Catanduanes: The Rustic Island Province

I waited at Caramoan’s Guijalo Port for a boat bound to Catanduanes. It finally arrived at 11am and we waited for half an hour but we’re only 5 passengers then. Soon, we braved the waters of Guijalo bay directly eastward to Cabcab port at San Andres, Catanduanes. With no raincoat to protect myself from sea waves, half of my body was soaking wet but managed to protect my body bag by hiding it within my shirt. That 2-hour journey was long and sleepy, sometimes tasting the salt from seawater. However, as we approached the port with now calming waters, nervousness turned to excitement as my guide, Kuya Onyong (09268866984) was waiting for me for an hour, kept updated with my texts on my whereabouts.

Take me to the other side #bengoeswhere

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My 45th province so far. The famous nickname was due to the fact that this province experiences typhoons at the Pacific, especially every second half of the year.

There are several legends that explain the origin of the name of “Catanduanes.” One legend states that Catanduanes comes from the word tandu, a native click beetle that was once abundant throughout the island. “Katanduan” was the reference made of this island that means a place where tandu abound. When the Spaniards came, it was Hispanized to Catanduanes (notice the phonological similarity, except for the additional es in the Spanish version that was probably added to become a pluralist). Another story says that it comes from the word samdong, a tree that abounds this paradise island to which the people would call kasamdongan, meaning a place of samdong. Just like the former legend, the word was Hispanized. The phonological error traces to the Spaniards’ difficulty to pronounce certain words, particularly those ending in ng; hence, from kasamdongan and katandungan, it gradually metamorphosed to Catanduanes. Still some historians point that katandungan is a Malay word that means “a place of refuge in time of danger,” for indeed, this island has always been the refuge of mariners during stormy weather.

I finally met Kuya Onyong at port’s exit and we rushed to our first destination at San Andres. Since it’s already past noon and we need to make it to Binurong point (which is a 2-hour ride) before sun sets, I decided to skip some places so we can make it back to Virac (the capital town) in time, and stick to Southern Catanduanes. I informed him of my itinerary the night before. My itinerary for today is as follows:


BATONG PALOWAY SHRINE (Barangay Batong Paloway, San Andres, Catanduanes)

Shrine’s façade
Shrine’s altar
The thumbnail-sized river stone bearing the mystical face of the Virgin Mary found on a river bank is believed to have grown in size over the years. At present, one can view the image with the bare eyes unlike before, when one had to use a magnifying lens. The image has drawn many devotees throughout the years and mass is heard every Friday afternoon as devotees flock the chapel regularly to pray the rosary and novenas. Every Lenten week celebration, people on Holy Thursday walk from Virac and as far as Batalay, Bato on a penitentiary pilgrimage to visit and pray to the Lady of Sorrows.

LUYANG CAVE PARK (Barangay Lictin, San Andres, Catanduanes) 

In the 18th century, a village called Binanwahan existed in the northeastern part of the present and now Barangay Lictin. Inhabitants and settlers of the village were Christians, who during those days were attacked and pillaged by non-Christians or “Moros”. The ever vigilant inhabitants have assigned lookouts near the shores of the now Barangay Palawig to forewarn the residents of the imminent danger of the invading enemies by tolling a big bell and building a smoke.
When the Moros arrived one day, they were surprised to discover that the village was empty of inhabitants. They however hid and waited patiently for the villagers to come back. Soon a woman was seen coming to shore to catch fish. The Moros wittingly followed her coming back to the hiding place where a rock opening of cave was discovered by them.
     The villagers who all hid inside the cave had filled its entrance with dried tree branches and twigs to conceal them and ground “sili” leaves and fruits to discourage the invaders from entering the cave.
When the invaders finally tried to enter the cave, the inhabitants burned the pile thinking that the smoke would prevent them from going inside. But the wind direction instead blew the smoke towards inside the cave which suffocated them to death.
    The cave now historically named “LUYANG CAVE PARK” is a mute witness and testimony of the tragic fate of inhabitants trapped and died inside. A memorial service is yearly celebrated in memory of those who perished.

Nowadays, it was maintained by local government but when I visited that time, it was seemed abandoned. I tried to walk deeper and took time to see the cave formations. After hearing that chilling story behind Luyang cave (Scary!), I immediately went back to the entrance to drop by at Virac to search for an inn.

