The municipality of Catmon, 56 km north of Cebu City, is an overlooked town, bypassed by tourists heading father north to popular beach destinations like Bantayan and Malapascua. Even most Cebuanos are unfamiliar with what the sleepy town has to offer. Nonetheless, Catmon is slowly revealing its laidback beauty from summit to sea, rewarding travelers curious enough to stop by and explore.
In the past year, a low-key dive shop has spread the word about the town’s underwater attractions off its rocky coast. Quarantined by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, scuba diver Joms Manalili retreated to his family’s beach house in Catmon, and discovered a beautiful reef close to shore with his friends. As travel restrictions later eased up, he decided to convert his seaside retreat into Kuya Jom’s Crib, the first-ever dive shop in town, offering affordable shore-entry dives.
It’s an excellent place for first-timers, novice divers, and those who wish to refresh their skills for either scuba diving or free diving. Eager to get back in the water after 16 months of no diving, I was excited to discover what this up-and-coming dive destination has to offer.
Divers simply enter their house reef, walking into the water from the shoreline. The accessible dive site features a coral shelf, where divers can fin through a narrow gap called “the crack”. The house reef is most beautiful during the morning slack tide at around 10 am, when visibility is at its best, especially when coupled with sunny weather.
On the other side, the shelf drops into a 10 to 22 m wall with a visible sandy bottom. The current was light during both our morning and afternoon dives, making for a smooth and relaxing experience for both myself and fellow travel blogger Elal Lasola, who dived for the very first time.
Along this wall, we spotted nudibranchs, juvenile harlequin sweetlips, lionfish, and pufferfish tucked between the corals. Another highlight of the reef are the large colony of branching staghorn corals (albeit, sadly, many of them are bleached), some table corals, and a cluster of giant clams. There are also a couple of large holes in the wall that more experienced divers can swim through.
If you’re lucky, one can encounter a passing sea turtle. We didn’t find any on our two KJC dives, but we finally spotted a hawksbill turtle on our third dive the next day at another dive site fronting Katmon Kove farther down the coast near Huna Huna Cliff Resort where we stayed.
While the dive sites don’t equal premier ones found elsewhere in the Philippines like Anilao and Moalboal, their unique terrain is beautiful enough to appeal to beginner and intermediate scuba divers. Kuya Jom’s Crib, however, undoubtedly wins when it comes to accessibility, affordability, and most importantly their friendly and accommodating service that assures memorable experiences for guests of all scuba diving levels.
Kuya Jom’s Crib only offers shore-entry dives, mostly at their attractive house reef. Fun dives for licensed divers is only PHP 800 per dive, inclusive of gear rental and underwater photos; while newbies can avail of their intro scuba diving package for only PHP 1,500 per head, inclusive of gear rental, meals, and underwater photos for a minimum of four (4) persons in a group.
Great dives must be celebrated with great food. Thankfully, KJC serves Filipino favorites at their open-air seafront patio like crispy pata (deep-fried pork knuckles, PHP 500), pancit canton (stir-fried noodles, PHP 180), and sizzling sisig (minced pork jowl, PHP 130).
Unfortunately, Kuya Jom’s Crib doesn’t offer any accommodation yet. However, there are a number of great places to stay along Catmon’s southern coast, with Huna Huna Cliff Resort being one of the best.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Metro Cebu, one can easily get to Catmon by bus or van (PHP 100) in at least 90 minutes from the new North Bus Terminal, located in SM City Cebu (since late 2020). Kuya Jom’s Crib is located 8 km south of the town proper, so watch out for it on your right side after you cross the municipal border from Carmen, coming from Metro Cebu. (Navigate using Google Maps.)
Address: Sitio Tinibgan, Barangay Panalipan, Catmon, Cebu
Contact Number: +63 9174535451