Kalanggaman + Sambawan: the best of two provinces

February 28, 2016 Travel

I like traveling without plans, enjoying the freedom to welcome unexpected adventures and exciting possibilities. I like going with the flow. It's great to have friends who appreciate the same spontaneous and fun spirit.

Recently, I posted photos of our trip to Kalanggaman and Sambawan Islands on my Facebook account and Instagram (@kellyaustria). I received numerous queries about our itinerary, prompting me to explain several times that we didn't follow one. So, I am recounting our trip here.

These two islands are among the most photogenic in the region, and we managed to squeeze them both in this trip. Kalangggaman is in Palompon, Leyte, and Sambawan is in the province of Biliran.

Mind you, we only had 4 days. Initially, we had 5 days, but I had to move my flight to Tacloban City due to an important event. The Rotary Club of Paranaque St. Andrew bestowed on me their Peace Award. So, my two traveling companions went ahead, and I followed the next day.

So, here goes…

Day 1
Flight to Tacloban City
Travel to Palompon

I arrived in Tacloban City mid-morning; my flight was delayed. After brunch in the city, we went to the bus terminal to take a van to Palompon. The van fare was P 150.00 per person, and the journey took us three hours.

Since we didn't have anything planned, we first went to the tourism office to inquire about boat trips to Kalanggaman Island and get recommendations on where to eat and sleep.

We were tempted to camp out on the island for the night, but lacking camping gear, we thought sleeping in a hotel room would be more convenient. We were already tired. We got a dorm room at Pacci House, a stone's throw away from the tourism office. I can't remember now if we paid P 300.00 or P 400.00 each. We had the whole room, with six beds, all to ourselves.

The rest of day 1 was spent eating, sleeping, and drinking. Vacation, right?

Day 2
Kalanggaman Leyte
Travel to Naval, Biliran

We wanted full control of our itinerary, so we decided to rent our boat for P 3,000.00. The rest of the fees we paid are listed [here].

We packed fishes for grilling, a case of beer, and some cooked meals because, well, we didn't want to be hangry (a new word we learned in Tacloban City – hungry + angry = hangry).

In less than an hour of a boat ride, we found ourselves in paradise. Kalanggaman Island was every bit as mesmerizing as I had imagined – clear turquoise water, a verdant coconut grove, and an endless stretch of white sand. It was nothing short of perfect, and it's no surprise it caught the attention of international cruise liners.

I spent my first hour on Kalanggaman Island relishing the sandbar. It was pure bliss being surrounded by crystal blue waters on a ridge of white sand with a patch of green in the distance.

Later, I joined my friends who had already begun preparing our lunch. We secured a small cottage for our little picnic. After that, we enjoyed the quintessential beach moment – toes dipped in the sand, an ice-cold [drink], and plenty of good stories. A nearby group of campers had a guitar, providing us with the perfect background music, the ideal chill.

Note: In addition to the cottages, the island features comfort rooms and grilling areas, making beach outings more convenient for everyone. There are no rooms available, but solar panels are present in the area, presumably for lighting at night.

We departed the island at 2 PM, freshened up quickly, and boarded a van to Ormoc City.

As we were unfamiliar with the van routes, we asked many questions about getting to Naval. The locals were incredibly friendly and helpful. Since no vans were heading directly to Naval, we opted for one bound for Ormoc, then alighted in Libungan, as advised.

The wait in Libungan was quite long, so when a van bound for Tacloban stopped in front of us, we inquired about alternatives. They agreed to drop us off in Lemon, where more vans headed to Naval were available.

Indeed, there were more vans, but most were full. We thought we might be stranded. It was already dark, and we considered asking for homestay options in the area. Problems like that were bound to happen when traveling without an itinerary, but we knew it would work out in the end. So it did. A driver offered to take us to Naval for P 150.00 each, and we gladly accepted.

By 8:00 PM, we were already in Naval, inquiring at the first lodging we found. Fortunately, the first one we spotted was TJ Pensionne.

TJ was a good choice. Our room was only P 700.00, good for two, and we paid just P 100 for the extra person since we didn't get an extra bed anymore.

We were tired, so we had dinner at the nearby diner called Gelo's and called it a night.

Day 3
Maripipi Island
Sambawan Island

We researched online and learned that boats bound for Maripipi Island leave at 10:00 AM. We went to the port early, but we found out boats do not travel on Sundays. Strike 2!

