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The Rape of Calaguas Island

I don't know what it was but here was a hesitation holding me back to share my Calaguas experience two years ago. Maybe I was pinned on the ground not to make any more fuzz over this destination, aggravating the adverse impact of human intrusion on this beautiful island located at the eastern side of Bicol region.

But the popularity of Calaguas Island was unstoppable and it even became a hot spot among locals and international tourists looking for a different taste of adventure.

It was a weekend invitation that my Mindanaon friend Ramil and I accepted to witness the much talked about island for a simple beach getaway. I was excited to see another paradise and hoping to be surprised with something new to discover in the island.

We endured the 9-hour butt-numbing bus travel experience bound for Paracale in Camarines Norte. Paracale, known for gold mining operations, was a laid back municipality to which I guess much of the population rely mainly on the marine resources. 

There's an Ugly Truth About the Philippine Tourism

There was always a story that would backfire on our local tourism, reflecting the lack of information dissemination and coordination among the beneficiaries or stockholders of tourism activities. Our story goes like this, when we opted to charter a tricycle to the port of Paracale, we were charged of Php 20.00 each. The distance of transfer was just less than 500 meters.

Out of curiosity, I asked a local nearby how much was the real fare going to the port area and the it was revealed that it was just Php 20 for the whole thing. God, there were 12 of us and the driver have gotten more than 200 percent out of the regular fare. I find it a little absurd and abusive on the part among the tricycle drivers.  I could understand that the locals must be trying to maximize the profit they could earn from the tourist in this place, but just like a grassfire, it would give a bad feedback on the way they deceive their visitors, both locals and foreigners.

This adopted practice is quite common in most areas in the Philippines and technically a short-term profit generation that wouldn’t result to be sustainable once such practice has become a tradition.

I guess, it is the responsibility of the local government to educate the locals on how to make their visitors feel welcome, creating a good impression, making them crave to come back for more. There are places in the Philippines that have adopted hospitable and tourist friendly tariffs on services like what I have experienced in El Nido and Aloguinsan in Cebu and can actually be a model tourism practice if not duplicated.

Enough for the Rant!

Anyway, we went directly to our contact person that reserved our boat. It was an hour of a semi-smooth sailing to the island. But as we reached the shore, I was surprised to see a lot of colorful tents with hundreds of campers already basking in the sun. With the hundreds of boats anchored along the beach, we were forced to walk to the far side of the island where we had a little swim to tone down the heat of the sun.

It was a crowded beach during that weekend that I totally lost my eagerness to roam around. I can’t hide my disappointment on how trashes were seen everywhere and most beach goers were enjoying drinking various types of alcohols, leaving their empty bottles and cans on the beach. With that, it rung on my head that Calaguas Island is Boracay in the making!

I was expecting a relaxing beach getaway but I was not informed of this scenario, as it did not reflect on various blogs and articles I have read before coming here. Most of the articles were filled with beautiful reviews, praising the island  like a heaven but have forgotten to tell how people treat the place like hell.

I suddenly felt sick that I wanted to go home. The environmentalist nature in me wanted to scream but I don’t want to show any disrespect to my companions and have just decided to stay until Monday.

Nature can exist without MAN, but MAN can’t live without Nature!

It was a good decision that I stayed longer to see the real beauty of Calaguas. Our group was the only people left in the secluded islet.

If left alone, the beach of Calaguas has crystal clear water without those hundreds of boats anchored along the shore. One could actually appreciate this place without the eyesores composed of unruly and crowded undisciplined beach campers throwing their garbage everywhere.

I felt the place was just being taken for granted, that after the enjoyment and appreciation, the users will leave the place as if nothing happened. For me, the beach of Calaguas is way better than Boracay. Though there was an entrance fee collected as environmental fee, you will barely feel any environmental protection and monitoring on the carrying capacity. And if this continues, this place will soon be gone just like the other beautiful places in the Philippines.

I hope the local government that has a jurisdiction over the place can adopt some environmental measures to mitigate the negative impacts and stop the degradation of Calaguas Island. There should be a consortium among the stakeholders, tourist guides, boatmen, travel and tour operators, the local government unit and agencies to look for long-term benefits rather than short-term extraction of wealth. I hate to see the island becoming a wasteland soon, losing its luster of being one of the best beach islands in the Philippines.

As for the tourists, let’s always think how your children can still experience these beautiful resources. Don’t be selfish that in the future, the only way these places can be enjoyed is through stories and pictures printed in books and magazines.

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