Kalanggaman Island: Northwest Leyte's Beguiling Paradise

I've been wanting to go to Kalanggaman Island for many years now, but it seemed like the stars were not aligning right each time I attempted to draw a trip to this island paradise. Several tries and I was not in luck--the wrath of Yolanda, a low pressure area (on a Holy Week, mind you!), and a series of other "unfortunate" events. So, imagine my excitement when we were finally boarding a boat to Kalanggaman Island on a bright, sunny day last week. Finally! This is it!

Kalanggaman Island is a boomerang-shaped island that is about an hour away from the mainland of Palompon in northwest Leyte. The word "langgam" means "bird" in the local dialect (yes, not "ant" as what we Tagalogs know) for the island is a known stopover of migratory birds.

How to go to Kalanggaman Island:
From Manila by air
  1. Take a one-hour flight to Tacloban. Local carriers such as Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, and Philippine Airlines have regular flights to this destination. To maximize your time, take the earliest flight in and last flight out.
  2. From Tacloban airport, take a tricycle or jeepney to the van terminal. There are two van terminals in the city: Van-Van's and Duptours. Both are okay in my own experience. You may also charter a car or van from the airport, which will bring you directly to Palompon. Standard rate is Php 4,000. You may contact Leopoldo "Pol" Kitane at +63905.282.7644 / +63932.682.1088 / +63928235.0222 or Jun Aranas at +63915.972.0679.
  3. From the van terminal, board a van bound to Ormoc. Travel time is two hours. 
  4. At the final stop in Ormoc, look for the shuttle vans going to Palompon. Last trip is usually at 5:00-7:00 pm depending on the season. Travel time is approximately one hour.
  5. In Palompon, walk to the tourism building. This is a yellow building near the market and the municipal hall. You may also take a potpot (a local version of a pedicab). Fare is Php 3.
  6. Book a boat and pay the necessary fees at the tourism office. Look for the ever reliable booking service desk officer, Christopher "Tophei" Montebon (+63917.303.7269). Advance booking is an advantage. 
From Manila by land
There are buses that ply the Manila-Ormoc route with a butt-numbing travel time of about 29 hours. There are also buses that ply the Manila-Tacloban route like Philtranco, DLTB, and CUL Transport. These buses pass through Quezon, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, and Sorsogon, where they board a RoRo (roll-on, roll-off) vessel in Matnog Port, which crosses the San Bernardino Strait off to Allen port in Northern Samar. The journey continues towards the rest of Samar and finally to Tacloban, the capital city of the province of Leyte. If you opt to choose the latter route, follow steps 2-6. Otherwise, follow steps 4-6. 

From Cebu by sea
Fastcrafts ply the Cebu City-Palompon, Bogo City-Palompon, and Cebu City-Ormoc routes. Check the schedule here. Please note that ferry schedule may change without prior notice so it is best to contact the shipping lines directly prior to your trip.

You may also charter a boat from Malapascua. Travel time is around 2-3 hours depending on sea conditions.

From Biliran by land
If you are like us who went to Biliran first (read my series of posts about Biliran here), you may take a van in Naval bound to Ormoc. There are only a few vans plying this route, so make sure you check the schedule and reserve your seats prior to your trip. We boarded the van labelled "A&S" which was stationed near the port. Then, follow steps 4-6.

The Long and Winding Road to Paradise
We left Agta Beach Resort in Almeria, Biliran at around 2:30 pm, and by the time we reached Naval, it was already 3:00 pm and we were told that the next van bound to Ormoc was scheduled to leave at 3:45 pm. We didn't mind the long wait since there's a covered waiting area and some stores nearby where we could buy snacks.

Tip: If you are travelling with bulky baggage, consider paying for an extra seat so you'll be more comfortable. We were six in the group and we opted to pay for eight seats to give room to our bags and gears.

It was already sunset when we arrived in Ormoc after a two-hour ride. You may eat first in one of the many fastfood chains and restaurants in Ormoc before proceeding to Palompon, but be sure to check the schedule of the shuttle van first. We were lucky to catch the last trip to Palompon, which was another one hour winding drive. The route to Palompon was pitch dark at night, so it is better if you can travel earlier specially if it is your first time in this town.

Vivid sun behind clouds on our way to Palompon
Where to stay in Palompon:
There are a few quaint beach resorts and inns in the town of Palompon, but the most convenient location-wise is the PACCI House on Rizal Street. PACCI, or short for Palompon Community Multi-Purpose Cooperative is situated right in front of the market and just a few meters away from the terminal and port. Seaview airconditioned rooms that can accommodate two persons cost Php 1,000 a night. There is a family room which can accommodate three persons at Php 1,800. The seaview rooms have a veranda overlooking the market and the nearby port. Price does not include breakfast but there are a lot of eateries and cafe around the area where you can eat during your stay.

