Ever since I started posting photos of Kalanggaman Island here in my photoblog, I’ve received a steady stream of inquiries and, on some instances, requests from close acquaintances to accompany them to the exotic islet of Kalanggaman in Palompon, Leyte.

Last week was what exactly happened. A friend’s friend was home for a vacation from work in the Middle East, and goes, how about a quick trip to Kalanggaman before he heads back to work in a far away land?

Noting they were childhood friends, and, more interestingly, two recently got new DSLR’s and were now sharing new passions – it was something that perked my attention. Besides, a previous engagement cancelled out leaving me free for the weekend. Suddenly I felt the urge to get away from the madding crowd and seek solace in a secluded island. Unspoiled beach, pristine waters and camping out with cold beer – gee,  I needed no further urging!

Although summer’s officially over and the weather was quite windy, we nevertheless enjoyed the pristine beauty, serenity and solace the island graciously provides.

Thanks to Mark Doctolero, Bobbie Alota and Archie Omega for the hospitality! Photos taken August 5 & 6, 2011.

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Davao City viewed from Samal Island across Pakiputan Strait

Samal Island across Davao City is more popularly known for its beach resorts and dive sites. The island, however, offers more than just white sand beaches.

The Island Garden City of Samal (it’s a city and that’s the official name!) is bestowed with a lot of other beautiful natural resources, such as the Monfort Bat Colony, natural caves as well as enchanting waterfalls.

We got to visit the Hagimit Falls located at Brgy. Cawag, Peñaplata (a city district), about 2 kilometers away from Peñaplata proper.

Hagimit Falls is actually a series of small falls and ponds in its natural setting, scattered wide over a large forested area, with small natural pools and cascading waters all around. It is a haven for nature lovers, campers and picnickers – a great place to take a refreshing waterfalls “shower,” a dip in its very cool waters in a rainforest setting.

Since it covers a wide area privately owned by several families, the resulting “development” initiatives over the years have turned the place into a hodge-podge of huts, cottages, canteens and what-have-you. In fairness to the original owners, they have tried their best to preserve the natural settings, albeit the concrete mini dams and other old-fashioned, concrete structures built decades earlier can stand some renovation and face-lifts to make them blend more with the natural surroundings.

Still, if you come early, ahead of other campers and picnickers, you can go survey around and explore the wide expanse and find a private, undeveloped nook all to yourself.

And therein have a serious commune with nature…

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For more information, contact Leyte Gulf Travel & Tours:

(053)321-7966; (053)523-7966; email: leytegulf@callezaragosa.com

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This is a long overdue post, I beg for your indulgence, something overtaken by more pressing, newsy events on the home front as what happens during the month of June which is fiesta time in Tacloban City.

This post, however, is timeless and is certainly something currently existing as shown in the photos here.

The Monfort Bat Colony, located in the Monfort Cave in the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS), Davao del Norte was certified by the Guinness World Records in 2006 as the largest colony of Geoffrey’s Rousette Fruit Bat (scientific name: Rousetteus amplexicaudatus).

An estimate made by the Bat Conservation International in 2006 put the population of fruit bats in the Monfort Cave at approximately 1.8 million. It has grown since then.

I hasten to add as a forewarning, though, that getting close to the caves and the bats is something not for the faint of heart, not due to anything scary or something, but due to the overwhelming stench and odor of the bat’s guano (waste). I hope it is being put to good use; it’s been called the “King of Fertilizers.”

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Any trip worth taking and well-planned out very much ahead of time can easily be ruined by one, single factor: bad weather.

This we had to humbly accept last week when we revisited Biri Island in the northernmost tip of Northern Samar, facing the huge Pacific Ocean.

Planning for the Biri trip was made months in advance. It had to be summer time for calmer seas (crossing to Biri involves navigating the treacherous San Bernardino Strait – the major sea channel from the mighty Pacific Ocean “supplying” the Visayan Sea). Tickets were already bought way ahead of time to avail of bargain rates.

But the weather has been acting weird lately.

The La Niña phenomenon, Mr. Weatherman has warned.

In previous years, March is when the weather in Eastern Visayas starts turning warmer from warm; humid to more humid; and a hot, sweltering Holy Week just weeks away…

This year, however, the weather has gone askew. It’s been rains after rains after rains lately, flooding areas never been flooded before in Eastern Visayas, the Bicol area, and the eastern parts of Mindanao.

But since we were traveling as a group, with more than half coming from other places (2 from Cebu, 2 from Roxas City, 4 from Manila), we had to proceed as planned.

A flight to Catarman, Northern Samar from Manila was canceled and 2 on board could no longer join the group (on a return trip, 4 others had to make a detour trip to Tacloban when their return flight Catarman-Manila was likewise cancelled due to bad weather.)

When we left Tacloban for Catarman on a road trip, the weather was very gloomy. Very ominous.

But wonder of wonders: when we reached Biri and went to the rock formations, we were in for a pleasant surprise – sunny weather!

We were not so lucky, however, for the 2 succeeding days. Shooting for a sunrise was a battle against strong elements – fierce, whistling Pacific winds capable of knocking down heavy, tripod-mounted cameras. And skin-drenching rain (see 2 photos above).

Oh, well, life has to go on. And we had to simply live with it.

Here’s what I got…  Biri Island, still magnificent and awesome.

Trip was still worth it, if you ask me. ;)

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