Our plane touched down at 6.40am. I arrived 4 hours ahead of the group that I was suppose to join for this trip. As I stepped out of airport passenger terminal, the RORO that the group boarded just pulled out of Tabaco Port for their 4 hour sea trip to the province that is often referred to as the “Land of the Howling Winds”.
Catanduanes is an island province off the coast of the Bicol Peninsula facing the Pacific Ocean. Its location lies along the path of typhoons coming from the Pacific during the rainy season. It is for this reason that Catanduanes is more popularly referred to as the “Land of the Howling Winds” because it is one of the first to be battered by these often destructive typhoons.
Catanduanes is the most progressive province in the Bicol Region with its economy rooted in agriculture, fishing, and tourism. Its provincial capital, Virac, is the center for commerce, education, and governance. It also serves as the main gateway to the province.
There are a lot of interesting destinations to head off to when you find yourself in Virac. In fact, do not be surprised if local drivers will offer you package tours around the area. On this blog, I will be sharing with you the usual tourist route that most travelers take in search for Catanduanes’ howling winds.
At the heart Virac is an imposing structure that dominates the skyline of the town. The Our Lady of the Immaculate Concepcion is the center of faith of the province.
You will be amazed at the grand interior of the church with its high ceiling and broad navel. The stained-glass windows are a marvel to see as the morning sun rays seep through these windows.
Adjacent to the the church is its belfry. The church is undergoing a facelift at the time of our visit so there is not much to see on its facade except for the huge church doors leading inside the church.
Twin Rocks Resort
One of the popular spots that I often come across on Instagram and travel blogs is Virac’s Twin Rocks. Since I had about 3 hours of lead time from the group, I decided to hop on a trike and head off to this famous Catanduanes landmark.
Situated 20 minutes away from the town proper, the road to the resort offers amazing views of Catanduanes’ rice fields and hills. The morning breeze and the views was a good way to start our adventure.
The famous Twin Rocks is sits within the premises of a resort of the same name. For an entrance fee of Php50 per head, you have access to resort’s facilities and you are free to roam around the area. The resort has a pool, restaurant, picnic tables, and rooms for those intending to stay overnight at the resort.
The main attraction of the resort is its cream-colored sand cove where you can view the twin rock formations along its coast. The rock formation can be reached by foot during low tide as the waters are calm within the cove. The rugged rock formation jutting out of its waters create a dramatic seascape.
For those who want a taste of adventure, one can try out the zipline or zipbike facility of the resort for an additional fee. Or you may opt to walk towards the outpost where you can try jumping from a platform into the cool waters of the cove.
Unfortunately, I was not ready for this kind of adventure so I simply enjoyed chilling out by the beach while enjoying the view and the peaceful ambiance of the resort.
PAGASA Weather Station (Bato)
At 11am, the whole Bernation Catanduanes group met at the Virac Port and we boarded a van and headed off to our first stop - the PAGASA Weather Station. Typhoons are nothing new to Catanduanes. It is one of the places that receives the first blow of typhoons coming from the Pacific. It is no wonder that the country’s weather agency built a station that monitors these weather disturbances.
Situated atop one of the hills of Bato, the Catanduanes PAGASA Weather Station is one of the most advanced in the country. It was inaugurated in May 2012 and is one of the projects in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
The real beauty of the weather station is not only on its advance equipments but on the amazing views of Catanduanes’ landscape and seascape. The summer skies matched perfectly with the provinces landscape.
Bato Church (Bato)
Standing majestically by the riverside, Bato Church, also known as the St. John the Baptist Church, is the one of the oldest in the province of Catanduanes. The church was completed in 1830 to replace the original wooden church.
The church was built from coral stones and its age is evident in its simple facade. Plants have started to sprout on some crevices of the church. The belfry sits on the second level of the facade. It is topped by a cuppola with a cross. The wings of the church bears the image of a female saint. The staircase leading to the doors adds drama to its beauty.
The interior is a mix of the old and the new. The walls of the navel shows its age with parts of the wall covered with moss. The church’s inticately designed retablo stand out for its modern look and feel.
It is easy to fall in love with Bato Church. Its age and its history is a real beauty that stands out in the rustic and rugged Catanduanes landscape.
Sakahon Beach / Mamonglo Island (Bato)
Tucked on on the southern end of Bato is an unspoiled beach spot that glows with its golden sugar-like sand. The stretch of the beach is still in its raw state which made it very appealing. Mamonglo Island juts out of its waters, not far from the shore, and it resembles the shape of a turtle from afar. The beach is the jump off point of the Bote Lighthouse.
There are no beach huts or establishments along the shoreline of Sakahon. The closest is about 300 meters away that is run by one of the locals.
Sakahon Beach is a real beauty that is waiting to be discovered and I hope that when that time comes, the community is ready and equipped with a sustainable tourism program.
