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The Long Road to Calayan, Babuyan Islands

The Unchartered Territories of Calayan Island 12

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Calayan has two points of Entry: Aparri and Claveria

From Manila:

1.By Air:
Fly to Tuguegarao via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines. There are 3 flights a day bound for Tuguegarao from Manila.
From Tuguegarao, take a 2-hour trip via van to Aparri, or a 4-hour van ride to Claveria

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OR:

Fly to Laoag via Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines. There are 3 flights a day bound for Laoag.From Laoag, take the van to Claveria.

2.) By Bus

A, To Claveria
Take Florida bus route Manila- Laoag- Sanches Mira. It leaves at 8pm and costs Php 750 per way. It will take
roughly 12 hours.

B. To Aparri
Take Florida bus for 14 hours and costs Php 600

C. To Sta Ana
Take Florida Bus for 16 hours and costs Php 650. From Sta Ana, take a van to Claveria or Aparri.

Note: They say 16 hours but we tried this on the way back from Sta Ana to Manila, and it took us 22 hours due to
road constructions.

D. To Tuguegarao
Take Florida Bus or Victory Liner for 12 hours and costs Php 623. You may also take a van to Claveria or Aparri upon
reaching your destination.

Whether you decide to fly or to take the bus, the final options as jump-off points towards Calayan are Claveria and Aparri. From whichever of these, take a “lampitaw” ( an open banca); it is 4 hours from Claveria and 6 hours from Aparri. Take note that the time given is also based on the conditions of the sea. For instance, on our way to Calayan from Claveria, it took 6 hours but on our way back it only took 4.5.

How to Get there:

What We Did

We opted to fly to Tuguegarao and just take a bus back to Manila after all our whole trip for several reasons. First, we wanted to visit the Callao Caves (read my post on it here). Second, the “lampitaw” trip schedule is not reliable, as it is dependent on sea and weather conditions. Meaning, there is a huge possibility that you cannot sail back to the jump-off points on the day you intend to, and consequently miss your flight home. This happened to 2 of our friends.

We also opted for Claveria as jump-off point over Aparri because the schedule seemed more regular from there, and it was also easier for us to find a contact person for the “lampitaw” from there. The contact is important in advising you in advance about weather conditions and information as to whether boats will sail the following day or not.

The “lampitaws” leave Tagat Lagoon in Claveria between 5-7am. We were told that if the “lampitaw” was not ready by 9am, the coast guard would not allow it to sail. We chose MB Jason, the biggest boat that would leave for Calayan that day, and the Captain said that we should be ready by 6am. The “lampitaw” set sail by 8:30am. It took them a while to push the boat out of the shore and shuttle the people in.

The boat trip from Claveria to Calayan usually costs Php 500/person. If there is no big boat sailing on the day you are there, or if you are in a smaller group, weather-permitting, you may haggle with the smaller “lampitaws” to take you. From Claveria on a good day, the captain says it takes 4 hours. In our case, it took 6 hours going, and 5 hours on our way back. The trip can even last longer if the sea is more rough.

The Boat ride from Claveria

My Experience

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I psyched myself to prepare for the worst ride of my life so that hopefully I may find the ride more pleasant than my expectation. The night before, I packed my bags and lined the inside with plastic to protect my things from getting wet. I arrived at the port wearing a rash guard, a rain coat, a hat, a litre of water and a “malong”. I made sure I bathed myself with sunblock. I chose a spot up on the roof deck so that I could lean my back on something. I was lucky I had that as others had to sit for 6 hours with no back support.

The moment the “lampitaw” left Tagat Lagoon, waves started splashing from left and right and it was just hopeless trying to stay dry. Few minutes into the trip and I was already soaking wet, despite my rain coat. The trip had cold wind blowing on us, and splashes of salt water were non-stop. After a while, you begin to not care, but I couldn’t help but keep asking the captain , “Are we there yet?”