Villa Tolledo Inn (Fan Room at Php350 good for 24 hours)
Stay for the night

BATO CHURCH (Poblacion, Bato, Catanduanes)

Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church is the only remaining structure of its kind in the entire island . The church is of interest not only as a mid-colonization Filipino-Spanish architecture but as a historical landmark. It was built under the polo system of forced labor for a total of 53 years under six different parish administrators. Started in 1830 and finished in 1883, Bato Church has withstood wars, calamities, and ravages of time. This is one of the oldest churches in Catanduanes.
The altar is highly renovated though

After Bato Church, Kuya Onyong pointed the way to PAGASA weather station (though we skipped as it was getting darker) that stands on a promontory facing Pacific Ocean. It took another hour going to Binurong point as we traversed concrete and dirt road leading to registration area. Finally, we arrived at gated entrance and paid Php20 for Binurong Tolledo Entrance Fee (Php10/pax).

Php25 – Binurong Parking and Environmental Fee (pay at registration area)
Php200 – Binurong Guide Fee (Pay direct to tour guide after the hike)

BINURONG POINT (Barangay Guinsaanan, Baras, Catanduanes)


Locals call the place “Binurong” because they usually bring the fishes they caught here and they “buro” (preserve food by salting then soak in vinegar) it there. “Binurong” is also a Bicol word meaning “Healed”.

As my guide told me, this place used to be a grazing field for farm animals and said that some cows died after falling off the cliffs. Then from dead cows, they cut its meat and “buro” (preserve) them. Hence, it was called “Binurong” point. This place became famous just few years ago because a local upload his picture and its fame skyrocketed as it was featured on a local feature show. Hike took only less than half an hour so it became a favorite spot for picnics and to unwind.
I made it! Akala ko hindi ko na maaabutan ang liwanag kasi papadilim na.
Batanes feels! Smell the sea breeze! Awesome views from the east coast of Catanduanes.

For our last stop, my guide took me to the famous surfing because to catch a glimpse of it before it gets dark. I agreed anyway but on route to Puraran, heavy downpour caught us and we didn’t have any raincoat (I should have brought one! Urgh!). Suddenly, it stopped and in a few minutes, we’re already there.

PURARAN BEACH (Barangay Puraran, Baras, Catanduanes)

As the surfing capital of the province, the cream-colored beach is flocked by tourist especially surfers from July to October to ride on barrel and reef waves. Visit for more details.
It was still raining though. Nevermind. Just take a scenic shot.

It was dark already when we left the beach. I felt the fireflies on the road bumping my cheeks so my guide wore his helmet to deflect them. Midway, rain poured hard and waited a few minutes at a shed then returned to backseat and rode back to Virac. We parted ways at the inn, and thanked him for the half-day adventure.

I almost forgot to take dinner so I asked the inn’s front desk on how to go the seafood restaurant by the bay. She gave me instructions and walked my way to it.

Sizzling Mixed Seafood for a little bit of everything
Dinner time!
Sizzling Mixed Seafood: I tasted slabs of fish, squid, shelled shrimps, etc. Delicious!

Woke up early the next day to check-out and walk around Virac before going to the airport. Saw these heritage and significant buildings nearby:

Museo de Catanduanes, is the island’s principal museum, built up by the Provincial Tourism Office of Catanduanes which caters the province’s historical, cultural, and social legacy.
The museum is situated at the 2nd floor of Old Capitol Building in Barangay Sta. Elena, Virac, Catanduanes. It was inaugurated on October 24, 2011. Shown in the museum are the photos of vital occasions in the province, local form and dresses, religious materials, old Catandunganon family articles, and various types of memorabilia from the province’s bright past can also be spotted here.
Virac Sports Center
Catanduanes Provincial Capitol 
Unknown Soldier Memorial
Virac Cathedral officially Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Virac that covers the whole island province of Catanduanes.
Founded in 1755, only the belfry remained intact while most parts are still renovated.
Hearing a mass before leaving. The altar is also renovated.

Few meter away from cathedral, I arrived at public marker and I intended to buy some souvenirs and food pasalubong but I almost forgot my boarding time back to Manila. I searched along the highway for a trike and luckily, a father and son flagged a trike beside me (heard their voices) on the way to airport and I rushed at the backride. I paid only Php15! Whew!

