What I Saw: In Photographs: Leyte
As far as on-the-fly decisions go, I think I’ve done quite well. Recently, I returned to Malapascua, intending to finish a dive course and see the threshers. But other, more immediate opportunities needed tending to, so I took care of those instead.
For that particular trip, I had Manila-Cebu-Malapascua-Cebu-Siargao-Cebu-Manila on the queue. And I thought that was it. But thanks to my knack for impulsive decisions, which have proven to lead me to some of the best experiences of my life, I unexpectedly made it to Leyte twice in between.
The Kalanggaman sandbar is a little gem of an island 45 minutes off of the coast of the town of Palompon, east of Leyte. On the map, it seems to be more accessible from Camotes Island, Cebu, or through Tacloban. As for us, we made it via Malapascua, on a boat ride which took us approximately two hours each way. I spoke to my favorite boatman, Mang Intoy of Malapascua (contact details can be found here, and for a mere P950, he put together the trip for us. Easy-peasy!
It is named after the birds that frequently visit it, with “langgam” meaning “bird” in Bisaya, and not “ant,” like in Tagalog.
Prior to Typhoon Haiyan, I gather that Kalanggaman was more developed. Today, it is relatively remote, with only wooden huts and a barbecue area established on the island.
Divers (scuba and free) on Malapascua go out of their way to make the trip to spend a day on Kalanggaman, so there’s much to do underwater after you’ve spent enough time doing nothing and lounging around above water. You have the option to stay the night camped out in tents (which you will have to bring yourself), or roofless, underneath the stars.
I expect to get in some trouble with travel purists (especially those from Siargao), and I would understand why — Anahawan has an overwhelming, but quiet magic to its remoteness, and it would be a shame for overexposure to rob the place of this. And I have every intention of respecting that, as well as the locals’ wishes to keep it that way. But I cannot not talk about Anahawan, even just a little bit.
Geographically, it is on the southeast tip of Leyte, ever-so-slightly to the north of Mindanao. To get there, you must cross some angry waters, which is the sole purpose of even going there: to surf the good wave.
Try as I might, no photos could be taken to capture the magic of an experience of spending the night on the most remote island I’ve ever been to, with absolutely no electricity; under a starlit sky, with only the light of a handful of candles and the few fires that we lit, burning with the husks of the coconuts, whose fresh juice and tender meat we enjoyed earlier in the afternoon. We lived on fire, the sea breaze, deep well water pumps. We had the place all to ourselves. There were no sounds other than the torrid kisses of the waves on the shore, crickets, and the gentle snore of a sleeping man.
I packed nothing, just a bottle of water, a couple of cameras, and the clothes on my back. I wasn’t even supposed to be there! My friends decided to go and spend the night on the day before I had to fly out, so I didn’t think I could even go. But by the good graces of some of the warmest locals I’ve ever met, we found a way to make it happen, and I spent the night. I tread through the woods in the darkness of 430 AM, hopped on a motorized canoe, and headed back to the mainland: just me, the boat man, and the big blue ocean.