Capitancillo: Cebu’s new ocean leisure spot
BAGO CITY, Philippines—The story goes that Capitan Basillo, a skipper of a trading vessel during the Spanish colonization, left Mactan Island in a hurry after committing a serious crime against Rajah Bugtopasan, one of the allies of native chieftain Lapu-Lapu.
The angry Bugtopasan chased the runaway captain on board his enchanted white horse, conquering the fierce wind and waves to finally catch up and cast a spell on him. Thunder and lightning followed and an islet appeared where Capitan Basillo’s vessel was last seen.
It is not clear what made Bugtopasan mad, but for the townsfolk, it resulted in a beautiful blessing—an islet called Capitancillo.
“Capitancillo is considered one of Cebu’s new ocean leisure spot. That is why the local government ensures its protection and preservation including its surroundings,” says tourism officer Jocelyn Tan.
Tan says the islet hosts a solar-powered lighthouse and weather observation post built in the ruins of an American prewar structure that was replaced by a 25-meter cylindrical tower in the 1950s.
The Philippine Coast Guard’s website (www.coastguard.gov.ph) lists Capitancillo as one of the operating light stations in the country. It also maintains and operates the lighthouse.
The islet can be reached from four jump-off points in Bogo City, 101 kilometers from Cebu City and a three-hour travel by bus. These are Polambato Port (45-minute boat ride), Nailon Wharf (30-minute), Marangog Cove (15 to 20-minute) and Odlot Hideaway (15 to 20-minute).
Rental for a pumpboat that can accommodate at most 15 people is from P1,000 to P2,000.
Capitancillo is a haven for divers. It has three dive sites—Ormoc Shoal, Nuñez Shoal and its own southwest wall. The sites have shallow reef tops at 33 feet leading to drop-offs with soft corals, gorgonian sea fans, caves and black corals.
Its many caves, overhangs and different fish varieties interest divers and tourists.
“Capitancillo is filled with rich and valuable coastal and marine resources. Thus, it was declared a marine sanctuary and diving destination noting its potentials,” Tan says.
Diving is also a steal. Although there is no diving operator, three certified divers collect only P100 each for foreign clients and P50 for locals.
Day huts can be rented at P200 for whole-day use.
Still, only 906 tourists—a good mix of Koreans, Japanese, Americans, Chinese, Germans, Russians and Filipinos—visited in 2010. This is only a fraction of what the municipality hopes to achieve, considering the wealth of wonders under the sea.
But all is not lost.
Resorts, such as Alegre Beach Resort and Spa in neighboring Sogod town are including Capitancillo in their promotion blitz, says Alegre general manager Fritz Kahler.
“We know that there are several wonderful sites surrounding Alegre, and Capitancillo is one of them. It is only a matter of making our guests informed about them and showing them what they can see in these sites,” Kahler says.
Alegre in-house marine biologist Gerrie Sola says destructive activities, such as dynamite fishing, had resulted in the depletion of marine life in the area. In the 1950s, the waters off Capitancillo used to teem with schools of yellow fin tuna, large groupers and other fish.
As part of the resort’s corporate social responsibility, Sola says it conducts training in reef management and in monitoring the islet’s 22-hectare marine sanctuary.
So far, he adds, the result has been promising with occasional sighting of manta rays and sharks.
Regular monitoring and maintenance of Bogo’s Siocon and Marangog sanctuaries are also being conducted.
Capitancillo’s tourism push has also generated local jobs, Tan says. These include the hiring of Bantay Dagat personnel, boatmen and divers, and livelihood opportunities for suppliers of delicacies and souvenir items.