Paid Php100 terminal fee after inspection of baggage since I have no check-in stuff.
Too bad I haven’t bought any souvenirs nor local products. The airport is under renovation so no stores within the terminal (huhu). We boarded in less than 15 minutes.

Going back to reality as I arrived Manila early in the morning, I wished I had more time to visit other places. Anyways, that was a quite adventure for me as I hit the last two CAsCagbaleteCalaguasCaramoanCatanduanes in my list before the year ends. Cheers formore island adventures! (n_n)

For the breakdown of expenses and my timeline below, see below for reference:


Day 0
15:00 PM – Depart from Cubao via Raymond Bus bound for Caramoan

Day 1
06:45 AM – Arrival at Caramoan Town Proper
06:50 AM – Roam around Caramoan Church while waiting for pickup
08:00 AM – Check-in at Kuya Ramil’s Homestay (Quick Rest)
08:15 AM – Breakfast and prep for the Island Tour. Bought food for lunch.
08:30 AM – Start of Island Tour (ROUND TRIP)
09:30 AM – Manlawi Sandbar
10:00 AM – Cotivas Island
10:30 AM – Guinahoan Lighthouse
11:50 AM – Sabitang Laya
12:00 NN – Lunch at Bag-ing Beach
12:45 PM – Depart from Sabitang Laya
13:20 PM – Lahos Island
13:40 PM – Matukad Island (Trek to Mystical Bangus and swimming)
14:50 PM – Cagbanilad Island
15:10 PM – Minalahos Island
15:30 PM – Depart from Minalahos Island
16:00 PM – Back to Homestay and Wash-up
17:00 PM – Dinner then long rest

Day 2
06:00 AM – Breakfast and check-out
06:15 AM – Quick stop at Caramoan Municipal Marker and Hall
06:30 AM – Arrival at Guijalo Port
11:30 AM – Boat to Cabcab Port, San Andres, Catanduanes
13:30 PM – Arrival at Cabcab Port then habal-habal trip
13:45 PM – Batong Paloway Shrine
14:05 PM – Luyang Cave Park
14:20 PM – Check-in at Villa Tolledo In (Left backpack and Restroom break)
14:50 PM – Bato Church
15:45 PM – Binurong Point Registration
15:50 PM – Binurong Point Trekking
16:15 PM – Arrival at Binurong Point
16:40 PM – Descent from Binurong Point
17:00 PM – Arrival at Registration Area
17:20 PM – Puraran Beach Resort
17:30 PM – Depart from Puraran
18:30 PM – Arrival at Villa Tolledo in Virac
19:00 PM – Dinner at Sea Breeze Restaurant
20:00 PM – Sleep

Day 3
05:00 AM – Wake-up
05:30 AM – Check-out then walk around Virac
05:36 AM – Museo de Catanduanes
05:40 AM – Catanduanes Capitol
05:45 AM – Unknown Soldier Memorial
05:50 AM – Virac Municipal Hall
06:00 AM – Virac Cathedral
06:10 AM – Trike to Virac Airport
06:20 AM – Arrival at Virac Airport
07:15 AM – Depart Virac Airport
08:20 AM – Arrival at NAIA Terminal 3

Php950 – Bus from Cubao to Caramoan (Raymond bus)
Php500 – Kuya Ramil’s homestay (Fan room) 09074351962
Php3000 – Roundtrip Island tour (4 Long Trip Islands + 4 Short Trip Islands)
Php50 – Cotivas entrance fee
Php50 – Guinahoan entrance fee
Php150 – Boat from Guijalo to Cabcab
Php1500 – Habal-habal Tour from Kuya Onyong 09268866984
Php350 – Villa Tolledo Inn (Fan Room)
Php20 – Binurong Tolledo Entrance Fee (Php10/pax)
Php25 – Binurong Parking and Environmental Fee (pay at registration area)
Php200 – Binurong Guide Fee (Pay direct to tour guide)
Php15 – Trike from Virac Market to Airport
Php100 – Virac Airport Terminal Fee
Php240.12 – Cebu Pacific Promo Airfare (VRC-MNL) Piso fare bought last June 30

OVERALL EXPENSES (excluding food) Php7150.12

Exploring the Philippines and the world one step at a time. -bengoeswhere (n_n)

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