HIGATANGAN ISLAND. Tourists have a blast as they enjoyed activities and performances during the annual two-days Higatangan Island Summer Festival at Higatangan Island in Naval, Biliran. (NAVAL LGU)

NAVAL, Biliran – Residents, especially business owners on Higatangan Island, are hopeful that more tourists will soon visit their island now that the local government unit is actively promoting it as a forefront destination for tourism in the municipality.

During the 2024 Higatangan Island Summer Festival (HisFest) organized by the local government unit, hundreds of local and domestic tourists, along with some foreigners, visited the island over the weekend.

Emy Poyos Pragas, who operates one of the few accommodation facilities in Higatangan, remarked that the festival resulted in an influx of tourists, benefiting the accommodation sector immensely.

While they only have three rooms available for accommodation, they also offer their spacious grounds for camping to those interested.

“This greatly benefits our business because it brings in customers and generates jobs for locals who provide for the needs of tourists and visitors,” Pragas shared.

Although tourists visit the island on regular days, their arrivals are usually concentrated on weekends and they often do not stay for long.

Pragas expressed hope that with the island festival held every summer, more tourists would visit not only during the event but throughout the year.

Initially intended for private use only, Pragas revealed that they decided to open their facility to the public when the local government of Naval initiated the summer festival in 2017, in order to cater to the needs of tourists.

For this year’s HisFest, the LGU aims to attract around 5,000 tourists to the island to participate in various activities prepared for visitors and local residents to enjoy.

John Michael Travis Geraldo was among the hundreds of tourists who attended the two-day event ending on Sunday (April 8) with his friends, participating in the beach volleyball event and camping at one of the designated sites identified by the LGU.

Geraldo remarked that two days were not enough to fully enjoy all the activities organized by the festival, emphasizing the event’s potential to attract tourists and raise curiosity, especially through social media.

“This is an opportunity to let people know that Region 8 not only offers Kalanggaman, but we also have Higatangan Island, which can accommodate more people who want to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature,” he said.

During the press conference before HisFest 2024, Mayor Gretchen Espina stated that the ultimate goal of the event, held every summer, was to promote and market Higatangan so that more people would visit the island, even outside the summer season.

Since its inception in 2017, HisFest has become an annual event, attracting hundreds of tourists to the island to enjoy its offerings within its 4.34 square kilometers of land area and along its long white sandy beach.

From the initial nightly parties and concerts, trade fairs, and swimming along the shifting sandbar, additional events have been added each year, such as manta tow, diving at Capella del Mar, and cliff diving in 2019, and shore casting and jigging this year.

Unlike previous years where events were concentrated near the Higatangan sandbar, this year the LGU scattered them in various areas, allowing tourists to explore other parts of the island.