TAKING THE PLUNGE. Cliff diving is the newest attraction in Higatangan Island in Naval, Biliran. The Naval local government took advantage of the Higatangan Island Summer Festival, from May 25 to 26, to promote other tourism assets of the island. (PNA photo by Roel Amazona)

By Roel Amazona

NAVAL, Biliran — The local government took advantage of the Higatangan Island Summer Festival to promote other tourism assets of the island.

On its third year, the recent Higatangan Island Summer Festival has introduced new attractions and activities for tourists to enjoy more their two-day stay on the island. These are the Capella del Mar, Manta Tow, Cliff Diving, and caving.

Capella del Mar or the sunken chapel features a 12-foot cross and eight benches that symbolized the eight towns of Biliran province – submerged 25 to 30 feet deep within the site identified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.

“The underwater chapel is not only meant to attract snorkeling and diving enthusiasts but will also serve as an artificial reef to increase the population of marine life surrounding the island,” Naval Mayor Gerard Espina said in an interview Wednesday.

Aside from snorkeling or diving at the sunken chapel, “manta tow” activity is a must try in Higatangan.

Using a small motorboat, the “manta tow” involves towing a snorkel diver make a direct observation on the distribution of corals and other marine life on a broad scale.

The snorkel diver holds on to a “manta board” attached to the boat while the boat runs on the speed of 6 to 8 kilometers per hour. A maximum of eight persons can try the “manta tow” at the same time.

In the western part of Higatangan Island, the local government unit installed a platform for the cliff diving. The platform is located at the highest part of the Higatangan rock formation that is about 10 to 15 meters high.

Espina said putting a cliff diving spot in the western part of the island aims to distribute the population of tourists, who mostly stays at the shifting bar of the island.

Another activity that tourists may do in Higatangan is spelunking or caving. There are three caves on the island. One of these caves is the Artem Cave, located about two kilometers away from the cliff diving site.

Found inside the cave are hundreds of bats, fossilized giant clams and hundreds of hermit crabs resting along walls of the caves.

“In the past Higatangan Island Summer Festival, we only used 20 percent of the island. These attractions are offered to spread the movement of tourists and not just stay at the sandbar or do swimming. We wanted them to check other areas that Higatangan can offer,” Espina said.

Earlier, the Department of Tourism conducted a familiarization tour to assess safety measures for each activity.

For this year’s summer festival, about 4,500 tourists visited the island to join the two-day festivities from May 25 to May 26.

The festival is organized by the LGU to promote local artists as they display their craft, and for Higatangan residents to unlock the tourism potential of the island.

Higatangan Island is known for its shifting sandbar that changes its direction every two months. The island also features white sand beaches, rugged cliffs, turquoise waters, coral gardens, and rock formations. (PNA)

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