CATANDUANES: The Happy Island Escapades

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CATANDUANES – the northeastern frontier of the Bicol Region, rimmed by multiple bodies of water and stationed as a rocky forefront for the visiting easterlies and northeast monsoon winds. Catanduanes gained its provincial state in 1945 after Cong. Francisco Perfecto filed the House Bill No. 301 and signed into law by President Sergio Osmena. Until the advent of digital media, little has been known of the tourism potential of Catanduanes. It was known as one of the provinces bearing the initial onslaughts of Pacific-brewed storms. As traditional and social media started featuring the island, thus, sparks the gradual influx of tourists and travelers wanting to experience and see firsthand the pristine beauty of Catanduanes.

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Busy Virac town proper

With most of its northeastern shores facing the ultra vast Pacific ocean, the crashing waves create an awesome playground for surfers – beginners and experts alike. Resorts and hotels started are sprouting on the amazing shores of the island teeming with surfing instructors. The century-old churches famed for their intact historical walls and the stories embedded in it that shaped another catholic stronghold. Being an island province, its topography features a mountainous core with the major municipalities dotting its rim, and shores seemingly alternate with rocky cliffs to the pristine fine white sand beach. The main island of Catanduanes also has adjoining smaller group of islands like Parumpong Island, under the administrative jurisdiction of the provincial LGU, that has evidently strong tourism potential due to their breathtaking seascapes partnered by quaint and serene villages tucked on the islands.

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Near the port area

HOW TO GO TO CATANDUANES

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Turboprop Q300 in Virac Airport

PHILIPPINE AIRLINES conveniently flies passengers from Clark direct to Virac four times a week on a Turboprop Q300 plane. Flight time is approximately around an hour. There are flights from Manila served by other airlines.

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Direct domestic routes from Clark International Airport

There are direct land trip routes from Manila to Virac by RSL Bus Lines, passing by Tabaco City port to hop on a Roll On Roll Off Ferry. This route takes around 10-12 hours per way.  Alternative route is taking Tabaco City bound bus then take ferry bound to San Andres or Virac. Ferry schedules are 7:00 AM and 12:00 NN. (Ferry schedule is subject to change without prior notice)

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Manila to Virac Bus Route
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Made it to my 69th Province!

MUST SEE TOURIST SPOTS IN CATANDUANES

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Map of Catanduanes with Caramoan Tourist Spots

At the southwestern shores of Catanduanes, the beaches of Mamangal and Talisoy beaches are the known spots to soak your body with salty water. From Virac town proper, charter a tricycle or motorcycle to bring you to the islands. It takes less than an hour from town proper.

MAMANGAL BEACH

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See the amazing mirror effect in Mamangal Beach during low tide

Mamangal Beach features fine creamy white sand shores, and at the time of our visit, low tide is in and a gentle breeze blows above us, thus creating a vast natural mirror as the waters are seemingly at their calmest state of the day. The dancing coconut trees create a perfect backdrop against the clear blue sky and rustling of leaves creates a soothing scenario for a stressed mind and body.

TALISOY BEACH

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Talisoy Beach and the famous rock formation

Catanduanes never fails to surprise visitors with natural beauty, as Talisoy Beach holds a natural rock formation that depicts the face of Jesus Christ if seen sideways. The beach features a browny-creamy sandy shore with natural seaweeds washed ashore. Both of these has resorts with cottages and rooms should you wish to rent one.

TWIN ROCK BEACH RESORT

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Twin Rock Beach Resort

For the adventurous souls, try the Twin Rock Beach Resort. Not only of his beautiful semicircular beach situated in a cove-like location, the resort offers activities like zip line experience over the water, kayaking and sky bikes. There is also a swimming pool with a slide. Rooms prices range from Php1,650.00 up (as of writing). The resort features a reception area with merchandise for sale, spacious parking, boulevard-style walking area to the zip line ramp and sunbathing chairs. There are floating huts to for your social media worthy shots.

MARIBINA FALLS

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Inviting natural pool of Maribina Falls

Moving eastward from Virac, about less than an hour drive, the yearning of hearing the gush of falling water and dipping in cool natural pools, the multi-tiered Maribina Waterfalls is a must visit. The park is developed with concrete walking paths, cottages and rails. Going to each tier is easy, even senior visitors can pose with the topmost cascade with ease.

Park Fees (as of July 2018, price may change without prior notice)

  • Adult: Php20 / person
  • Children: Php 10 / person
  • Pavilion: Php300 / unit
  • Cottage / Rest House: Php150 / unit

How to go to Maribina Falls:

  • Charter a tricycle or motorcycle to take your straight to the park entrance.
  • Take jeep bound to Baras or Bato or Gigmoto, and alight at the junction.
  • Walk to the entrance
  • Travel time is about 20 minutes from Virac
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Top cascade of Maribina Falls

PURARAN BEACH RESORT 

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Aforementioned as one of the spots for surfers, Puraran Beach is the first spot to go to. The resort features awesome rock formations that are a feast on the eye. Expert surfers and novice once can enjoy the long-barrel waves created on this beach.

