EXPERIENCING SAN JOSE AND THE PROVINCE OF DINAGAT ISLANDS

After having an astounding island exploration at the Bucas Grande Islands, my journey to the Caraga Region continued.

Lalaking Bukid, Dinagat Islands

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.

Basilisa, Dinagat Islands

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 world renowned Surigao StraitThe 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.

The view of the Islander’s Castle from the Boat

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.

Nearing the capital town of San Jose, Dinagat Islands

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.

The Port of San Jose

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.

This Blogger at Bahay Turista Mini Chalet
The Facade of Bahay Turista – Tourism and Culture Center of Dinagat 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.

PBMA Founder’s Shrine
The Shrine where PBMA former Supreme President Ruben Ecleo, Sr was laid to rest.
Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association Founder’s Shrine

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.

The Islander’s Castle
The Islander’s Castle of Governor Glenda Ecleo

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.

The PBMA President’s House
Interesting Wall of the President’s House

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.

Sunset at San Jose, Dinagat Islands
This Blogger worshiping the stunning sunset of Dinagat Islands

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.

This Blogger with Mr. Danilo Bulabos, the Provincial Tourism Officer of Dinagat Islands.

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

  1. CATCHING SUNRISE AT CLAVER, SURIGAO DEL NORTE
  2. SOCORRO AND THE BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  3. CLUB TARA AND TIKTIKAN LAKE OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  4. SOHOTON NATIONAL PARK OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  5. THE SANDY BEACHES AND STUNNING ISLETS OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  6. THE JELLYFISH SANCTUARY OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  7. EXPERIENCING SAN JOSE AND THE PROVINCE OF DINAGAT ISLANDS
  8. THE LEGEND OF DINAGAT ISLANDS

MY JOURNEY TO DINAGAT ISLANDS: The Preview.

From the blue lagoons, amazing coves, stunning Islets and gorgeous jellyfishes of the Bucas Grande Islands of Socorro, Surigao Del Norte, the exciting CARAGA EXPLORATION of The Travel Teller continues as he braved the challenge of discovering the mystical Province of Dinagat Islands, the northernmost part of Mindanao.

The Mystical Island Province of Love

The province of Dinagat Islands is a newly created province in CARAGA Region. It was formerly part of Surigao del Norte. People called it a place of unexplored natural wonders, thus, been given a brand name “Mystical Island Province of Love”. I am not ignorant about the “not-so-good” news of the Islands. These were news that created negative impressions about Dinagat as a whole. In fact, some headlines at one point created fear in the many especially those traveling populace. I must admit, I was among those who fear to come to the Islands.

Beautiful Snapshots of Dinagat Islands.

Many has been said. But one thing remains undeniably concrete, Dinagat Islands is one of the remaining unexplored paradise in the Philippines. As a matter of fact, there are ample of natural attractions and tourism potentials that until to this time of writing are still not published, not even explored. This makes the whole Province of Dinagat Island a tempting paradise to be discovered and explored.

The Golden Sunset of Dinagat Islands

These among others were the reasons why I chose to come to Dinagat Islands. There were apprehensions from the start I must say. But my heart knew that behind those negative impressions and bad publicity about the Islands, there is paradise waiting for me to see, there is culture for me to experience and there is good news I can bring home in going there.

JOIN ME as I chronicle my breathtaking JOURNEY TO DINAGAT ISLANDS!

This Blogger amazed by the Mystical Charm of Dinagat Island.

READ COMPLETE ARTICLES  of “EXPLORING CARAGA REGION: The Travel Series

  1. CATCHING SUNRISE AT CLAVER, SURIGAO DEL NORTE
  2. SOCORRO AND THE BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  3. CLUB TARA AND TIKTIKAN LAKE OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  4. SOHOTON NATIONAL PARK OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  5. THE SANDY BEACHES AND STUNNING ISLETS OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  6. THE JELLYFISH SANCTUARY OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  7. EXPERIENCING SAN JOSE AND THE PROVINCE OF DINAGAT ISLANDS
  8. THE LEGEND OF DINAGAT ISLANDS
  9. SNAPSHOTS ON CRUISING DINAGAT ISLANDS

THE JELLYFISH SANCTUARY OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS

Among the many breathtaking natural attractions that I have explored in the whole Bucas Grande Islands, there is one magical place that until now bedazzled me. This place is called Jellyfish Sanctuary.

Having toured to the key tourist spots in the whole islands, I thought I had seen enough. Truthfully, all these wonders of nature were captivating. But when our tour guide led us to the Jellyfish Sanctuary, everything seemed surreal. As if we were brought to the other world. Here’s the story.
After our island tour at Bubon Group of Islets, we sailed back to Sohoton Reception Center. It was already late afternoon. Upon reaching the Center, we were told that we will be transferring to small paddleboats in going to the Jellyfish Sanctuary. Motorized boats are strictly not allowed getting inside the whole sanctuary. The small paddleboats can carry two passengers and a boatman. In my case, I was the only passenger.
The sail going to the Jellyfish Sanctuary was out of the ordinary experience. The waters were calm. The whole environs were wrapped by tranquility I can hear the rowing of the paddles. The enigmatic chirping of various wild birds made the sail more exciting. I’ve tried boating in different places but this one was entirely surreal.

The Entrance of the Jellyfish Sanctuary

Nearing the mouth of the Sanctuary, my boatman named Richmond began narrating the story behind the mystical beauty of the Jellyfish Sanctuary. I learned from him that some years ago the whole place was originally inhabited by multitude of sea urchins locally known as “Tujom” hence they formerly called the place Tujoman. One day, for some unknown reason, this huge number of sea urchin dwelling at Tujoman began disappearing until none of them was left. As days gone by, a smack of jellyfishes began congregating the place. It was becoming a larger group and local folks began noticing. Soon, the locals found out that these jellyfishes dwelling in the waters of Tujoman were non-stinging. The smack of jellyfishes grew into a great number. It even multiplied to millions of jellyfishes permanently dwelling in the place. Soon after, they called the place “The Jellyfish Sanctuary”. They later opened the place for tourists but intense protection and preservation of the Sanctuary were maintained.

Limestone forests abounds inside the Jellyfish Sanctuary

As we enter the opening of the Jellyfish Sanctuary, there was one thing I instantly noticed about the place. There was a profound tranquility that enveloped the whole environs. Everything that I see there was filled with calmness and peace. It was a very contagious serenity I can feel it inside me.

The first jelly fish that i saw made me shout in amazement.

Sailing forward, jellyfishes began to appear in the waters. I shouted in amazement seeing the very first jellyfish that appeared in the waters. Another smack of jellyfishes we passed by. And then another. And another. As we moved towards the very heart of sanctuary, multitude of jellyfishes surrounded our boats. Again, I felt I was on another planet. This was surreal. Slowly, I was beginning to get emotional. Teary-eyed, I looked around praising and admiring such a spectacular body of water fully inhabited by millions of stunning jellyfishes.

Sitting at the edge of the boat, I noticed a smack of jellyfish flocking around out tiny vessel. I learned from Richmond that jellyfishes here are naturally friendly. They even come closer when boats are coming in. Since these creatures are non-stinging, I excitedly caught one jellyfish out of the water and held it in my hands. As soon as I felt its texture and seen its form, I let go of it. Richmond told me jellyfishes can only last for ten seconds out of the water. So, I had to put it back.

I had to admit I fear jellyfishes. They are noted to be stingingly perilous. But the jellyfishes of the Bucas Grande Islands are non-stinging and friendly. They even came closer towards us. It seemed they wanted play around with us. They were so welcoming. I put my hands in the waters at once and they came nearer. They were like wonderful pets. Amazing creatures.

Before the sundown, the group started to leave the Sanctuary. All of us left the place charmed and amazed by what we saw. In my case, I felt overly joyous having experienced such tremendous encounter with the jellyfish. I was very lucky too that my boatman Richmond was kind and smart enough to tell me everything I want to know about the Sanctuary. After all, it is one of their prides.

