Err… Where’s the beach, exactly? I silently asked, as our diminutive outrigger boat docked on a patch of mangrove trees at Bohol’s Lamanoc Island. I have my board shorts on and my snorkel ready within my dry bag. After seeing Anda’s Quinale Beach, I was thinking we’d be having something like it on our next destination, we’re going to an island after all. I was also told we’d also be having our lunch there.
My mind quickly painted a white sandy beach shaded with coconut trees, with bamboo huts facing a sparkling turquoise sea. Boy was I in for a big surprise.
Getting to Lamanoc Island requires navigating a two storey-high stone stairway. From there we emerged into a bamboo causeway that runs through the midst of a mangrove forest. The pathway creaked and groaned under our collective weight, but it held and was sturdy enough for our big group.
The walk took quite a few minutes but no one seemed to mind, even with the midday sun bearing strong on our necks. The place, which reminded me a lot of the Mangrove Forest in Kalibo, which was quite enchanting.
Eventually, we reached an elevated hut that struts over the waters of Cogtong Bay. Apparently, this was where our supposedly beach picnic that I was envisioning would be held. Well so much for that. A table set with crisply fried native chickens, pork lechon, grilled fishes, yams and other local delicacies like sinuglaw—a combination of grilled pork and raw fish—were all waiting for us.
After a not-so-quick-lunch, wooden outrigger boats, the single-passenger kind that are normally used by fisher folks, fetched us. I immediately went into panic mode and slid my cameras and gadgets into my dry bag; I’m real clumsy with my balance and I have a feeling that I just might get dunked into the water before I even get to sit inside the boat.
Which proved to be just an irrational fear, I made it without getting wet; although one of our companions did get dunked down the water.
It was a smooth enough ride from there. The water to Lamanoc Island was calm. I was even surprised that the depth of the water was only about a few feet high, low enough to walk across without the aid of anything. Although, you probably would want to wear protection for your feet as the seabed is a bit rough.
Instead of the white sandy beach that I was expecting, what greeted us upon arriving at Lamanoc Island were rows of mangrove trees and a very rocky beach. The island is generally made up of limestone and the terrain isn’t what you’d like to navigate with just your slippers on, let alone barefoot.
A local guide, Mang Fortunato, was already explaining things to my comrades as we arrived. Lamanoc Island takes its name from chickens. White chickens, to be exact, that were used by shamans as sacrifice to the spirits or diwatas. The island is mystical, he says.
Alright. That totally erased the beach paradise I’ve painted on my mind.
Trying to be as quiet as we can so as not to disturb the spirits living in the island, we filed one by one through a narrow trail that leads upwards and opens to one of the five known caves in the island. At its mouth, pieces of secondary burial coffins known as lungons and old broken earthenware jars lay; ransacked by bandits of old, believing them to contain gold only to find skeletal remains inside.
We were then herded through low foliage and then another uphill hike through sharp limestone rocks. We passed a huge wooden cross, whose origin I wasn’t really able to discern. I noticed that our guide didn’t even stop here and the boatman that brought us to the island didn’t answer me when I asked him about the cross.
We walked some steps more and came to a limestone wall smeared with a red substance. There were stories that these were blood smears from pirates massacred by angels. But from a study made, the stains were actually hematite or red iron oxide, a substance found in the nearby hills of Katipunan.
The hematite paintings as they are dubbed are said to be the work of ancient Stone Age people living in the area. Up to now, no one knows what the paintings symbolize, only that they were smeared by hand.
The tour continued forward through small trails in the jungle. The paths are actually easy to navigate if I was wearing my trek shoes; unfortunately, I was wearing flip-flops, expecting sandy beaches instead of caves.
Every once in a while, we’d pass shells of giant clams, which were believed to be used as vessels for offerings by old Boholano baylans.
Adding to the mystery of the island, Lamanoc was once said to shelter to a local witch named Ka Iska. It was said that she fled to one of the caves in the island as the townsfolk started persecuting her. From the story I gather from our guide, they never did find her body.
But the real mystery of Lamanoc Island hides behind the cave named after the island itself. It is said that diwata rituals are still performed here by local babaylans, offering chickens to the spirits for bountiful harvests.
Supernatural sightings by visitors are not rare, our guide relates. He further adds that we were lucky our cameras actually worked while inside, as they have been numerous occasions when his guests cameras malfunctioned after stepping inside the cave.
Whether you believe in the stories or not, I would be a liar to say that I didn’t feel anything the whole time we were in Lamanoc Island. From the landing, I actually felt something was a bit wrong with the island. Like the trees are somehow bent wrong and the wind whistling a different tune. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it was not something I felt even while I was in Siquijor Island, which most consider as a sorcerer’s place.
Lamanoc Island Mystic Tour
Address: Brgy. Badiang, Lamanoc Island, Anda, Bohol
Contact Number: (038) 510 8094 | (0917) 324-5917
Tour Hours: 8:00AM - 3:00PM
Tour Duration: 3 Hours
Entrance Fee: Php300.00 inclusive of boat and guide
GPS Coordinates Map: 9°48'12.4"N 124°35'47.9"E