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It’s just the start of March but boy, I can already feel the summer heat! And I bet that most of you are planning, if not have planned, a summer getaway to beat the heat. But, you might want to reconsider and en route to the Happy Island Catanduanes.
This under the radar island paradise is located at the south-east of Luzon island and part of the Bicol region. It is also the 12th largest island in the Philippines. Dubbed as Land of the Howling Winds, but these winds carved natural wonders in each of its eleven unique municipalities. From islets to waterfalls, to hidden beaches, to cliffs, to lagoons, to rock formations, to coastlines. Yes, all of these and more in an underrated island.
Is the capital municipality of Catanduanes. They say that Virac is a derivation of the word “Vidak” while some say it’s a contraction of the Spanish version of the word burac, meaning flower. A priest was gathering information about the natives. He asked what’s the name of a certain tree, the natives replied, “Burac.” The priest then noted the town as Burac in his book.
Twin Rock Beach
Ilihan Rock Formation
Jesus’ Face Beach
This island of the swamp was a chicken raising settlement place on the inhospitable plateau of Catanduanes Island. According to folklore, a young man from the tribe braved his way across the river to look for ratan. Instead, he saw what appeared to be a chicken flying and discovered a place with an abundant food source and building materials plus naturally hidden from pirates. The tribe called it “BAGAMANOC” which means the place was like a “manok” or chicken.
Palestina Rolling Hills
Known as ”Badas”, once a progressive fishing village located over a small mountain. With a great view of the Baras Bay, the villagers could easily see incoming pirates and would have ample time to evacuate. Today, Baras town is one of the top destinations in Catanduanes. In this town, I found my perfect hideaway !
Balacay Point (cover photo)
This town is located in the northern part of the island. The inhabitants come from the stock of the early 13th Century Bornean, Chinese and Malayan settlers in the province mixed with Filipino (Spanish, American, Japanese and Papuans blood.) It’s endowed with vast agricultural lands, natural resources and fishing grounds teeming with rich marine life. With its untapped natural resources, locals call it, as the sleeping giant of the province.
The town’s name originated from the Bicol word “himbot“means, just in time. Which is said to be a folklore about courtship. As a young man from Baras was courting a maiden from the town of Viga. He traveled all the way to Viga and eventually won the lady’s heart. When on their way to Baras, the lovers stayed overnight at Gigmoto – “just in time” as their first romantic night together. Years went by and Himbotan was changed to Higmoto. Because of the “H” in Higmoto, it seemed to be a Japanese word. Later changed to “G” – thus the name Gigmoto.
Nupa Tide Pool
The original town’s location was two kilometers away south of the current town proper. Which was vulnerable to Moros, as it’s near the sea. As a defense to Moro raids, the locals planted pandan shrubs close to each other to form a formidable defense against invaders. When the Spaniards came they asked what’s the name of the shrubs, and locals said, Pandan. From then on, the town’s known name was Pandan.
Cagnipa Rolling Hills
Tuwad-Tuwadan Blue Lagoon
There are several stories on when and why the town was named “Bato.” Some say it came from the name of the “Water Wells”, or from the Tagalog word bato, meaning rock. Another legend states that a Spaniard asked a settler woman about the place’s name, and she replied “Bato”. This town today is, if not the top, one of the top destinations in Catanduanes.
Batalay Mangrove Eco Park
It is believed that this town’s first name was Payo, it is named after the plant “Hamapayo.” Another folklore is that it’s after a headman or “Payo” of a group of villagers from the southern mainland of Luzon who settled in the place. Then called EL PUEBLO DE PAYO during the Spanish regime. Influenced by Archbishop Pedro de Payo who was the architect engaged in designing and drawing up of plans for construction of churches. But the town was demoted to a mere barrio of Viga during the start of the American Democratic Government, in 1898. In 1920, the people of Payo clamored for their segregation. From Payo, the new town was called Panganiban, named after Jose Maria Panganiban, a political leader from Camarines Norte since Senator Jose O. Vera from Pandan declined. All these were made possible by a campaign led by Mr. Sabino Cabangon, after serving as Chief of Police of Pandan, he was appointed as councilor to represent the barrio of Payo.
Originally known as, “Calolbong/Calolbon” which was vaguely referred to a Bicol expression – “naca lobong.” As the houses back in the day looked like they were submerged in water along the bank of Carangag River if viewed from the sea. Spanish colonizers misunderstood what the native said and referred to the place as Calolbon.
Taristis Roadside Waterfalls
This town was formerly part of Bato municipality. A sitio known as “Aguas.” Named after fish species bigger than “Balanak.” Aguas was changed to San Miguelin commemoration to the invaluable services of Don Miguel Triumfante and Juez de Cnado of Bato who were present during a feast in honor of Santa Cruz the former Patron Saint in 1930. Another story is that the chapel caretaker named Marcelo Tapanan. He heard a long and loud ringing of the church bells one morning and saw the image of Saint Michael the Archangel in the altar. It was then decided to change Aguas to San Miguel.
Ki Atob Cliff
It’s believed that a group of tribesmen led by “Abines” from the mainland were the town’s first settlers. Due to Moro raids, they resettled inland where the primitive pygmy inhabitants were said to be residing. And called the place Oco, meaning short people or dwarf. When Moro attacks became less frequent, people then moved to the lowlands where the soil was more fertile. They then found an area where herbaceous giant gabi-like plants which they called “Marviga” grew abundantly. Spaniards called the settlement “Viga“, shortened from “Marviga“. This name was subsequently adopted as the official name of the municipality.
I got a chance to explore Catanduanes for the first time back in October 2015. I was clueless about how to and how long would it take to get to Catanduanes. Then apparently, we’d drive all the way to Tabaco Port, Tabaco, Albay which was around 12 hours. Then a four hourish ferry ride to San Andres, Catanduanes. Then another hour or so drive to Virac. And it was all worth it! I loved Puraran Surf Beach in Baras. So last May, I traveled back solo. Instead of driving, I flew in the island. And I know you are itching to go to Catanduanes now, so checkout this info graphic for your travel needs.
References for municipalities’ history and attractions: