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3 Days in Cortes, Surigao del Sur May 23-25, 2013

3 Days in Cortes, Surigao del Sur

Location: Municipality of Cortes, Province of Surigao del Sur (northeastern seaboard of Mindanao)

Backtracking to Cortes
I've already by-passed Cortes on the way to Lanuza. However, from the billboards I saw along the highway about the tourist attractions in Cortes and the after the conversation I've had with the former mayor of Lanuza who expressed optimism about the new mayor of Cortes being an advocate of conservation (vs. mining), I deemed it best to backtrack and find out for myself what Cortes is all about.

map location Cortes, Surigao del Sur
Laswitan Laswitan | Bakwitan Cave Bakwitan Cave | Buybuyan Beach Buybuyan Beach | Capandan Sanctuary Capandan Sanctuary | Light House Light House | Marine Sanctuary Uba Marine Sanctuary guard house | Sihagan Beach Sihagan Beach | Campiri Rocks Campiri Rocks

Nowhere Place
Interestingly, of all the people in Lanuza I've talked to, none have ever gone to Cortes despite Cortes being the next municipality. The reason I always hear is that Cortes is too isolated being an additional dirt road trip from the highway junction. From the map, Cortes occupies that triangular land mass sticking out to the easter seaboard with its apex facing the vast Pacific Ocean.

Roof Over my Head
I haven't been to Cortes, knew no one and didn't even know where I'd sleep for the night. When I finally got there, the first thing I was told was that there is no lodging in Cortes. I was like, "Huuuuaaaat? Where will I sleep?" I asked who could help me, and the name I kept getting was "Vincent" at the municipal office. Of course I seeked him out. He is currently the strategist and planner for the mayor-elect, William Angos. Through his kindness, I got to stay at his parents' house near Laswitan, a few kilometers even further out from the highway, closer to the Paciic Ocean. Even though I practically invited myself as a house guest, Vincent's parents, both former barangay captains, treated me like family. I would call them Nanay and Tatay.

An LGU staff, Archie, was my good Samaritan in driving me to Vincent's parents' house and then took me around Laswitan and other points of interest - Sihagan Beach, Buybuyan Beach, light house, undeveloped spring, etc. He says that Cortes boasts of several caves and waterfalls that were recently discovered when they were scouting the scope of the municipal area to develop an evacuation plan in case of a tsunami - Cortes faces the open Pacific Ocean with no island barrier in between. However, there is no written record of the last tsunami that ever hit Cortes...if ever.

Mayor Elect Willaim Angos
With everyone I talked to in Cortes (and even outside Cortes), there is increased optimism about the election of William Angos, a young, accomplished lawyer and daring adverturer, who has ambitious plans for Cortes' tourism along the lines of conservation. I like that. Moreover, he is involved in various outdoor activities - scuba diving, mountain climbing, cycling, etc. It's not everyday someone as promising as him becomes mayor to a lucky town. I wanted to meet him and discuss with him how I can assist in his tourism program, but he wasn't around. Fortunately, his assistant, Vincent Duenas was there to echo the mayor's vision for Cortes.

Marino "Mar" Tabugon
Another person who was instrumental for my excellent Cortes adventure is the chairman of the Barangay Uba Fisherfolks Asso (BUFA), Marino Tabugon, or Mar for short. He took me on a rocky tour of Campiri Rocks, took me to 2 marine sanctuaries to scuba dive and was also with me to Bakwitan Cave. Mar and I talked a lot about the possibilities that lay ahead for Cortes' tourism. Of the places he took me to, the rocky trek on Campiri Rocks left an indelible impression on me - going over huge boulders, dipping in a rock pool, standing on a rock summit as waves hits and splash against it, and to cap all, you rest on the base of the light house perched on top of the rocks in full view of the magnificent Pacific Ocean....whoa!

Vincent Duenas
Even though we didn't talk much, Vincent was behind the scene in ensuring I see the best of what Cortes has to offer to the traveller. In our brief conversation, he discussed the program already lined up by the mayor in generating revenues for the municipality through creative and practical ways that would protect the interest of the stakeholders - the fishermen, the college graduates who can't find a job, etc. The more I listened, the more I liked it. Indeed, optimism is in the air.

