Not missing the blustery, seven-hour lampitaw ride of my first journey here, I stepped out of the plane — moments after it made a historic first landing on the island — buoyed by a feeling akin to rekindling a tryst with a former lover.
Calayan Island has that effect on me. It could be because last time, the place served as a background to my memorable hilltop and beachside frolics with my then girlfriend.
While this second time was for work, I could not dismiss the fact that a sense of fondness was being revived. Being summoned to explore the island’s stunning landscape was like being given a second chance to create a new set of memories in a place that would always remind me of splendid memory reels from four years ago.
After a brief ceremony inaugurating the small airport of Calayan, we hit the explore button and boarded a speedboat.
Sailing over cerulean waters had me jolting back into a spell of enthrallment. For the second time, I found myself embracing the island’s grand scheme of charms.
It didn’t take long before I gazed at the direction of a drawn-out cove known as Cibang. The same place where four years ago I was almost swept away to sea by its mighty waves.
Beyond that near brush with drowning, it was also the same place I told myself as the most beautiful length of oceanfront I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
Knowing full well that memories have a way of exaggerating, I stared at Cibang Cove’s white sandy shoreline as it sparkled like a jewel under the sun. Mesmerizing still. I directed my gaze at the forest that fills the surrounded serrated peaks before turning my attention to the lunar-like rock formations jutting out to the volatile ocean. “Yep, this is the Cibang Cove I remember.” Raw, desolate and tempestuously absorbing.
As our boat capered to the motions of the heavy rollicking of the waves, we each struggled to transfer to a small buoyant device that took us to shore. Finally out of the boat and with my feet planted on the soft fine sands of Cibang Cove, I took off my shoes and walked barefoot.
Sinking my feet and feeling the scorching sand at every step, I tuned in to the sounds of the battering waves as it collided with the coastline. The blending of the colors all around me — white sand below, indigo waters behind, emerald forest-covered crests on the other side and the blue skies above — all constituted a sense that I was inside a postcard image.
The lure of taking a dip in the crystal-clear waters was strong. But my craving for big lobsters and curacha crabs was mightier. So I headed straight to the other end of Cibang Cove and into a waiting feast.
After our late lunch shared boodle-fight style, we rested a bit before proceeding to Nagudungan Hill. The short and breezy hike atop this rolling mound overlooking sequences of beguiling scenery of deep ravines, the Philippine Sea and Cibang Cove below brought back the same captivation from my first trip here.
This time around — as I separated myself from our group — I lumbered to the different high points of Nagudungan and immersed myself in the exceptional set of bounteous nature around me.
Later as the sun started to set, I joined the others seated over a patch of grass sharing a bottle of a locally made wild berry wine. Together we watched the sunset slowly sink into the horizon. As the sky became an image of a scattered Roman candle explosion, I laid on the grass for a few minutes more.
Delighted at experiencing the untouched splendor of the island once again, I turn the pages of my first Calayan Island experience into a new chapter: Fascination redux. And “this is only day one,” I told myself.