From Ridge to Reef, Silago’s ticket as an emerging tourism destination

Nature lovers, adventure seekers, and food trippers who want to taste an exotic lobster known as “banagan” should add a visit to the municipality of Silago in Southern Leyte to their bucket list. This Pacific-side location of Southern Leyte province borders the town of Abuyog in Leyte and can be reached by about a two-hour drive from Tacloban City.

Traveling from Maasin City, the capital city of the province, the town lies in the north-east direction, a distance of 167 kilometers, or roughly three hours of land travel.

Silago has carved a singular distinction as the only local government unit (LGU) in Eastern Visayas to have gained a spot in the Top 15 entries out of the 98 LGUs around the country that submitted proposals for the Tourism Champion Challenge (TCC), a program initiated by the Department of Tourism (DOT). Silago’s project, the Ridge to Reef Eco-Experience, was chosen among the top five proposals for the Visayas cluster, and thus included in the national run.

“We will still undergo evaluation and five to six days of training, we were told by DOT,” Silago Mayor Lemuel Honor told PIA in a cellular phone interview on Thursday, October 19.

“Prizes will be given to the top five finalists, but even if we do not make it, we are already winners for having been chosen in the top 15 among the 1,634 municipalities and cities nationwide.”

Big tourism potential

Silago is a 4th class municipality, with a population of 15,000 people spread in 15 barangays. First-time visitors coming here would certainly be lured to the well-preserved skeletal remains of a large whale, virtually equal in length with one big bus plying the Maasin-Manila-Maasin route.

The story goes that a giant whale was beached in the town more than two decades ago, and the people made sure its bones remained intact. It is now permanently housed in what is appropriately called the Whalebone Museum, a place dedicated only to preserve this stock.

The Whalebone Museum in Silago, Southern Leyte. (Photo courtesy of LGU Silago)

“A few meters from the Whalebone Museum is our surfing site,” Mayor Honor said, adding that this site has been frequented by surf enthusiasts from Cebu, Maasin, and other places. The visiting surfers make do with pitching tents during their stay, the mayor said.

“We did not promote it yet (the surfing) for lack of accommodation,” he added, although for the wandering surfers, who have been used to packing up and going, sleeping in tents on the spot added more thrill and excitement to the experience.

Honor quoted the panel interviewers during their TCC presentation in Baguio City as having said that the town he leads will possess big tourism potential in the years to come.

“The presentation took only five minutes, but the question and answer part took a longer time,” he recalled.

From the Ridge

In our interview, the mayor cited the help of the Visayas State University (VSU) in crafting their eco-tourism offering, dubbed from ridge to reef. Indeed, the town boasts the presence of a lush forest, where natural-grown trees compete for space in a seeming race to reach the sky. Its Mount Nacolod mountain range is a sure haven, or heaven, if you please, for mountaineers and for anyone who simply wants to find peace in a natural setting.

Last week, an environment summit was held in the middle of the forest, a rare occasion, Honor quoted the participants as saying. Somewhere in this forest will be developed a canopy walk, much like a hanging bridge linking the trees, with some portions being lit, and at a lower height, for the young or for those afraid of heights.

And, hear this, only last week, too, four new species of spiders were found in this forest by personnel of the Philippine Eagle Foundation, an addition to the list of insects in the current catalog.

“Next year, the Philippine Eagle Foundation is set to release a Philippine eagle right here in the forest. But this Davao-based foundation has been here since the year 2000 making studies,” Honor said.

The entrance to the town of Silago. (Photo courtesy of LGU Silago)

“We have lots of natural falls, and a river that cuts the heart of Silago poblacion can be an ideal location for water sports activities like paddling and kayaking,” Honor shared, adding that by next year, they will also go to Cagayan de Oro to meet with experts on water rafting, learn from them, and apply what they shall have learned.

A wide river that cuts across the heart of Silago town, perfect for water sports activities. (Photo courtesy of LGU Silago)

Municipal Building of Silago. (Photo courtesy of LGU Silago)

Boat paddling in Silago’s river. (Photo courtesy of LGU Silago)

The town offers a “Kapihan sa Basurahan,” where one can relax while sipping coffee in a garbage dump and enjoy a 360-degree view of the surroundings, the hills, the mountain ridges, and the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

To the Reef

Going down to the sea, divers can have the chance to swim with lobsters, locally known as “banagan,” the mayor said. With the swimming done, they can have a taste of this delicious seafood, cooked, not raw, or vice versa: eat first, then swim.

The banagan (lobster) of Silago. (Photo courtesy of LGU Silago)

On surfing, surfers from Maasin City shared they noticed some “pawikan,” or sea turtles, swimming alongside them as they prepared to venture farther from shore shortly before gliding with the waves, their feet balancing on surfboards.

“You can choose any wave, for there seemed to be some rough for the professionals, and some smooth for amateurs,” a visiting surf enthusiast recalled when asked for reaction to this attraction.

Then, at Pilada Rock, an island of stones jutting out at sea at some distance from the shorelines, the truly adventurous can dive to their hearts’ content, but with a catch: the island is populated by snakes.

The snake-inhabated Pilada Rock of Silago. (Photo by Jan Paul/Hannie Cadalin, Silago IO)

Local folklore, or so they say, refers to the many kinds of crawling creatures on this rock as pets of unseen beings, but as long as they are not disturbed or unharmed— the snakes — Pilada Rock is the perfect site for an extreme adventure.

Local economy

“We are determined to be the next tourism destination not only in the province, the region, but the entire country, in the next 10 to 15 years,” Mayor Honor said, adding that with one tourist coming in, this translates to one job, one employment for the people of Silago.

The visitors will stay and spend for food, lodging and other amenities, and so the local economy will be alive in a town that once became a Hall of Famer in the Clean and Green Contest and a Seal of Good Local Governance Awardee in 2022, both initiatives led by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

But they are not yet in the promotion mood by now, because they are still 40% ready for a lack of appropriate accommodation, Honor quipped.

So when is the town ready to kickstart the Ridge to Reef Eco-Experience? “When the LGU Hotel is finished, probably around the first quarter next year, or by April 2024,” was his categorical reply.

A surfer enjoys the waves in Silago. (Photo by Russel Mate and Hannie Cadalin, Silago IO)

“By that time, the LGU will spearhead a Visayas-wide surfing competition,” Honor said.

Indeed, preserving the environment pays off, blending efforts to keep nature with dedicated nurture with vision and foresight.

And, with a man at the helm in the person of Mayor Lemuel Honor, who once worked as a travel agency operator, the promise of a tourism boom, supported by the community and other socio-civic sectors, may just be a matter of time. (MMP/PIA8-Southern Leyte with reports from Richannie Cruzada Cadalin, LGU Silago)

In other News
Skip to content