it seems the only way to keep things beautiful is to tuck them as far away from the reach of man (and woman) as possible. this must be the case for the pure shores and azure seas of the calaguas islands, which is a tempestuous 2 and a half hour banca ride away from the pandawan in the muncipality of vinzons in camarines norte.
the pier in vinzons, which can be reached from daet by tricycle, stands on the banks of a shallow river fringed by palm and mangroves. regular trips to the main barangay in calaguas are available, although the locals keep it secret so tourists are forced to rent outriggers at ostentatious prices. still, it is a small fee considering you get so much for what you pay: the stretch of beach in mahabang buhangin is unlike anything you've seen, unless you've been in boracay in the early 80s. there are hardly any visible structures on the beach, although it is starting. sprouting on this prime estate that spreads like a wing are small, squat gazebos, some already with marks of permanence: ugly concrete boxes that seem to serve no purpose but to uglify the beautiful. use of a hut costs some money, and, depending on which slice of paradise you choose to stay, an entrance fee may be collected.
the powder-fine white sand on mahabang buhangin rolls for about a kilometer from end to end. there is no electricity here yet, so the evenings are pitch-black. one or two areas have generators, although these are only used to power small lights. so imagine how the evenings must look like. in the horizon are the distant lights of fishing boats, and overhead are the twinkling gems of the night sky. sitting on the beach, staring at the sparkling dome circling around us, i wondered whether i have seen this many stars before.
calaguas is no longer as savage as one might imagine: in the weekends, a carabao might make the trip from the barangay carrying supplies, even ice. the prices are understandably higher, although the threshold of your understanding might be put to the test as the locals start to mine the potential that is tourism: the barangay collects an environmental fee of P20, although i did not see how the fees were put to good use. nevertheless, your eyes are rewarded with views that are preciously rare these days. the beach faces the west, so there is an unimpeded view of the sunset, which on my visit painted the dusk with hues of blue, pink, orange, and violet.
i worry about our dwindling forests, our overrun beaches, our crowded islands. we conspire with each other to take more than what nature is able to give, squandering our blessings, and surrounding ourselves with less and less of all that is beautiful. so i do not mind that there are some places difficult to access. there shouldn't be any shortcuts to paradise: no roads, no speedboats, no cable cars, no trains. he who seeks that which is pure must be ready to make sacrifices.