Guest mountaineers from mountaineering groups SAMOC, MFPI- MT. Pangasugan Trailblazers Assoc. Inc., Maasin Outdoor Enthusiast, NULOC, BAKTAS Tamolayag, Freelance poses at the Kapatagan Valley Camp site. (Photo credit to Clim Biliran)

TACLOBAN CITY – The provincial government of Biliran is positioning itself as Eastern Visayas’ mountaineering haven with the launch of Climb Biliran.

Biliran is blessed with numerous natural wonders, including island destinations like Higatangan Island, Sambawan Island, and Dalupiri Island, as well as dozens of waterfalls such as Ulan-ulan, Recoletos, and Tinago.

In 2023, the province was officially included as one of the cruise tourism destinations in the region.

To create a unique tourism identity, the provincial tourism office has chosen mountaineering or hiking as their main tourism product.

“Being an island province offers a unique position. We may not compete in record heights or degree of difficulty, but we offer a variety of enjoyable summit experiences ranging from easy to moderate to more challenging,” Biliran Provincial Tourism Officer Jun Oliva said.
Biliran is the smallest province in Eastern Visayas, covering 536.01 square kilometers and comprising eight towns.

Prior to the launching of Climb Biliran, the province hosted several adventure activities, such as Karera Habagat in 2004, the Catamaran Challenge in 2008, and the joint La Routa and Asian Racing World Series in 2023.

“Biliran is feasible to become an adventure capital, an opportunity that might give us a good break,” Oliva said.

The preparation for promoting and marketing Biliran as the mountaineering haven of Eastern Visayas took about two years, with support from the regional office of the Department of Tourism.

Part of the preparation included training and refresher courses for mountaineering tour guides who are part of the Biliran Adventure Guides Organization (BAGO).

These trainings covered mountain guiding, wilderness first aid, and emergency procedure protocols. BAGO members also underwent mountain search and rescue training to ensure they are well-equipped to handle any situation and provide a safe and memorable experience for visitors.

Although the main goal of launching Climb Biliran is to increase tourist arrivals by encouraging hikers and professional mountaineers to visit the province, Oliva stressed that this is also part of their campaign for environmental protection and preservation.

“Tourism, while providing food for our tourism workers, should have minimal impact on the environment,” he said.

More than 40 mountaineering enthusiasts and hikers from Albay, General Santos, Cebu, Bislig City, Bacolod, Bohol, Leyte, Samar, Northern Samar, Southern Leyte, and Biliran were invited to participate in the invitational climb held from June 14 to 16 for the launch of Climb Biliran.

These mountaineers climbed the summits of Mt. Panamao, Tres Marias Mountain Range, Mt. Suiro, and the Kapatagan Valley, the summer capital of Biliran.

After their two-day climb, the mountaineers provided feedback to the tourism office on improvements such as clearing trails and providing two-way communication radios for emergencies.

DOT-8 Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes emphasized that identifying specific activities for a province makes promotion and marketing easier.

“It’s easy to promote a place if you have an image of that place,” Tiopes said.

She added that inviting mountaineers from other provinces and cities helps promote the activity within their respective communities, resulting in income for the local community as more visitors come to climb the mountains of Biliran and experience its untouched nature.
Tiopes also thanked the climbers who joined the invitational climb for their observations, which will help improve services for future guests.

“We will never be a mountaineering destination unless we are open to feedback. We took note of those and will address them so that next time when guests come here, we are ready,” Tiopes emphasized.