PACCI House double room
PACCI House is just a simple, no-frills accommodation that can be your home for a night or two. There is no elevator so be prepared to climb the stairs up to the third floor where the rooms are located. The bathrooms are basic and a bit small, just enough for you to have a decent bath after a day out. Aircon is working fine and the linens are clean albeit basic.

PACCI House's seaview double room
Boat Rates and Fees:

Tariff rates

The Journey Continues
The following day, we woke up as early as 5:00 am to prepare for our early boat ride to Kalanggaman Island. It is advisable that you start your tour early as the waves can go crazy mid-day. Take note that the way to the island is via an open sea, the expansive body of water between Cebu and Leyte. This is also the reason why getting a bigger boat is highly recommended. We were six in the group but we used a boat that can accommodate up to 25 persons. Again, the extra price can give you peace of mind. =)

Team Snorkeling with Palompon Tourism's Sir Tophei

Our boat to Kalanggaman Island
While waiting for our boat, we stayed at the tourist lounge area, where the cafeteria and the souvenir shop are located. The cafeteria wasn't open yet at the time we were there. Perhaps, it'll be a great help for tourists if it will open earlier so tourists can buy last minute snacks and drinks that they will need during their visit to Kalanggaman Island. It will also be nice if they can prepare food good to share like sinugba sa bilao (grilled pork and seafood which can be eaten boodle-style) for tourists to bring to the island.

Tourism Office's Cafe
Palompon Tourism Building
Waiting room
On our way to Kalanggaman Island, we passed by Tabuk Marine Park, a bird and marine sanctuary nestled a few meters away from the Palompon mainland. "Tabuk" literally means "tawid" or "to cross" in the local dialect. The mangrove-lined island features a long boardwalk and an old lighthouse. Home to a variety of birds, fishes, and bats, the island is dubbed as a symbol of Palompon's vision for sustainability through environment protection. Just like Suyac Island in Negros Occidental (read here), the mangroves at Tabuk Marine Park had somehow lessened the impact of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in mainland Palompon.

Approaching Tabuk Marine Park
Tabuk Lighthouse
The boardwalk at Tabuk Marine Park
Mangroves at Tabuk Marine Park
From Tabuk Marine Park, we cruised for another 45 minutes off to Kalanggaman Island, braving wild waves on a hot summer day. As soon as we saw a peek of the island, we couldn't help but take photos from afar albeit having to balance ourselves on our rocky boat. 

Approaching Kalanggaman Island
The sandbar slowly revealing itself mid-day
As blinding white sand slowly came into view, we couldn't help ourselves but utter, "Ang ganda!" ("It's beautiful!"). Indeed, the island--the sand and its the clear blue waters--spells nothing but P-A-R-A-D-I-S-E! The long wait, the lunchless trip over winding roads, and the choppy boat ride were all worth it! The island is postcard-perfect in all angles!

The island is open for day and overnight/camping trips. There's no electricity on the island so make sure you have batteries and powerbanks with you, or better, ditch your phone and gadgets and just enjoy its pure beauty. Mobile signal is strong, too. I wouldn't call it "unexplored" because it's definitely not; for me, the island is serene--a quiet refuge where one can just lay down and watch the blue skies reflect on clear waters as time stands still.

There are open huts and tents available for overnight stays, as well as beach beds and cottages for day trips.

The white sand warmly welcomed us
It wasn't powdery fine, but it doesn't matter

I must commend the management of Kalanggaman Island for keeping the island clean and pristine. Tourists are required to bring two garbage bags and segregate wastes into biodegradable and non-biodegradable. A fine is strictly imposed for those who do not comply. There are also staff who would clean the huts as soon as the guests leave. On the shore, we haven't seen a single cigarette butt. A loud shoutout to challenge the people in world-famous Boracay, Puerto Galera, and even El Nido!

Just a strip
The other side of the sandbar
One half of the boomerang
While frolicking on the beach the entire day is tempting, Kalanggaman Island's underwater scenery is as inviting. Do not miss the snorkeling spots teeming with corals and schools of fish. Since the island is near Malapascua in Cebu, the marine life in Kalanggaman Island is rich and diverse. We were even fortunate to have seen dolphins jumping in an out of the water on our way back to Palompon. What a treat!

See how clear the water is?

Two flounder fish blending into the sand

Nemo, of course!

Nemo is lost!

Blue starfish

The island deserves to be called Leyte' s gem. Though not hidden anymore, it still has its own captivating charm the island is known for. Once you set your foot on its pristine shores, you will definitely get awestruck. And soon enough, you'll see yourself coming back. Oh Kalanggaman Island, you sure had me at hello!

Special thanks to the Department of Tourism Region 8 Regional Director Karen Tiopes and Sir Bing Runbure for taking good care of us during our stay.

For tour inquiries, you may reach Sir Bing at +63920.9816608 or dotreg8@yahoo.com.


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