Mention “island” to travelers’ and their eyes light up with the exotic back-to-basics experience island sojourns offer. Pair it with “adventure” and you have a powerhouse combination of a destination every nature lover yearns for.
Such is Surigao, an archipelagic city with a blend of sun, sea, sand, seafood and a dash of urban lifestyle in the countryside.
Tagged “The City of Island Adventures”, it has 17 islands and islets and 21 villages, scattered in the northeastern coast of Mindanao. For beach bums, this is an infinity of sleepy shores, multiplied 20 times with coves and crystal clear waters even in the middle of nowhere.
Gamut of wonders
The beguiling island of Basul, located off Almont Beach Resort in the coastal village of Lipata, is your jump off to adventure. Dotted by coconut trees and crude nipa huts, this uninhabited islet is a solitary world minus the madding crowd where you can frolic in its fine sands.
Hikdop Island, situated some 30 minutes away, is an exhilarating escape which boasts of the powdery Panomboyom horseshoe-shaped beach which is another secluded
Also in Hikdop is Buenavista Cave which will capture the fancy of those getting their taste of Spelunking 101 with its impressive limestone formations, stalagmites, stalactites and columns.
The main village of Buenavista, which means “good view,” offers a soothing panoramic vantage point of the string of islands around Surigao Strait.
The next islands take visitors to the postcard-pretty wooden footbridge, which snakes through a narrow channel and connects the island villages of Cantiasay and San Pedro. At 391 meters, it is the longest of its kind in the country and is jocularly called the city’s own little version of the San Juanico Bridge, which connect two landmasses.
The idyllic isles of Zaragoza, Berok, Danawan, Sumilom, Sibale and Sagisi are worth exploring as they are as alluring as their exotic-sounding names.
A new natural wonder is the 20-meter wide Bitaugan Whirlpool in Bayagnan Island,
rare tidal occurrence which is a sight to behold with its swirling water and rippling sound, which can be witnessed from a safe distance.
The twin beaches of Looc and Mabua-Ipil in Surigao mainland boast of smooth, multi-sized pebbles dissected by a cape where you can capture a sweeping view of the sea and mountain as they meet in the horizon.
Day-Asan Floating Village, tucked in the middle of a 550-hectare mangrove forest, is another must-see for its quaint charm of houses on stilts. Passable only by a small motorboat, the two-hour cruise has neatly concealed a host of surprises such as patches of white beaches, lobster farms and snorkeling areas.
Beneath the sea, Surigao is an emerging dive spot with its lush marine life formed by the confluence of the Surigao Strait and the Hinatuan Channel on the Pacific seaboard. Scuba divers can plunge into Punta Bilar’s marine sanctuary which abounds in dense coral reefs, nudibranchs, notably the “Spanish dancer,” juvenile bamboo sharks, moray eels, cuttlefishes, octopus, and a variety of aquatic life.
Another terrestrial wonder is Silop Cave System, a must-see with its 12 chambers and awesome limestone formations, which is fit even for beginners. Carved by the hands of the Almighty Creator himself, Silop has caught the attention of Philippine Speleological Society, which congregated here for their annual congress.
For a glimpse of the City’s living past, walk in at the Museo nan Surigao Heritage Center, a private museum at the bayside boulevard showcasing its rich archaeological and geological treasures.
Sitting at the postcard-pretty Luneta Park is the Battle of Surigao Strait Museum, which chronicles World War II’s last major naval encounter where US forces routed the Japanese Navy on Oct. 25, 1944 after Douglas MacArthur’s return.
Painstakingly put together by former naval officer and tourism prime mover Jake Miranda, the museum takes pride in vintage photos, scale models of warships, and excavated war materiel which seem take you back to the historic battle.
After your interlude with nature and culture, indulge in the city’s quaint charm in its array of dining outlets offering kinilaw (vinegared) and grilled seafood which is a local staple. Ocean Bounties Seafood Market, located near the market, is the hands-down choice for fresh and succulent harvest from the sea.
For a touch of class, Parkway Hotel and Almont Beach Resort are the notable hotels
which serve all-time Filipino favorites, international cuisine, a modest selection of imported wines, and weekend buffet dinners.
For night cap, there are cozy bars with live bands, music lounges and local cafes which serve as hang-out places.
This is Surigao—a city of islands, adventure and everything in between.
By BERNARD L. SUPETRAN
Photos courtesy of BERNARD L. SUPETRAN and the SURIGAO CITY TOURISM OFFICE