Visayas Rediscovered

YEEEESS! Another plane ride. And you could never go wrong with a plane ticket to Visayas, the most archipelagic place in the already archipelagic Philippines.

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Visayas is known to be a haven for the avid soul searcher.  I got sun burnt on its beaches, experienced its rough waters and got lost in its cities only to come back for more; only to relearn that, truly, the beauty of the Philippines is sensational.

Let me show you why.

Day 1: Arrival in the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport

Although we were visiting Calbayog City, we opted to land in Tacloban so we could take the trip from Leyte to Samar via the iconic, San Juanico Bridge. A friend of mine told me that the shape of the bridge coming from Leyte is an “S” shape, perhaps to signify that Samar is the destination while the bridge takes the “L” shape coming from Samar, again perhaps to signify that Leyte is the destination.

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It does look like an “S”

The trip took us less than 4 hours.  We stopped by Angelina’s about halfway thru the trip to get lunch. The place is famous for its native chicken which did not disappoint.

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When we got to Calbayog City, we unloaded our stuff and headed to Malahog Beach. It’s the staple beach for residents there.  The waters were calm and actually very pretty when hit by the sunset at dusk.

Day 2: Biri Island: Where rock, water and wind play.

The Biri Island Rock Formations offer the wandering eye a sight to behold.   One has to marvel at its vastness and experience its immensity to truly appreciate it.  It represents everything the Waray is all about: relentless and strong, aptly a force to reckon with.

The Biri Island Rock Formations is hailed as one of “Asia’s best kept secrets” and got shortlisted among the “The Top 10 Philippine Gems”.  It offers the view of the Pacific Ocean on one side and the San Bernardino Straight on the other.

Getting there: First we made our way to Lavezares and where we took the forty-five minute pump boat to Biri.  Regular rates are at Php 45 per pax.  Special trips are priced at Php 1,000 round trip maximum of ten pax. I have got to warn you about strong waves of the Pacific though.

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Our trip was sponsored by one of my uncle’s former employees, retired Mang Johnny Boy and his family.  Upon meeting us up in the pier with his boat, we took a side trip to his home where they prepared breakfast for us.  They even made us carry some food. How nice!

After getting breakfast, we rode another boat ride to the Biri Island town proper where we had to register with the tourism center located at their town hall and pay a Php 50 fee per person. That’s inclusive of all habal-habal fares. Cheap!

Getting to Biri is one thing, but arriving at the Island and taking the motorcycle ride is another.  Get this: wind in your hair, winding roads along coconuts and mangrove forests; more of this, please! I wouldn’t mind another few moments like this. We had to pass through some rocky waters to get to the formations. After about a thirty minute trek we reached the rock formations. And there it was.  The Magasang Rock Formations.

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The Bel-at Rock Formations were out of this world too. After a five-minute habal habal ride from Magsasang, we had to walk a wooden bridge that seemed to go on forever situated on top a mangrove forest.   But the sight of the rock formations was phenomenal.

I felt as if I had the best seat in the house while witnessing the intricacies of how rock, water and sky play. Geologists estimate that these rocks are over 23 Million years old. Wow. It’s amazing to think that the Creator took time to form these rocks even before a pair of eyes can appreciate them.

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Where to stay: Magasang Beach Resort, located within the vicinity of the Magasang Rock Formations.  Their rooms are cheap at Php 400 per person per room. They also offer tents at Php 1,200 a night.  They are reached thru this number – 0909 3198 290.

Day 3: Sambawan Island : A sun-kissed paradise.

Sambawan is said to be Biliran’s answer to paradise. It’s easy to see why.

Getting there: Be willing to take on the two and a half hour journey from the Calbayog Port to the Island.  Boats that are hired cost about Php 6,000 maximum of fifteen people. I’ve read that it costs about Php 7,000 from Naval Port. The cheap way is to ride to Maripipi Island from Naval port. Naval is the capital of Biliran which can be reached two hours via van transfer from Tacloban.  It only costs Php 60 and then head to Ol-og via habal-habal for Php 30 and from there, take the fifteen minute trip to Sambawan.

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Upon arrival, you’ll be required to pay an entrance fee of Php 100. Cottages can be rented at Php 500 good for the whole day.

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Upon reaching the Island, it is most recommended that you climb the 200 steps to the view deck to witness the scenery that made this Island famous.  It’s a short climb, about 15 minutes, but the view is enough to excite every weary muscle you worked on your way up.

The staff on this Island offers tents you can rent at Php 1,000 if you wish to stay overnight.  They also have a canteen where you can get beach basics like soap and shampoo.  You can bathe for free in their bath rooms but if you wish to get fresh water, you must pay Php 50 per gallon. They also offer water activities like diving for an introductory price of Php 1,800 per head. That’s inclusive of all equipment and lessons.  Marine life surrounds the Island, so you better not pass on this chance. (Much like I did.) I talked to a fellow tourist who tried it out and said she even got see some baby sharks!

20160326_101432Where to stay: A stone’s throw away Sambawan is the Exotic Island Dive Resort in Kirekite Island. Here’s their website: http://kerikite.com. They offer cottages starting at Php 4,500 (peak season) per night good for two.  They are pretty much the only resort in the Kirekite Island which is about an hour away from Sambawan.  I recommend for its solitude and its private beach fronts.  They even have a short hiking trail when you get too much ocean (if there is such a thing).

Kirekite Island also has some of its own beauties to offer. It has some El Nido feel to it, so be sure to drop by. Just mention the place to your boatman.

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Day 4: Leaving

Well, all things good or bad, must come to an end. Heartfelt goodbyes were said.

