I indulge in places untouched and unexplored. The mystery of the undiscovered gives me so much feels – both peace and euphoria. Although I have an unwavering fondness for the hyperactive and breathtaking Boracay, I am also keen on traveling to somewhere that is uncharted. When I got the invite to go to the Caluya Group Islands in Antique for their Tatusan Festival, I immediately said yes prior to even asking for an additional day off. I was that excited.
Where in the world is Caluya?
Caluya Group of Islands is in Antique. To make it easier for the millenials to know where it is, it’s another 3-hour boat ride from Boracay. Yes, it is that far. We rode a van for 3-4 hours from Iloilo City and enjoyed a smooth 3-hour boat ride from Libertad, Antique. It’s the northernmost part of Antique and composed of the islands of Semirara, Sibato, Sibay, Sibolo, Liwagao, and islets of Panagatan, and Nagubat. Click here to know how to get there. It pays to read along so I can prove that the travel time is worth it.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by the esteemed Tribu Tatusan at the wharf.
Caluya’s Tatusan Festival
The Tatusan Festival is an annual celebration held during summer in Caluya. It is in honor of the Tatus, the coconut crab, which can only be found in two places in the Philippines – Batanes and Caluya. We were lucky enough to take part in some of the activities during our brief stay.
On the last day of the festival, there was a boodle fight. After a short program, everyone was welcome to partake from the bountiful table prepared by each barangay. Each table had a huge lechon, their respective seafood specialties, suman, and other delicious meals. Even spectators would enjoy looking at the people, young and old alike, sharing from a single banana leaf, giving each other huge slabs of lechon, and passing around hot and tasty suman.
Tatus, the coconut crab, is the largest land-living arthropod in the world. Although they belong to the family of hermit crabs, they are interestingly different. These humongous crabs climb coconut trees and break open its husk for the coconut meat, thus their name. They may be crabs, but they cannot stay underwater. They even mate on land and only the female go to sea to hatch their eggs. Sad to say that these crabs are already endangered. Harvest is strictly regulated under the law. They can only be caught during season (summer) and only males that are big enough can be eaten. You see even if we stayed there during their festival, the officials and locals didn’t let their guards down against those who catch and sell the coconut crabs unlawfully.
The Tatusan Festival highlights all the town’s assets – the Tatus, the Tatusan Tribe, the abundant seaweed, fresh seafood, flawless white sand beaches, and their people.
The people pride on their tribe for garnering awards from different tribe contests across the Philippines. They have surely lifted up their municipality by introducing their local treasures through their enchanting dances.
Tambalang Farming in Caluya
Seaweed farming is the main livelihood of the people in Caluya. All around the island, you’ll see lots of white polystyrene floats that hold the seaweeds. We dropped by one of the main seaweed plantations in town and learned the basics on its cultivation.
Tambalang, only thrive in shallow water. The weather condition is vital to its growth. Most members of the family are involved in the business. The fathers plant the dried seaweed back to the sea. When they are ready for reaping, the children separate them and get them ready to be hung up again. The mothers, in collaboration with the Women’s Federation, other LGUs, and the Tourism Department, have found other ways to generate income from their major product – Seaweed Chips.
The product is also used as an important ingredient for other products such as toothpaste, monobloc chairs, and others. Although the Seaweed Plantation is now a part of their Agri-tourism, SB Jerick Guisihan says that they will not let tourism get the best of the livelihood. They will never compromise major means of livelihood for the sake of the tourists.
Ha, you must wish to be me right now as we were served with fresh and delectable seafood dishes at Caluya. Aside from the Tatus and Tambalang, they are also abundant in sea urchins. Just imagine how gleeful my companions were when they were served with unlimited seafood!
I haven’t even recovered from my previous sunburn from Sagada and Guimaras, but I went beaching again in Caluya. No, I’m definitely not complaining. Who says no to the beach? I frankly cannot count how many beach fronts there are in Caluya Islands. There are a lot and each beach has something different to offer. One cannot resist the clear and cold waters of the island. The best thing is that these beaches are still very clean. We went to Sabang Beach in the main island, Sibato Beach, and Bakong and Tara Tara Beaches in Sibay Island which I will show you in a different post (Sibay Island deserves another blog entry).
Sibato Island is only a 15-minute boat ride away from the main island of Caluya. During low tide, this part of the island shows off a sandbar. The pristine white sand and clear waters made me want to stay longer in the island.
If this isn’t breathtaking enough for you, I don’t know what is. The clear unpolluted skies give you an unblemished view of the milky way at night at Caluya. Would you believe that the stars start to glisten as early as 7 pm?
The Caluyahanons are extra hospitable to their guests. You’ll be surprised on how caring they are. During our whole stay, they made sure that we are safe, satisfied, and always… full. One thing that we noticed is their honesty. They don’t shortchange their customers. You even get more than what you paid for. I just hope that when their tourism reaches its peak, they will stay as truthful as they are. The best thing about the Caluyahanons is their smiles. I rarely saw people frowning. Their genuine beams show their cordiality, pride, and contentment.
As part of the Tatusan Festival, the LGU launched its Tour Packages. There are two tours to choose from amounting from P350-P450 for a day. Caluya Islands is gearing up for tourism. In the following years, they are expecting an influx of local and foreign tourists. We tried the tour packages and I must admit, there were delays and glitches on the itinerary. But you know what? My Type A personality didn’t mind it. There was never an instance that I got impatient. The place is unexplored. It was untouched. It was all raw beauty and one can never take that for granted. It was me letting spontaneity take the lead.
As Caluya prepares to be the next big thing, I just hope that the people will stay as stewards of their own bountiful lands – safeguarding their natural riches. That they may retain their modesty, honesty, and innate generosity.
Caluya will prove to you that “Distance doesn’t matter.” Travel time is definitely worth it and our 3-day stay is not enough to explore all that Caluya Islands has to offer. Whew, what a relief that I said yes despite being alone with new people. I went with one backpack and a sling bag and came home with an exhausted body, sunburned face, phone memory full, meaningful experiences, and new found friends.
Thank you, Nikon Society Iloilo, Mayor Genevive Reyes, and to all the Caluyahanons.
All the Caluya Islands how-to’s can be found here.
Photo and Video Credits