(A fresh way to see life, May 2015)
Inclusive dates of trip: May 17-30, 2015

Earth has endless gifts for those who explore and listen.

Through the virtue of Republic Act No. 9355,  Dinagat Islands has formally created as a province, officially known as the Province of Dinagat Islands (PDI). Before this proclamation, the province was part of the province of Surigao del Norte.  According to the official website of the province (dinagatislands.gov.ph), the province has a total land area of about 802.12 sq. km which includes 47 islets and the island of Hibuson. Furthermore, the island province has a total of 7 municipalities, namely Basilisa (Rizal), Cagdianao, Dinagat, Libjo (Albor), Loreto, San Jose and Tubajon with income classes ranging from 3rd to 5th based on the figures released by the National Statistics Authority (NSA). The official provincial capital is the municipality of San Jose, which is the principal entry point to the province.

When we went to the island due to a research project, we discovered that the province is generally considered as a mineral reservation during our conversation with the staff of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO-Dinagat Islands), thus, making the province a haven for mining. Moreover, they also mentioned that the province is home to several stunning, breathtaking and pristine wonders that would really attract local and international visitors if given the chance for recognition.

For my entire stay in the province (approximately 9 days excluding travel time), I was able to do the following activities:

  • Rediscover the Past in Black Beach no. 2 (Campintac), Loreto.
Campintach Beach
Campintach Beach
world war II artifacts left in Campintac
world war II artifacts left in Campintac

This is the first area that I visited during my stay in the province and it was also the farthest. Aside from its beautiful coral and white sand, the beach is known for its historical importance during the World War II. This area is the first area where US Military forces landed, contrary to most common belief that it was Leyte. Around October 1944, the members of the 6th Ranger Battalion, lead by Major Garret, landed in the coast of Campintac and raised the American Flag in the area.

  • Be Impressed by Bitaog Beach in Basilisa
Bitaog Beach's white sand and coconut trees
Bitaog Beach’s white sand and coconut trees
Slippers and visiotrs
Slippers and visiotrs

Among all the beaches in the province, this is one of the most visited. Although the stretch of the beach is quite short as compared with other well-known beaches such as Boracay and El Nido, Palawan, its sand, however, can take the challenge. The beach has a very white, powdery-fine sand. With the help of a guide, you can trek its forest and check the two caves. Just a trivia, the beach is called as such because of the a gigantic Bitaog tree (Calophyllum inophyllum) that used to be present near one of the caves. Unfortunately, this tree was cut down by the previous caretaker of the beach.

  • Enjoy the Amenities of Punta Buena Suerte Resort in Plaridel, Libjo.
Dawn as viewed from the Buena Suerte Resort
Dawn as viewed from the Buena Suerte Resort
Buena Suerte Resort
Buena Suerte Resort

This private resort is owned by the family of Mrs. Erlinda Bisnar and considered to be the first established and fully registered resort in the whole province. A number of amenities are offered by the resort including rooms, banana boats, kayaks, water balls, among others. Since the area is not yet reached by the electrical services of the province, the whole resort is powered by a generator. What I love about this resort is the fact that the owners pledged for the conservation and protection of the environment, including flora and faunal species found within their jurisdiction. For more info on the resort, you may contact them through their facebook account by clicking here.

  • Check the wonderful flora and fauna of Sundayu Beach
The Sundayu rock formations
The Sundayu rock formations

In a conversation with a local, I fond out that the name of the beach was derived from the shapes of the stone formations near the beach which looks like soldier hats. During my entire stay in the province, the species richness in most of its areas is made pronounced. However, when we visited this beach, I was still amazed on how you can actually see a wide range of marine species swimming very close to the beach. The great thing was, most of these marine species were not actually afraid to people, hence, we were able to take photos as near as possible. We saw a school of clownfishes (Amphiprion percula) in their natural habitat, sea anemone.

  • Have a River Cruising Experience in Maytubig River
The port in Tagbatikan
The port in Tagbatikan
Mangrove forest along the Maytubig river
Mangrove forest along the Maytubig river

Our entire trip from the port in Tagbatikan, Llamera, Libjo to Bayanihan was approximately 40 minutes, including all the stops we needed because of the low tide. Along the whole stretch of the river, you can see a very thick and wide mangrove forest, with varying sizes and species. This forest serves as a good habitat to different animals including those living beneath and above the water. Unfortunately, the water of the river is murky, making it difficult to see what’s in the water.

  • Be amazed with the rock formations and white sand beaches in Melgar and San Roque, Basilisa
A very big rock formation
A very big rock formation
sailing along the rock formations
sailing along the rock formations

If you love the astounding rock formations and white sand beaches of El Nido in Palawan, certainly, you will also love the whole stretch of rock formations, small and gigantic, and white sand beaches from Melgar to San Roque in Basilisa. Imagine a 30 minute-ride with this breathtaking and picturesque view. Isn’t it amazing?