This is ME with a non-stinging jellyfish in my hands.

Having gone and experienced this unique adventure with the Jellyfishes of Bucas Grande Islands, I felt another dream of mine has realized. I used to dream of going to the island nation of Palau and swim with the jellyfishes at the Jellyfish Lake of Eil Malk but now I need not to go out of the country to fulfill this bizarre experience. My beautiful island of the Philippines now boasts the Jellyfish Sanctuary of Bucas Grande Islands that is undeniably a world-class natural attraction that can definitely put all tourists, local and foreign alike, in so much awe and amazement like those in Palau.

Me and travel buddies amazed by the enchanting Charms of the Jellyfish Sanctuary.

My closest encounter with jellyfish at the Sanctuary is the highlight of my Bucas Grande Island Exploration. Other natural wonders of the Island are indisputably attractions to behold. But experiencing Jellyfish Sanctuary is absolutely an exceptional experience. It is commendable and worth to experience again. If given a chance, I shall back there and swim and play with the jellyfishes again.

Meet Richmond, my gracious boatman. Many thanks.

Experiencing Jellyfish Sanctuary of the Bucas Grande Islands is the final stop of my Bucas Grande Island Exploration.

FOR GUIDED TOUR, you may call contact:

VINCENT ADLAO TAMAYO
Accredited Tour Guide of Socorro Tourism Office
0930.802.8704 

This is the sixth part of “EXPLORING CARAGA REGION: The Travel Series

  1. CATCHING SUNRISE AT CLAVER, SURIGAO DEL NORTE
  2. SOCORRO AND THE BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  3. CLUB TARA AND TIKTIKAN LAKE OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  4. SOHOTON NATIONAL PARK OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  5. THE SANDY BEACHES AND STUNNING ISLETS OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  6. THE JELLYFISH SANCTUARY OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  7. EXPERIENCING SAN JOSE AND THE PROVINCE OF DINAGAT ISLANDS
  8. THE LEGEND OF DINAGAT ISLANDS

THE SANDY BEACHES AND STUNNING ISLETS OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS

Bucas Grande Islands of Socorro, Surigao Del Norte is not all about its mystical coves and those enchanted blue lagoons. Some of big Islands comprising the Bucas Grande feature powdery white sand beaches. These sandy beaches are equally stunning like those coves and lagoons. These along with the eye-catching Islets are must-visit places while in Socorro.

Bubon Group of Islets

For the certified beach bums, I would say Bucas Grande Islands is the right place for you. Being a self proclaimed “son of a beach”, I find the sandy beaches and Islets of Bucas Grande as great places to enjoy the grandeur and silence of nature. One can just lazily sit on the sand and feel the rustle of the leaves that sway in the mellow breeze.

Kanlunes Resort
Markaa Beach

One of the beaches we visited is the Markaa Beach. Markaa Beach offers a white sand beach and magnificent rock formations of different sizes. It has shallow clear waters where beautiful corals abound the place. We took time enjoying Markaa beach. The sea was so inviting everyone can’t resist but dipped into the waters. It a perfect place so snorkeling. Corals of different sizes and colors amazed me when I started diving. Really amazing.

Different Corals in the waters of Markaa Beach
This Blogger enjoying the scenic underwater world of Bucas Grande Island. Many thanks to my friend Roy Geonzon for allowing me to use this photo.

Discovering the underwater paradise of Bucas Grande Islands. Photo courtesy of my friend Roy Geonzon. Thank you for this awesome photo.

Our next stop was the Bubon Beach. Bubon Beach offers a great view of Bubon group of 8 Islets that appears like gigantic green mushrooms sprouting from the seawaters. It is one of the places frequented by tourists when in Bucas Grande Islands. One of the Islands features yet another white sand beach so ideal to just laze around. We stopped at this spot and took time enjoying the view of the 8 Islets, the clear waters and the white sand beach.