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Rocky Island in Puraran Beach

Season of Waves:

  • Type of Waves: Right Hand Barrel, Reef Break
  • July to October – Intermediate, advanced and professional
  • February to June – Beginners to professional

Rates:

  • Surfing Lesson: Php350 / hr, surf instructor and board rental
  • Cottage Type: Php700 / night
  • Aircon Room: Php1,000 – Php1,500 / night
  • Tent Rental: Php250 / night
  • Hammock: Php150 / night

To go to Puraran Beach, take van/jeep in Virac Port bound to Gigmoto. Tell the driver you are going to Puraran. Estimated 45 minutes travel time.

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Contacts:

Manila Office:
mobile: +63 998 545 5323
email: reservations@majesticpuraran.com.ph

Baras Catanduanes:
mobile number: +63 929 424 3818 / +63 929 481 0068 / +63 956 865 3497

BINURONG POINT, my favorite spot

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Binurong Point

Best to visit before the sunrise, the rolling hills resembles that of Batanes but this very spot exudes its own unique beauty absolute enthralling as the first rays of the rising sun touches its hilly terrain.

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One of the first sights in Binurong Point

The fresh Pacific breeze and therapeutic sounds of waves crashing serves as a calming respite as you watch dawn turn to morning. An easy 20-30 minute trek would lead you to this amazing and breathtaking scenery.

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Ms. Lou of DOT III watching the sunrise at the jump off point

The trail features gentle assaults under forest canopy. There are signages along the trail. Entrance fee/Environmental fee is Php50.00 per pax. The name is hailed from the locals way of preserving fish that by salting or soaking in vinegar. This process is called “buro”.

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Amazing Binurong Point

Tips to enjoy your Binurong Point experience:

  • Bring drinking water as this includes a short trek
  • Wear comfortable clothing and footwear that can survive an established trail
  • Wear sun protection should you wish to stay longer
  • Start as early as possible to see the sun rise from the horizon
  • Leave No Trace principle
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  • Wild Birds in Binurong Point

Trail Description

  • You will start on the trail leading to the right side of the beach. You will pass by a makeshift bamboo bridge.
  • You will walk on rocky shore. Be careful with your steps. Some rocks are slippery.
  • You will enter a dirt mountain trail with gentle assaults covered by forest canopy.
  • Once you are near the viewpoint, the trail shifts to grassy and hilly.
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Posing above the picturesque rocks

How to go to Binurong Point

  • You can charter a tricycle or motorcycle to conveniently reach the jump off point in Guinsaanan.
  • Alternatively, you can take jeep that passes by this town. Tell driver that you will visit Binurong Point.
  • Travel time is about an hour from Virac
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Waves crashing at the rocky shores of Binurong Point
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The actual Binurong Point

BATO HERITAGE CHURCH

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The famous Bato church undergoing renovation

Being a Catholic stronghold, Catanduanes has its share of magnificent century-old churches within its shore. Holding the record of the oldest church in the province, the Bato Church is one of the most visited. It features intact original stone walls with the church bell located at the central top of the facade. Materials used are mortar and coral limestones. The church structure has withstood many typhoons and earthquakes.

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Men at work for the renovation of their church

As of July 2018, the National Heritage Commission of the Philippines started the renovation of the church structure and is planned to be completed for six months. Bato Church is situated near the riverbank and has an amazing view fronting the nearby towns and towering mountains behind.

How to go to Bato Church

  • Take jeep bound for Baras, and alight near the church.
  • You can charter a tricycle and motorcycle to go here
  • Travel time is around 20-30 minutes from Virac.

CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF SORROWS

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Facade of Our of Lady of Sorrows Church

Local devotees visit Our Lady of Sorrows Shrine in Batong Palaway, San Andres to see the thumblike-size stone with a mystical face of the Virgin Mary. It is believed that the stone features can now be seen with a naked eye, unlike before requiring a magnifying lens.  The church structure features a seemingly intimate congregation with the central bell tower standing tall amidst the village. For history buffs, this is one of the place to be while in Catanduanes.

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The main congregation area

VIRAC CATHEDRAL 

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The charming dome of the Virac Cathedral

With its yellowish dome structure evident from around the town, this is one of the religious site that is hardly not-noticeable once in Virac. The Church of the Immaculate Concepcion dome resembles that of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. You can walk to the cathedral from your lodge located in the town center.

MUSEO DE CATANDUANES

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The team posing at the Museum Entrance

This is the principal museum of the island province and is inaugurated last 2011. The museum is located at the second and third floor of the Old Capitol Building in Barangay Sta. Elena, Virac. Amongst displays are artifacts of their ethnic pasts. The museum staff are happy to assist you and would explain stories of the displays. Please take note to avoid touching this displays as much as possible.