Bote Lighthouse / Nakangangang Buwaya
45 minutes of huffing and puffing on a steep uphill trail will bring you to the Bote Lighthouse. This modern lighthouse is perched atop a hill and surrounded by vegetation. But do not worry because you will be rewarded with an amazing 360-degree view of Catanduanes’ own version of rolling hills and the waters of the Pacific. The vantage point will also give you an amazing view of Nakangangang Buwaya - a strip of land on the eastern side of Bato that resembles the shape of a crocodile.
The real challenge is getting to the top because of its rocky trail and the steep ascent that would literally leave you breathless. But then again, the amazing view from the top of the lighthouse makes the trek worth taking.
Maribina Falls (Bato)
Maribina Falls is one of the popular tourist spots in Catanduanes. One can explore and appreciate its natural beauty without having to go through tedious treks as vehicles can easily drive up right to its doorstep.
Conveniently located within the boundaries of Marinhawa and Binanhawan, Maribina Falls was named by combining the names of these villages. The attraction was developed as a picnic spot, complete with picnic huts, and is now being managed by the local government. Its facilities and accessibility make it a favorite weekend spot among the locals of Catanduanes. So you can expect the crowd to get pretty crowded during the weekend.
One will be amazed with the beauty of the falls as you watch mountain waters gushing down a 6-meter high rock face. The water cascades down a deep basin at its foot where one can easily enjoy a relaxing swim. The water then continues downstream in a series of mini-falls and small catch basins.
There are many vantage points to choose from where you can get a good view of the falls. I opted to explore upstream where I got to view its beauty from the top of its main cascade.
With the howling winds from the Pacific, Catanduanes is one of the many spots on the eastern side of the Philippines where you can enjoy surfing. The winds from the eastern seaboard of the Philippines create powerful waves that could teach a newbie to surf and can challenge the experienced surfer.
At the heart of this surfing activity is Puraran Beach. Tucked in a secluded part of Baras, the beach exudes an appealing rustic feel. Its cream-colored sand and off-shore rock formation complete the vibe Puraran Beach. There are only a few establishments in the area and they are located a hundred meters away from the beach. This gives its guests a long and wide beachfront to explore and enjoy.
Don’t expect a lot of activities by the beach. You can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, or beach bumming along the stretch of its coast. Occasionally, you can probably enjoy a game or two of beach volleyball with other guests and locals. Or you can try to be a little more adventurous by learning how to surf and enjoy riding its waves. There are a couple of small restaurants in the area and, if you are lucky like us, you can grab a meal of freshly cooked lobster that were caught straight out of the waters of Catanduanes.
It is the best place to spend a night before heading off to a pre-dawn trip to Binurong Point.
Of course, a trip to Catanduanes is not complete without checking out the prime tourist icon of the province - Binurong Point.
Located on the eastern coast of Catanduanes facing the Pacific Ocean, Binurong Point is one of the best places to catch the sunrise. The trip to Binurong Point starts out with a very early morning trip through the winding roads of Baras to its jump-off point. You would then have to register and get a guide for a 30 to 40 minute uphill trek to the viewing deck. You get to enjoy the beautiful star-filled sky and lush greeneries through the trek.
As we broke out onto the viewing point of Binurong, we already saw the first rays of the sun breaking out on the skyline. Binurong Point is a wide expanse of rolling hills and cliffs along the edge of Catanduanes’ eastern shoreline and there are many spots to choose from to sit down and watch the sunrise. We took our spot on one of its cliffside and watched a glorious morning being born. Watching the sunrise in Binurong Point was majestic. I was eagerly trying to catch photos of the morning sun breaking onto the sky from the Pacific but I stopped at one point just to enjoy its beauty.
As the sun takes its usual course, it reveals the amazing landscape and seascape of Binurong Point. It is a combination of verdant green rolling hills, dramatic cliffs, and crashing waves. The morning sun gave the whole scene a golden glow that made photos and selfies look better. You can explore the place and find your own spot in Binurong Point for that perfect shot.
Post Travel Notes:
Catanduanes is one of the many Philippine destinations that is slowly coming out of the shadows to reveal its very own proposition in tourism. Its rustic and rugged vibe make it appealing to travelers who are searching for something different. The province is popular among surfers, no doubt, but it has more to offer than just riding the Pacific waves. Its other natural and historical attractions have started to catch the attention of local travelers which is a good start.
The winds may howl over Catanduanes but its beauty howls stronger. Even if typhoons smash into its landscape, the very same coastline promises a majestic view of the sun rising on the horizon. Nature has a funny sense of humor - the very land that it smashes with its destructive force is the same land where the promise of a new day is best viewed.
Getting there: Virac is accessible by plane and by RORO. One can fly direct from Manila via Cebu Pacific with flights to Virac 3x a week. Alternatively, one can also take a plane to Legazpi City then take a one hour land travel to Tabaco Port where one can take the ferry to Virac or San Andres in Catanduanes. Major bus lines also ply the route of Manila - Tabaco Port or even Virac.
Our Catanduanes trip was organized by the FB travel organizer, Bernation, who mapped out our itinerary, transportation arrangements, and accomodations. Kudos to its head, Bernard, for a very smooth and organized trip. Highly recommended! Follow Bernation on Facebook to get more information on their upcoming trips.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.