The Bubon group of 8 stunning mushroom-lie Islets.
Planking Shot at Bubon White Sand Beach

From Bubon Beach, we headed off the other part of the Islands passing different beaches, resorts and other breathtaking Islets that truly made our day remarkable.

HERE ARE THE PHOTOS OF SOME OF THE STUNNING ISLETS OF THE BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS.

Having toured around, I concluded that Bucas Grande Island is indeed a paradise so worth to discover and experience.

This is the fifth part of “EXPLORING CARAGA REGION: The Travel Series

  1. CATCHING SUNRISE AT CLAVER, SURIGAO DEL NORTE
  2. SOCORRO AND THE BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  3. CLUB TARA AND TIKTIKAN LAKE OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  4. SOHOTON NATIONAL PARK OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  5. THE SANDY BEACHES AND STUNNING ISLETS OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  6. THE JELLYFISH SANCTUARY OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  7. EXPERIENCING SAN JOSE AND THE PROVINCE OF DINAGAT ISLANDS
  8. THE LEGEND OF DINAGAT ISLANDS

SOHOTON NATIONAL PARK OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS

The Bucas Grande Islands of Socorro, Surigao Del Norte is undeniably a paradise to experience. Blessed with many mystical attractions to see, Bucas Grande Islands offers excellent ways to experience nature at its finest, away from the bustles and hassles of city living and away from disheartening pollution.
Among the many attractions in the Islands that offer exciting things to discover, Sohoton National Park tops the list. Sohoton is declared by the Philippine Government as a National Park covering a total area of 70 hectares. The park features mystical Sohoton Cove, amazing Sohoton Blue Lagoons and the picturesque seven Islets.
What’s enchanting about the place is that Sohoton National Park can only be reached passing through a 60-meter cave-like entrance which can only be accessed during low tide. The cave-like entrance looks like an underground river. According to our tour guide, only those boatmen who have explored the area for years can safely access the place. I have never been to an underground river. That experience gave me an awesome thrill.
Entering the scenic Sohoton National Park, it was the tranquility and serenity of the place that first caught my senses. Paradise, I murmured. The waters were so clear. Fishes were all over. We were even amazed seeing stingrays freely swimming in the waters. The untouched verdant forests that covered the seven Islets inside the Park added unspeakable natural beauty of the whole place. Paradise, I murmured again!
Going further, our tour guide led us to yet another must-see place in the Park, the underground cave. During high tide, one needs to swim underwater down a small passageway to get inside. Luckily, it was low tide when we get there. But still swam going inside though the passageway was not fully covered by waters. The water inside the cave was so cold. It was very refreshing. From inside, reflections of the light from the underground water were so striking. They were like crystals sparkling in the waters.

The Opening of the Underground Cave
Stalactites and Stalagmites
This Blogger at the Underground Cave

From that underground cave, we were brought to yet another cave passing through a small opening. Inside the cave were various stalactites and stalagmites formations. In getting out, we went up passing a tiny hole leading to a six-foot high diving platform built up in a small cliff outside the higher portion of the cave and from there, we jumped into the cool, clear blue waters.
After luxuriating ourselves with the beauty of nature embellished around Sohoton National Park, we decided to move on to our next destination. Besides, one should leave the park before the high tide, otherwise they cannot go out.
Exploring Sohoton National Park was an extraordinary experience for me. The whole thing was packed with thrill and action. It offers not only natural beauty but it also guarantees ultimate adventures that a thrill-seeker like me wants to experience.

This is the fourth part of “EXPLORING CARAGA REGION: The Travel Series

  1. CATCHING SUNRISE AT CLAVER, SURIGAO DEL NORTE
  2. SOCORRO AND THE BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  3. CLUB TARA AND TIKTIKAN LAKE OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  4. SOHOTON NATIONAL PARK OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  5. THE SANDY BEACHES AND STUNNING ISLETS OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  6. THE JELLYFISH SANCTUARY OF BUCAS GRANDE ISLANDS
  7. EXPERIENCING SAN JOSE AND THE PROVINCE OF DINAGAT ISLANDS
  8. THE LEGEND OF DINAGAT ISLANDS