Luckily, we found an alternative. As I said, things always work out in the end. We took a multi-cab to Kawayan, about 30 minutes away from Naval, where there are boats available for rent.

We hit strike 3 at the port of Kawayan. We encountered a bit of a situation. But again, it turned out well, at least for us.

Operators were pressuring us to rent a boat from them, which we found to be too pricey. We initiated negotiations starting at P 3,000.00 for a round-trip journey, eventually reducing to P 1,200.00 for a one-way trip to Sambawan Island. 

However, we spotted a boat bound for Maripipi, which can accommodate the three of us. Since we preferred staying on Maripipi Island and taking a boat to Sambawan Island from there (given its proximity to the port and early morning departures to Naval), we decided to join the passenger boat, sparking heated discussions among the locals.

It was a more economical mode of travel, costing us only P 100.00 each. Moreover, we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Jun Salas, owner of a lodging facility near the port. We secured a nice room for only P 1,200.00. 

The highlight of our stay at El Paseo Homestay (contact at 09173111368 or 09176734632) was the warm hospitality of Mr. Salas and his wife, Wilma, making our homestay experience truly feel like a home away from home.

Subsequently, we discovered that boats can be arranged from Kawayan to Maripipi, or vice versa, for P 500.00. Boats to Sambawan Island rent for P 1,500.00 from Kawayan.

The optimal choice is to take the ferry boats from Naval to and from Maripipi Island, then simply rent a small boat in Maripipi Island to reach Sambawan Island.

Mrs. Wilma Salas assisted us in securing a habal2 (P 30.00 each) to Olog Village, where boats to Sambawan Islands can be arranged. The process was straightforward, with only a short wait for the boat. We paid P 500.00 for the round trip.

In contrast to the serene ambiance of Kalanggaman Island, Sambawan felt a bit more rugged, with its mountainous coastline. Nevertheless, it was equally stunning. Like Kalanggaman Island, Sambawan Island maintains a lack of commercialization, providing the perfect retreat for travelers seeking a genuine escape from the ordinary.

The island's standout feature is its view deck, providing a panoramic vista of the entire island. This scene bears a resemblance to Gigantes' Cabugao Island, although Sambawan Island boasts additional distinctive features. 

Reaching the view deck though involves a bit of trekking.

We lingered at the view deck, savoring the moment.

There is an entrance fee of P 80.00 and an environmental fee of P 20.00. Considering the paradise-like experience offered by this island, the fees are quite reasonable. The island features a store selling soft drinks (no beer) and chips, a few picnic cottages, accommodation for large groups at P 2,500.00 per night, and a comfort room.

After spending a few more hours on the island, we returned to Maripipi Island and resumed our socials.

Day 4 
Travel back to Biliran Island Tacloban City Flight back to Manila

At around 3:00 AM, I heard Mr. Salas's voice waking me up. I moved to the sofa outside our room since it was already a bit warm inside. Electricity in Maripipi Island is only available until midnight. He then escorted us to the port.

I was prepared for a long, nauseating boat ride, but it turned out to be the most magical voyage I've ever experienced. The boatmen recommended that we stay on the open deck of the boat, where I chose to lie down for a good sleep.

As soon as we started sailing, I felt the chilly breeze. Then, I opened my eyes and saw the stars. There were millions of them enveloping us, a tiny vessel in the vast dark blue sea. It was breathtaking. After a few moments, we witnessed the moon setting, and the surroundings started changing colors as the sun began to rise, revealing the beautiful Biliran Island and its surrounding islets. The entire experience felt surreal.

By 6:30 AM, we had arrived at the Naval Port. After having breakfast, we took a van to Tacloban City, where we spent our time exploring various cafes.

So, that concludes our trip. We boarded our plane back to Manila at around 8:00 PM, feeling satisfied with a truly worthwhile travel experience.

Yep, traveling without an itinerary can be a bit challenging, but it's the best!

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  1. Nice pictures and very detailed blog! Gonna try these soon!

  2. Hi Ms. Kelly... Does the Salas Homestay can accommodate 3 person per room? And it isn't hard to get a habal in 3 in the morning to fetch you in the port going back to Naval? We will visit Sambawan this November.

    1. Sorry for late reply. Notifs probably went to my spam mail. Anyway, hope you had a good trip. To answer your questions, yes, up to 3, also port is walking distance.