“Gale Warning.” To a traveler going around the Philippines, it is a bane word to hear. Every time I hear that, I get dejected. Gale warning means no boat will be allowed to sail out to the sea and I have to think of Plan B.
This is particularly frustrating if you have travelled for over 24 hours to get to a port where you are to take the boat that will take you to your island destination, only to be told by the Coast Guard that no one will be allowed to leave.
This happened to me on my first attempt to go to Kalanggaman Island. On the day that I arrived in Palompon port, we were told that a gale warning had been issued on the Eastern Seaboard of the Philippines including the islands of Leyte and Samar. In my younger days, I could have argued with the Coast Guard that the Eastern Seaboard only includes the Pacific side and not western part of Leyte. But many years of travelling have taught me never to argue with authorities. Gale warnings to me now mean that my island destinations are not yet ready to show me their full glory.
And so on my next attempt to go to Palompon to see Kalanggaman Island, the gods of nature had made sure that the day would be perfect. There was hardly any wind as our boat sailed off from Palompon. And when I first caught a glimpse of Kalanggaman, it was glistening white in liquid blue crystal waters.
Kalanggaman Island is probably this season’s hottest island destination. Its sand bars on both sides of the islands are enough reasons to bring travellers from all over.
Viewed from above, the island looks like a bird in flight. The sand bar forms the right wing of the bird and the island its body. In Cebuano, “langgam” means bird and not ant.
How to get there
Getting to Kalanggaman requires a lot of patience. The island is actually located mid-way between Palompon, Leyte and Bogo, Cebu. The municipality of Palompon has jurisdiction over Kalanggaman.
For those coming from Manila, there are several options. The quickest way is to take a direct flight to Tacloban. Flying time is one hour and 15 minutes. From the airport, take a tricycle to the new central terminal in Abucay. The van terminal is eight kilometers from the airport and the tricycle fare is P150. At the central terminal, take a UV Express going to Palompon town. Fare is P150 and travel time is three hours.
An alternative is to take a bus (fare is P1,700) in Cubao bound for Tacloban. It takes 27 hours combining land and RoRo (roll-on roll-off) transfer to reach Tacloban. It stops at the central terminal and from there, take a van to Palompon.
From Cebu, it is also possible to reach Palompon. From the Cebu City north terminal, take a bus to Bogo. Travel time is three hours. From Bogo, the Super Shuttle Ferry sails daily at 12 noon direct to Palompon. One can also take a fast craft from Cebu to Ormoc, and from Ormoc a van to Palompon.
From Palompon port, sailing time to Kalanggaman is around three hours. Visitors are required to make advanced bookings first at the Palompon Tourist Office, particularly during peak seasons as the municipality only have a limited number of boats (as of this writing about 30) allowed to sail to Kalanggaman. Roundtrip boat transfer costs between P3,000 to P4,000 depending on size. Visitors are required to pay P150 or P225 for daytrip or overnight trip, respectively. Foreign visitors pay three times higher.
What to see, what to do
The island’s main attraction is its raw beauty. People come and come back to enjoy the island’s laidback feel, or like being castaway with no electricity and no fresh water for days.
But people come to see and to take selfie on its sand bars, both stretching at the end of the island, particularly the one over a kilometer long on the east side. The sand bar is pure powdery white, and it snakes out of the crystal azure blue sea. The one on the east is shaped like a crop circle that hides its size when the tide is high.
The island interior is filled with coconut trees. Further west is a narrow path with giant pandan trees growing on both sides. Midway through the narrow path is a lovely chapel looking at out to the sea.
Most visitors simply laze around under the sun and cool off on its crystal water. But there are other things that one can do like do some snorkeling or kayaking. At night, when everything is dark and quite, one can enjoy some stargazing. And in between night and day, the rising and the setting of the sun make a small dramatic splash on Kalanggaman.
Where to stay, what to eat
There are no sleeping facilities on the island and so visitors must be ready to sleep on a tent by bring their own or renting from the Sandugo shop adjacent to the Palompon tourist office. There is also no fresh water on the island and the only way to clean up after swimming on salt water is to either bring big gallons of mineral water or to wait until one gets back at the tourism office where there are clean showers.
Those who do not wish to sleep in Kalanggaman can get overnight lodgings in Palompon town. Traveller’s Inn, PACCI House, Whispering Beach, Hutton House and Juan Titang Beach Resort offer accommodation in Palompon. The tourism office also has a dormitory for rent on its second and third floors.
Food on the island is also bring-your-own as there is no sari-sari (variety) store there. Visitors can buy fresh fish at the market at the back of the tourism office, bring it to island and cook them over charcoal. Just like a castaway!
This isle is in Palompon, Leyte, Philippines. It looks like a smaller version of Boracay Island. What is unique about it is its magnificent sand bars, both stretching at the end of the island. Unlike other beach resorts, this island is not always crowded. When you get here, you’ll feel like you’re a castaway in a beautiful way because the island will be your home for the day, and you can do everything you want including – swimming in its crystal blue beach, snorkeling to see its majestic underwater gems, kayaking and many more.