Keep Kalm at Kalanggaman Island

Bunched along with the other passengers inside a cramped up van I awoke at the sight of blue waters edging the shorelines of Western Leyte. I suddenly felt inching closer to my destination. I sent out a text message to my friend Gaye “I think I’m 20 minutes away from Pamplona”. Dizzy from my ride I meant to write “Palompon”, a thriving municipality gifted with a fertile coast that also serves as a jump off point to Kalanggaman Island.

drone shot of Kalanggaman island
Kalanggaman Island\s trail of beauty

True enough, after a short while I found myself joining my friends Gaye, Edgar and RJ who were all fresh from a wild weekend of partying in Cebu for the Sinulog Festival, while I myself is coming from a similar festive high courtesy of the Ati Atihan festival in Kalibo. A few days recuperating in an island appears to a bright idea for our body to stay away from alcohol. Or so I thought.

Gay Mitra
Our forever muse, Gay Mitra the PinayTravelJunky

Keep Kalm at Kalanggaman

The boat ride over the calm waters took less than an hour and halfway through we were already staring at the long sand bar of Kalanggaman Island laid outstretched like both arms of a human figure. Ahead of us the turquoise waters becomes more enticing to jump into. The full glint of the sun made the backdrop more captivating as glitters of the island’s sand shines from afar. As our boat tapers of its engine and we glide slowly over the crystal clear waters, I heaved out a sigh of anticipation at a full day of being idle at this island.

the sand bar of Kalanggaman
Kalanggaman Island's sandbar even extend during low-tide

Edgar keeps telling us to ‘Keep Kalm at Kalanggaman’ while reminding us of a bottle of vodka he brought with him. Stories about how wasted they end up during the recently held Sinulog Festival floated around like narratives of wartime acts of bravery, followed by bursts of laughter from Gaye, our forever muse and one of the most jovial travel companions I’ve ever had.

Nothing to but beach-bum all day
We quickly set up camp with our rented two-man tent which we managed to fit our four bodies later that night. The relentless beam of the morning sun forced us to take refuge under a tree where we lounged the whole afternoon sharing stories over grilled chicken and pork liempo. Our small group inhabited the island along with half a dozen boatmen and caretakers and a handful of other campers. Because it was a weekday, we avoided the usual influx of visitors so we feel like having the whole island for ourselves. In no time, our tiny band of merry pranksters have achieved a natural high even without the use psychedelic drugs.

Ready, set, action

Our drug is comprised of the unruffled beauty of Kalanggaman Island even if we were reduced to munching chips by late afternoon, the visual feast was enough to nourish us throughout the next day. We laid over the sands in wait for the gorgeous sunset that later showered us with golden rays - hovering over the glistening red skies that made figures of fishing boats and little kids playing, a spectacle of silhouette from a distance. By nighttime we only heard the sizzles of the waves, our surroundings only illuminated by the solar powered lamp posts and above us we stared at the infinite dots of stars adorning the dark skies. Over shots of vodka stories of past travels, of places we love and despair reigns over the serene island further bonding us four to a deeper camaraderie.

That indescribable feeling of finally stepping foot at Kalanggaman Island

Having four bodies trying to sleep inside a two-man tent can really force you to learn to doze up sideways. I awoke in the middle of the night with a numb left side as I can barely feel my arm, so I decided to lie on a bench outside the tent but the spectacle of the stars kept me awake until sunrise.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Despite of the cold wind blowing outside, I lay staring at the ceiling of our universe and wondered about similar planets located within one of those billions of stars. Not only I was Keeping ‘Kalm’ at Kalanggaman Island, I also find myself speculating if we are ever alone in the vast infinite space I see above me. For over an hour I was consumed by this thought.

The green part of the island

Waking up in Kalanggaman Island

Not surrendering to the magnificence of the sunset, the sunrise at Kalanggaman more than hold its own. Dishing a spellbinding picture of fiery red skies as it slowly engulfs the remaining darkness with the morning light, the ambiance around the island turns notches more surreal. All four of us started shooting pictures of the sunrise and explored the other part of the island decked with limestone cover leading to the other side where a smaller sandbar can be seen.

You can buy the freshest catch from the local fishermen

By early morning during the time of the day when the waters starts to recede, one can see the whole stretch of the sandbar Kalanggaman island is known for. I and Gaye walked towards the edge of the extended sandbar so far that when I turned my head I saw the towering coconut trees of the island starting to dwarf from my view.

Walking over the entire sandbar is some kind of wonderful

I sat and stretched my feet barely enough to dip it into the waters and stared longingly at the clear waters while feeling the fine sands over my hands. Slowly, the musical thundering drum beats of the Ati-Atihan that has clouded my mind for the past few days have been slowly replaced by the melodious jingles of the waves – accompanied by the sweet laughter of Gaye from the background, as she was busy telling a story, unknowingly that my mind was already contained by the charms of Kalanggaman Island. 

How to Get To Kalanggaman Island

Kalanggaman Island is roughy three hours from Tacloban City. You can take a bus or a van from Tacloban City going to Palompon, Leyte. From there, you can rent a boat at the Tourism Office located at the port for a 20 minute boat ride to Kalanggaman Island. 

Cebu Pacific Air flies daily from Manila to Tacloban. Check out their website for seat sales and other amazing deals and follow their Facebook page to subscribe to more useful travel information.

*Drone image from Femme Mia Panlilio* 

*This article appeared on the May issue of Cruising: Going Places travel magazine*