La Entrada: The gateway to Britania Islands

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

DURING the question-and answer of the 1994 Miss Universe pageant, Charlene Gonzales was asked about how many islands are there in the Philippines. Before saying the country has 7,107 islands, she asked the host: "High tide or low tide?"

Of the more than 7,000 islands in the country, only about 500 of the islands are larger than a square kilometer. Unknowingly, about 2,500 of the islands still don't have names. And only 2,000 islands are inhabited.

The Lianga Bay in Surigao del Sur, which faces the Pacific Ocean, is home to about 24 islets, sandbars and promontories in varying degrees of landmass and protrusions.


Collectively, they are known as Britania Islands as they are part of Britania, a barangay of San Agustin. The group of islands is like a small version of the 100 islands of Pangasinan.

Originally, the islands were part of Alepanto. But when Eufemio Darunday became the mayor, he gave it a new name, "Bretania" as he was reminded of the distinct island-beaches found in Great Britain. The name stuck but the spelling was changed later to "Britania."

Britannia -- yes, with two letters "n" -- is an ancient term for Roman Britain. A Latin name derived from the Greek form "Prettanike" or "Brettaniai," it means "a collection of islands with individual names."
Most of the islands of Britania are uninhabited with minimal or no vegetation; all are surrounded with crystal clear turquoise waters. Each island is blessed with powdery white sands comparable to that of found in the well-famed Boracay Island.

The breathtaking islands are Surigao del Sur's best-kept secret...a fact that I, photographer Roland L. Jumawan, and his family only found out when we visited barangay Britania. It is about six-hour ride from Davao City.

It was almost dark when we arrived at La Entrada Resort and Restaurant, where we were billeted for the next two days. Mercy Alameda, the resort proprietress, welcomed us and oriented us about the place.

"We call this place La Entrada because this is the gateway to Britania Islands," she informed.

Actually, had it not been for La Entrada, Britania Islands would have remained relatively unknown. Mercy's husband, Manuel Alameda, Sr. saw the potential of the islands when he was still the town mayor.

In one of his out-of-town conferences in Luzon, Alameda saw some foreigners who were shouting as they were approaching the island with white sand beach. Alameda was surprised since white sand beaches in his hometown are so common that no one paid attention to them.

So an idea came to his mind: to develop Britania Islands into a tourist attraction. He called a meeting with the people living near the coastal areas of barangay Britania. He told them about his plan, but no one seemed to be interested.

His last recourse: make a resort which will serve as jump-off of island hopping at Britania Islands. Now a vice-governor of the province, he asked his wife to manage it. In May 2011, the La Entrada Resort and Restaurant had a soft-opening but he was completely surprised when people started to come one after another.

"From 80 guests when we had a soft opening," said Mercy, who is also the provincial tourism head, "we now have an average of 100 people coming to the resort each day. Some of these people stay at our rooms or just use our facilities."

The resort has 26 rooms. Air-conditioned rooms, which are good for two persons, range from P1,200 to P3,000. There is a dormitory-type room which can accommodate 12 persons at P3,600. There is also a non-airconditioned room, good for 8 persons, at P2,000. Additional person is P200 for airconditioned room and P100 for non-airconditioned room.

The restaurant, located at the center of the resort, serves good foods. Prices range from P150 to P300 (but these are good already for 3 persons). Try their specialty, baked tampayan which we really liked.

Since La Entrada is the gateway to island hopping in Britania Islands, you can rent their boat at between P1,000 to P1,500. Actually, it's 100 per person and the maximum passengers should be 10. The boat can be rented for two hours.

In going to the boarding area, you have to walk in a pathway on top of mangroves.

By the way, La Entrada has a view deck where you can see the islands from a distance. Below the view deck, there is a small pool where guests and visitors can swim -- even at night.

For inquiries and reservation, you can contact these numbers for reservation: 0949-971-9630 and 0930-227-5934.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 28, 2014.


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