Aboard a passenger van, I traveled for almost two hours from Hayanggabon Port in Claver, Surigao Del Norte to Surigao City. Upon arriving at the City bus terminal, I hurriedly took a passenger multi-cab to bring me to the Ferry Port located at The Boulevard. Getting there, I immediately rushed to the location where boats bound to Dinagat Island are stationed. It was 11 in the morning then. Luckily, the boat was scheduled to leave at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. That was the only boat servicing Surigao City and Dinagat Islands on Sundays.
A week before I planned this trip, fellow traveler Dr. Emilio Dela Rosa introduced me to Mr. Danilo Bulabos, the Provincial Tourism Officer of the Dinagat Islands. Mr. Bulabos also manages Bahay Turista Mini Chalet, a province-owned chalet considered to be the best place to stay while in the Island Province. Mr. Bulabos will be my official tour guide/host for my entire stay and adventure in the mystical Dinagat Province. That day, Mr. Bulabos was at Surigao City. So we decided to meet at one place and together we headed to our boat. Shortly, the boat started to sail going to our main destination, the Municipality of San Jose, capital town of Dinagat Islands.
The boat trip from Surigao City to San Jose was about an hour and a half passing across the famed Surigao Strait. Dinagat Islands lies on the south side of Leyte Gulf. Leyte is to its west, across Surigao Strait, Mindanao is to its south and Pacific Ocean is to its east. Looking at the vastness of waters of the province, Dinagat Islands is composed of hundreds of breathtaking Islands and Islets waiting to be discovered and explored by travelers like me.
Entering the waters of Dinagat Islands, Mr. Bulabos started to tell me about the many interesting facts about the province of Dinagat Islands. From him I learned that Dinagat Islands had been a part of the First District of Surigao del Norte Province until becoming an independent province on December 2, 2006. The Province of Dinagat Islands is composed of seven municipalities namely Dinagat, Loreto, Cagdianao, Libjo (Albor), Basilisa (Rizal), Tubajon and its including the provincial capital, San Jose. Among the seven towns, the Municipality of Dinagat is the oldest community formally established in 1855.
Approaching the town of San Jose, I immediately felt the coastal charm of the Province. There was an innate charisma that the Islands possess and it instantly hit me. Group of different Islands and Islets abound the place. Without me knowing, Mr. Bulabos was observing me keenly. He saw me so amazed at what I saw. So then he said. Dinagat Island is called “The Mystical Island Province of Love”. It is blessed with untouched natural wonders from pristine white sand beaches to unrevealed caves and coves, marvelous bonsai forests to stunning group of islands and islet. These gifts of nature are treasures that the people of Dinagat Islands are taking care of. Their love for the Islands developed protecting and preserving its natural wonders. Some of these wonders are until now still undisclosed. Hearing this from no less than the Tourism Officer of the Province, I can’t help but appreciate its people for their efforts to maintain the exquisite beauty of the Islands.
During our conversation, I honestly told Mr. Bulabos the many negative things I heard about the province. I was truthful about my apprehensions. He said all of them in the Island including himself are aware of these bad publicities. But he assured me that my stay in Dinagat Islands will definitely change my perception about the Island and prove those malicious news are false. Hearing it, I felt relieved.
Arriving at the Port of San Jose, we headed right away to Bahay Turista Mini Chalet, my official home for two days in Dinagat Islands. Bahay Turista is a very charming Chalet that also serves as a Tourist and Culture Center of the whole province. It showcases different handicrafts, various memorabilia and other tourism-related materials related to the Islands.
After checking in, Mr. Bulabos took me right away to the must see place in capital town of San Jose, the PBMA Founder’s Shrine. The Province of Dinagat Island is the home of the famed Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) and the town of San Jose serves as its center. PBMA is a SEC registered, legitimate, non-sectarian, non-profit, humanitarian and a brotherhood organization that came to existence since the early parts of 1960s. It was founded by the late Ruben Ecleo, Sr. its first Supreme President on October 19, 1965. Until today, PBMA is still headed by the Ecleos. The Ecleo’s as well are the political leaders of the Province of Dinagat Islands. The PBMA Founder’s Shrine was a masterpiece created by its members, done out of love and respect for its Supreme President. It is the where the body of the late Ruben Ecleo, Sr. was laid to rest.
Another spot in the Province that has become a tourist attraction of its own is the Islander’s Castle that sits atop the hilly portion of San Jose. It is a beautiful mansion owned by Governor Glenda Ecleo. It is not open to visiting public but they allow tourists to take pictures outside the gates of the Castle.
Another attention-grabbing landmark is the PBMA President’s House located within the vicinity of the PBMA Founder’s Shrine. It has an interesting wall with carvings of different animals. The carvings on the wall appeared to me like group of different animals parading towards the President’s House. According to Mr. Bulabos, the carvings on the wall have significance to the organization.
Came dusk, a very magnificent orangey sunset consumed the whole Islands. From the where I stood, the dazzling color of the setting sun reflected down on the calm waters. It was very dramatic. I couldn’t stop staring the glorious sun gradually setting in front of me.
After that quick tour, we headed back to Bahay Turista. On our way back to the Chalet, there are two things I learned that really amazed me about San Jose. Among the seven municipalities of the Province of Dinagat Islands, the capital town of San Jose strictly imposes a “smoking and drinking ban”. It is strictly prohibited on public areas. Smoking and drinking can only be done inside the houses of the residents. Hence, I’d seen no one smoking or drinking the whole time I was there.
Back at the Chalet, I immediately prepared my things for the next day’s Dinagat Islands Exploration. From Mr. Bulabos words, the Island Tour will bring me to the pristine white sand beaches, gorgeous rock formations and untouched Islets that truly are Nature’s Gift to the people of Dinagat Island. Those words made me so excited.
This is the seventh part of “EXPLORING CARAGA REGION: The Travel Series”
- CATCHING SUNRISE AT CLAVER, SURIGAO DEL NORTE
- SOCORRO AND THE BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
- CLUB TARA AND TIKTIKAN LAKE OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
- SOHOTON NATIONAL PARK OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
- THE SANDY BEACHES AND STUNNING ISLETS OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
- THE JELLYFISH SANCTUARY OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
- EXPERIENCING SAN JOSE AND THE PROVINCE OF DINAGAT ISLANDS
- THE LEGEND OF DINAGAT ISLANDS