Whoever nicknamed the charming island province of Catanduanes “Land of the Howling Wind” needs a crash course in Advertising 101.
Not only is it the surest way to discourage potential tourists and investors, it is also an un-cool way of highlighting the age-old scourge of the local folks. For Catandunganons who have experienced perfect storms since time immemorial, typhoons are no Hollywood movie spectacles.
But beyond the howling wind of a perfect storm, Catanduanes today is a tourism frontier which beckons the eternal footloose wanderer. Many true-blue adventurers consider it a diamond in the rough—it has crude edges, but will glitter once polished and inevitably become a every girl’s (and wanderlust’s) best friend.
Folks claim that while typhoons still pass through their corridor, the more destructive ones are now as rare as a blue moon. One can only surmise that this is an upside of climate change, as far as they are concerned.
Situated east of the Bicol peninsula, this gem of an island by the Pacific Ocean evokes an air of isolation, making it a best-kept secret for decades.
Those unfazed by the fearsome tagline and braved the howling wind, found out that Catanduanes is a proverbial “paradise regained” which they hope they can keep to themselves.
Just like the other tourist hotspots in the country, it was the Europeans who put this rugged island in the tourist map when they stumbled on the “Majestic Waves” in Puraran Beach in Baras town.
Considered as the province’s tourist icon and claim to fame, it is so-called because of its long magnificent barrel which is simply lives up to its name—majestic.
Those who want to try their hand, or legs, in surfing can go to Tilod, a few coves away from Puraran for their initiation to surfing.
However, during the last quarter of the year, the beach is a picture of calm and serenity where families can frolic in its powdery sand and clear water.
The province’s long coastline has gifted its inhabitants with fines beaches and breath-taking capes just like straight out of a movie set.
In the capital town of Virac, there are the beaches of Batag and Igang which are hands-down favorites. Batag is a coral-strewn beach whose charm is enhanced by a rock archway which leads to another quiet cove.
Meanwhile, Igang is home to Twin Rocks Beach Resort which takes pride of two new twin attractions—the zipline and outdoor wall, the only ones in the province. It also has a swimming pool, clubhouse and amenities which are arguably the best by local standards.
Situated in a cove, the resort is so-called because of the two awesome rock formations. It is also ideal for kayaking because of its tranquil and shallow waters. Guests can even walk up to the twin rocks at low tide to see them up close.
A short boat ride away from Bagamanoc town is Loran Beach in Panay Island which has unspoiled white sands and tranquil environs. Deriving its name from Long Range Aid to Navigation, the beach was a former American outpost in the 1950s to guide sailing ships in the Pacific. Because of its storied past, it has its own share of beguiling tales to share to beach bums.
Palumbanes Island, situated off Caramoran town, is an emerging diving site because of its rich marine life.
Because of its rugged terrain, Catanduanes abounds with forests and waterfalls, whose seemingly enchanting cascades and refreshing waters always cast a spell on nature lovers. Maribina Falls in Bato town is the most accessible and most frequented because of its shallow multi-layered basin.
Up north in Gigmoto town, Nahulugan Falls boasts of a tall drop which also has three tiers of pools where bathers can soothe their tired muscles.
Just like the typical Bicolano, Catandunganons display a remarkable degree of religiosity evident in the religious spots in the province.
Most notable of these is the Spanish-era Bato Church which has been a bastion of faith in the wind-swept island. Standing proudly by the scenic Bato River, this picturesque baroque church has also become a refuge and bulwark against destructive typhoons.
Deep into the interior barangay of Batalay is the Diocesan Shrine of the Holy Cross, the final resting place of Augustinian Fr. Diego de Herrera who died in the area in 1576. The ill-fated priest, who journeyed with Spanish conquistadors Legazpi and Urdaneta, is acknowledged as the first Catholic missionary in the province.
Another frequented spot is the Batong Paluway Chapel in San Andres because of the thumbnail-sized river stone bearing the image of the Virgin Mary and is believed to have grown over the years.
Most of the province’s tourist festivals are anchored around town fiestas to effectively incorporate merry-making with the spirit of religious thanksgiving.
A must-see historic place is the Luyang Cave Park in San Andres where scores of locals where choked to death in the 17th century by Moro pirates by burning red pepper. The more intrepid souls can trek the cave which will lead to a clearing a few hundred meters away.
And before heading home, it might be of interest to visit the Pag-Asa weather observatory in Bato, which somehow gave it the unenviable reputation of being a reference point for typhoons.
Beyond the howling wind, Catanduanes is a rough but glittering gem. Wait till it gets polished so it will sparkle in all its splendor.
Getting There: Fly to the capital town of Virac, with four times weekly flights from Zest Air and Cebu Pacific Air. On flight-less days, travelers can fly or take a bus to Legazpi City, then take a bus or van to the Tabaco City port in Albay. From there, take boats for a three-hour voyage to San Andres or Virac.