Our exploration through the Calamianes Islands was taken toward sundown. Mang Aning brought us to Atwayan Island where 3 days and 2 nights of island camping awaits us.
Atwayan Island is under the stewardship of indigenous peoples of the Calamianes Island Group known as the Tagbanua Tribe. We went to a cove with white-sandy beach surrounded with high weathered lime stone cliffs, green trees and bushes. The turquoise water was calm as the fishes swam around unafraid of people snorkeling around. Three small native houses of the Tagbanua Tribe are situated at the far west end of the cove. The east part of the cove on the other hand has boulders same as the ones we tried in Banol Beach.
The Tagbanua Tribe greeted us as we arrive. They offered a great spot to pitch our tent and were advised that the island is ours during the night. In the afternoon they went back to their houses. Wowoo and I were left at the middle part of the cove with the friendly dogs Brownie and Brew. As orange and purple rays of the setting sun covered the cove, mosquitoes waked to the evening. Wowoo and I might have disturbed them up, the fighter squadrons of mosquitoes (and some insects called nik-nik in the vernacular) instead became the aggressors and rose into attack formations as the hour of five approached: bare flesh their target. With the shield of Off Lotion all over our bodies we’re able to cook Corned Beef Sinigang by the beach and ate our first meal in the island.
I could hear crows soaring around. It’s 6 o’clock in the morning. About 6 meters from our tent
were 2 squirrels looking for food. As I unzip the tent to take a photo, Chip and Dale hurriedly ran to the trees. Greeted by the view of misty mountains and islets from afar, I cooked our banana pancakes for breakfast, prepared our coffee cups, sat on the beach and watched this nature movie.
There’s no need for slippers. We walk and ran barefoot feeling the sand in our toes. At 7 o’clock the tribe started to come over to clean the beach and prepare the huts for the tourists who usually arrive at 10AM. Tourists started to invade the place as early as 9AM. They went there to snorkel and have lunch in the huts. Wowoo and I bummed around, lie on the beach as we bravely soaked up in the sun. Read a book, snorkel, and go bouldering were some of our activities that day. Bouldering has been exciting and risky at the same time; exciting as you fall to the water and risky as you grip to the sharp and rough edges of the rocks.
At 4PM the tourists were gone. We’re with the Tagbanua tribe as we exchange stories of the urban world and the simple life they have in that island. We were offered by their local coffee. Former Captain Aguilar poured some on our blue cup. Wowoo and I tried a sip. The caffeine rightly kicked into my senses. It was the strongest coffee I’ve ever tasted. No need for an extra espresso shot from Starbucks. The aroma of this coffee is enough to wake you up.
As the magnificent sun started to kiss the earth, we shielded ourselves again from being ravaged by violent mosquitoes. We opened a bar of vodka and drink to this great escape from the noisy city. We’d move back once in a while as the high tide reached our bare feet lying flat on the sand.
We gazed up to the millions of shining stars and planets above are and waited for the moon as it passes the island. I looked down and saw a bluish-sparkling-luminous thing near the shore. It glows on and off, lots of it! I remember the scene on the movie “The Beach” when Leonardo diCaprio and his love interest went night swimming and the beach glows in the dark. It was the first time I actually saw it. Wowoo said those were planktons. I was trilled to see those the first time.
The bottle of vodka was nearly finished and the moon started to light the whole cove. We realized it’s our last night there and needed to sleep as Mang Aning will pick us up early the next day.
We left the island bringing the smiles of the tribe who has been our family for 2 days and a memory of a simple island life (well, except for big, red and itchy mosquito bites and stinging sun burned skin). Manang Basilia, told us to come back. She even gave me her daughter’s cellphone number and said to text us once back in Manila. Former Captain Aguilar gave us his contact number to and said to call him the next time we visit the island.
Truly an escape to a paradise like this reinvigorates the spirit of of oneself. An encounter with local people will teach you lessons about how to live a life that’s simple yet offers abundant happiness.
How to get there:
Ride a motorized banca from Coron town. It will take 30 minutes to reach the island. You may contact Ex. Cap Aguilar at 09473526607. He can also arrange boat transfers for you.
An overnight fee will cost you 400 pesos per head.
What to bring:
Island camping is like camping in the mountains. You have to be always prepared. So aside from the basic needs of camping like tent, stove, food, first aid kit and head lamp it would also help to bring:
- insect repellent
- books (in case you want to rest from swimming and snorkeling)
- enough cellphone battery (there’s a cellphone signal in the island)