The trip back home always affords me time to reflect on my recent journey. It always leaves me with sheer appreciation for the gift of life and beauty.  Indeed, I am only a spectator to the great Artist whose canvas is the universe. #PTL

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The Jewels of Leyte

As a Northener, the beauty of the Visayases has always captivated me. Its elusive beaches are bound to cure heaps of stress and the warmth of its people is certain to grow on any soul searcher.

In my first trip, I visited the renowned Kalanggaman Island, stayed in one of the region’s more rural places, Babatngon and toured the City of Tacloban.

Here’s how my travel went:

Day 1: Arrival in the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport
Upon arrival, we took the jeep costing us Php 13 and told the driver to drop us off at Save More where planned to do some grocery shopping since we were informed that no food and drinks were sold in our destination, Kalanggaman Island.

After shopping, we took the tricycle to Rexel Tours, a Van Company. They could be reached thru these numbers: 0915 584 1248 (Gleen) 0906 908 0824 (Reming) 0915 528 7815 (Aljon). We decided to rent the whole van instead of waiting for it to be full. It costed us Php 2,500, the regular rate is Php 153.50. It took us about 3 hours to get to Palompon, where we stayed the night.

We stayed at Juan Titang Beach Resort.

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I’d definitely recommend the place! Their overnight rates are cheap at Php 600 per person. They have friendly staff and even lent us some pots we used in the Island the next day. They are reached through this number:    0917 741 0259.

Day 2: Travel from Palompon to Kalanggaman

Upon checkout, we traveled via tricycle to the Palompon Eco-tourism Office.  Note that you have to book your visit earlier with them because they are observing a daily maximum capacity.  I’ve been told that as of March 28, the month of April has already been fully booked. They can be reached through this number: 0917 303 7267. 

They have the following entrance fees:

Regular Overnight Rate
International Tourist 500 750
Non-Palompon Tourist 150 225
Non-Palompon College Student 40 60
Non-Palompon High School Student 30 45
Non-Palompon Elem. Pupil 20 30
Non-Palompon Senior 120 180

Note that there are no hotels and restaurants on the island. Bring your tents and food with you. Tents could also be rented at the center.

Also, private pump boats:

3000 Below 15pax
3500 Below 25pax
4000 Below 30pax

You may contact our boatman, Rudel 0908 263 9933.

After more than an hour of travel by boat, we were greeted by the pristine waters and the white sand bar of the Island. It was majestic. I couldn’t fathom how a strip of white sand with a bunch of coconut trees in the middle of nowhere be an earthly paradise for people like me.

Kalanggaman gets its name for the local dialect, Langgam, meaning “bird” because of its aerial view.   It is famous for its sandbar which stretches for lo and behold.

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Day 3: Travel back to Tacloban

We decided to check into Paru-parong Bukid in Babatngon.  This place is like a forest! Although it’s a bit far from the city (about an hour). We paid our driver an additional Php 1,000 so all in all, our fare was Php 3,500. It’s perfect for nature lovers. Here’s their number -0921 739 7088. Their room rates start at Php 2,900 good for 4 people, additional Php 750 for each person, that’s including breakfast. If you’re interested, they also offer kubo huts in which you can stay in.

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It’s a sprawling 30-hectare nature conservation center.  They serve organic meals from vegetables they plant themselves.  They have a butterfly sanctuary and also offer kayaking.

Their kayaking is a must try.  It costs Php 300 per person, complete with safety gear. During oour kayak session, we stopped by and rested in a nearby island where the staff got us some fresh coconuts to eat.

The staff also recommended that we go to the Busay Waterfalls near by.  We had to ride on habal-habals to reach the place. Unfortunately, we were a bit late in reaching the falls so we didn’t stay long because it was already getting dark. We headed back to the hotel, had dinner and called it a day.

 

Day 4: Tacloban City Tour

On our last day in Leyte, we wanted to take a tour of the City.  The hotel was nice enough to call us a tricycle to take us to the town proper where we could ride a van to the City. It took us Php 1,000 to rent the whole van to take us to the San Juanico Bridge and then lunch at Ocho Seafood and Grill, a local restaurant known for its seafood.

After lunch, we met up with a friend of mine who is a local of Tacloban City.  She took us to the Sto. Nino Shrine, which I think is a misnomer. It’s really just the the government-sequestered mansion of former first-lady, Imelda Marcos, although it is most known for its antique Sto. Nino figurine.

We toured the place for less than an hour and may I just say, that is one huge house. Wow. I’ve been to the Malacanang of the North in Paoay, but that was nothing in comparison to the Sto Nino Shrine.  It has like, I don’t know, 50 bedrooms? One thing’s for sure though, from its ancient relics dating back to more than a century ago to its Gucci-leather walls; the Sto Nino Shrine is the epitome of grandiose.

To conclude our trip to Leyte, we visited the Mac Arthur Landing Memorial Park, a historic place that memorializes the historic landing of Gen. Mac Arthur in 1944.It was a lovely park just beside the sea. We  chose to leave this for last because it was on the way to the airport. 

My friend mentioned about how the strongest typhoon,Yolanda,had destroyed some houses on our way. She pointed out to where people were evacuated and yet still met the clutches of the Typhoon. In our tour of the City, I guess we almost forgot about how it was devastated in 2013.  The people were so nice and warm; it was hard to believe they were struck by something that horrible only a little more than two years ago. “Kung tanungin mo sila ngayon, hahagulgol parin sila.”, a most touching statement from my friend.

Upon reaching the airport, we said our goodbyes and thanked Him for the splendid time we had and prayed that not so long from then, our next adventure awaits us. #backtoreality