  • Build a Relationship with Mother Nature at the Forest of Friendship in Cuarinta, San Jose
The signage of the forest of freindship
The signage of the forest of freindship
A very small pitcher plant
A very small pitcher plant

This forest of friendship is conceptualized and managed by PENRO-Dinagat and located within their nursery. It is part of the campaign of the government agency to engage the visitors in their promotion of environmental awareness, protection and conservation. A visitor is hereby encouraged to plant at least one tree before leaving the nursery.

  • Trek to the Summit of Sering Hills in Sering, Basilisa
A view of the melgar Bay and community from the peak of Paniog Hill
A view of the melgar Bay and community from the peak of Paniog Hill

This hill is a great practice area for hikers and trail runners alike. The trail is already established since the upper portions of the hill including its peak is a reforestation site and managed by local civil organizations. Along the trail, numerous cashew trees (locally known as Kasoy) can be found. When we hiked this hill, it was actually my first time to eat the actual fruit of a cashew (not its nut). Upon arriving at its upper portions, the view is ecstatic. You can have a panoramic view of the Melgar Bay, the community of Sering and as well as the mountains and islands nearby.

  • Have a Walk at the Cortez Eco-Park (Paniog Hill) in Cortez, Basilisa
The Nipa Hut on the Paniog Hill
The Nipa Hut on the Paniog Hill
The community of Melgar
The community of Melgar

Another hill which I was able to visit was Paniog Hill. As compared with Sering Hill, the Paniog Hill is actually quite established and turned into a community ecological park. Going to its peak won’t take that long. It usually just takes about 20 minutes. Upon reaching the peak, visitors can take a good rest in the nipa hut while having a picturesque view of the sea and the community.

  • Check-out the Kisses Islets in Libjo
a closer look of the kisses islet
a closer look of the kisses islet

 Another set of rock formations that will leave you breathless is the Kisses Islets of Libjo. The islets are named after the famous chocolate brand because of it shape. As of this writing, not much activity can be done in the islets aside from photo shoots with them as background.

  • Have Fun Playing within Isla Aga (Aga Islet)
the white sand and rock formations of the Aga Islet
the white sand and rock formations of the Aga Islet
Old hanging bridge within the Aga Islet
Old hanging bridge within the Aga Islet

This islet is owned by Former Governor Jade Ecleo. The old rest house and bridge within this islet is now poorly maintained, or no maintenance at all. However, the coral garden in one side of the islet and the white beach in the other side are enough reasons to still visit the islet.

  • Witness Pawikan Egg Laying (and other Faunal Species) in Kabakungan Beach in Basilisa
The island from afar
The island from afar

One of the most famous beaches in the province. It is located at the foot of Lalaking Bukid (Male Mountain in Cebuano) and at the opposite side of Bitaog Beach. This beach is known because this is a nesting ground for the pawikans (sea turtles). If you are fortunate enough, you can personally witness the actual laying of eggs. However, kindly take note that there are guidelines that you need to follow before you can actually go here and try finding a laying sea turtle. Proper coordination with the DENR and the local government unit is a must. Also, near the beach, you can trek and visit the resting area of kalaws (hornbills).

  • Play along the Tagbirayan Pink Beach in San Jose, Cagdianao
a closer look to people in the beach
a closer look to people in the beach
Coconut trees in the Tagbirayan Beach
Coconut trees in the Tagbirayan Beach

When we went to this beach, I was expecting a coral-shade of pink beach. However, the color of this beach is closer to that of the coconut husk, in my opinion. The sand is fine and the waves are high. One warning though, the beach has numerous coconut trees, so you really have to watch out for falling coconuts!

  • Acknowledge the Skills of People who do the Handicraft Weaving in La Justiniana Edera, Dinagat
native salakot in Dinagat Islands
native salakot in Dinagat Islands
A man weaving a salakot
A man weaving a salakot

If you are a fan of locally-made handicrafts, this small barangay in the municipality of Dinagat is a place which you should visit. They have handicrafts made from kawayan  (bamboo) and other locally available raw materials.

  • Be mystified by the enchanted Bababoo Lake in Basilisa–ecopark
Our first glimpse of the lake
Our first glimpse of the lake
the rock wall surrounding the Bababoo Lake
the rock wall surrounding the Bababoo Lake

This is one of most favorite places in the province. Discovered by Peter Langit during the 1950’s, this lake is known for its stories on different types of elemental living within it. This lake is meromictic, meaning, it has both freshwater (surface) and saltwater (below) which do not mix. Another great feature of the lake is its good water quality. Unlike other lakes in the Philippines, this lake is still pristine. According to our guide, all visitors are encouraged to drink from the lake, which we actually did.

  • Savor good food at Solomon’s in San Jose Poblacion and the Local Fruits and Seafoods of the Island Province
Very sweet watermelon
Very sweet watermelon
Cashew Fruit
Cashew Fruit

This carinderia (small restaurant or eatery) near the main port in San Jose serves different types of Filipino foods for a vary affordable price. One of my favorite was their chili crab in coconut milk which just costs Php 50 per serving. Aside from this restaurant, you can buy different types of very fresh seafoods at affordable prices and also some fresh fruits, including kasoy and their very sweet watermelon. During my two-week stay in the province, I ate at least 8 whole watermelons. That’s how i love their watermelons.

