Islands and Beaches
Catanduanes: A Rough But Happy Island
Bernard Supetran | Jun 16, 2015
Still, some stakeholders would like it to be known as the "Happy Island" because of the sheer happiness and solitude its natural wonders give a visitor, minus the madding crowd of the popular tourist traps.
Situated off the eastern seaboard of mainland Bicol, the island province used to be part of Albay and was carved out as an independent province in 1945.
While typhoons still pass through Catanduanes and still a point of reference because of the Pag-Asa Observatory, its resilient folks say that the more destructive ones are now almost a thing of the past.
Catandunganons are one in saying that the province is slowly shedding its typhoon image, and is now ready for the bigger challenges posed by tourism which is a booming industry. People are optimistic it will be able to increase its share in the pie of Bicol region’s growing tourist arrivals with its adventure, nature and culture attractions and activities.
This summer saw a slew of events which underscores the fact that Catanduanes' raw charm is magnet enough to lure quality tourists. Among these are the Tramping (Trek and Camp) in Mt. Lantad in Bato, the Enduro Challenge where mountain bikers braved the off-the-beaten paths of Virac, the Photo Adventure Camp which captured the pastoral allure of Viga town, the Reef Break surfing tourney in Baras, and the Summer End Ascend to formally bid goodbye to the long, hot summer.
Ongoing year-round is the One Tourist, One Tree program which requires visitors to plant seedlings in identified areas to help reforest the Province which takes pride in one of the best forest covers in Bicol.
The “Majestic Waves” in Puraran, Baras is the province’s main draw, and is so-called because of its long magnificent barrel, which lures the top surfers both here and abroad.
But those averse to the waves can frolic in its powdery cream sand beaches and unspoiled clear waters.
Mother Nature has gifted Catanduanes with fine beaches, breath-taking capes and idyllic isles all over the province which takes one back to the island getaway minus the madding crowd.
In the capital town of Virac, there are the beaches of Igang, Amenia and Batag, a coral-strewn beach whose charm is enhanced by a rock archway.
Igang is home to Twin Rocks Beach Resort which takes pride with its adventure facilities—a zipline, outdoor wall, and accommodation amenities which are among the best locally. It is so-called because of the two awesome rock formations which are among the province’s tourist icons.
Amenia Beach, situated on Virac’s western coast, is the best place for sunset gazing with its calm waters and the perfect-coned Mayon Volcano in the horizon. It also has good lodging facilities and kayaks so guests can explore the vast expanse of water.
Because of its rugged terrain, the province also abounds with waterfalls, whose enchanting cascades and refreshing waters cast a spell on nature lovers. Maribina Falls in Bato is the most frequented because of its shallow multi-layered basins.
Up north in Bagamanoc is Paday Falls which boasts of a tall drop which empties into the sea, and is a sight to behold.
A short boat ride away from the town is Loran Beach in Panay Island which has its own patch of fine beach and tranquil environs. Deriving its name from Long Range Aid to Navigation, it was a former American outpost in the 1950s to guide ships in the Pacific. The ruins of its barracks still proudly stand atop a hill with a commanding view of the ocean.
Bagamanoc is a trekker’s haven with its hiking trails across hilly pasture lands and ends in pockets of beaches. The town’s most recognizable natural feature is Ilihan islet which is more popularly known as “Boto ni Kurakog” because of its phallic-shaped rock formation. The subject of many old wives’ tales, it is said that Kurakog was a giant whose body was washed away by the waves after a deep slumber and it was only the protruding five-meter rock column, which remained.
Across it is a limestone rock which has a shapely crevice dubbed as “Buri ni Kalarab” and whose origin is as intriguing as Kurakog’s legend.
Meanwhile, Panganiban town is another best-kept secret with its picturesque cape of Lolong Point where an imposing lighthouse proudly stands on a hill beside a placid beachfront where time seems to stop.
Catandunganons display their faith in their religious spots such as the postcard-pretty Spanish-era Virac Cathedral, St. John the Baptist Church and the Batalay Shrine, both located in Bato town.
The latter is the Diocesan Shrine of the Holy Cross, the burial place of Augustinian Fr. Diego de Herrera who died there in the 1576. The priest, who journeyed with Spanish conquistadors Legazpi and Urdaneta, is the first Catholic missionary to the province.
Another must-see is the Luyang Cave Park in San Andres where scores of natives were choked to death in the 17th century by Moro pirates by burning red pepper. A dry cave, Luyang is often used for adventure races as it leads into a clearing on the other side of the mountain, en route to a trail to the town proper.
For a glimpse of local heritage, swing by at the Catanduanes Museum, a repository of historical and archaeological implements attesting to the province’s rich past. Located at the third floor of the restored Old Capitol Building, it is on the same spot of the Provincial Tourism Office which is a first stop for every visitor for registration and information gathering.
This is Catanduanes. A rugged but happy island.