Daanbantayan: Understated but Awesome
(The Freeman) - September 23, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Many travelers hear only of Daanbantayan as a jump-off point to Malapascua. And it’s not even Daanbantayan per se that they hear of – but Maya, a barangay in the town of Daanbantayan. In a way, Daanbantayan is understated. These past months, the town only gets good mention when it comes to bad things.


But not because Daanbantayan’s treasures are not frequently mentioned does it mean that the town doesn’t have them. For example, the tourist islet of Malapascua itself belongs to the town. And yet Malapascua is not the only awesome thing about Daanbantayan.

Daanbantayan is located at the northern tip of Cebu Island. To get there, visitors may take a bus at the city’s North Bus Terminal. It’s a three-hour drive. When already in the town, they may contract a tricycle or “habal-habal” (motorbike) to get around.

From the town’s Maya wharf (yes, in barangay Maya), it takes a 20-minute boat ride to reach Malapascua. But then again, Malapascua is not the only interesting experience that may be had in Daanbantayan. There are many other interesting attractions to go for in the town.

The name of the town is a combination of two Visayan words:  “daan,” meaning old; and “bantayan,” meaning lookout point. Since part of the town is a coastal area with a good view of the sea, the townsfolk of old built a watchtower – in barangay Tapilon – from where to observe the fronting sea, for possible threats of pirates. If an attack was suspected, the community would be alerted at once.

Unfortunately, the watchtower hasn’t withstood the rigors of time. All that can be found today is the promontory where it once proudly stood. With the town’s name, though, the old watchtower remains in the consciousness of the townspeople.

Daanbantayan has a big annual cultural event called the Haladaya Festival. It is supposedly a celebration to memorialize the town’s legendary founder, Datu Daya. The festival is held in time for the fiesta of the town’s patron saint, St. Rose of Lima, on August 30.

Prior to 1834, Daanbantayan used to be called “Kandaya,” referring to the territory of Datu Daya.  The datu was the leader of first Malayan settlers in the town. In his honor, the Haladaya Festival is held; “haladaya” is a contraction of the phrase “Halad kang Datu Daya,” which literally mean “An Offering to Datu Daya.”  The dancing in the town’s streets is a form of thanksgiving to Datu Daya for establishing the town and defending it from pirate attacks.

There are other attractions for visitors to seek out in Daanbantayan:

Gato Islet. It is a small, rocky island at some 15 kilometers away from Malapascua, in the Visayan Sea. It is almost 300 feet high at its peak and is a home to nesting seabirds and bats. Its surrounding waters are also abounded by soft coral canyons.

Monad Shoal. The spot is a favorite of recreational divers. They are attracted to the 66-foot-deep seamount because it’s a good point for viewing thresher sharks, both common thresher sharks and pelagic thresher sharks, which normally live in 350-meter depths. At the Monad Shoal, visitors can easily take pictures of these elusive creatures swimming in less than 20 meters deep.

Sta. Rosa de Lima Church. This old church was constructed between 1858 and 1886, with its original facade design still intact to this day.

San Pedro River.  On the river bak is an abandoned Muslim settlement founded by Datu Daya during the pre-Spanish era.

And still there’s more to experience in Daanbantayan. There’s Carnaza Island, Dakit-Dakit Island and more. But the town need not be overshadowed at all by a few of its many treasures. - Krista Cabello

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