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We had Kalanggaman Island only to ourselves that morning.

The other visitors had left, I could tell even if my eyes were closed. The reverberant sound of their boat’s engine was slowly fading into the horizon, leaving only a quiet swell and wash of the waves, whose whispers oddly harmonized with the shrill screams of the sea gulls overhead. The streaks of sunlight, filtering through the fronds of the coconut tree, gently warmed my face. I lay motionlessly on the grainy sand, enjoying the cool salty breeze. Drowsed by the ocean’s dreamy lullabies, I drifted into a deep slumber.

Kuya, Let’s eat!” I was awakened by my sister’s voice coming from the small bamboo cottage. The heavenly aromas wafted from the grilling stations, nestled among the regrowing palm and talisay trees. Rubbing the sleep off my eyes, I prayed gratefully for that moment- that despite the tragedy that almost obliterated this beautiful island and the entire Leyte and Samar some months ago, we were alive to witness such a perfect morning.

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It is said that the island is called Kalanggaman because of the long white sandbars in its eastern and western ends, which resemble the wings of a bird from afar. “Langgam” is a Visayan word for “bird”.

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WHERE IT IS

The tranquil island of Kalanggaman lies about 15 nautical miles from Palompon, a town on the western coast of Leyte. A 3-hour van/bus ride from Tacloban City or an hour van ride from Ormoc City, followed by a 45-minute boat ride from the Palompon Ecotours Office will take you this pristine island known for its vanishing sandbars and very clear turquoise water.

It would be best if you coordinate with the Palompon Ecotour Office first at least a day before the visit. They can be reached at 09173037267.

HOW TO ENJOY KALANGGAMAN ISLAND

There are no resorts in Kalangggaman Island but there are several cottages for rent, toilets, grilling stations, kayaks and a small volleyball court. Visitors can stay overnight and should bring their camping equipment. The island has no electricity, however, there are solar lamps and torches provided for campers.

Also, there are no commercial stores and restaurants in the 6.8-hectare island, so visitors are advised to bring their own food and drink. Thankfully, the Palompon Market, where you can buy the freshest catch and other supplies, is just a two-minute walk from the Ecotours Office.

EXPENSES

The van fare from Tacloban City to Palompon is around Php 150. Once you arrive in the municipality of Palompon, head straight to their Ecotour Office to register and rent a boat to Kalanggaman Island. As of this writing, the smallest boat that could accommodate 15 passengers costs Php 3,000 (roundtrip). The island’s entrance fee is Php 150 per person for a day tour and Php 250 for an overnight stay. Cottages range from Php 250 to Php 500.

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The majestic St. Francis Xavier Church in Palompon, Leyte. The church dates back to 1784.

The majestic St. Francis Xavier Church in Palompon, Leyte. The church dates back to 1784.