A trip to Contra Costa; Baganga and Cateel

During the Spanish times, the eastern coast of Davao Oriental was called Contra Costa, these are the towns facing the Pacific Ocean. The provincial capital Mati (which was declared in finality by the Supreme Court as a city in 2011), Tarragona, Manay, Caraga, Baganga, Cateel and Boston are collectively called as Contra Costa or East Coast during the American period ( a term which still exists today).

Davao Oriental is said to be the last frontier of Davao Region, the SUDOPARIM (Surigao-Davao Oriental Pacific Rim) coastal highway built during the term of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has made traveling convenient and much easier. Thus attracting many tourists to explore the varied attractions of Davao Oriental which include beaches, waterfalls and quaint towns.

In 2012, a rare powerful typhoon visited and devastated a large swath of the contra costa particularly the towns of Baganga and Cateel. Though it has largely recovered, the place still bears the scars of that great tragedy.

I together with a group of friends from Ike Pono decided to visit Baganga and Cateel for the weekend, we came across several popular spots in the areas.

Dahican Beach


Mati is the gateway to the province, if you can spare a few hours you might as well explore the city. You can go to the famed Dahican Beach with its eight-kilometer white sand beachline is one of the city's come-ons. Recommended pit-stops include the Subangan Museum, one of the largest and most modern museums in the region and the White-House inspired Provincial Capitol perfect for photo-ops and speaking of souvenir photo-ops the view deck at Badas overlooking the sleeping dinosaur formation is considered a de rigueur for visitors.

Subangan Museum Mati City

The Provincial Capitol


Three towns away from Mati City is the coastal town of Baganga. Our weekend group decided to use the town as the base for our trip since this is the hometown of our travel companion Tito Frine Fuentes. We stayed at Balyan Beach Resort situated in Barangay Lambajon. The resort has clean and decent accommodations, (rooms with toilet and bath)

Balyan Beach Resort

Contra-Costa is known for their abundant sea food.

One popular attraction in Baganga is Carolina Lake, a tidal lagoon situated in Barangay Salingcamot, 15 minutes away from the town proper. A popular picnic spot for locals, it is still underdeveloped with a few rickety cottages perched on one side of the lagoon. The cool clean brackish water is a perfect place to dip during harsh summer days. Typhoon Pablo has destroyed much of the lush vegetation surrounding the lagoon.

Locals consider Carolina Lake as their secret paradise 

With JJ and Tito Frine

San Victor Island is a three-hectare island off the coast of Barangay San Victor. There's a 5-minute boat ride from the shore of the barangay to reach the island which is owned by the Diocese of Mati. Part of the island shoreline is a white sand beach, perfect for leisure swimming, San Victor reminds you of Mati City's Waniban Island or Camiguin's Mantigue Island.

San Victor Island

The island used to be heavily vegetated until typhoon Pablo toppled most of the trees, in some parts of the beach the fallen tree-trunks provides a picture-worthy landscape. Pictorials like engagement sessions are held along its shores.

For visitors there are cottages and tents for rent, toilet and bath facilities are also available in the island.

The Baganga Sunrise Boulevard located in Barangay Dapnan about 10 minutes drive from the town proper is potent reminder of the impact of typhoon Pablo. The once lush mangrove forest now looks like a wasteland.

The provincial government shelled out P5-million to develop the area into a 750-meter linear park, there are playgrounds, concessionaires area, restaurants and coffee shop, a tourist information center and a promenade.

Must-try Dinuguan at Pakalz Place, a small eatery
located in Baganga town proper.


Adjacent to Baganga is the town of Cateel, the main purpose of our journey is the town's most famous tourist spot, Aliwagwag Falls. It is considered by hydraulic engineers as the tallest watefalls in the country with over 130 tiers of cascading falls. And I tell you the 5 hour trip is worth it once you've seen the majestic Aliwagwag which can be viewed along the highway.

Unlike some tourist spots which are found in very remote areas, the beauty of Aliwagwag is much accessible, one can view its grandeur along the highway.

Along with the Baganga Sunrise Park, the province has developed Aliwagwag into a fully-functioning eco-park.

Footbridges, stairs, tables, cottages, toilets and bathrooms, concessionaire area, adventure facilities (an 680-meter zipline and the monkey bridge) were constructed within the peripheries of the park but not obtrusive enough as to destroy the view of a pristine forested waterfalls. Again typhoon Pablo plowed into the once lush forests surrounding Aliwagwag.

Entrance fee to the Eco-Park is around P50 for adult and P10 for children, the park is dotted with tables which you can rent for P75 (large tables) or P50 (small). Fees for zipline is P300 and P200 for the money bridge. Footpaths will take you to around the park and friendly staffs will guide you to vacant tables.

Each falls has natural pool where one can go swimming, there are shallow pools fit for children and there are deep pools perfect for the more adventurous adults.

The Monkey Bridge at the upper limit of the eco-park

foot bridges for easier access
Linear footpath helps visitors access the different parts of the eco- park with ease

Cottages along the banks

The Tourism Highway

In the olden times, Contra Costa or the East Coast was remotely connected to Davao City, it used to be reached by barge plying the route from Sta Ana Wharf in Davao City to ports in East Coast towns. Then roads were built during the Marcos era. It was only recently when these roads became an concrete-all weather highway network. Former President Arroyo started the Sudoparim road during her term and was continued by President Benigno Aquino III who also initiated a convergence program of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) called TRIP (Tourism  Roads Infrastructure Program) this allowed for the construction of roads to tourist destinations, a prime example is in Dahican Beach.

To complement these roads, Davao Oriental Provincial Governor Corazon Malanyaon also initiated a tourism development program focused in key attractions such as the Aliwagwag Eco Park, Baganga Sunrise Boulevard and the Subangan Museum in Mati.

Roads and tourist facilities have attracted a growing number of visitors in the Contra Costa areas, as traveling there is safe and convenient.

A view of the Cateel River along the Sudoparim highway


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