The Dinagat Islands is a group of islands constituting a province in the Philippines, located on the south side of Leyte Gulf. The island of Leyte is to its west, across Surigao Strait, and Mindanao is to its south. Its main island, Dinagat, is about 60 kilometres (37 mi) from north to south.
Map of the Dinagat Islands
The province is known as one of the archipelago's holiest sites in the Pre-Christian native religion. It is here where the God of Hurricanes was persuaded to relent his attacks on the islands by Da, the God of Peace.
Dinagat Islands styles itself as the "Mystical Island Province of Love."
Although one of the newest provinces of the country, settlements in Dinagat Islands were already present during the Spanish regime as a result of migration of people from nearby provinces of Bohol and Leyte. The so-called mystical province played an important role in the country's history, particularly during World War II. Adding to the historical significance of the province is the foundation of the Philippine Benevolent Missionary Association by Ruben Ecleo, Sr.
The municipality of Dinagat is the oldest community in the province. In the early days, a story was told that a stranger reached the place in search of greener pastures. He approached a native and asked what the inhabitants do for a living. The natives said that they farm and fish to live. The stranger's interest in fishing prompted him to inquire where they fish, and the native replied and pointed to a place saying 'dinhi niini na dagat' (here from this bountiful waters). Since then, the place was called Dinagat.
The municipality was formally established in 1855. It occupies the territorial boundaries of the whole island. From 1890 to 1990 its boundaries were gradually reduced giving rise to six municipalities, Loreto, Cagdianao, Libjo, Basilisa, Tubajon and San Jose.
Loreto became a Spanish pueblo on September 4, 1890 under the supervision of Governor General Manuel Sanchez by the virtue of Direccion General No. 30. It was originally called "Mabua" because of the ever-foaming river that runs right into the center of the community. It was named "Loreto" in 1881 by the Spanish priest who frequents the town, in honor of the wife of the Alcalde Mayor of the Province of Surigao.
The province was the site of the historic Battle of Surigao Strait during the Second World War. The Municipality of Loreto became the entry point of the American Liberation Forces on October 17, 1944. It was on this shore that the 6th Ranger Battalion of the 6th U.S. Army under Col. Mucci landed at Sitio Campinta of Barangay Panamaon, Loreto. It was during this landing that the first American flag flew on Philippine soil. They named the place "Black Beach No. 2."
The northern part of the island served as a refuge of the American soldiers, while the western border was the camp site of the Japanese Forces. Capsized vessel structures are still found today in the waters of Basilisa.
Located in the northeast of Suriago del Norte, Dinagat Islands is separated physically from the mainland of Surigao City by a narrow channel, which takes about 45 minutes to cross by pumpboat from the Surigao City Port to San Jose Port. Dinagat Islands is one of the smallest island provinces of the country with a total land area of 1,036.34 km2 (400.1 sq mi).
Dinagat Islands is also famous for its caves, resorts, and beaches. Clear blue waters, white sand and marine life rivals that of Boracay. One of the famous are the Bitaug Beach, Lake Bababu, Puerto Prinsesa Beach & Hagakhak Cave in Basilisa, Tagberayan Beach, Sayaw Beach, Legaspi Water Falls, Hinabyan and Leandro's Beach Resort in Cagdianao, Talisay Beach in Tubajon, Quano Blue Lagoon and Quano Cave, Ben Paz Mountain Resort and Oasis Islet Resort in Libjo, and the Cab-ilan Beach & Cab-ilan Gamay Beach in Dinagat. The province is also surrounded with beautiful islands and islets. Famous among are the Cab-ilan Island in Dinagat, La Isla Aga and Lalaking Bukid in Basilisa, Kisses Islets in Libjo and the Stingray Islet and Puyo Islet in San Jose.