Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
To those who have never been to Surigao del Sur, the province seems not worth a visit. It’s never been heard of; in fact, its capital is not popular among tourists. In addition, the world’s second deepest spot underwater — with a depth of 34,440 feet called Philippine Trench — is just offshore.
But when I visited the province recently, I had the most memorable sojourn. For one, it has several islands — so near to each other — with beaches possessing white sands and crystal clear waters. There’s a river that is enthralling as its name. But the most exciting of them all — the little Niagara Falls.
Surigao del Sur is a jagged piece of land extending along the coast of Mindanao facing the Pacific Ocean. The terrain is characterized by hilly ranges and an irregular coastline with bays. The northeast tradewinds prevail almost year-round, so much so that it is known as the country’s surfing capital.
For these reasons, Surigao del Sur has the biggest potential of becoming a major tourist destination in the Caraga region (including the two provinces of Agusan, Surigao del Norte, and Dinagat Islands).
In the near future, Surigao del Sur will be known for its Britania Islands. Lianga Bay, which faces the Pacific Ocean, has 24 islands and islets scattered all over its water. The group of islands is called Britania, named after its barangay.
Britania, actually, is an ancient term for Roman Britain. It comes from a Latin name which is derived from the Greek form “Prettanike” or “Brettaniai,” which means “a collection of islands with individual names.”
A combination of Boracay Island and Hundred Islands of Pangasinan is the best way to describe Britania Islands. Most of the islands are uninhabited with minimal or no vegetation. But what makes the islands more interesting are the waters with different hues and colors. One island may have light green hues, and another is blessed with azure waters.
Each island is blessed with powdery white sands, which can be compared to that of the well-famed Boracay Island. The Geographic Channel has featured Britania Islands as one of the best spots in Asia.
We managed to visit only three islands: Hagonoy (named after the weed that used to grow in the island), Naked (just plain white sand floating on top of the water), and Boslon (the largest among the group of islands).
Now, if you are still wondering about that river with an enthralling name, it’s Enchanted River. It is located in barangay Cambatong in the town of Hinatuan. “Seeing something majestic almost always leaves people speechless, even breathless! That is exactly how you feel the instant you lay your sights in Enchanted River. The experience is utterly difficult to translate into words when one of it ever suffices to describe its beauty and splendor.” That was what a blogger wrote after visiting the river.
Although it is a river, it will remind you of the movie Blue Lagoon that starred Brooke Shields. Generally, most people swim in the area where the shade of color ranges from blue to green; once you get to the darker blue color, it means it is already very deep.
The waters are so crystal clear that you can see even the deepest part. There was once a foreigner who tried to plunge into the visible riverbed and found it unfathomable.
One of the most magical moments when you visit Enchanted River is what they call feeding time. It is usually done at lunchtime, about 12 noon. A caretaker from the Enchanted River Management Office would ring the bell as a way of requesting everyone swimming in the river to get out of the water.
If you don’t have the opportunity to go to New York and watch the real Niagara Falls, why don’t you go to Bislig City? Its main tourist attraction is the Tinuy-an Falls, which is considered the widest waterfalls in the country. It is critically acclaimed for its majestic and unique natural formation and even graced some travel magazine pages both here and abroad.
But what makes Tinuy-an Falls exceptional is that its 95-meter wide waterfall plunges 55 meters (180 feet) high from the top of the three-tiered cascading waters that look like a huge white theatrical curtain.
Tinuy-an or Tinuyo-an comes from the local dialect, which means “an intentional act or performance to attain an objective or goal.” It also signifies the multi-layered riverbed of stones skillfully crafted by Unseen Hand.
Aside from its wealth of natural resources, Surigao del Sur is also home to century-old structures, monuments, and churches. There’s the 175-year-old Church of San Agustin in Hinatuan, the cathedral in Tandag, and municipal halls and town plazas. All of these have rich and colorful stories on how these were able to stand the ravages of time.
Due to time constraints, we were not able to see any of them. We also failed to visit Murillo Sports Complex, a man-made destination cited by the Department of Tourism in B’yahe ta Mindanaw! Located at the heart of Tandag, it was named after the former governor of the province, Gregorio P Murillo. The sports complex is equipped with an Olympic-size swimming pool, basketball and volleyball and sipa courts, an oval, and a grandstand. It has been the site of the Regional Athletic Association Meet two times already.
The book, Domestic Tourism, also cites the following tourist destinations: Iron Mountain in Punta Tugas, Carrascal (“from its slopes, one can get a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean”), Maletangtang Cave in Cantilan (“this boat-shaped cavern has a cool spring”), Mangkangagi Island in Tandag City (“has beautiful white-sand and several caves”), and Turtle Island in Barobo (“surrounding this eight-hectare, turtle-shaped island are multicolored coral reefs”).