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The Camotes Islands are a group of islands in the Camotes Sea, Philippines. The island group is located east of Cebu Island, southwest of Leyte Island, and north of Bohol Island. It is 34 nautical miles from Cebu City and part of the province of Cebu.
The Camotes Islands are made up of 3 major islands and 1 minor islet, divided over 4 municipalities. On Poro Island are the municipalities of Poro and Tudela. Pacijan Island's sole municipality is San Francisco. Ponson Island's sole municipality is Pilar. Tulang Island is an islet and part of San Francisco. The main islands of Pacijan and Poro are connected by a causeway bridge. Ponson is separated by the Camotes Sea, lying about four kilometers northeast of Poro. Tulang is located off the northern tip of Pacijan.
The Camotes are low-lying with several hills, some used by a telecommunications company for relay stations. The highest point is Altavista, 950 feet (290 m) above sea level, on Poro. Pacijan has a large lake, Lake Danao,one of the cleanest fresh water lakes in the country. Palm trees are the dominant plant on the islands. There are also numerous native varieties of fruit such as banana, mango, pineapple and other plants. The main port is the Poro Port.
The total population according to the 2010 census is 92,278. San Francisco has 47,357; Poro 23,498; Pilar 11,564; and Tudela 9,859.
It was once known as the "Lost Horizon of the South". Camotes has seen increased visitors and tourism especially over the past 3 years and a growing expatriate community.
The islands were first mentioned in 1521 by Antonio Pigafetta, one of the survivors on Ferdinand Magellan's fateful voyage, as they waited off the islands for several days before going onto Cebu.
When the Spanish first arrived they asked the locals what was the name of the island and the locals thought they wanted to know what they were planting. They said camotes. This is how the island got its name and became the Spanish word for sweet potato.
In 1942, Japanese forces occupied Camotes Islands. In 1945, Japanese soldiers massacred almost all of the inhabitants in Pilar which led to a war crimes trial after the war. The liberation of the islands happened soon after the massacre when Philippine and American soldiers landed and fought the remaining Japanese soldiers in the Battle of Camotes Islands.
In the early 1970s, residents unearthed a variety of artifacts dating back to the 16th century. An excavation was done at Mactang, Camotes, revealing spears, daggers, swords, crosses, iron pendants and a skull pierced with an arrowhead. The question arose: Could Mactang, Camotes rather than Mactan, Cebu really be the site of the battle between the native army of Lapu Lapu and Ferdinand Magellan's forces where Magellan was killed?
The predominant industries on the Camotes Islands are farming (including corn, rice, pigs, chicken and cattle), fishing and tourism.
There are about 20 tourist resorts catering to both domestic and international visitors with many public and private beaches.
Also in the Camotes Islands you can find tourist spots such as Buho Rock, Greenlake Park, Mt. Calvary (Kalbaryo), Lake Danao and the vast Mangrove Plantation along the sides of the road from Pacijan (San Francisco) to Poro. There are many underground caves such as Bukilat Cave, Timubo Cave and Guadalupe Cave which has a fresh water underground lake. There are also 2 waterfalls, 1 in Poro and 1 in Tudela. There is diving and snorkeling opportunities at some of the resorts.
The major employers are CELCO (Camotes Electric Cooperative), Camotes Hillside Academy and Kinoshita Pearl Farm. There are 2 small colleges and 1 small hospital. A new airport is currently under construction as is Fiesta Mall, the first mall on the island. A new integrated casino resort with condos is scheduled to break ground in September, 2013. Tourism in the key economic development for the future of the island with a focus on the white sand beaches, safe and clean environment.
There are two colleges on the island: Cebu Technology University (Camotes) and Mount Moriah College.
Bisaya is the primary language with English as second as well as Tagalog, which is a national language. School children are taught all three languages. Porohanon or Camotes Visayan is spoken in the town of Poro only. The dialect is very similar to the language spoken in the rest of Camotes Islands and throughout the province of Cebu, Northern Mindanao and other parts of the Visayas. Porohanon is distinguished by the way the locals substitute the /y/ sound for /z/. Example: Maayong buntag (good morning) in Cebuano would be changed to Maazong buntag in Porohanon. Na-a diha (in cebuano), Ara dira ( in porohanon )