Two hours after we left shore, we traversed between two islands that I found really pretty, and was told that these were called Fuga. Apart from the scenic view, this was the closest to calm that the “lampitaw” ride came, since the wind was being shielded by the islands. It was a relief and a good break. However, the moment we left Fuga behind, it was the same scenario yet again. At this point, I thought we were half way. Oh how wrong I was! The captain said that we still had a long way to go.

Since I had some back support, I managed to nap a bit. When I woke up, I saw a silhouette of what they told us was already Calayan. I rejoiced. That silhouette, though in sight, took 2 more hours to get to. I felt like it wasn’t getting any nearer. I was soaked, wet, baked, and I must admit, somewhere along that ride, I questioned myself if it was worth it. Despite being really adventurous, this one required a whole lot of patience. Finally, after all that, we reached Calayan and were greeted with a warm welcome by Mommy Tess.

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Where to Stay

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We stayed in TPS homestay, owned by Mama Tess who is also the Kagawad. She is a mother of 11 children. Mama Tess was very accommodating, and welcomed us with wine which she made herself. Traveling around Calayan was easier because of her.

We had 2 common bathrooms and 2 toilets found near her little garden. There was also a common dining area where we sat down to meet the other guests. Her home had a kitchen where we could cook, for which she only charged us Php50 for gas. The stay was Php 200/head/night.

Just 2 minutes walking from TPS Homestay, you will find 3 convenience stores for everything you need. Our favorite was Gretchen’s Store, since it had the most variety. We got our chips, food, water, and toiletries from them. They were also very accommodating, sharing with us that they used to live in Manila too, but had migrated to Calayan to put up this business there. Gretchen’s Store became our comfort food haven for our daily dose of C2, Stick-O, Hansel, pancit canton and more.

Note: The town of Calayan practices “siesta”, so from 12 noon to 2 pm everything is closed. We couldn’t go out to buy water at those hours since most of the stores were closed.

Contact Details :
Mommy Tess: 0939-9158667
Mommy Tess can also help you arrange schedules for the lampitaws.

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Friendly Reminders

1. Pack your bags inside plastic bags to secure your belongings.
2. Wear sunscreen, the sun up north is harsh.
3. Be prepared to get wet.
4. Have a hat or something to protect your face.
5. Bring a raincoat.
6. Eat light and bring easy finger food just for you to munch on during the journey. Eating too much will make you feel nauseated.
7. Find a contact at the port to update you about the weather conditions.
8. Mama Tess is a good contact person. Message her and she can help you arrange things.
9. Have a flexible schedule since the boat rides are weather dependent.
10. It’s best to go during summer months ( March to May) where the sea is better. During rainy season expect more boat trip cancellations. There is also the possibility of being stranded for a fe days till the trips resume. It is also during this time that humpback whales are spotted in the ocean. They migrate to Japan the rest of the months.
11. The bigger the boat, the better.
12. Be prepared in case one of the engines of the “lampitaws” give up in the middle of the sea. Keep calm; the crew seems pretty used to it and is quite skilled at handling it.
13. There is no globe signal in Calayan. Have a smart or sun sim card for means of communications.
14. There is no electricity from 12 midnight to 12 noon so use the rest of the time to charge everything that you have to.
15. There is no ATMs in Calayan. Bring sufficient cash to sustain you while in the island.
16. Each catered meal costs Php150/head. The bed is Php 200/head/night
17. Town Siesta time is 12 noon to 2pm. Most, if not all, of the stores will be closed.

Related  Articles

Exploring Tuguegarao and Callao Caves
Gone Fishing in Claveria
Discover Calayan

2 thoughts on “The Long Road to Calayan, Babuyan Islands

  1. Hi! We are travelling to Calayan on 27th, may I know if you have contact number of lampitaw driver? thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Lalaine,
      Actually, we just got there and looked for a lampitaw. We just wanted to look for a big boat. Also, not all sail daily so you never know which one will leave. You can try it out when you get to the port. Make sure to make room for plan changes because some days, no lampitaws will leave. It really depends on the weather.

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