After one in the morn, we strolled past unlit houses, closed shops, an empty transport terminal, and intrigued stray dogs. If not for the distant sound of a karaoke machine playing and three balut sellers oddly stationed beside each other along Palompon municipality’s main drag, I would’ve imagined it as some post-apocalyptic town. Empty streets. Few signs of life. Balut as the only sustenance available.
But that’s postmidnight in Philippine small towns for you. Early eves and early morns. Our motley bunch of three had just arrived via ferry from Cebu. Whilst Edgar of Eazy Traveler wandered about in search of a place to lay our hungover heads, I gobbled on a balut and sat my balikbayan arse with new-found travel bud RJ, who Edgar introduced to me in Sinulog. Ahh, Sinulog. The whistles continued to ring in my ears in the stillness of Palompon night.
The decision to stay in PACCI (pronounced paksi) was brought about by, well, having no other option. The town offers a limited choice, and accommodations don’t have 24-hour check in service except for PACCI. Our room for three had a balcony, a small bathroom (no hot shower), and two twin beds put together to (awkwardly) fit us all. For P1,200 with aircon, it’s a pretty good deal. Especially cause we had a view of St. Francis Xavier Church and it’s close to the Eco-Tourism Office where we were to book our Kalanggaman Island trip. Despite the threadbare sheets and not having a pillow (because the two blokes got them), I conked out straight away.
Next day started with a bit of a sleep in. PACCI has a cafe/restaurant downstairs which conveniently offers breakfast meals. After a relatively late breakie, we set off to buy food that was to last us until morn next day (there’s no food sold on Kalanggaman Island). Everything’s a short walking distance from the hotel. Wet market, a chicken rotisserie stand and grocery stores — one of which we spent ages in because we were too amused with its random imported goods. Like, yah know, Himalayan pink salt bottles and far infrared anion complex sanitary napkins(?!).
Not long after we managed to pull ourselves out of that black hole of a supermarket, Marky of Nomadic Experences (fresh off a van from Tacloban) joined us. Our gang of merry campers was finally complete. After grabbing our rucksacks from PACCI, we headed to the Eco-Tourism Office which is housed in a cheery yellow building across the equally cheery Palompon Liberty Park.
As of writing, here are the fees to pay for an island visit:
Entrance and conservation fees
Day Tour/Overnight Rate
International tourist P500/P750
Non-Palompon tourist P150/P225
Non-Palompon college student P40/P60
Non-Palompom high school student P30/P45
Non-Palompom elementary student P20/P30
Non-Palompon senior citizen P120/P180
P3,000 – capacity 15 (smaller groups are to pay the same amount)
P3,500 – capacity 25
P4,000 – capacity 30
Cottage (depending on size)
Tent rental from an outdoor gear shop just outside the eco-tourism office:
P250 (they’ll prolly say it’s good for 4 but only good for 2)
Unfortunately, we had to split the P3,000 boat rental amongst just the four of us because we didn’t find other people who wanted to stay overnight on a Tuesday. We left the dock just before noon and the boat ride — made interesting by flying fishies gliding above water for meters and meters — took only an hour.
Three flights (one intercontinental), a ferry ride and a pump boat ride (not to mention two sleepless Sinulog nights) to get there. With breath held, I hopped off the boat and completely wiped out the memory of all the hassles I battled with just to sink my feet in its famed sandbar. The huge expense was worth it.
Island stay’s nitty gritty:
1. There are no resorts/hostels on this teeny island. Bring a tent or hire at the outdoor gear shop outside the eco-tourism office.
2. Eco-tourism office provides two garbage bags: 1 for biodegradable rubbish and 1 for non-biodegradable. Use accordingly.
3. There’s solar-powered lamps on posts, we were also provided a gas lamp. Bring flashlights to use in tents or trips to the bathroom.
4. There are a few bathrooms on the island, toilets are flushed with buckets. That means you bathe with water off buckets too.
5. Bring cooked food or bring meat to grill. There are barbecue pits on the island (you’d need to bring charcoal as well). Bring lots of water, though there’s bottled water available at the lone, small store.
6. Could get chilly in the wee hours so bring garments to warm you up.
7. Check schedule of last trip to Tacloban City if you’re heading there straight after the boat ride from Kalanggaman Island.
Also, take note of the designated areas for certain activities:
Our overnight affair mostly consisted of gorging on roasted chicken and puso (trust a Cebuano in finding puso for you), chugging tequila we bought from that curio shop (I mean, supermarket), lazing on the sand, and me shoving coconuts on my chest for photos to make fun off. Time well spent, I’d say.
How to get to Kalanggaman Island from Manila:
Take early morn flight to Tacloban and ride a three-hour van to Palompon.
From Cebu: Check http://www.cokaliongshipping.com for schedule. We booked tourist beds for P495 each. Ferry departs from North Reclamation Area, Cebu City.
From Malapascua: Several operators offer this service as a package tour (with lunch). It’s about an hour and a half to two hours direct to Kalanggaman.
Palompon, Leyte accommodations:
PACCI (Palompon Community Multi-Purpose Cooperative)
*Google maps don’t have accurate info regarding location so please refer to map hereunder. X marks Eco-Tourism Office.
Cafe by the reception now open. Meals start at P70+
Corner Evangalista and San Francisco Streets
Whispering Beach Resort
P. Del Rosario Extension
On the beach and close to town