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Dinagat Islands

Dinagat Islands
Official seal of Dinagat Islands
Region (Region XIII)
Founded December 2, 2006
Capital San Jose
 • Governor Glenda Ecleo (Nacionalista)
 • Vice Governor Benglen Ecleo (Nacionalista)
 • Total 1,036.34 km2 (400.13 sq mi)
Area rank 75th out of 81
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 126,803
 • Rank 77th out of 81
 • Density 120/km2 (320/sq mi)
 • Density rank 63rd out of 81
 • Independent cities 0
 • Component cities 0
 • Municipalities 7
 • Barangays 100
 • Districts Lone district of the Dinagat Islands
Time zone PHT (UTC+8)
ZIP code 8411 - 8415; 8426, 8427
Spoken languages Cebuano, Surigaonon, Tagalog, English

The Dinagat Islands (Tagalog: Kapuluang Dinagat, Cebuano: Mga Isla sa Dinagat) (PSGC: 168500000; ISO: PH-DIN) 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.


  • History 1
  • Culture 2
    • Festivals 2.1
  • Subdivisions 3
  • Demographics 4
    • Religion 4.1
  • Governors 5
  • Geography 6
  • Environment and Wildlife 7
  • Mythology 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


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.

The Dinagat Islands styles itself as the "Mystical Island Province of Love."

Although one of the newest provinces of the country, settlements in the 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 Missionaries 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 since the Japanese invasion in 1941. The Americans named the place "Black Beach No. 2."

The northern part of the island served as a refuge for the American soldiers, while the western border was held by Japanese forces. Capsized vessel structures are still found today in the waters of Basilisa.

On December 23, 1959, Cagdianao was created into a municipality under Executive Order No. 367. Its name came from the Spanish word "Cada dia linao" meaning everyday peaceful and calm. However some scholars say that its name came from the Visayan word "Taga Danaw" meaning the lake people.

Libjo was created into a municipality and named Albor on February 29, 1960 under Executive Order No. 381. It was taken from the municipalities of Dinagat and Loreto. "Albor" came from the surname of the mayors of Loreto and Dinagat - Alfaro and Borja. It was renamed as Libjo on June 17, 1967. The name came from the word "Liboo" which is a kind of mussel clam.

Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association Shrine built and maintained by members of the association in memory of Ruben Edera Ecleo Sr. the founder of the PBMA, Situated at Aurelio, San Jose.

In 1965, Ruben Edera Ecleo Sr. founded the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) at Sitio Puyange, now Poblacion San Jose. PBMA is a non-sectarian organization bounded by a strong spirit of brotherhood. Not long after that, members from all over the Philippines migrated to the island to be in constant association with their founder.

Meanwhile, Basilisa became a municipality in June 17, 1967 under Republic Act No. 4986. It was then named as Rizal, after the country's national hero. The municipality was renamed as Basilisa on June 21, 1969 under Republic Act. No. 5775.

Tubajon, which was once a barangay of Loreto, became a municipality in June 21, 1969 under Republic Act No. 5643. According to local folklore, during the Spanish regime, a banca boarded with Guardia Civils landed in the shores of Tubajon in search of a criminal. One of them came across a river and saw a man pounding leaves. Curious, he asked the man, "What will you do with it?" The man answered "Akong Tubajon ang suba aron sayon dakpon ang mga isda" (I will poison the river with Tuba leaves so that the fishes could be easily caught). When the man returned to the group, he narrated everything he saw and heard from the native to his companions. From then on, the place was called Tubajon.

The newest municipality is San Jose, created on November 15, 1989 under Republic Act No. 6769. The town was named in honor of Jose Ecleo who was its pioneer and father of the late renowned mayor of the municipality of Dinagat, Hon. Ruben Edera Ecleo Sr. The town is the seat of the PBMA.

Islander's Castle is Situated at San Jose, Dinagat Islands. Owned by Governor Glenda Buray Ecleo.

The Dinagat Islands was part of the First District of Surigao del Norte Province until it became a province on December 2, 2006 with the approval of Republic Act No. 9355 (authored by Cong. Glenda B. Ecleo), the Charter of the Province of the Dinagat Islands, in a plebiscite.

On February 11, 2010, the Supreme Court of the Philippines declared the creation of the Dinagat Islands Province null and void on grounds of failure to meet land area and population requirements for the creation of local government units. The Dinagat Islands then reverted to Surigao del Norte Province.[3][4][5][6] On October 24, 2012, however, the Supreme Court reversed its ruling from the previous year, and upheld the constitutionality of RA 9355 and the creation of the Dinagat Islands as a province.[7]


The Dinagat Islands has a many unique qualities such as its structures and landmarks reminders of an affluent way of life.

Some of which are :


  • Bugkusan sa Isla...Dinagatan Festival, a provincial festival bringing together Dinagat Island's seven municipalities. The festival celebrates the islands rich history, arts & culture, tourism, trade, commerce & industry, beauty & talent.[9]
  • Banwag Festival – San Jose
  • Sirong-Sirong Festival – Cagdianao
  • Kinabog Festival – Tubajon


The Dinagat Islands Province is divided into seven (7) municipalities including the capital:[10]


Old settlers of the province are called "Lumad". Residents of the Dinagat Islands are called "Dinagatnon". The Dinagat Islands is predominantly a Cebuano-speaking province. However, towns facing the Surigao del Norte are Surigaonon-speaking, particularly the municipalities of Dinagat and Cagdianao due to their proximity to the province of Surigao del Norte. Influences of the Cebuano and Boholano languages with a Tausug accent can be traced. A majority speak English.

