Dinagat Islands is the 81st and the newest created province of the Philippines. It is located on the southern side of Leyte Gulf. It is bounded on the east by the Philippine Sea, on the south by Gaboc Channel and Nonoc Island; and on the west by Surigao Strait. Its main island, Dinagat, is about 60 km from north to south. The highest points of the province are Mt. Kambinliw and Mt. Redondo, found in the northern and southern part of the municipality of Loreto. The province of Dinagat is composed of 7 municipalities with Loreto as the largest municipality and Dinagat as the smallest municipality in terms of land area. San Jose is the capital of the province and is where the headquarters of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association, Inc. (PBMA) is located. PBMA is a non-sectarian organization bounded by a strong spirit of brotherhood which was founded by Ruben Edera Ecleo Sr. in 1965.
Dinagat Islands was once a part of the First District of the province of Surigao del Norte. But with the approval of Republic Act 9355, otherwise known as the Charter of the Province of Dinagat Islands, it became an independent province on December 2, 2006. On February 11, 2010, the Supreme Court of the Philippines declared the creation of Dinagat Islands Province null and void on grounds of failure to meet the land area and population requirements for the creation of local government units. The province then reverted to Surigao del Norte. However last March 30, 2011, the Supreme Court amended its previous ruling and upheld the constitutionality of RA 9355 and the creation of the province of Dinagat Islands.
The climate of the province is characterized by no pronounced dry season but with a very pronounced maximum rainfall period from November to January. Cebuano, Surigaonon, Boholano, Tagalog and Waray are the major dialects spoken in the province.
This tiny province is draped by glimmering cerulean waters and towering mountains. Unfortunately, most of the mountains have turned “red” due to mining. Despite its tarnished image, there is still tons of charm left to it, waiting to be unraveled. Dinagat Islands is rich in metallic and non-metallic mineral resources. These include chromite which is most abundant in the municipality of Loreto, aluminous laterite ore and nickeliferous laterite. Other minerals such as rock phosphate, limestone, siliceous and gold deposits are also scattered in small amounts across the island.
The province is also blessed with natural wonders which are popular among tourists who visit the province. The Mt. Redondo Natural Bonsai Forest covers an estimated area of more than 100 hectares of century-old “Bonsai” forest. The Ouano Lagoon is ideal for swimming with its deep-bluish and clear water. Other places of interest in the province are the surf site of Campijagit Point, the Blue Lagoon at Libjo, Lake Bababu at Basilisa and the Bitaug and Sundayo Beaches.
There’s more to Dinagat than the infamous religious sect and the mansion of the Ecleos, the reigning political dynasty in the island province. As one of the locals claimed, “Dinagat is so rich that its mineral deposits could pay the entire debt of the Philippines.”
Wander around the streets of modest villages and see for yourself the remnants of the Spanish era. Hike up to the church on top of the hill for some tranquil atmosphere or hire a habal-habal (single-engine motorcycle) and discover the rest of the island. Marvel at the emerald and golden rice farms by the road side, and the majestic view of the bay. Catch some fishermen tending their nets, or kids picking shells by the shore. Climb up the eccentric house-like fish pens, and get a souvenir photo! Ask permission to see the castle-like house of the Ecleo family (picture-taking is allowed outside the house, near the gate only) in San Jose town and be mesmerized by the panoramic view of the islands below. Check out also the controversial Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) Shrine, which is marked by a giant crown. Climb Mt. Redondo and explore the Natural Bonsai Forest, one of the few natural bonsai jungles in the Philippines. Plunge into the placid water of Lake Bababu draped by massive granite walls and verdant mountains. Take a refreshing dip in Esperanza Spring. Or jump into in the turquoise waters of Ouano Lagoon. Hire an outrigger boat for island hopping and discover the mountainside plummeting into emerald shores. Pack your snorkeling gears and visit Pangabangan Island. Sundayo Beach is another underwater wonder known for its rock formations. The Basilisa Coast is bursting with varied shapes of rock formations. The Kisses Islet located in Libjo has tiny charming limestone formations in the middle of the sea. Campijagit Point on the other hand, is a surfer’s paradise.