Surigao: The City of Island Adventures
When the Spanish conquistadores annexed the Philippines to their kingdom, several settlements in the archipelago were formed as encomiendas, parishes, pueblos, and military districts. One of the six districts in Mindanao were formed by Surigao and Agusan. Eventually, one of the settlements in Caraga became the seat of government and church affairs and the center of commerce and trade. And that was Surigao, or first known to be as Banahao.
Surigao navigated through different changes of tides, times and seasons. The Augustinian Recollects made the pueblo their permanent residence on February 1, 1752. The natural harbor along Bilang-Bilang Bay turned it into an important port of call and a significant part of an old trading route. The Ancient Kingdom of Butuan was a few nautical miles away. The city is now the Gateway to Mindanao as its Port of Lipata connects with the Visayas through the Pan-Philippine Nautical Highway.
When the Philippines declared independence from the Spaniards, Surigaonons saw the first hoisting of the Philippine flag in the island of Mindanao. In the Casa Real, Alejandro “Jantoy” Gonzalez, the president of the provincial junta, and the other leaders of the Third District of Mindanao, raised the tricolors on December 26, 1898.
Upon the return of General Douglas MacArthur to the Philippine Islands on October 20, 1944, the hostilities of the Second World War in the archipelago heightened. Just before dawn on October 25th, Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid‘s US Seventh Fleet engaged Vice Admiral Shoji Nishimura‘s Southern Force in a night battle at Surigao Strait. Although reinforced by Vice Admiral Kiyode Shima‘s Fifth Fleet, the Japanese were decisively beaten by the Allied Forces, some of its battleships exacting vengeance for the infamous Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941.
War and naval historians described the Battle of Surigao Strait as one of the greatest in history and was “definitely the last major surface engagement of such magnitude and also the last one where the classic T formation was achieved, in this case by the American forces, against an enemy fleet.” This victory eventually turned the tide of the Philippine Theater of War in favor the Filipino resistance and the Allied Forces. Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom called this Hinge of Fate.
The Post-World War II era saw the massive rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts of the Third Philippine Republic. In Surigao, the provincial capitol was rebuilt with the aid of the people of the United States of America under the Philippine Rehabilitation Act of 1946 (Tydings War Damage Act). Fourteen years later, Surigao attained its cityhood on August 31, 1970 upon the approval of its charter, the Republic Act No. 6134 by President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Today, the city is teeming with life and vibe. Although by income status it is still a third class city, Surigao is an important center of commerce and trade. It is also one of the highly regarded tourist destinations in Mindanao. Within mainland are the historic Battle of Surigao Strait Marker, Mabua-Ipil Pebble Beach, Looc Beach, Day-Asan Floating and Mangrove Forest, Punta Baluarte, Punta Bilar Dive Site, Silop Cave, Capitol, Luneta Park, City Hall, and Surigaonon Heritage Center.
Outside the city’s mainland are the roaring Bitaugan Whirlpool, the tree-lined Basul Island, the scenic 391-meter long San Pedro-Cantiasay Wooden Footbridge, the marine life-rich Sagisi Island, the awesome Buenavista Cave, the spectacular Danawan Island, and the marine sanctuary Manjagao Mangroves.
Throughout the year, there at least ten festivals and events are celebrated reflecting the city’s colorful culture, vibrant life. They are the Sto. Nino de Bad-Asay Fiesta (January 14), Suroy sa Surigao (May), Sakay-Sakay Abayan Festival (June 1), Tilaw Food Festival (August 29-31), City Charter Day (August 31), Balik Surigao (September 7), Bonok-Bonok Maradjaw Karadjaw Festival (September 9), Commemoration of the Battle of Surigao Strait (October 25), Paskuhan sa Surigao (December 1-24), and the Commemoration of the First Hoisting of the Philippine Flag in Mindanao (December 26).
The natural wonders, the festive atmosphere, and the colorful history of Surigao City are great ingredients for a top destination and that should easily beckon casual tourists, adrenaline-pumping adventurers, and students of history.
Note: This is part of LegendHarry‘s Nov 21-29 Northern Mindanao-Caraga-Davao Trip.