|Cottages in Mabua-Ipil Pebble Beach|
been to, I wasn’t too keen on exploring Surigao’s immaculate shores which are scattered all over the place. However, upon hearing about a bizarre, one-of-a-kind beach found in the fringes of the city, I became curious and wanted to see it up close and personal.
|Glimpse of Mabua-Ipil Pebble Beach and Surigao Strait|
Tourists who’ve had enough of black, white or pink-sand beaches should head for one of the city’s must-see destinations: Mabua-Ipil Pebble Beach. What makes the one kilometer stretch a sight to behold are the thousands of smooth stones dotting the rugged shores and overlooking the deep blue waters of Surigao Strait.
Located some thirty minutes away from the downtown area, the off-the-beaten-path attraction is often ignored by visitors who usually opt for the spectacular swells of Siargao and the lovely lagoons of Bucas Grande, two of the most frequented islands in Surigao del Norte. Well, I must say that they’ve missed a lot by skipping the beach.
Luckily, we found time to pay the beach a short but sweet visit. Travelling to that part of Surigao was a joyride itself as we passed along a well-paved highway that treated us to an awesome vista of seascapes. It was, however, briefly interrupted as we entered a narrow dirt road leading to our destination, Mt. Bagarabon Beach Resort.
Passing along the coastal communities on the way to the
resort, a twinge of envy welled up inside me as I gazed at the look of
contentment etched on the faces of the fisher folks we saw. Despite the
plainness and privation of their lives, they seemed to have found bliss. How I
wish my life were less complicated like those people.
|Peebles galore at Mabua-Ipil Beach|
|Glimpse of Southern Leyte|
At the end of the stretch, we pulled over at the resort and headed for the bizarre beach. The whole stretch of Mabua-Ipil Pebble Beach is best viewed atop a hill which could be reached by scaling a 300-step stairway. Too bad, we didn’t have time to climb it and watch the unfolding of sunset there. Even so, the unique beach is simply marvelous!
|Sea-faring Badjaos in Surigao Strait|
|Lipata Port Building|
|Lipata Port and Ferry Terminal|
Lipata has roll-on-roll-off facilities providing services to the ports of Southern Leyte. While inside the complex, I managed to sneak into the docks, which is off-limits to outsiders, and took some snaps of captivating Surigao Strait. From where I stood, the tiny island of Basul, one of Surigao’s seventeen islands and islets, was visible.
Not to be missed when you’re in Surigao are the historical and cultural sites scattered all over the city. Foremost among them is the City Hall. Built in the 1950s, the building stands right on the very spot where the Philippine flag was first unfurled in Mindanao in 1898 by triumphant Filipino revolutionaries, marking the end of Spanish rule.
|Rizal's monument at Luneta Park|
|St. Nicholas of Tolentine Cathedral|
|Inside the Surigao Cathedral|
The existing structure must have been done in the late 1930s but the parish had long been in existence, dating back to the 1750s when the Augustinian Recollects came to the then undivided Surigao. Named in honor of the city’s patron saint, the church stands beside St. Paul University, a private school run by the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartre.
|Rizal's monument at Luneta Park|
|Church bell circa 1836|
Meanwhile, in an effort to preserve Surigao’s rich cultural heritage, the Provincial Government, in cooperation with the private sector, has put up the Surigaonon Heritage Center. Located in the eastern end of Parola Boulevard, the museum features ancient archaeological relics, memorabilia and other artifacts gathered from around Surigao.
Good thing, I was allowed to take pictures of antique sculptors, jars, kitchen wares, instruments and other cultural treasures found there unlike in other repositories where picture-taking is prohibited. A visit to the heritage center would fascinate not only history buffs and culture-vultures but also scholars searching for interesting rarities.
From the boulevard, I crossed over to the promenade fronting Surigao Strait for another glimpse of the sea and the islands of Nonoc, Hikdop and Hanigad. Sinking into a bench, I rested briefly before taking snaps of the picturesque seascape. Pump boats bound for nearby islands across the narrow strait use the promenade for docking.
Surigao Strait, which links Bohol Sea with Leyte Gulf, is regularly crossed by ships and ferries carrying people and cargoes to and fro the Visayas and Mindanao. It is perhaps best known for the historic naval battle that took place there on October 25, 1944 between the American forces and the Japanese fleet during World War II.
|Grilled giant squid|
Arguably one of Mindanao’s seafood capitals, Surigao is synonymous with delights coming from the sea. It’s probably one of the reasons why tourists keep coming there. The city is one living aquarium where the most delectable marine species in the planet are yours for the taking. For me, the “S” in Surigao stands for these sumptuous words—spectacularly savory seafood!
The best way to savor those bounties is to buy your own and have these cooked any way you want it—seared, smoked, stewed, steamed or sautéed. Surigao has a fair share of seafood markets and restos offering such service for a reasonable fee. Caveat: Most of the stuff in those restos, except for the crabs and squid, are frozen delights!
Ocean Bounties serves some of the most sought-after seafood dishes in town, which even the most discriminating of palates would have difficulty resisting. House specialties include grilled lobster, sashimi, sweet and sour fish, steamed crab, baked oysters, seafood paella, among others—name it and, chances are, they’ll cook it for you!
Right after acquiring our goods, we headed for Merlie’s, one of the small restos in the market, for a uniquely exhilarating gustatory experience. We then had the fresh bounties cooked by the staff in a variety of ways. Geez, those uber delicious dinners at Merlie’s count among the most satisfying food trips I’ve ever had in years!
|Sayongsong, a native delicacy|