SAN VICTOR ISLAND: Baganga’s Island Jewel

Lying on the seas of the Pacific in the coastal town of Baganga, Davao Oriental, there find one sparkling Island bestowed by Mother Nature with pristine sands so pure and pearly white, seawater so clean and clear and an ambiance of a real tropical living. They call this little paradise – San Victor Island.

The San Victor Island is one of Davao Oriental’s unique islands facing the Pacific Ocean. It is 3-hectare Island located in Barangay San Victor about 20 minutes drive from Baganga’s town proper and 40 minutes ride from its neighboring town of Cateel. The island is very accessible from the highway and about 5 minutes boat ride from the mainland.

The island is considered as the Island Jewel of Baganga as it landed on the list of the must-visit top tourist spots of Davao Oriental and the Davao Region. Thus, if you are a tourist visiting both Baganga and Cateel, your trip to both towns will not be complete without basking onto the powdery white sands and soaking into the cool turquoise waters of San Victor Island.

More than the white sand beach and the crystal clear waters, San Victor Island is rich in marine life and resources. Seaweeds and clams abound the sea bed. Underwater, its unscathed corals are playground of the multi-colored fishes. While the sea surrounding the island teems with rich marine life, the island on the other hand is covered with tall old coconut groves, some talisay trees and other tropical plants enhancing a real tropical feel.

The Island’s exceptional beauty and sublime tranquility top the reason why it is frequented by beach fanatics. It is the reason why visitors, not only from Baganga, would travel far to indulge and relish the Island’s irresistible inviting splendor.

Visiting San Victor Island is always part of my vacation in my hometown. Although it belongs to the Municipality of Baganga, it is greatly accessible from my hometown of Cateel. For the many times that I’ve come here, I’ve learned to love everything about the Island’s allure – the sun, the sea and the sand. But there is one thing I learned about it that I have yet to see. According to the locals, the island’s turquoise waters are favorite playgrounds of sea cows or Dugong. They say it is between months of June and August that these sea cows are spotted playing and dancing at the waters of the Island. It is a good reason to look forward to.

San Victor Island is owned by the Diocese of Mati and managed by the Catholic Parish of Baganga.  It is open to visitors and tourists who want to experience extraordinary encounter with nature and the tranquility of the surroundings. It is not commercially developed but it has cottages for rent, nipa huts to stay and manicured lawn for camping available whether for day tour or for overnight stay. And yes, there is electricity and fresh water.

If you are an island lover and you love everything about the island – San Victor Island is for you! Whether you’re up for frolicking on the beach or just basking on the sand, the island will simply embrace you. After all, just like other lovely islands, San Victor Island is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the daily living.

HOW TO GET TO THE SAN VICTOR ISLAND:
From Davao City, one may take either public utility buses or L300 vans to reach the Municipality of Baganga in Davao Oriental. Public utility buses coming from Davao City Overland Transport Terminal (DCOTT) in Ecoland travel to the town daily. On the other hand, L300 Vans Terminal servicing Davao-Baganga is located at Gaisano Mall of Davao in Bajada. Once you arrive at Baganga’s Poblacion, you may take a motorcycle or habal-habal going to Barangay San Victor. Worry not, San Victor Island is very familiar to the locals.

TAKE ME TO CAPE SAN AGUSTIN

“Take me to Cape San Agustin”. I remembered saying this on the first night that I got to Governor Generoso. Among the things I knew about this quaint town long before this travel, Cape San Agustin was the one that was stuck well on my head. Even before I started traveling, I already knew that it landed on Davao Oriental’s list of must-visit tourist destinations. So even back then, I’ve already dreamt of setting foot there thus this quest of seeing it up close and personal has been made.

Cape San Agustin is the southernmost part of the Governor Generoso where the furthest point juts into the vast Celebes Sea on one side and Davao Gulf on the other. It is in this part of the town that some of the finest secret beaches of Davao Oriental are best kept. More than the beaches, Cape San Agustin is also historical landmark tracing back centuries when Spaniards came to the Philippines. Thus, going there on my final day at Governor Generoso was beyond excitement. It was a dream journey.

