Kalanggaman Island | Palompon, Leyte
I have been to Kalanggaman Island four times; from the bygone days when getting there meant roughing it to this generation of arrive-post-leave travel style. And here I am already thinking of my 5th because this island is just wise beyond their years.
Kalanggaman is one of those islands that I call sensational. It’s small but filled with big adventures. It’s pretty but not overwhelming. Above all, the island is clean & still keeps much of its natural grace.
Kalanggaman Island: Because once is not enough
Especially among young travelers, being seen on Instagram in different spots after another is somewhat a badge of coolness. They hardly even visit a place again because ticking off as many destinations as they can on their bucketlists are a race.
Yes, because #FOMO. Yes, because #YOLO!
But for me, Kalanggaman Island is different. It’s not just some sand-dusted place that floats off the shores of Palompon, Leyte. It’s an island that harbors many years worth of stories.
There’s Always a First Time
I was 15 when I first visited Kalanggaman Island. This was in 1990 & back then tourism was unheard of in this side of Leyte. Internet was still a myth so there was no pressure to get our escapades out in the universe in 10 seconds.
Photos came in rolls of 16 & 24. We called it Kodak.
I don’t have photos of it anymore but I vividly remember how it looked like. The island was jungly & the sand was littered with so much dried leaves. There was nothing except for few small makeshift tents out of nipa leaves. It was like a scene ripped from a castaway movie.
Sweeter the Second Time Around
It took me twenty-three years to visit Kalanggaman Island again. This time was probably the sweetest because I spent my birthday there. There was no candle to blow but I had wind on my fat cheeks. There was no fanfare but I had crickets serenading me all night.
And I had someone with me inside the tent, under the moonlit sky.
In 2013, tourism finally peaked at its shores. Boats shuttled in frenzy. Tents weaved through the lush landscape as vendors anted around. There were more picnic huts as well as stores.
Then came mega cruise ships. Mobile phone signal. The ice cream man. And the rest is history.
Third Wheeling on Third
I got my third chance of visiting Kalanggaman Island in 2017 when I ushered a honeymooning couple I met in Malapascua. It wasn’t hard to sell the idea at all — I just showed them a picture of the sandbar & we sailed. Third wheeling was harder.
It’s impossible to talk about the island without mentioning its white sandbar. After all, this 365-meter stretch of velvety & blinding sand floating in lapis lazuli sea is what creates the photographic enigma of the island.
It’s still the same Kalanggaman Island — where people bask by day on the beach & party at night. But parties here are far from the wild ones you imagine. It means over grilled fish, rhum coke & spotify. Then everyone retires back to the tent & let the crickets & the lapping waves take over.
Oh yes, there were more ice cream man. And the chapel was gone.
Back & Forth on Fourth
Just when I thought that I had enough of it, I was there again on my fourth of sorts. It was just a half-day trip — swift but sweet. I was content to fill my time swimming & feasting on jackfruit because I am way past beyond #FOMO.
But I noticed though that the wooden teepees are gone & the restrooms are better maintained. Wonderfully, there are still no electricity & running water. And more new ice cream man.
Obviously, I love Kalanggaman Island. Every repeat trip here is always a delight. It seemed easier to explore; the island keepers feel like old friends & it’s simpler to find joy in nothingness.
The beauty of visiting a place more than once is finding comfort in the familiar. And for me, Kalanggaman Island is one speck of a pretty spot I’ll always be excited to visit over & over.
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Betwixt and between the arthritic 40 and a horrendous body mass index of positive 30, escapism and yummyeology are my real-life double post-graduate degrees conferred with the highest honors. I lived nearly half of my life in fancy suitcases, jetsetting between reality and fantasy... read more