By PTV News – EP
TACLOBAN CITY — An underwater chapel named “Capilla del Mar” is the new attraction waiting for tourists visiting the picturesque Higatangan Island in Naval, Biliran.
Mayor Gerard Espina on Wednesday said they submerged a 12-foot cross and eight benches as a new destination for divers of Higatangan Island. The benches symbolized the eight towns of Biliran province.
The local government set up the cross and benches on Sunday with a depth of 25 to 30 feet in the site identified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.
The underwater chapel is not only designed to attract tourists, but will also serve as an artificial reef to increase the population of marine life surrounding the island.
“Capilla del Mar (Chapel of the Sea) is Naval’s tribute to aquatic life and to our seafarers. May they be protected during typhoons and unusual conditions,” said Espina in a mobile phone interview.
“This project will help residents in the two villages of Higatangan to have an alternative source of income because we fully believe the big potential of tourism in improving people’s lives,” he added.
Residents of Higatangan’s two villages mainly depend on fishing and mat-weaving for their livelihood. Tourism has been an alternative income of locals with the launching of tourism activities and opening of resorts in the areas.
“We fully believe that tourism will uplift the lives of Higatangan residents. Instead of tolerating illegal activities, we encouraged them to engage in tourism,” Espina said.
With the addition of Capilla del Mar as new attraction, the local government will train fishermen on underwater tour guiding. ”This will provide additional income to them, which is more sustainable in the long run.”
The local government will also develop the cliff jumping site at the Higatangan Rock formations to expand activities in the island and make it as 100 percent leisure island destinations for tourists.
Higatangan is a famous destination in Biliran province due to its 200-meter shifting sandbar that changes its color depending on the time of the day.
Position of its shifting sandbar varies on the weather pattern. During southwest monsoon months the sandbar is position on the left while during northeast monsoon season, the sandbar position directs to the right.
On April 28 to 29, the local government will host the Higatangan Island Summer Festival featuring activities like beach volleyball, triathlon, jetski competition, kite flying, kayak race, bikini open and boat race.
It will be the second time for the local government to showcase the festival intended not only to invite tourists to explore the island, but also for businessmen to check the island’s investment potential.
In 2017, more than 4,000 tourists visited Higatangan Island, which the local government describes as overwhelming considering that it is the first time to have a big activity held in the said island. (PNA)