Map of the Caraga Region showing the location of the Dinagat Islands


Religious breakdown in the province shows Roman Catholicism at majority with 53% adherence while Aglipayan is the significant minority religion at 23%. Other minority religions are the Seventh Day Adventists (12%), United Church of Christ in the Philippines (4%), Iglesia Ni Cristo (3%) and other smaller Christian groups (Dinagat Island Socio Economic Factbook, 2007).

Recent cultural, religious and socioeconomic changes of the province have allowed the rebound of Roman Catholics (and Aglipayans in some degree) and their numbers have constantly increased; the province had experienced a Catholic decline in several decades (1970s-early 2000s) due to immigration of the members of Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association in 1960s. There were some decades (1990s-2000s) where Roman Catholics became minority with as low as 37% of the population.

Several religious conflicts were recorded in this beautiful province. But at present, religious harmony is relatively observed in most part of Dinagat Island.


The Governor of the Dinagat Islands is the local chief executive of the province of the Dinagat Islands.

# Name Took office Left office Party
1 Geraldine B. Ecleo-Villaroman 2007 2010
2 Glenda B. Ecleo 2010 2013 Lakas-Kampi
2013 present Nacionalista


Located in the northeast of Suriago del Norte, the 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. The 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).

The Dinagat Islands is also famous for its caves, resorts, and beaches. Clear blue waters, white sand and marine life rival that of Boracay. Beaches include 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 Cabilan 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.

Environment and Wildlife

The Dinagat Islands is one of the most environmentally-significant provinces in the Philippines, where endemism of fauna is unique in its region. Animals that are endemic to the province are the Dinagat Cloudrunner and the Dinagat-Siargao Tarsier. The province is highly forested and is considered as a Key Biodiversity Area because of its unique animals and lush rainforests.


According to locals, once upon a time in a faraway land, there existed two different tribes that lived in fierce rivalry. The chieftain of each tribe was known to be fearless and proud. The chieftain of the first tribe had a handsome son named Prinsipe Gat, a pure and strong warrior while the rival chief had a beautiful daughter named Prinsesa Dina, an admirable virtuous lady, so unceasingly gorgeous to behold. In spite of their tribe’s feud, Dina and Gat fell in love with each other. Because of their father’s rivalry, they chose to keep their affair in secret. But rumors spread around the two tribes. Soon, both chieftains learned about their secret affair and forbid them to see each other. And like other romantic stories, their enduring love would conquer all obstacles. Dina and Gat chose to fight for their perpetual love and decided to escape from their own tribes. They fled far across the miles and sailed the oceans until they reached a secluded Island Paradise. Here, Dina and Gat lived as husband and wife and together built the family of their own.

The Island had been a good provider to the couple. It gave them shelter and food. In return, Dina and Gat nurtured and fostered the Island as their own. They nourished and cultivated the Island they considered a paradise and vowed to protect it for their children and their children’s children.

One day, a fleet of foreign ships carrying intruders was seen coming to the Islands. Seeing the multitude of intruders, Dina and Gat were frightened and feared they could not protect the Island they considered their home paradise. But because of their love for their children and the Islands, they ran to the seas and dove and swam the deep blue waters of the Island. They dove deeper and deeper until both disappeared. A few days passed by, then a separate bulge of two Islets sprouted in the middle of the waters where the couple was last seen. The two Islets appeared so mystical it formed like giant humans laying down to rest. It became incredibly visible that it was believed to be the remnants of Dina and Gat, the protectors of the Islands and its children.

The first islet was called Lalakeng Bukid and the other was called Babaeng Bukid. And from then on, the whole Island was called DINAGAT, named after the Prinsesa Dina and Prinsipe Gat. Today, people of the Dinagat Islands believed that the couple are still guiding and protecting them through presence of the Lalakeng Bukid and Babaeng Bukid. That is the reason why the people of the Dinagat Islands manage to survive and endure the tests of time.


  1. ^ "List of Provinces". PSGC Interactive. Makati City, Philippines: National Statistical Coordination Board. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Population and Annual Growth Rates for The Philippines and Its Regions, Provinces, and Highly Urbanized Cities" (PDF). 2010 Census and Housing Population. National Statistics Office. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "Dinagat Islands province back to being a town". 
  4. ^ "SC says Dinagat Islands no longer a province". ABS-CBN News. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "G.R. No. 180050". Philippine Government Supreme Court Judiciary. Retrieved August 29, 2013. 
  7. ^ "IRA Shares for LGUs Jump by 37.5% in 2013". Office of the President of the Philippines. January 9, 2013. 
  8. ^ Tubajon Bat Sanctuary
  9. ^ Turtz on the Go: Dinagat Islands, "The Mystical Island, Province of Love"
  10. ^ "Province: Dinagat Islands". PSGC Interactive. Makati City, Philippines: National Statistical Coordination Board. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • Official Website of the Province of the Dinagat Islands
  • Charter of the Province of Dinagat Islands (Republic Act No. 9355)
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