That was the third day of our tour. We didn’t want to take several trips, so we hired Mike’s tricycle to take us to the coastal town of Jagna. There, we met with their tourism officer to experience the process of making calamay and tsokolate de binsoy. Read more
After lunch, we continued with the last leg of the trip. Our destination: the peninsula of Anda at the eastern tip of Bohol. In recent years, Anda has been has been the talk of the town because of its white-sand beaches that are comparable to those of Boracay and Panglao. There are also a number of cave pools around the town, and an enchanted island guarded by spirits.
After settling down at J&R Residence, we met our tour guide Kathy, who was sent by the mayor to guide us around Anda. She was all smiles as she welcomed us and discussed our itinerary. “We’ll meet the mayor first, and then we’ll try to visit whatever we could before dark,” she said.
Going to Lamanok Island
The van drove further east, about 7 kilometers from the town proper. The quaint countryside is blessed with a refreshing scene of mountains, mangroves, and beaches. Their highways are also well-paved, tourists don’t need to worry about having a hard time on the road.
In less than 15 minutes, we reached the jump-off point: Barangay Badiang, which is home to a vast mangrove reforestation project started in 2012. We parked by the roadside, registered, and paid entrance fees (P300 per guest). And then we took the stairs down to the 300+ meters wooden bridge that leads to a stilt house, where boatmen await to take guests to the enchanted island–which which is actually not an island but a part of the peninsula connected to the mainland by a thick mangrove forest.
We were the last batch of tourists for that day, just in time for the 3 PM closing time. Kathy grabbed some drinks for us, and some waterproof bags for our gadgets. At 3:15 PM, we started paddling to the island. The sea was shallow I could sink the paddle into the water and touch the seabed. The seaweeds and starfish are clearly visible in the shallow waters. In 5 minutes, we reached Lamanok.
Spirits, History, and Folklore
Our tour guide, Fortunato Simbajon aka Mang Porting, started with reminders: not to make loud noises, follow his instructions, and be ready for what we’ll see. He said we might see or hear things that are controversial and malicious, we had to keep an open mind.
The first stop was the Burial Cave where we saw shards of broken jars believed to be part of burial jars, a few rotting dug-out coffins, and skeletons. The scene reminded me of the artifacts in museums and the history lessons from high school about the customs of early Filipinos in burying the dead. The National Museum, during their archeological exploration of Lamanok, also uncovered some pieces of ceramics, bracelets, and iron blades in the area. These relics may be from a group of early settlers claimed to be from the Neolithic Period or maybe items buried with the dead.
After the Burial Cave, Mang Porting showed us the abstract hematite paintings on the walls of a cave. I’m aware that primitive people were capable of making cave paintings using crushed hematite. These paintings called pictographs are found in different parts of the world. But with this one in Lamanok, I had questions. Were the blood-red pigments really paintings? Were they signs of early civilization that found shelter in the caves? Or were they products of natural chemical reactions? (I reached out to the National Museum of Bohol to share the findings of their archaeological study of the “hematite paintings”, but I have not heard back from them as of this writing.)
Mang Porting also shared stories about his guests who have seen and felt the presence of spirits in the island. Some have seen them in the caves, quietly watching them. Some have shown in photos they took. Some gave them goosebumps. The spirits, guests claimed, trailed along after them as they moved around the island. But I didn’t see anything. Maybe because I don’t have a third eye. But I was mindful.
The only thing I saw that’s close to creepy were the abstract patterns on the cave believed to be the last sanctuary of Francisca or Ka Iska, a mangkukulam who sought shelter in Lamanok to escape the outrage of the villagers. There’s no strong fact to support her existence, except the story that has lived on for many years, and the eerie atmosphere in the caves.
And then there’s the Shaman’s Cave, where offering rituals are performed by shamans from different parts of Bohol, Camiguin, and Siquijor. During the ceremony, white chicken (manok in the local language) is killed on the altar inside the dark cave to invoke the presence of the diwata and spirits who can give them a good harvest or a good catch. This ritual, which is also found in among tribes in the mountain villages of the Philippines, is the origin of the island’s name.
Close to the Shaman’s Cave, Mang Porting showed us boulders of rocks with fossilized giant clams. He said they were proof that in the distant past, the island was below sea level. Because most of these shells are scattered in the altar or ritual grounds and are nowhere to be found in the oceans surrounding Lamanok, some people think that the shells were only used as vessels (i.e. containers) for their offerings. The claim that the island used to be underwater still has to be proven.
The whole tour with Mang Porting can last about two hours. His eloquence will amaze you. His sense of humor will hit you to the bones. And, the stories can give you goosebumps.
How to Get There
Anda is about 100 kilometers from Tagbilaran, the capital of Bohol. To get to Anda, you can take a bus (three hours) or a van (two hours) that goes straight to this town. Or you can also take a bus to Guindulman, and then take a tricycle or habal-habal to Anda or Lamanok Island.
Bus (Tagbilaran to Anda)–about P100
Van (Tagbilaran to Anda)–about P120
Tricycle (Guindulman to Anda)–about P30
Bus–5 AM, 12:30 PM, 2:30 PM, 5:30 PM
Van–6 AM, 8 AM, 10:30 AM, 11 AM
(Fare and schedule subject to change)
Where to Stay
There are more than 30 resorts in Anda, Bohol. Our most recommended is J&R Residence, which is owned by a German and Filipino couple. This is a small resort with five rooms and villas, and is the most comfortable place for groups and families, a good value for money. Read more
What Else to See
The most popular beach in Anda is the public beach of Quinale. Also great to visit are the beaches of Talisay, Cambilagan, Bugnaw, and Arthoghin. Anda is also known for a number of cave pools. The popular ones are the cave pools of Combento, Cateres, Kaligoon, Tiburako, East Coast, and Cabagnow.
Anda Tourism Office
Facebook: Anda Tourism Bohol
Contact (038) 501-8094; 0917-474-8825
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