Surigao del Sur

Running down the narrow northeastern coast of Mindanao, the province of Surigao del Sur is bounded by the province of Surigao del Norte to the north, Agusan del Sur to the west and Davao Oriental to the south. Lofty, rugged mountains of the Diwata Range to the west isolate Surigao del Sur from the rest of Mindanao. The coast is highly indented with bays and coves but safe anchorage is difficult because the coast is open to the winds that blow in from the Pacific Ocean. A few kilometers of the coast, the shelf plunges into the Mindanao Deep, one of the greatest known depths of the Pacific. The province of Surigao del Sur lies along the Philippine Fault, leaving it vulnerable to earthquakes. Surigao del Sur lies outside the typhoon belt but experiences continuous rainfall throughout the year. Precipitation is heaviest from November to January.



In 1597, Spanish missionaries tried to proselytize in the area but were discouraged by the war-like disposition of the natives, called the Caragas. The Caragas were believed to be lowland Manobo-Mandaya inhabitants of the northeastern Mindanao coast. In 1609, a Spanish expedition under Juan Manuel de la Vega was sent to pacify the region and bring it under the sphere of influence of the Spain. The Caragas were defeated and forts were constructed at Tandag and Cateel to keep the coast peaceful and to protect against Moro incursions. The Caragas remained restless and in 1629, revolted against the Spanish colonizers and missionaries. In 1648 another revolt broke out and was exacerbated by the Sumuroy Revolt. The Caraga eventually embraced Christianity and were settled in towns and villages along the coast.

The territory of Surigao del Sur was part of the province of Caraga for most part of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines. The administrative capital of the province was Tandag, until it was moved to Surigao in 1848. In 1860, the district of Surigao was created to replace the old province. In 1914, the Americans separated Agusan from Surigao and delineated the territory of the province. In 1960, the province of Surigao was divided into Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.


People, Culture and the Arts

The original settlers of this province were the Mamanwas, Manobos, and the Tagabaloyes. The area was largely sidestepped by the early flood of Visayan migrants to Mindanao due to its limited arable land and dense forests. However, immigration spurred by the opening of logging concessions and mining camps have made Cebuano-speakers the majority group in Surigao del Sur and about half of all migrants came from the province of Bohol.

Although the majority of the people speak Cebuano, there are local dialects and languages that exist exclusively in Surigao. Surigaonon is a Visayan language spoken in the vicinity of the Lanuza Bay, in the towns of Cantilan, Carrascal, Madrid and Lanuza. Aside from the warm hospitable Surigaonons, this is also the home of the Kamayos. The Kamayos are concentrated between the points of Marihatag and Lingig and speak a language similar to Mansaka and Butuanon of Agusan del Norte. They also have their own dialects of North and South Kamayo. Both the Surigaonon and the Kamayo are lowland groups and are indistinguishable from the Cebuano settlers.


Trade and Investments

Surigao del Sur sits on the northeastern coast of Mindanao. The province has total land area of 4,552 square kilometers and a population of 458,847. The province has allocated 45% of its total land to agriculture, which produces abundance of coconuts, corn, palay and abaca. Marine resources come from a combination of coastal fishing grounds, wetlands, and inland fishponds. The province has 322,067 hectares of forestland and holds the world’ largest iron deposits as well as other metallic and non-metallic mineral resources.

Surigao del Sur is accessible by air, sea and land. The airport in Tandag offers regular flights to Cebu while the seaport also in Tandag provides regular trips to Cebu. The province has another feeder airport located in Bislig, another major port also in Bislig and four other secondary ports. The total road network in Surigao del Sur is 2,499 kilometers and an average of 21 daily bus trips link the province to other parts of Mindanao. The entire province gets its power supply from two electric cooperatives while the local water supply is supplied by different waterworks systems levels. The province hosts 5 telecommunications companies offering domestic and international long distance telephone services. Three government banks, one commercial bank and eight rural banks support the local banking industry. Surigao del Sur has already established a Provincial Agro-Industrial Center anchored by seven of its municipalities. Another provincial agro-industrial center is located in Bislig.

The Provincial Agro-Industrial Centers (PAIC) in Tandag and Bislig have already identified the priority industries for investment. For the PAIC in Tandag, the investment areas are the production of gifts, toys, houseware items, wooden fixtures and furniture; production and processing of cereals, bananas, seafoods, fiber and coconuts; and tourism. The PAIC in Bislig have these for priority investment areas: processing of food and beverages; production of ornamental plants, cutflowers, garments, furniture and wooden fixtures; provision of support industries like packing and packaging facilities, metalworks, construction materials and services, storage and transport facilities, and telecommunications; eco-tourism and recreational facilities.


Partnership Initiatives

Reeling form the years of non-development caused by insurgency, and traditional politics, seven depressed municipalities of Surigao del Sur have broken tradition and surged toward attaining local development. Forming the MACASALTABAYAMI, the municipalities banded together to address common the problems of widespread poverty, lack of infrastructure and facilities and a local economy tied to a dying logging industry.

Obtaining support from the national government and the LGSP project of CIDA, the alliance worked out master development plans for each municipality that have identified key roles each municipality will play based on existing resources. Included in the blueprints for development are the updated land use plan, economic development plans that involves sustainable management of the areas resources. Few working structures composed of representatives from various sectors were also made to put flesh on the vision put forth by the alliance.



Caraga Region


Surigao del Sur


Pimentel, Vicente T. Jr.



Income/Financial Resources (1999)

P281 M

Income classification (1996)


Expenditure (1998)

P232.3 M

Population (2000 projection)


Labor Force (1998)


Land area

4,812 sq. kms.

Major dialects/languages


No. of Barangays





(19) TANDAG, Barobo, Bayabas, Bislig, Cagwait, Cantilan, Carmen, Carrascal, Cortes, Hinatuan, Lanuza, Lianga, Lingig, Madrid, Marihatag, San Agustin, San Miguel, Tagbina, Tago

Infrastructure facilities






Major products

Palay, banana, camote, coconut, corn cassava, coffee,

Wood products, pulp & paper milling,

Natural resources

Gold, copper, manganese, chromite, nickel, iron ore, fishing grounds, agricultural lands

Indigenous people

Mamanwa, Manobo


Development Initiative Highlights:

  • To reduce the incidence of poverty from 70% to 20% w/in 5 years and less than 10% in year 2003
  • To produce sufficient supply of basic food commodities
  • To preserve and improve the forest to 60% by year 2003
  • To prevent the spread of common diseases and reduce the incident of malnutrition to match the national level
  • To provide useful and relevant education for all
  • To pave the national highway between Carrascal and Lingig