Last December saw me reunited with my good friend Tracey Santiago of Travel Tales, Inc. when her company, in partnership with the Philippine Surfing Academy (PSA), organized the first surfing competition in Can-Avid, Eastern Samar. Can-Avid, I’m told by veteran surfer Paolo Soler and his motley crew, is actually an undiscovered surf spot in a place that’s known for its countless surf destinations. Samar, after all, is one of the surfing meccas in the country. Guiuan, in particular, is now being packaged as a surfer’s paradise especially after Cebu-based investors put up the Calicoan Surf Camp.

It wasn’t until late last year, however, that the surfing community found out about Can-Avid’s beach break—in surf speak, this just means that when you fall off your long/short board (like I did countless times when I joined the PSA Surf Clinic), you’ll land on sandy beach bed instead of on corals or rocks, making it an ideal spot for beginners to try their hand at the sport. The beach lies on Playa de Catalina, a recently opened resort owned by former Makati City Engineer Nelson Irasga, and is actually a peninsula with a shore line of 3.6 kilometers—just a little shorter than Boracay’s Stations 1 to 3. Imagine a quieter Boracay without all the commercial fuss. If you really want a break from civilization, you will find it here.

Playa de Catalina faces the sea and is near the rift where the Ulot River meets the Pacific Ocean. Families may opt to play beach volleyball, go clam-picking and fishing, or take a leisurely afternoon cruise by the river and watch the sun set while flocks of migratory birds fly back to the mangroves. Adrenaline junkies will be more than thrilled to find that Playa is also a 20- to 30-minute boat ride from Pasig Island where waves come up as high as 10 to 15 feet. Getting to the island is already half the adventure, because here you will experience as I did the true power of nature: our boat almost capsized because of how strong the current was! Of course, the resort sees to it that the safety of its guests are top priority—boats are operated only by a seasoned crew who, upon sensing if the waves are too dangerous, would turn your party back to shore for safety.

One thing that amazed me about Playa de Catalina is that while other developers tend to alter a place’s natural landscape to suit the resort’s design, Playa de Catalina did the exact opposite and built around its environment. It practices sustainable development and is fast becoming one of the region’s most responsible travel destinations. While there are plans to bring in investors, Engr. Irasga assures that measures will be put in place to minimize the negative impact on Can-Avid’s natural and cultural wealth—that makes the grade in my book.

To get to Playa de Catalina, fly into Tacloban City via Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific or Zest Air. From there, you can take a public/private van for the two- to three-hour ride to Can-Avid. For inquiries and reservations, call (2)425 3872 or (908) 568 6816, or visit

This story was published in HIPP Magazine’s February 2010 issue.