  • Experience the Culture of the Province by Walking around the Communities
A lady selling a variety of orchid
A lady selling a variety of orchid
A usual store in a barangay in Melgar
A usual store in a barangay in Melgar
A rooster doing its usual thing
A rooster doing its usual thing

As with my other posts, I will still encourage everyone to have a walk along the local communities of the province. Not only it presents the most genuine, realistic, non-tourist molded, type of culture, it also exhibits a good presentation of the rich landscape of the province. As we walked along the communities, we really enjoyed it because of the colorful orchids and breathtaking and panoramic views of the sea and the mountains. So when you visit the province (or any other places), be sure to also tour around their local communities, and you will surely learn a lot from the locals.

When we left, we took nothing but pictures, we left nothing but memories.

For more photos of our adventures in the Province of Dinagat Islands, pls visit the Life Gallery.

Additional notes:

  • The transportation in the area is very limited. In the whole province, only around 3 to 4 jeepneys. So in order for you to visit and travel within the province, the most common option would be to ride a motorcycle. Another option would be to ride a motorized banca and visit the municipalities and beaches through their ports. So, if you don’t know anyone who owns a vehicle who is living in the province, you really have to prepare quite high amount of money in order to visit the aforementioned areas.
  • Since the road construction is on going and there are numerous mining sites within the province, another thing to also consider while traveling around the province is the problem on dust, especially when you have asthma or allergies.
  • If you are from Manila, you really have to check the flight schedules available going to Butuan. Because either Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific offers just one flight per day going to Butuan, which are both in the morning. Another option is to take a connecting flight from Cebu.

Some issues:

  • It is without a doubt that the Province of Dinagat Islands is a paradisein its own sense, category and level, hence, it is really an imperative to protect and conserve its natural resources. However, one problem that we really noticed was the problem on solid waste management. A lot of people are just throwing their garbage such as plastics and cigarette butts into the open sea and along the beaches. Since the water is very clear, you can actually see different types of garbage at the seafloor along shallow portions of the sea, especially at the port.

Acknowledgements:

I would like to give our deepest gratitude to all the staff of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office of the Province of Dinagat Islands headed by PENRO Agapito Patubo for accommodating and guiding us during our entire stay.

Travel Guide    
Route Mode of Transportation Estimated Travel Time
Ninoay Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Butuan Airport Airplane 1 hour
Butuan Airport to Bus Terminal (City Proper) Tricycle 30 minutes
Bus Terminal (Butuan City) to Surigao City Bus 3 hours
Surigao City Proper to Port Tricycle 15 minutes
Surigao Port to San Jose, Dinagat Islands Motorized Banca < 2 hours

 

 

Here are more photos in the Province of Dinagat Islands:

one of the few jeepneys in PDI
one of the few jeepneys in PDI
the coral beach along the road going to Campintach
the coral beach along the road going to Campintach
An old port covered with silt
An old port covered with silt
Large mining barges
Large mining barges
The house of the owner of Buena Suerte Resort
The house of the owner of Buena Suerte Resort
The forest of friendship
The forest of friendship
The nursery in the forest of friendship
The nursery in the forest of friendship
A fly going to the trap
A fly going to the trap
Another view of Bitaog Beach
Another view of Bitaog Beach
Bitaog Beach's white sand and coconut trees
Bitaog Beach’s white sand and coconut trees
Boat full of tourists who will visit the Bitaog Beach
Boat full of tourists who will visit the Bitaog Beach
starfish in the seagrasses
sea star in a seagrass bed
Basketball court with a mountain range as its backdrop
Basketball court with a mountain range as its backdrop
People playing volleyball
Children playing volleyball happily
Grass with very sharp blades
Grass with very sharp blades
Going to the peak of the Sering Hill
Going to the peak of the Sering Hill
Philippine Ironwood (Mangkono) in Sering Falls
Philippine Ironwood (Mangkono) in Sering Hill
Agoho (Benguet Pine)along the trail going to Paniog hill
Agoho (Benguet Pine)along the trail going to Paniog hill
Going up to the Paniog Hill
Going up to the Paniog Hill
the community of Melgar, Basilisa
the community of Melgar, Basilisa
Mangrove forest along the Maytubig river
Mangrove forest along the Maytubig river
Wooden bridge from the port to the barangay proper
Wooden bridge from the port to the barangay proper
Rivers and Mountains in Bayanihan
Rivers and Mountains in Bayanihan
First part of the trail going to the lake
First part of the trail going to the lake
A flying lizard
A flying lizard
The jump-off area going to the Bababoo Lake
The jump-off area going to the Bababoo Lake
Insects signifying the start of the rainy season
Insects signifying the start of the rainy season

IMG_9027

Our first glimpse of the lake
Our first glimpse of the lake
fading waves
fading waves
Stairs going to and from the white beach of Aga Islet
Stairs going to and from the white beach of Aga Islet
clownfish and other types of fishes
clownfish and other types of fishes
sea snake burying itself in the sand
sea snake burying itself in the sand
Fingerlings clumping together
Fingerlings clumping together
Untying the colorful salakots
Untying the colorful salakots

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