Baby Steps To Growth: CATANDUANES, THE HAPPY ISLAND
Like Baguio and Boracay, Catanduanes has also opened her tourist spots but only to residents of the province, the Catandunganons. Yet, Catanduanes is really still undiscovered, its natural beauty by-passed due to the commercial hype of established tourist destinations.
While others recover, Catanduanes needs to be discovered.
A legend explains Catanduanes comes from tandu, a native click beetle was once abundant throughout the island and katanduan means where tandu abound. The Spaniards hispanized it to Catanduanes to become pluralist.
Another story says the name comes from samdong, a tree which similarly abound in the island. Again it was hispanized, the phonological error traces to the Spaniards’ difficulty to pronounce words ending in “ng”. Thus, from kasamdongan and katandungan, it changed to Catanduanes.
Still some historians say katandungan is a Malay word that means “a place of refuge in time of danger,” as this island has always been the refuge of mariners during stormy weather.
Where at what.
The island province is in the Bicol region, south eastern of the Luzon archipelago with 11 municipalities, together boast of one of the longest list of tourist spots acknowledged by the Dept. of Tourism (DoT).
To accelerate local development, the Tourism Alliance and Green Travel Tourism Circuit was established composed of:
- SANCAPA Circuit –
- San Andres – Powdery white sand Amenia Beach, kayaking, swimming, camping, beach bumming
- Caramoran – Toytoy beach, swimming, snorkelling, shoreline stretching forever waffled by calm and sparkling ocean waters
- Pandan – Hiyop Highlands. Hill-to-sea ecosystem, white sand beaches and coves, camping, trekking, biking, sunset, pre-nuptial sites rivalling far away Batanes
- PAVIBA Circuit-
- Panganiban – Lolong Point Lighthouse at the edge of a cliff, trekking a backbone of greens, camping
- Viga – Summit View Park, a 360 degree panorama of the area, sea of cloud in the morning, trekking.
- Bagamanoc – Palestina rolling hills, the Pacific Ocean yawning wide at Podeo Point. Beaches on both sides.
- GIBBSAM Circuit -
- Gigmoto – Nupa Lagoon and Tidal Pools, huge boulders on incredibly blue-green waters, trek down to reach the magic.
- Bato – Batalay Mangrove Eco Park, the thrill of a river ride contrasts with the calm of endless mangrove, home and breeding of fresh water creatures.
- Baras – Puraran Beach and its majestic barrels of waves for surfing, skimboarding, photography, camping, stargazing.
- San Miguel – Solong Falls, trekking, cliff-jumping, swimming, photography
- VIRAC is the central service hub, gateway that cuts across the circuits.
- Igang Beach or Twin Rock Beach, southwest and one of the best known and developed resorts in the island. Shoreline has cream, fine sand for relaxing. The name comes from the stunning rock formation jutting seaward, while islets and rocks bulge off shore.
Bounty of the sea are fresh and cheap at market places: lobster, crabs, prawns, fish, even clams and shells (suso). These, complimented by local classics as the spicy Bicol Express (meat sautéed with coco cream) and laing (of yam leaves and coconut cream, sometimes with spikes of meat).
For desserts and snacks, there is an infinity of sweets, crunchies and tidbits for happy times with the barkada (gangmates) or moments of serenity to munch.
Inspired and bullish.
Virac Mayor Sinforoso “Posoy” Sarmiento admits the island needs more development but is blessed with clear rivers, sparkling seas, waterfalls and mangrove forests. People are very accommodating, with much goodwill, creating a Happy Island.
Investments are welcome, not just for profit but for government programs in protecting the environment while fulfilling basic social and welfare needs of the people.
Talino Galing ng Pinoy (TGP) Partylist Rep. Jose “Bong” Teves takes it as a duty to protect the environment as the seas against pollution, coral reefs against illegal fishing, the mountains and ridges against garbage and degradation.
He takes pride in the virgin beauty of Catanduanes, development he started in 2001 but stunted by the COVID-19 global pandemic. But his town Baras managed to excel in surfing, reign as surfing capital of Region 5, hosted national and international competitions.
Alongside, Catanduanes is now criss-crossed by concrete roads for easy access to spots and services, with a One-Stop-Shop in Manila to coordinate things. Before, visitors are almost stranded at the only port without facility nor services.
Despite the pandemic, the Catandungan Festival goes on, commemorating the 75th Foundation of the province from October 21 to the 26th, digital for this year with updates from the Tourism Promotion page.
A feature on Oct. 23rd is a Cultural Mapping Orientation via zoom app conducted by the Tourism Office of the province.
For September, DoT Tourism Region 5, with the Bureau of Fire Protection Region HQ 5, conducted the "Safety First Tourism: Decontamination Skills Training for Accommodation Establishments" via Zoom on-line platform.
For October, there was a triple “C” circuit webinar of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes held August 26th. This is for establishments to disinfect premises to prevent and minimize the transfer of contaminants spread by vehicles and guests. There was demonstration on the use of equipment for decontamination as well as donning and doffing of PPE.
Baras Mayor Paolo Teves’ FaceBook posts the construction of the Kaladapan Bay Esplanade, Baywalk, Children’s Park and Sports Center.
Preparing for the national Balik Probinsya Program (Return-to-the-Province) Baras added equipment and quarantine facilities for returnees to be secured and comfortable. A meeting was conducted to strengthen the Balik Happy Island Program, aligning to protocols of the “New Normal” like wearing face masks and shields, social distancing and health practices as mandated by the Dept. of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF-COVID-19).
Preserve and protect.
Tourism Promotion head Carmel Bonifacio Garcia guards to preserve the pristine environment of Catanduanes. They go for quality tourism rather than mass, never permitting to sacrifice the environment for predatory business.
Under the campaign Responsible Tourism, the province advocates green tourism along all the communities, more so on tourism sites. Continuous Information and education are given, the love for their environment instilled, particularly by proper waste disposal.
There is a perception that typhoons are prevalent in Catanduanes. This is wrong, Catanduanes is essentially calm and pleasant.
The island is just a point-of-reference in the east-south-west area weather forecasts of the Phil Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
The Catanduanes State University (CSU) visualizes a Green university, globally engaged in island research and innovation for societal advancement. Faculty and students are encouraged to protect the environment, help in coastal clean-up, constantly assist in efforts of the Bureau of Fish and Aquatic Research (BFAR).
CSU Pres. Minerva I. Morales even launched a unique and complimentary product, a hand sanitizer enhanced with abaca extract. Dr. Morales says the extract has anti-microbial properties and follows standards of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Mass-produced, the hand sanitizers were distributed to Catanduanes local government units (LGUs) and medical frontliners to assist in the fight against the deadly Corona Virus -19.
Technically, Catanduanes’ optimism is merely a speck on the framework of doables. But it gives courage to our merchant mariners as global shipping is on a downturn, hope to our overseas workers on cruise ships debilitated by the pandemic, assurance to our local roll on-roll off (Ro-Ro) operators stymied by quarantine restrictions.
In pragmatic terms, the Catanduanes faith not only energizes the interest of the province --- but also the fate of our national maritime industry.
(Nota bene: The editors notice partiality on this coverage of Catanduanes, discovering our publisher was born at Tilod, Baras some secret years agooo.)