tourism while one can lazy his days on fine white sands with rock formations characterizing the contours of the shorelines.
The cove also features rock formations where tourists can dive from to green and clear seawaters.
Just beside the cove is the Nagudungan Hills. From the seashores, you’ll have to climb a steep hill. From above, you can watch the vast blue ocean, beautiful rock formations, and the sunset. Its mountains speak of giant clams embedded on rocks and have since then generated interests among archaeologists worldwide.
After a sunset viewing, you can visit an ancient burial jarsite at the foot of the hill. It is believed to be where the old Calayanos buried their dead.
The island also prides a cave called Lussok, in English, a hole. It can be reached through a 30-45 minutes boat ride. From the boat, you can see the twin holes of the cave. The cave features black and scaly rocks, and a clear green lagoon, best for diving and swimming.
After Lussok Cave, you can visit a nearby falls called Bataraw. The falls is measured to be at least 30 feet. Not so high but good enough for swimming as the water is only waist-deep.
Other tourist attractions in Calayan include the Malangsi Falls and Cave, the diving and snorkeling sites, the Camiguin Smith Volcano in a nearby island, the Calayan Community Church and the long coastlines of white beaches and resorts.
But with all these tourist attractions, possibly world-class, in this small community in the North of the country dubbed as Pearl of the Orient Seas, the locals are still striving to give what they call a comfort and safe haven for visiting tourists.
Mayor Alfonso Llopis told Rappler that over the years, the group of small islands of Calayan has received barely enough funds to develop and boost its local tourism, as most of the road networks going to different tourist attractions are yet to be concreted.
From the poblacion alone, tourists have to trek and walk for an hour or more just to get to the nearest and most accessible tourist attraction, the Sibang Cove. Most of the attractions could only be reached by boat.
Aside from the unpaved roads, one of the main challenges for tourists and even for the locals is the inadequate source of power from all over the main island.
The power, supplied by the National Power Corporation, only operates for 12 hours, from 12 noon to 12 midnight. You’ll have to thrive the warm weather in the summer seasons.
The island also has no school for tertiary education. While there was once an operating “extension” of the Cagayan State University, mayor Llopis said the teachers have since been pulled out and they have yet to talk to the university officials. With this situation, students who want to pursue college are forced to move out to the mainland Cagayan.
But with the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, Llopis hopes that there will be “aggressive” funding from the national government as even the Department of Tourism’s new secretary had seen potential to the island.
With an airport expected to open not sooner this year, the island is now preparing for the influx of more tourists.
The island town’s tourism focal person Erick Natividad said they are now working on the accreditation of hotels and resorts, tourist inns and homestays to assure the safety and comfort of the tourists.
He said the airport is set to open on August this year, and the local government is admittedly unprepared.
This situation has led them appealing to investors to put up hotels and resorts businesses to cater the needs of the tourists. Published in Rappler.com/Northernforum.net