The gloomy weather on that Sunday morning didn’t stop me and two guides, Clinton and Ralston to travel to the far-flung Cape San Agustin. Being the southernmost part of Govgen, going there from the town proper requires a long patience. The travel is about one and half hours and the most common mode of transportation is habal habal. Thus, I prepared myself for a butt-numbing trip to Cape San Agustin on that day.

Cape San Agustin is situated at Barangay Lavigan, the southernmost barangay of Govgen. To get there, we have to pass by 11 other south district barangays from Poblacion passing through some destinations we’ve already visited on the first day. On our way, I was still at awe seeing again the scenic coastal road of Chicote, the breathtaking view of the Sigaboy Island and the Davao Gulf from the Montserrat View Deck, the coasts of Tambam and the gigantic Centennial Tree of Magdug. Moving on, we also passed by Barangays Luzon, Tiblawan, Nangan and Surop. The coastal views of these places including the vast mangroves therein were also captivating.

Our first pit stop prior to Cape San Agustin was Barangay Tagabebe. This is the part of Govgen where the world class diving site called The Wall is situated. The Wall is easily reached from Tulob Beach, a pristine white sand beach lying on the tranquil waters of Davao Gulf. Tulob Beach has two long stretch of white sand beach. Each has different quality but both offer a quaint untouched beach experience. There are no cottages, no rest houses – virgin white beach as I call it. It is privately owned by a local of Tagabebe but opened for local beach goers.

From Tulob Beach, we headed forward to Barangay Pundaguitan and went to Babak Beach. Like Tulob Beach, Babak Beach offers another long stretch of white sand beach kissed by the azure waters of Davao Gulf. But unlike Tulob Beach, it has cottages where beach goers can stay. What I like about Babak Beach is its accessibility from the highway and its cool Tropical feel as the whole place is filled with coconut trees.

Pundaguitan is the last barangay next to Lavigan. From here our journey to Cape San Agustin started. From Lavigan proper, going to Cape San Agustin is about 15 minutes. The road going there this time becomes more rugged and rocky. Winds were becoming stronger and the raging sounds of the waves from the open seas were getting louder – indications that we were almost there. After almost two hours of butt-numbing motorcycle ride, finally, we reached Cape San Agustin.

Filled with much excitement, I immediately ran to place where the three Lighthouses locally called Parola are located. I used to see them in brochures and finally they were now in front of me. The three paralos were built at the furthest part of Cape San Agustin. It is overlooking the vast Celebes Sea and the serene Davao Gulf. Among the three Parolas, the oldest one that was built in 1938 looks totally unusual. Unlike the two, it has an exterior spiral staircase leading to the top. Thus, can come up and see the breathtaking view of two bodies of water. Just like my tour guides, I braved my fear of heights just to experience the thrill of what was in store for me up there. Indeed, the view is so spectacular!

When done with the Parolas, my guides brought me to a sea cliff just within the vicinity of the Lighthouses overlooking the point they locally called The Islet. A sea rock with vegetation on top, the Islet is the furthest point of the Cape San Agustin. This is also said to be the southeasterly most point of the Philippines. Viewing it from the sea cliff was an amazing experience as the raging waves of Celebes Sea splashed wildly on its helpless base. What a wonderful seascape, I muttered!

Another interesting spot at this part of Cape San Agustin is the spot where one can clearly see the meeting of the two bodies of water – the vast Celebes Sea and the serene Davao Gulf. While Davao Gulf lies so still, Celebes Sea was raging! Again, the view was intensely captivating.

From the Parolas, we moved down to the other side of Cape San Agustin this time to see a beach that really took my breath away. They called this beach as simply as the Parola Beach. Its shoreline stretches from one edge to another. On the right is the area where Parolas are built and opposite is an amazing group of rock formation. It faces the open waters of the great Celebes Sea thus those ravaging waves.

Among the fascinating things about Parola Beach, what really mesmerized me were the pristine sands of the entire stretch of the beach. It is a Pink Sand Beach. The color of the sand appears to be pinkish than being white. This a coloration effect caused by the abundance of red organ pipe coral sediments mixed with the white sand. I was drowned to so much admiration knowing in this part of my home province of Davao Oriental lies one special paradise dotting with a pink sand beach. Realizing that I am stepping at a pink sand beach, I suddenly remembered my trip to Sta. Cruz Island in Zamboanga City, known to be the only Pink Sand Beach in the Philippines. I traveled so far just to set foot on that pink sand beach. Had I known I can find one in this part of Govgen, about 3 hours away from Davao City, I wouldn’t have gone far.

