The search for the next Boracay: Kalanggaman Island, Leyte
There is never a shortage of beautiful places to see in the Philippines. But if beauty alone is not enough for you, this tiny island in the Visayas will surely help you find your center.
From the inviting turquoise waters and the white sand to the unobstructed view of the sky, everything about Kalanggaman Island just speaks peace.
Nestled between Cebu and mainland Leyte, Kalanggaman belongs to the municipality of Palompon. It spans only about a kilometer and features sandbars on the eastern and western tips that when viewed from above look like wings of a bird in flight.
Palompon Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer (MENRO) Raoul Bacalla said "langgam," in Cebuano, means bird; hence, the name of the island. He said the eastern wing stretches to about a kilometer, while the western wing is some 300 meters long. The latter used to be longer, he noted, but it never recovered after Typhoon Yolanda hit the place.
The island carries some sense of exclusivity because only 500 tourists are allowed at any one time. Bacalla explained that this number is based on a study on the carrying capacity of the island and is a non-negotiable.
It is easy to survey Kalanggaman from one tip to the other in under an hour. A word of caution: while palm trees fill the island, the sand burns where there is no shade, especially during midday, so it is advisable to wear aqua shoes.
While fine, white sand greet tourists on the main beach, a small portion of the island is covered in coarse sand; another in pebbles and shells. A stretch along the western side is rocky. This makes for a fascinating, almost adventurous walk.
Possible activities on the island include swimming, snorkeling, diving, and biking. However, Kalanggaman is best enjoyed for the rawness of its beauty.
Looking toward the horizon will keep you grounded — that you are just a tiny speck on the vastness of Earth.
At dusk, you should head over to the western side of the island to witness the setting sun.
There is no electricity on the island, but solar-powered lamps light up the otherwise pitch black night. On the upside, the absence of light pollution makes stargazing really enjoyable.
Loud music is not allowed at night so you are sure to enjoy the serenity of the place.
Kalanggaman is the perfect place for those who want to recharge mental pressures and emotional stresses. You can pick your own spot and savor some alone time to listen to the sound of the wind against the leaves of trees while watching the dance of the graceful waves. It will definitely help calm the nerves.
Remember, however, that before making a trip to Kalanggaman, you need to secure a slot to visit the island. Call Palompon Eco-Tourism Office at (053) 555 9731 or 0926 816 4005 to check if they can accommodate you on your preferred date.
Take note of the following island holidays:
June 5, 2018 - Island cleanup: no overnight bookings
July 9-17, 2018 - Island holiday: repair and maintenance of facilities
September 4, 2018 - Island cleanup: no overnight bookings
October 3, 2018 - Island cleanup: no overnight bookings
November 7, 2018 - Kayakers' Night: no overnight bookings
November 8, 2018 - Kayak Marathon: no day tour nookings
December 2-3, 2018 - Lawig Festival: no bookings
Finalize how many persons are going, and decide if you will be joining other guests for the boat ride, or if you will be keeping the boat all to yourselves.
HOW TO GET THERE
The official jump-off point to Kalanggaman is Palompon Eco-Tourism Office. It is a three-hour road trip from Tacloban and a two-hour road trip from Ormoc.
From Tacloban or Ormoc, you may reach Palompon via bus or van. There are also car rental services you may opt to avail. Depending on the car type, car rental can cost you anywhere between P1,500 to P4,000 for 12 hours.
At the tourism office, you will pay an environmental fee. Filipino tourists who are not residents of Palompon are charged P150 for day tour or P225 for an overnight stay. International tourists are charged P500 for day tour and P750 for an overnight stay.
Once payment has been made, you will then wait for other tourists to fill in a boat or wait for your private pump boat to arrive. For a 15-passenger boat, rental is at P3,000, a 25-passenger boat costs P3,500, and a 30-passenger boat costs P4,000. Additional P500 will be charged for overnight stays. For sharers, rental will be divided by how many heads have availed of a boat.
Getting to the island from the wharf will take about an hour.
WHERE TO STAY
If you plan to stay overnight, you either pitch your own tent or rent an open cottage on the east side of the island. Rates range from P250 to P700 depending on the size of the cottage.
If you feel like glamping, on the west side of the island are tipi huts offered by Jeter Beach Resort, the only resort on the island so far. You may book with them by calling 0917-5874984.
A tipi hut costs P1,000 each and can accommodate a maximum of four persons. You still need to bring your own pillows and blankets if you do decide to avail of the tipi.
Palompon MENRO's Bacalla said they will only stick to basic accommodations so as to preserve the integrity of the island.
WHAT TO DO
If you seek fun, there are kayaks, stand-up paddles, and banana boats for rent.
If you need speed, rent a jet ski.
If you want to inspect life under the water, swim, dive, or snorkel. However, swimming is prohibited along the sandbar during high tide because of strong currents.
If you want to roam around the island, rent a fat bike.
If you need to feed your soul, pick a spot away from the crowd and enjoy solitude.
WHERE TO EAT
In Kalanggaman, you have to bring your own food. You may grill your food at the cooking stations on the island, but you have to bring your own firewood or charcoal.
There is no supply of fresh water on the island, so remember to bring potable water as well.
WHAT TO BUY
The public market is near the Eco-Tourism Office and you may purchase your food and other camping needs there.
Shirts and souvenir items are also up for sale at the Palompon Eco-Tourism Office.
For the hygiene-conscious, fresh water is scarce, and shampoo and soap are not allowed on the island. You can only take a full bath back in the mainland so skin cleansers may come in handy if you’re staying overnight. Mosquitoes are not to be feared as they are inexistent on the island.
Before departing the mainland, all tourists will be given two trash bags: one for biodegradable, another for non-biodegradable. If you are not accustomed to sorting garbage, best to review what decomposes and what doesn’t. You will be required to bring your trash from the island to the mainland. Comply and help maintain the island’s beauty for the next batch of tourists.
Photos by Ker Oliva
Aerial shots by Val Cuenca
The search for the next Boracay series: https://news.abs-cbn.com/specials/next-boracay
TIPS FOR RESPONSIBLE BEACHGOERS
1. Respect the surroundings. Don't leave your trash on the beach. Better yet, don't create trash. Avoid buying drinks in plastic bottles, using plastic straws and plastic bags.
2. Respect marine life. Don't disturb turtles, fish and other creatures. Don't step on corals because those things are fragile.
3. Respect people. Avoid playing loud music that disturbs others. Be sensitive by wearing appropriate clothing. Wearing bikinis near churches, schools or offices may offend the locals.
4. Patronize establishments that don't pollute. If your hotel's drainage leads directly to the sea, maybe it's time to check other accommodations.
5. Pick a beach that doesn't get a lot of people as congestion puts stress on the environment.