Finally, I’ve set foot in one of the country’s hidden gems. I was on assignment in Calayan Island in the Babuyanes and in between, I got to enjoy this piece of paradise in this part of the Philippines. Though it was just a few days, it was very memorable. I’m planning a longer trip later this year. There are two things that strongly comes to mind when Calayan town is mentioned: the row of Bitaog trees in one of its streets and the pieces of corals, shells and small pebbles sloping at an incline that makes for its beach.
The bitaog trees are just beautiful to look. Not as graceful as eucalyptus trees but I like its thick base, then the spread of its branches and leaves. In Calayan, these were planted by the parish priest decades ago and provides a good shade for the townspeople during hot days. Students from the nearby high schools usually sit underneath.
For the beach, its a varied landscape, from rocks to craggy formations, broken corals, white and fine sandy beaches to pebbly with shards of shells and corals blanched by the sun. It provides a different feel to the feet and walking can sometimes be too slow. But then, looking at the beach from the distance, it’s really beautiful.
There are really no piers in Calayan. Cargo vessels and lampitaws (motorized pump boats) just dock at the beach. During noon or afternoon, its not unusual to see these boats anchored and pieces of cargo being strewn along the pebbly coastline. Most of the island’s supply, from hardware goods, fuel, to merchandise, and anything beyond seafood and meat is done this way.
The main town of Calayan is just like any other small town in the country. A third class municipality, its streets are clean and quiet except when electricity, which is only available from 1800H – 0000H, runs. Households become lighted, TVs spring to life and the occasional videoke breaks the silence of the night. And it can go on till just before midnight.
When the light do is out, expect the kinki or kerosene lamp to come out. When I saw this one at the homestay where we stayed, I was quite amused. It’s been ages since I’ve seen this one. Other houses do have their own solar powered batteries and/or generators.
Main public transport is limited to tricycles but fewer and the kuliglig, field tractor converted with a cart attached at the back where goods and people are placed or sit, respectively. Here was also my first time to ride in such a contraption. Kind of slow and really ear deafening. Fishing and agriculture, especially rice, are the main means of livelihood.
Calayan town sleeps early, except those with the videokes. Most of the cement houses are concentrated at the vicinity of the town proper. A few hundred meters into the uncemented road in both directions, the environment start to look different, the bucolic side of Calayan, leading to the coves, the rugged coastline, forested hills and spectacular waterfalls.
Calayan is also the home of the endemic Calayan Rail (Gallirallus calayanensis ALLEN et al 2004), but I will post more about this one when I’ve actually seen one. I’m scheduling another longer trip this September 2011.