The farthest side of Parola Beach is dotted with sea rocks and different rock formations shaped by the hands of time and the waves of Celebes Sea. Among those sea rocks and rock formations, one extraordinary Rock Formation witnessed the foundation of Christianity in the Province. They called this place The Altar. It is believed to be the place where Spanish Missionary priest St. Francis Xavier supposed to have said his first mass when he arrived in the Philippines in 1550.

Getting there personally and beholding such scene was a dreamlike experience. I never thought I could step on this exact place where Christianity in this part of my home province was shaped. Just the thought of it until now makes me shiver. Being there, I felt I was like swayed back in time. Surreal experience, I told myself.

Right in front of The Altar is sea rocks and seascapes that could make one still and be captivated by its matchless exquisiteness. As I stood at one rock, I gazed around savoring every minute that I was there. The tranquility of the whole place was deeply infectious that in my very heart I can feel so much peace. The waves were ravaging but its sounds were like gentle music to my ears. “I can live here forever”, I sincerely whispered!

Contended with everything that I romanced there, we left the Altar and headed back to Parola Beach. Later, my two equally energetic guides, Clinton and Ralston, prepared our lunch the backpacker’s way. We shared that scrumptious lunch full of excitement. For two days that we’ve been together, I felt like they’re my long lost friends.

It was still drizzling when we decided to head back to the town proper. As we left Cape san Agustin, I felt so overjoyed. Another dream destination in my bucket list was realized. Most of all, it was not just an ordinary destination. It is a spot that shaped what Govgen is today and my home province of Davao Oriental as a whole. And so having gone there, I concluded, Cape San Agustin is not just a usual tourist spot but a significant destination that every Filipino must discover and explore.

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As I end this article about my awesome journey to Governor Generoso, I would like to take this opportunity to convey my sincerest gratitude to all the people who made this trip possible. First to the Provincial Tourism Officer of Davao Oriental Mr. Miguel Trocio for introducing me to the LGU of Govgen, to the father of Govgen Mayor Vicente D. Orencia, to the Municipal Administrator/Municipal Tourism Officer Ms. Quin Mae Flores, to the Asst. Tourism Officer Mr. Joey Gamao and to my two dynamic tour guides Clinton Polancos and Ralston Jayee Gabayan  who both are Tourism Staffs of Govgen – please accept my deepest thanks for giving me an amusing experience at Governor Generoso that until to this time of writing I still feel so elated. From the Travel Teller, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

This is “Yes, I’ll Go to Governor Generoso!” the Travel Series
1.  MY JOURNEY TO GOVERNOR GENEROSO
2. EXPLORING THE MUNICIPALITY OF GOVERNOR GENEROSO
3. TAKE ME TO CAPE SAN AGUSTIN

HOW TO GET TO GOVERNOR GENEROSO:
From Davao City, one may take either public utility buses or L300 vans to reach Governor Generoso. Public utility buses coming from Ecoland Terminal in Davao City travel to the town of Governor Generoso daily at one hour interval from 3:00 o’clock in the morning up to 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon. Travel time with these buses takes less than four hours. On the other hand, L300 Vans with terminal at Gaisano Mall and Victoria Plaza Mall, both in Bajada, Davao City takes only two and half hours.

FOR ASSISTANCE:
Municipal Tourism Office – Telefax No. (082) 440-354
Mr. Joey Gamao – 0935.920.2165
Mr. Clinton Polancos – 0905.121.2915
Mr. Ralston Jayee Gabayan – 0939.543.0468

SUNSET AT THE SAND DUNES OF ILOCOS NORTE

I never knew that one day I’ll be setting foot exactly to the set where superstar Nora Aunor once shouted a reverberating epic line “Walang Himala!”, the same location used to film that Joey Gosiengfiao’s classic movie Temptation Island. If I never traveled far north to Ilocos Norte, I would have no inkling of how vast and picturesque the Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte are. If I never braved that 13 hour long journey to this Province, the Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte will forever remain a part of my classic Filipino movie experience.

Still on the second day of our Lakbay Ilocos Norte adventure, we hurried towards the town Paoay to take a glimpse of the most famous sand dunes in the Philippines – the Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte.

The Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte stretches widely from the municipality of Currimao in the north and curves it’s way to La Paz in Laoag City then to Suba in Paoay and lastly in Pasuquin in the south.

The home of Ilocos Norte’s Sand Dunes in Paoay is located in Suba. Suba has the most extensive and unbroken stretch of coastal sand dunes compared to the other towns of Ilocos Norte. With an extensive stretch averaging to 800 meters wide, I felt like I am in a real desert.

It was nearing dusk when we get there – a perfect time to chase a glorious sunset setting at calm waters of the vast West Philippine Seas. As the sun retired, the whole place was slowly swathed by the hypnotizing sunset hues. It was so enthralling we were all at loss of words. Glorious! Glorious! Glorious! The only adjective I kept on murmuring as I glued my eyes on a glorious sunset that was laid before me. I was like staring at a stairway to heaven. To be honest, I was carried away. I wept for no reason. It was just so glorious.

Lured by this spectacle, I seized the moment. While the remaining hues were still there, I playfully posed in front of my camera hoping to own an epic sunset photograph of myself romancing the most beautiful sunset in the Philippines. And it never failed me.

With BFF Sarah

Contended by what we saw and experienced, we left Suba so delighted. I knew it was the pleasing view of the Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte and the glorious Sunset of Suba that just made our long day on the second day of our Lakbay Ilocos Norte!

PAGUDPUD: The Charming Tropical Paradise of the North

It was drizzling when we flew from Davao City to Manila on the evening of February 8. It was Wednesday. Most of my local trips happened during weekends but this one was different. This is a 4-day trip packed with fun-filled and time chasing itineraries. Our target destinations were the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. Knowing all the fun and thrills store for us there; excitement consumed me while waiting for boarding at Davao International Airport.

After 2 hours of bumpy flight, we touched down Manila. It was almost midnight. Days prior to our trip, we contracted a service vehicle we can use for the whole 4-day trip. An hour before our arrival, the van was already there. When all was set and ready, our journey to the scenic provinces of both Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur commenced. It was already 1:00 in the very cold dawn when we left the Metro.

Both Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur are situated in the northwest tip of Luzon. All the coastal towns of both provinces face the great South China Sea. The rustic Municipality of Pagudpud being among farthest coastal towns of Ilocos Norte from Manila was our first destination.

Traveling overland going to Pagudpud was a long journey. It took us almost 13 hours to actually get there passing different provinces, cities and towns of Ilocos Region. Some of these towns and cities were actually part of the itineraries but we opted to proceed first to Pagudpud as our first goal. Seriously, this is by the far the longest road trip I have made in my whole journeys. Being on the road for 13 hours was a no-joke. Thanks to GPS, we made it to our destination.

When we reached the town of Pagudpud, we headed immediately to Patapat Viaduct which is about 20 minutes drive from the town proper.  The Patapat Viaduct is one of the most important bridges in this northernmost part of Luzon. It was constructed to connect Ilocos Region to Cagayan Valley. It has an elevation of 30 meters above the sea level and about 1.5 kilometers long. From afar, the view of the long and winding bridge alongside the mountains of the Cordillera looks indescribably amazing. I have never been to a bridge like this thus seeing this for the first time truly wowed me. The green side of the mountains, the azure skies and the cobalt waters of the South China Sea complimented each other. What a perfect view, I muttered!

THE PATAPAT VIADUCT 

From Papatat Viaduct, we headed back the same route this time going to the Blue Lagoon. About 10 minutes drive from Patapat Viaduct, the Blue Lagoon is considered an equally prized jewel of Pagudpud. The view of Blue Lagoon looks pretty much inviting. It has a long stretch of powdery white sand beaches and crystal clear blue waters. Using the GPS, the cove appeared like a giant swimming pool in the map. Commercialization has greatly influenced the whole beach. There are big resorts and beach hotels there already. It was past five when we got there so we didn’t have the chance swimming at the Blue Lagoon.

