Catanduanes: The island gem

ADVENTUROUS surfers, nature lovers and those who seek serenity and just plain rest can find them all in the province of Catanduanes, truly an island paradise.

Catanduanes, which comes from the word “katandungan,” means a place of refuge in times of danger, especially for mariners during story weather.

Catanduanes may have always been perceived as a typhoon-prone area. But it’s not always true. It’s just that PAG-ASA uses Catanduanes as the reference point for typhoons in Bicol.

We witnessed the true spirit of Catandunganons during the Catandungan Festival, which showcased each municipality’s rich customs and tradition. Seven municipalities vied for the best festival of the festivals – Kinis festival of Panganiban; Umasilhag of Gigmoto, Sibagat of Viga; Sibuboy of Bato; Manokmanok of Bagamanoc; Buroniyogan of San Andres and Dinahit of Pandan.

In the end, Viga was adjudged the winner.

The festivals showed the life of the people, mostly farmers and fishermen.

A legendary story told by the Bagamanoc group attracted much attention. It is a theatric performance about the undying love of an immortal man Kurakog for mortal woman Kalarab. The woman was killed, angering Kurakog.

It is said that Kurakog slept and never woke up. His body was washed away, leaving only his giant penis. The five-foot stone column, “Boto ni Kurakog” (Kuragog’s Penis), is an object of folk fertility rites.

Provincial tourism officer Carmel Garcia said the phallic symbol was the theme of the festival some years back. But the presentation was toned town due criticisms from conservative residents.

Surfing enthusiasts, mostly backpackers from Australia, South Africa and Germany, are familiar visitors to the place.

In the first quarter, there were 25,000 tourists and 12,000 foreign tourists, up 31 percent from the same period last year. Officials expect a total of 90,000 foreign and local tourists for the full year.

Domestic tourists spend P1,200 a day while foreigners spend $30-$45 a day. Tourists receipts for the first quarter were estimated at P3.5 million.

Beaches are unspoiled. What visitors enjoy most are surfing at Puraran Beach and limited scuba diving at Twin Rock Beach Resort. The months of August, September and early part of October are the best months for surfing. Surfing in Puraran costs P150 per hour plus P150 for the trainor.

There are lots of places to go for eco tourism, as the province abounds with many islets.

Bato is where most historical sites are located like the St John of the Baptist Church. Viga and Bagamanok are for adventure tourist while Virac is the hub. There are a total of 200 rooms in Virac while other towns offer only home stay. The only resort hotel is Twin Rock.

Gov. Joseph Cua plans to develop Bato as a destination for wakeboarding; Viga as the site of the Mt. Summit ecopark and Puraran as host of surfing competition.

There are eight flights a week from Manila to Virac via Cebu Pacific and Zest Air.

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