It was our second day at Dinagat, a cluster of mineral-rich islands located off the southeastern coast of Surigao in Southern Philippines.
From our balcony at Bahay Turista, I could see that the sea was calm and the skies were clear. “The weather was thankfully on our side,” I thought to myself.
You see, we traveled to Dinagat towards the start of the monsoon season. It was really not the best weekend for island hopping adventures in these parts, but we still pushed through with our plans. I guess we were just lucky that day.
At Lake Bababu
“We will start at Lake Bababu and hop to the other destinations afterwards,” our tour guide Mark told us as our bangka approached Baba’s Cove. The lake was named after the latter as it looked like a crocodile’s mouth or ‘baba sa buwaya‘ in the local dialect.
I really thought that the trek to Bababu will be straightforward and quick. I was wrong as it took us almost an hour just to reach it. Although there were portions in the forest trail that were really steep, it was quite manageable for the most part.
There were already a handful of locals when we finally reached the lake. Some of them brought empty plastic containers which they would later fill up with its supposed healing waters.
A limestone wall flanks the lake on one side while the lush forest bounds the rest of its perimeter. What can’t be seen from everyone’s point of view is Bababu’s underwater cave system. It connects the lake to the sea and at 650 m, it is said to be the longest fully submerged cave in the Philippines.
We had no plans to explore its mysterious underwater tunnel that morning. We just lazily floated over its placid yet deep waters and after a good few minutes we trekked back to the jumpoff.
Libjo’s stunning tidal pool
We arrived at Pangabangan Tidal Pool around noon. It is located at Libjo, our farthest stop in our itinerary. There are two more municipalities north of it – Tubajon and Loreto.
Mark assured us that there are no sea snakes here but we may see something that looked like one. They are harmless and are called ‘bahag-bahag‘ (could be a local pipefish).
When I saw one that was eerily long, I immediately swam back to the shore. I just watched my friends from afar as they continued snorkeling around Pangabangan’s clear emerald waters.
After Pangabangan, we briefly visited Buena Suerte Resort in Albor and dropped by Sundayo Beach in Hagakhak Island.
An empty Cabacongan Beach
We ended our island hopping tour at Cabacongan Beach in Basilisa. This was the ‘Prinsipe Gat island’ (Unib Island in Google Maps) that we saw from the mainland.
Although Cabacongan is identified as a Kalaw sanctuary, we did not see nor hear any hornbills that afternoon. Mark however showed us a different bird instead.
Cabacongan was surprisingly empty on a Saturday afternoon. I imagine that if this beach was located perhaps in Cebu or Palawan, it will probably be packed with the usual weekend crowds.
But I think that it will just be a matter of time when Cabacongan will not be as deserted anymore. Maybe it will only take one Star Cinema movie that will be shot here and elsewhere in Dinagat, to let the rest of the country know that this beach and the entire province for that matter, actually exist.
Looking back now, my friends and I were indeed privileged to see even a glimpse of Dinagat’s promising spots – the mystical Lake Bababu, the PBMA Shrine and the many laidback beaches in between.
This was largely possible due to the locals (or the ‘singsingan‘ as what the outside world calls them) we consulted before this trip and the handful others we met along the way. They were hospitable and patient with our questions. They are not unlike the rest of the country, except maybe that they respect their authorities, almost to a fault.
The sun was already setting behind us when our bangka docked at the port of San Jose. After thanking Mark and our boatman, we grabbed a quick dinner and then walked all the way back to our inn.
This blog post is the last entry of the Dinagat Diaries series. Read the first part here.
How to reach Dinagat
Dinagat can be reached by taking a public bangka (motorized outrigger boats) stationed by the boulevard at Surigao City. Fare is Php100 and travel time is approximately 1 hour.
You can reach Surigao by taking a commercial flight from Cebu or Manila. Alternatively, you can also take an overnight boat trip from Cebu.