I am interested to learn about their literary past, the artworks and handicrafts.

WHERE WE SLEPT 

Lucky Hotel and Resort

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Our home during our stay in Virac is Lucky Hotel and Resort that is conveniently located in the heart of Virac Town Proper. Walking distance from the market and Virac Town Center and other commercial establishments.

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The tower facade

Standard Double Room where we stay includes: a mini bar, complimentary bottled water, and coffee facility. We are at the fourth floor of the building with the view of the town proper.

The bathroom has working hot and cold shower. Two shower heads – handheld and above head. Toiletries available. However, the Toilet and Bath room is a bit cramped. They also provide airport transfers for your convenience.

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Photo of our actual room (Photo credit: Will Garcia)

Contact Lucky Hotel and Resort at +63 52 740.5200 and e-mail at marketing@luckyhotelandresort.com

Room rates start at Php960.00 and up

CATANDUANES RESTAURANTS

Blossom Restaurant 

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This restaurant exudes a homy feel. There are two floors for dining. The interiors are filled with wooden furnitures and wooden ceiling. Large windows allows natural light in as you dine.

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Posing a smile while waiting for lunch

Fernando’s Asian Cuisine

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Located on the third floor of Virac Town Center, the restaurant has a spacious dining room with a private room for intimate functions. This restaurant is highly recommended to try once in Virac. Here are the awesome dishes served:

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The team thanking Region V DOT Mam Salee and our tour operator Mam Gie.

WHAT TO BUY FOR PASALUBONG

Famous local delicacy that is not perfect as take home gifts is Latik. It is described as glutinous rice cooked and wrapped in banana leaves which comes with a tasty sweet coconut milk based sauce. We have Latik as quick breakfast before our trek to Binurong Point.

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Bicol staples are Pili Nuts for Php1.00 each

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Pili Nuts inside their hard shells
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One of the pasalubong stores in front of Willy and Sons, Port Road, Virac

Trinkets like:

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Chili shaped keychains

Sample 3 Day 2 Nights Itinerary for Catanduanes

Day 1

  • Arrive via Clark – Virac PAL flight
  • Check In Hotel
  • Lunch
  • Museo de Catanduanes
  • Bato Church
  • Maribina Falls
  • Virac Town Tour and pasalubong buying

Day 2

  • Surf in Puraran Beach
  • Visit Our Lady of Sorrows Church
  • Visit Mamangal Beach and Talisoy Beach and try to catch sunset
  • NIght life in Virac Town Center

Day 3

  • Early trek to Binurong Point and catch sunrise
  • Check out from Hotel
  • Take flight back to Clark

Learn some Bicolano Words:

  • Delicious: Masiram
  • Beautiful: Magayon
  • Good morning: Marhay na aga
  • Good evening: Marhay na banggi
  • Thank you: Dios Mabalos

Business to Business Session: Tourism Exchange Program

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B2B Tourism Exchange Participants

Part of the Familiarization Tour is B2B session attended by Tourism Stakeholders from Regions I, CAR, III and V.

Our energetic tourism forefronts of Bicol, Ms. Carmel Bonifacio-Garcia of Catanduanes Provincial Tourism and Ms. Maria Salee Mora of Department of Tourism – Region V (Bicol).

Central and Northern Luzon Tourism Stakeholders Representatives

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Ms. Wheng Laquin of Manejkom Travel and President of Bulacan Association of Travel Agencies (BATA)
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Ms. Marlene Soliman of Marley’s Travel and Ms. Lerma Quiambao of LQM Travel in Dau, Pampanga
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Ms. Elsie Esguerra of Esgala Travel, CAR and Region I
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Mr. Beda Quiambao of SHADOW TRAVEL and Ms. Lalaine Castro of PHILIPPINE AIRLINES CLARK.
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Ms. Regina Cabigting of Quest Hotel and Conference Clark
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Ms. Shiela Yumul of Eurogate Travel and Tour
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Ms. Amabelle de Guzman of Earthlink Travel
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Ms. Cristina Garcia of D’Travel Shop and Ms. Krystle Ann Mendoza of RKE Travel, President of Association of Travel and Tour Agencies of Pampanga

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Official Media Coverage by Punto Central Luzon Newspaper

This Familiarization Tour is sponsored and coordinated by the DOT III, represented by Ms. Marilou and DOT V,  represented by Ms. Salee, Philippine Airlines represented by Ms. Lalaine, and Island Escape Travel and Tours represented by Ms. Gie.

Our Heartfelt THANKS! 

Philippine Airlines Its More fun in the philippine department of tourism logo exciting bicol catanduanes happy island escape travel and tours

Contact Island Escape Travel and Tours at +63 949 462 2641

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