At the pace natural attractions in Pandan town are being developed, it could soon earn the coveted tag of “tourism capital” of Catanduanes.
By the last week of July, a private resort being developed by Mayor Honesto Tabligan II right the edge of the cliffs of windy Hiyop will be opened to the public and afford them a fantastic 180-degree view of the Pacific Ocean.
The 20-hectare nature destination is just a 10-minute drive from the poblacion, all on paved roads with solar-powered street lighting constructed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as part of the Tourism Convergence Program.
Already, the management has granted a special permit for one lucky couple to have their wedding reception at the resort.
Began three or four months ago, between 30 to 40 workers labored on various facilities that could have been completed much earlier had not the COVID-19 pandemic forced the contractor to scale back manpower.
As of last week, four of the anahaw-roof concrete cottages that would be able to accommodate 20 persons are already completed, along with four circular dining areas right at the brink of the mountain drop-off, and the main view deck.
Still being constructed is a two-storey restaurant which when finished will be connected to a function hall of similar height but with a helipad on top.
To be sited nearby will be a swimming pool and a zip-line adventure facility, the mayor said.
There will be volleyball and basketball courts as well as an obstacle course for team building activities,
The main resort area can be reached via two roads: the primary road that veers to the left of the tourism road will pass through a slope dotted with trees, while the upper one will be allocated for All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) and horseback riders.
The horses have already been procured from Masbate but were unable to be transported to Catanduanes due to the lockdown.
Once visitors reach the temporary parking lot near the restaurant, they will again choose between two paths: a 210-step stairway that winds through the grassy meadow, passes another view deck and a bridge with decorative bamboo railings and down to the main view deck and cottages; and, a similar stairway that joins the main one just beyond the bridge.
To go to the clear, pristine sea below, the intrepid tourist must brave a winding 640-step concrete stairway with wooden handholds. As a relative of Mayor Tabligan confides, one’s legs would be shaky by the time he reaches the bottom but the reward is more than enough to compensate for the effort: a clear, pristine sea with enough fish and lobsters to feed the resort guests, and a natural cave where swiftlets nest.
The water level in a natural “O”-shaped pool rises with the movement of the waves, rivalling the “Tuwad-Tuwadan” lagoon in Balagnonan, also in Pandan.
At the view deck, visitors can spy the poblacion at a distance to the left. The right view gives them a sight that is a common feature of a popular island up north. Near the bottom are three level areas designed to be view decks that can be reached from the mountain’s top via another stairway, this time of earth, consisting of over 1,000 steps.
Mayor Tabligan said that shortly after the election while taking a rest at the big mansion further up the road, he fell in love with the breezy scenery and saw its almost limitless potential as a tourist destination.
He has already set his eyes on developing the gentle slopes at the left of the restaurant into a resort village consisting of 64 villas and 20 apartment-type residences, along with a five-hectare retirement village and private cemetery to be built at a separate location within the resort.
A tourist hotel is being constructed at Marambong while another will rise at the poblacion where a mall operator from Albay has started clearing the site for a commercial establishment.
With the DPWH also building concrete roads to Pandan’s other tourist destinations such as Cagnipa Rolling Hills and Tuwad-Tuwadan Lagoon, matched by private investors all wanting a share of the town’s promise of a tourism windfall, there is no doubt that it will soon capture majority of visitor arrivals in the near future.