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Bohol Islands and Beaches Philippines Travel

Bohol | Anda’s Mystical Lamanoc Island

A vast field of mangroves filled more than half my vision as I start my way down a two story rocky stairway. Somewhere beyond this 1,400 hectares of mangrove at Cogtong Bay, Anda, Bohol is Lamanoc Island, a small limestone island enveloped in an eerie veil of tales of a banished witch and a place where shamans congregate. Why would I visit such a spooky island? Because within its shallow caverns and lush tangled vegetation are remnants of a fascinating culture dating far beyond the pre-colonial era.

At Ka Iska's lair, believed to where the witch still roams
At Ka Iska’s lair, believed to where the witch still roams

Mysterious Caves

Old tales tell of a woman named Francesca living in the town of Anda. She was known mainly as Ka Iska, believed to be a powerful witch or “mangkukulam”. Men of the village chased her out of town and she sought refuge on Lamanoc Island. She vanished on the island. Despite having found bones the townsfolk believe s belonged to Francesca, they still think her spirit still dwells the caves of the island. I found myself inside Ka Iska’s Lair, an earthen cavity adorned with strange looking rock formations as bizarre as the island itself. I see no traces of Ka Iska here but the air flows differently in this cavern. There’s a certain dampness and chill in the air probably coming from the sea entering through another opening.

Sharp limestone rocks were our trail this time with rope railings as support once we got out of the cave. I admired the view of the sea and nearby islands from this trail. Mang Fortuno lead me to the Lamanoc Cave, its opening almost concealed from the ground. The cave mouth is dark and extremely humid. There were a number of candles and a natural rock that resembles a sacrificial table. The cave is sacred as local shamans called tambalan or babaylan perform diwata rituals inside the cave either to heal ailments, banish curses or coax a bountiful harvest. Chickens, locally called manok, are the preferred ritual offerings, hence the name of the island. The locals believed the rituals started even before the Spaniards came. Even up to now, people still practice the ritual offerings to appease the island spirits and keep the island open for visitors.

The afternoon was getting deep and dark clouds gathering above the island made it look more haunting. I asked Mang Fortuno if  anyone stays here on the island. He said no one dares to do so. Whenever a group of people do stay overnight, there would always be stories of supernatural encounters the morning after. Whether people believe the tales or not, there’s an inexplicable uniqueness so ancient and other-worldly enveloping the island. I asked my boatman and guide to paddle home  before the darkness sets. I wouldn’t want to get caught here in the night.

Trail to the Lamanoc Cave
Trail to the Lamanoc Cave

Essential Info

Anda is a charming little town found southeast of Bohol Island. Remote and still quaint, its Quinale Beach, just beside the town plaza boasts of true fine powdery white sand stretching about two kilometers. Mantalisay trees offer a natural cover by the plaza.

How to go to Anda Bohol:

From Tagbilaran’s Dao Integrated Terminal there are several available options:

  • Public Bus: 5am, 1230pm and 2:30pm. Php 90. 3 hours travel time
  • Van Hire: No particular schedule and leaves when full. Usually 10am, 12nn, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm. Php 130, 2 hours
  • Guindulman Bus: Buses to Guinulman leaves every hour from 5am to 5pm. Php 80. From Guindulman, hire tricycles to Anda for Php 20.

How to go to Lamanoc Island:

Lamanoc Island is located at Sitio Dapanas, Brgy. Badiang, Anda, Bohol, 5km from town proper and 107 km from Tagbilaran. Hire a Habal-habal to Lamanoc Information Center in Badian. Php 75 per head one way.

The Mystical Island Tour cost Php 300 which includes entry fee, paddle boat transfer and tour guide. Contact (+6338) 5108094 or 09173245917. Hours of operation is 8:00am to 4:00pm.

*This article originally published on the November 2015 issue of PAL’s Mabuhay Magazine.

The 1st chamber of the Lamanoc Cave where shamans hold their diwata rituals
The 1st chamber of the Lamanoc Cave where shamans hold their diwata rituals
At the wide-open chamber of Tangob Cave
At the wide-open chamber of Tangob Cave
A pavilion within the mangroves
A pavilion within the mangroves
The mangrove jetty as we head back
The mangrove jetty as we head back

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