There is an island on the horizon that i notice whenever i watch the sunset from Puka Beach on Boracay. I have often wondered how to get there and discover it for myself. So last weekend i set out to find a way there. Looking on my map i thought it must be Caluya. Now how to cross that expanse of sea called the Tablas Straits and land on its beaches????
A little research online and a quick diversion to Libertad on the way down to Tibiao the previous week and i found that there is a boat leaving from Libertad, Panay calling at Caluya and Semirara on its way to San Jose in Mindoro 4 times a week. The catch is that it leaves Libertad at the unsocial hour of 3 a.m.
So early afternoon on Saturday I left Boracay to take a bus to Pandan and then another one to Libertad in order to catch the 03.00 sailing on Sunday. Luckily I had passed through Pandan just the week before so recognised the Statue of a Soldier on the junction to Libertad that we had waited at on the return from Tibiao.
I only had a few minutes to wait before the Libertad bound bus came along and an hour later we rolled into Libertad. I went straight to the Port just to check that the boat was still running and was pleased to see it already waiting there and loading some cargo. It was still only 17.00 and had another 10 hours to wait.
I wandered out onto the fragile looking bamboo pier but found that it was very strongly built even though it looked otherwise with all the patchwork flooring. Just a few metres away lies the ruins of a concrete pier that had not survived a storm and the strong waves. Its really ironic that a traditional bamboo built structure can outlast modern technology !!!!
I spent the time walking around Libertad taking in the local life. There was not much traffic at all, just the odd motorcycle passing by. I really felt like a stranger walking into town with all the eyes staring at me.
Lots of children waved and said hello. I passed by some other children gambling their piso’s away on a “spin the wheel” game , men sitting around in groups talking and then found myself down at the market. I passed by a sign that said “Historical Landmark ” but had difficulty finding someone who actually knew what the Historical Landmark was until an elderly lady walked by and informed us that it was the Barangay Hall, but i didnt quite understand the reason.
When i eventually returned to the pier it had become busier and lots of people had set up bbq’s. I was feeling hungry and found a small eatery just outside the port on the right side called ” Jean Atienza Restaurant ” There is no name outside but you will see the dishes she has on offer from the outside.
I tried a very delicious dish made from green papaya, mong beans, malangay leaves, onions, garlic and fried fish cooked in coconut milk. Jean told me that it is a local dish from Antique Province but she doesnt know the name of it….. all i know that with rice it was delicious.
I now had about 7 hours more to wait so i bought my ticket to Caluya and found a chair in the waiting room to read my book and also try and get some sleep. Reading was ok but sleeping was nearly impossible as the chair was too narrow for me to sit in. Anyway the hours eventually passed and we boarded the boat which has a two floor seating area with room for 100 passengers and a hold for cargo below we and set sail into the night.
Earlier i had met Arnel, a teacher from the island of Sibay and he advised me that the best place to sit on the boat was on the top floor as there is more air there and doesn’t feel so closed in as the seating area downstairs did, and also there were less diesel fumes to inhale. So upstairs i did go and even though the sea was a bit choppy i did manage to get a little sleep.
With dawn we arrived just off the beach at Caluya. The full moon was still shining in the sea and i could see tens of starfish in the clear waters below. Since the boat is too large to reach the beach we had to transfer to a smaller ferry boat which took us closer and then either wade the last 20 metres or be carried on the shoulders of one of the porters who were there to assist with luggage.
So after a journey lasting 16 hours from Boracay i had at last made it to the Island on the Horizon
Getting to Caluya from Boracay and Aklan
Take a bus or jeepney to Pandan. Look out for a statue of a soldier just before arriving in Pandan, get off the bus and wait on the junction for a bus to Libertad. The bus will take you to the Port area.
The boat leaves every Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 03.00
The fare is P350 to Caluya from Libertad