The small banca glides effortlessly in the island’s dockyard. It’s a marvelous feeling to have the island by yourself. No jostling crowd and noise.
Going to Lamanok? Prepare yourself for a trip back on ancient history. The mystical island is said to be Bohol’s “cradle of civilisation”.
It is located in Badiang, one of the 16 barangays (or villages) of Anda municipality in Bohol province. One can take a 30-minute pedicab ride from Anda town to Badiang. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the lush green environment and cool breeze from the ocean.
After the registration, we went few steps down and crossed a bamboo bridge to get to the hut where our small banca was waiting. We have heard of the mysterious stories in the island so we decided to be obedient and avoid getting into trouble.
A Filipino balikbayan was said to have visited and took a small twig from a tree without the guide knowing. He went back to the US and felt pain in his stomach. After several trips to the doctor, it was never diagnosed. They were told that nothing was wrong with him.
Helpless, he went back to Badiang and consulted a babaylan (traditional healer) who told him the twig he took could be a body part and he got cursed taking it away. We were warned: “Whatever you see in this island isn’t what you think. So be careful”.
Would you dare?
When visiting a local spot, it is best to respect local traditions and follow the rules. Better safe than sorry.
The walk in this bamboo bridge is a nice, refreshing experience.
The island’s mysterious stories makes it all the more inviting. It is an adventure to the unknown.
As Fortunato “Forting” Simbajon, 61 years old, steered the boat towards the island, he started telling us about his life and what his dreams are for the island. He had been the island’s caretaker for 14 years along with the members of Badiang Fishermen’s Association that also manages the tour activities.
Several organisations supported them in conservation work, including tour management. He said, “I did not finish high school. When they asked me to join the training for tour guides, I told them they better get those who have gone to school and can speak English. How can I explain all these spots in the island properly for tourists to understand me?”
But having seen his skills, the group insisted and eventually got recognised as one of the best tour guides in Bohol. He also learned English in the process. “When I went through the test, the trainer said I was ‘amazing’. I have to run to a teacher and ask in local dialect what that means”, he shared laughing.
You can never be too old to learn anything and be good at it. If you badly want something to happen in your life, you can do it.
61-year old Fortunato Simbahon has been taking care of the island and sharing its stories for 14 years.
He knows his craft by heart. Manong Forting proudly shares the island’s treasures.
Expertly, Manong Forting guides you through the island, identifying all the important sites, from the red limestones to centuries-old scripts written by ancestors and the different caves with strange rock formations.
He tried to convince us to get inside the cave where the babaylans burn their offerings but we were not too brave to step in. It looked dark and musty. Outside of the cave, one can still see traces of the burnt animal bones.
One cave was said to have housed a woman unfortunately accused as an aswang (witch) by villagers years back. She died in the cave where her bones were recovered by relatives after several years of search.
Her story has become a scary legend in the area but Manong Forting believes she was unjustly labeled as a witch and she hid away from the world’s cruelty.
Those who possess a “third-eye” should be careful. A woman who was said to have one allegedly saw a hand waving for her to come inside the cave. Troubled, she told the guide who advised her to politely ignore what she saw.
Have you been unfairly accused? Sometimes stories we do not verify as true spreads and destroys lives. Be careful sharing what you heard from others.
These pre-historic limestones offer us a glimpse of our ancestors lives and traditions.
The cave where the babaylans and shammans do their offerings.
What I love the most are dangling limestones and pre-historic graffiti. It reminds us how far we have gone and the lives of our ancestors of long ago. They are living proof that centuries ago, people lived way ahead of us.
The secluded white-sand beaches were very inviting. If you have time, you can take the swim and enjoy the cool waters and the view. A cool thatched-roof hut was also constructed in the island and visitors can request for food and spend time. But leftovers and trash are strictly prohibited.
Manong Forting’s hope is that the island will be preserved as it is for future generations to enjoy and learn from. For years, he was aware of many bounty hunters who tried prying into fortunes said to be buried in the island, even the famed ‘Yamashita treasures’.
Lamanok was historically said to have witnessed early ancestors battle against the entry of foreign invaders (probably the Spaniards) converting people to Christianity led by local warrior Kabel. Kabel was able to forestall the invasion for years until a much stronger force with ‘mysterious fighting gift’ defeated him.
Manong Forting believes Kabel and Dagohoy are one and the same person. Dagohoy led the longest rebellion against the Spanish colonial government from Bohol island.
Ang hindi lumilingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan (If you do not look back from where you came from, you can never reach wherever you want to go to).
The Badiang Fishermen’s Association takes care of the island and has also battled undue interests that endanger ecology and natural treasures.
The bamboo bridge and the hut where guests are picked up going to the island. A beautiful show of the Boholanos’ ingenuity.
Looking back at our past teaches us to be grateful what our ancestors (our grandparents or parents) did so we can enjoy what we have now. Our history draws us back where we came from. Often, we learn to understand ourselves and our family by our past.
When you visit Lamanok, enjoy the sights but most of all, learn from what the island stood for.
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The island is best visited with friends. We enjoyed the trek as well as burning calories for at least 2 hours.
A friendly reminder from the association. Most of these you can observe when visiting tour spots.