The Town of Virac
Virac is probably everything a common provincial capital is not. For while it is Catanduanes' seat of government and administrative center, it's far from a picture of a bustling cosmopolitan – no high-rise buildings, no overcrowding , and no hellish traffic. It remains a rustic town – and a proud one. Here, time ticks at a slower pace and the people live a simple life.
Due to its remoteness, it has stayed under the tourist radar for years. Aside from the locals, only a few intrepid travelers – savvy enough to know this town exists and include it in their travel agenda – bear witness to it's unpolished beauty. You'll barely see a place, if there's any, overrun by tourists. If you need some alone time, Virac will afford you just that. That's not to say you'll have the place all to yourself, but it's a good bet you'll be among mostly locals. Trek through the forest-clad hills and mountains in the town's northern half. Else, you may take a leisurely stroll along secluded stretches of cream sand beaches in the southern tip.
Here now are some places you can go to in Virac where you can savor the good life slowly and soak up the island vibe. All these can be reached by motorcycle or tricycle. Better to rent one if you plan to visit all these in a day.
Tucked away some 12 kilometers from the town proper is one of Virac’s more popular beach getaways – Mamangal Beach. Located in Balite village, Mamangal flaunts an expanse of whistle-clean waterfront carpeted in fine cream sand. Lined up along its pristine shore are several trees, under the shade of which you can lounge about and snooze anytime. For picnic goers and overnighters, native cottages are available for rent. The beach is open to the public for a very minimal fee of Php 10.
The aquamarine waters lap gently against the shore in Mamangal Beach. There’s no better way to do it justice than to frolic around and swim. The gentle slope of the beach also makes it a perfect spot for sandboarding. Grab a board or borrow one from the locals and make your very first ride.
Sandboarding at Mamangal Beach
While everything you see over the water is more than enough to keep you satisfied, the underwater off Mamangal Beach is guaranteed to give you added pleasure – to your eyes at least. Vibrant corals and colorful fishes thrive in the deeper parts, further down the shore, waiting to fascinate snorkeling and diving enthusiasts.
Nearby and also within the same village is Balite Beach, lesser-known and less-frequented compared to its neighbors. But its wide stretch of sand speaks so much potential.
A quick drive from Mamangal is yet another beach of golden sands – Batag Beach. This sheltered coast is flanked by rock formations on opposite ends, but the stone arch on its left draws most of the attention. Midway down the length of Batag Beach is a thatched cottage built above the water on concrete stilts. It is connected by an elevated walkway to a nearby house (apparently a resort). From here, you can get a great view of the Lagonoy Gulf and the ships passing across it. On a clear day, you might even be rewarded with a panorama where the perfect-coned Mayon Volcano stands proudly on the backdrop.
Unlike Mamangal, the swimming area in Batag is not entirely covered in sand. There are wide swathes of green that indicate a profusion of sea grasses. The patches of white which look like mini pools are the best spots to swim. Choose a spot where you can bask in the sun and get a good tan.
From Batag Beach, a quick detour to Marilima Beach, another local favorite, is possible. It is separated from Batag only by a narrow but densely-forested piece of land. Not too far is the privately-owned Bosdak Beach.
Igang Beach or Twin Rock Beach
Sprawling across a private lot in Igang village, almost in the southernmost portion of Catanduanes, is a well-manicured beach resort called Twin Rock. Its name comes from the most recognizable feature of the surrounding terrain – two rocky outcrops jutting out of the sea, with the one nearer the shore bigger than the other. Rocks covered in lush vegetation surround the cove, while the resort's amenities lie in the middle. The use of or access to facilities such as the floating beach huts, restaurant, pool, and the kid's playground comes with the entrance fee of Php 50.
Plank diving at Igang Beach
Besides sunning yourself in the beach, there are tons of other things to do in Twin Rock. The dauntless will find it the perfect place to quench his thirst for adventure. Over-the-water zip-lining and wall climbing are two of the most popular activities here. Besides that, the waters off Igang Beach are perfect for surfing and wind surfing. There's also a plank installed on one end of the beach where one can take a dive into the sea. With no lifeguards around, dive at your own risk. Not to fret though as locals are very much willing to assist.
Virac Town Proper
Back at the town proper, one can't help but notice the Church of the Immaculate Conception, also known as Virac Cathedral. The church features a dome said to be patterned after the arched roof of St. Peter's Basilica. The stained glass windows provide some added allure to this otherwise modest architecture. Catholic or not, you may pay it a visit.
Another place that should land a spot in your Virac itinerary is Museo de Catanduanes. Housed in the third floor of the old capitol building, this museum showcases the island province's historical and cultural heritage through its various displays of artifacts and memorabilia. The floor below is home to the Provincial Tourism Office, from where you can get tips as to the places not to miss in Catanduanes and find assistance in getting to these places.
Where to next?
Virac being the province's main transport hub is a great jumping-off point to many awesome places not only within Catanduanes but also in the neighboring provinces of Albay and Camarines Sur. Not too far from the capital, the town of Bato offers a peek at the province's oldest church and Maribina Falls' beautiful cascade. One can venture further north to ride the world-class waves of Puraran or see the awe-inspiring scenery from Balacay Point, both in the town of Baras. Read my Catanduanes Travel Guide with Estimated Budget and Suggested Itinerary for more information. For other related places and/or content, jump to the Related section below.
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