Ending Thoughts
Given all the things I've done in Cortes - a spectator to Laswitan, walking along Sihagan and Buybuyan Beaches, treking along Campiri Rocks, scuba diving on 2 marine sanctuaries, exploring Bakwitan Cave...all this while inviting myself to be a house guest, wow...that was pretty intense. The coming blogs will be about these activities.

What I find urgently lacking in Cortes are 2 things: internet and lodging. Cortes can be a multi-day adventure, but without lodging, people may go to Lanuza or Tandag instead where they'll have a place to stay. Once out of Cortes, the traveler can be lured into other attractions offered by other places.

I can't thank the following people enough - Vincent Duenas, Nanay, Tatay, Mar Tabugon, Archie, the scuba diving crew, Tuburan Barangay Captain Vicente Malingin, and a whole host of others whose names I can't remember. HUGE thank you to everyone! Without your assistance and kindness, I probably would have taken the first bus out of Cortes.

--- TheLoneRider

ps - If you want me to objectively cover the features of your city or municipality or barangay for this website (fiesta, waterfall, mountain trail, lake, river, cave, food, islands, beach, etc.), email me.

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Cortes Travel Tips and FYI:

  1. bring lotsa cash. There is no bank here. Others had to go to the next big city (no joking matter) just to replenish on cash
  2. there is no internet here

How to Get to Cortes

  1. from Tandag - take any northbound bus or jeep heading to Surigao City and ask to be dropped off at Cortes, 1 hour. If you take a jeep that specifically says "Cortes", take it. It will take you all the way to Cortes proper and to some of its barangays (and not just at the junction). If you take a bus, ask to be dropped off at Cortes, 1 hour. Then take a habal-habal for Cortes proper, 15 mins, P20.
  2. from Surigao City - take any southbound bus for Tandag and ask to be dropped off at the Cortes junction, 4 hours. Then take a habal-habal for Cortes proper, 15 mins, P20.

Attractions in Cortes and nearby area

  • Lubcon Falls - from Tandag, take jeep for Cantillan or Cortes and ask the driver to drop you off at Lubcon Falls, P25, 30 mins, 15 kms
  • Laswitan - strong waves crashing against the rocks and spilling over to fill up a rock pool (while you're dipping in it)
  • Campiri Rocks - going over huge boulders, dipping in a rock pool, standing on a rock summit as waves hits and splash against it, and to cap all, you rest on the base of the light house perched on top of the rocks in full view of the magnificent Pacific Ocean
  • Bakwitan Cave - a refuge by the towns folk during the Japanese occupation and during the typhoon of 2004
  • Buybuyan Beach - small beach, almost like a personal beach, fine white sand (there are no commercial establishments on the beach...its undeveloped)
  • Sihagan Beach - fine white sand for long walks on a beach (there are no commercial establishments on the beach...its undeveloped)
  • Burgos Togonan Falls
  • Uba Marine Sanctuaries - scuba dive with gear from the LGU. At P250 per dive, you can't beat it!
  • Capandan Marine Sanctuaries - scuba dive with gear from the LGU. At P250 per dive, you can't beat it!
  • Balibadon Marine Sanctuary
  • Mabahin Marine Sanctuary
  • Tigao Marine Sanctuary
  • Poblacion Marine Sanctuary

Lodging in Cortes

  • Kamalig - this is the only lodging in Cortes, P600/head. Best to make arrangements with Cortes LGU before coming over

Cortes LGU

  • for more information on anything and everything about Cortes, you can get in touch with Vincent Duenas of the Cortes LGU: 0907.444.6551 or email

(along the Surigao coastline from Surigao City to Surigao del Sur)

The following people like this:

Brian Tan Seng
Brian Tan Seng
Mariella de Laza
Mariella de Laza
Cathe Duero
Cathe Duero
Joni Gualvez Villamil
Joni Gualvez Villamil

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May 23-25, 2013

»» next Traveling story: Visiting Laswitan of Surigao del Sur
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