THE BLUE LAGOON
 

Another interesting feature in Pagudpud is the Bantay Abot Cave which is just a few minutes away from the Blue Lagoon. Bantay Abot Cave is not really a cave. It is more of a hill that was wrecked by an earthquake in the 80’s leaving a huge hole in the center. The hill is still covered by verdant vegetation, thus, adding exquisiteness of the Cave. Dropping by there before heading to the Blue Lagoon is a worthy stop-over. The view of the whole environs surrounding the Cave is truly fascinating. On one side, you can see the huge waves splashing on the rocks of the mountain while on the opposite are the charming seascape and the verdant mountains therein. The place is not fit for swimming but view of the vast blue sea complementing the Bantay Abot Cave is truly worth visiting. And yes, this is perfect spot for a timeless photo souvenir.

THE BANTAY ABOT CAVE

It was dusking when we left the Blue Lagoon and Bantay Abot Cave. We hurried back to the vehicle to head to our final destination for the day, the Saud Beach. Popular not only in the country but some parts of the world, Saud Beach is a long curving 2 kilometers of pristine white sand beach lying on the magnificent blue and crystal clear waters of the South China Sea. Saud beach embodies the definition of a perfect beach destination but it remains to be rustic, unpolluted and less inhabited by beach crowd. In other words, it remains to be pristine even to date.

THE PRISTINE BEACH OF SAUD

Pagudpud is coined by many as the “Boracay of the North”. While those beach combers keep comparing Pagudpud to Boracay Island, it purely is what Boracay once was – pristine and untouched. Pagupud remains to be an absolute beach haven away from the bustling noise of the concrete jungle one can find now in Boracay.

As we ended our long day and long travel to Pagudpud, it was the glorious sunset that highlighted our long tiresome journey. Exhausted we may be but the beautiful sunset that was laid before our eyes soothed our tired minds. When we got to Cathy’s Homestay, our home in Pagudpud, we immediately rushed to our own rooms and savored the homey comfort of the place. While resting, we can’t help but talked about the long trip we had for the day but we all agreed that all was worth it. Pagudpud is worth visiting indeed. And so early to bed, the next day will be another fun-filled long day!

The Travel Teller with his RTour Travel Buddies

Next destination: BYAHENG BANGUI, ILOCOS NORTE.

The Bangui Windmills As Seen From Cathy’s Homestay in Pagudpud

THE PEBBLE BEACH OF MABUA

Just when I thought that beautiful beaches are those of pristine white sand and cobalt sea waters, my quick visit to the Pebble Beach of Mabua in Surigao City proved me wrong. Setting foot there for the first time, I can’t help but admire its unique splendor that I must say beautifully sculptured by nature.

Mabua Pebble Beach is among the priced tourist attractions of Surigao City. The City is part of the Province of Surigao Del Norte in CARAGA Region and is the gateway to the famed Siargao Islands and the Province of Dinagat Islands. There are other tourist spots that Surigao City has to offer but I find Mabua Pebble beach as the priced spot that is truly unique in many ways.

Mabua Pebble Beach is a shoreline of kilometer-long stretch of smooth, multi-sized pebbles situated in Barangay Mabua, about 20-minute ride from the City Proper. There are no sands, of any kind, in this part of Surigao City. The beach’s shoreline is completely composed of smooth stones, mostly in white colors and of different sizes. It was an amazing thing to see such a lovely quite beach so unique from the many beaches I have explored. One of the greatest works of nature, I muttered.

A very quaint beach as it is, Mabua’s shoreline is laid with old rustic Nipa Huts and Cottages one could instantly feel an old-fashioned way of beach living. I have always loved a quaint and quite beach escapades and I must say Mabua Pebble Beach is just so finest.

At far end, there is a hill where tourists or beach lovers like me can climb to see the perfect view of the whole pebble beach from above. Up there is a panoramic view of a picture perfect paradise and a tropical backdrop. The blue calm waters are enticing for swimming. The vastness of the ocean, the serene shoreline and coconut trees lining nearby provide a perfect feeling of a tropical paradise.

It is very easy to get Mabua Pebble Beach. Every Surigaonon knows the place. For overnight stay, there are resorts and inns available there. Though I missed it, the golden sunset at Pebble Beach is one of the highlights of Mabua Beach escapade.

I know my quick visit to Mabua Pebble Beach is not enough to fully describe the uniqueness of the place. This gives me the reason to come back there. I am dreaming one day I could spend another pleasurable time lounging at the Pebbled Shorelines of Mabua Beach. I know it’ll come.