A couple of days before my scheduled solo backpacking trip, I had some major change of plans. I really wanted to see Biri Island's amazing rock formations, or even revisit Palompon's Kalanggaman Island since I was not able to enjoy the place during my first time there (cue: Blame It On The Alcohol). I had lots of options as I browsed through the map of Eastern Visayas. I was like a kid walking around a huge toy store. I polished two very detailed itineraries: one in Northern Samar with Biri Island as the main target, and another one in Eastern Samar + northern part of Leyte. I had no idea at that time that neither itineraries will be followed. I guess spontaneity is better when you are looking for a more thrilling way to discover yourself and the country. Two days before my flight, I got my eye on a province in the region named Biliran...
Biliran is an island province located in the Eastern Visayas region. It is Philippines' fourth smallest province which lies off the northern coast of Leyte. It's nearest Daniel Z. Romualdez airport if you plan to go there via air. Traveling via land in Manila would constitute thirty hours of butt torturing bus ride. It also has a port which is located in the municipality of Naval, Biliran's capital.
It was a long ride in a jampacked van going to Biliran from Tacloban airport. The sun was on its way into hiding as the vehicle passed through Poro Island, where the bridge connecting Biliran and Leyte is located. My body was pleading for rest but my mind can not help but be anxious about the unknown. This was the farthest solo backpacking trip, and I had little preparation on where to go and what to do in the area. I just wanted to see where my feet would lead me.
|C130 plane in Tacloban airport|
When the van parked at around 9:00PM, I found myself tramping along the quiet streets of the province. I was no expert in their dialect but I took some courage to ask for directions on where TJ Lodge might be. After strolling a couple more blocks, I finally found the sweet red signage of the place where I booked a room for the night.
Room - 300Php / night
|Inside my room at TJ's Lodge|
After securing my things inside the room, I went out to eat dinner, grabbed a couple of beers and roamed around the quiet and dark streets to negotiate for a habal habal service in the morning. I also spent an hour eating unfertilized duck eggs aka balut and had a chitchat with some locals at the corner where the lodge is located. I got some tips on some places of interest, and that the province is generally safe for travelers. I also learned that Biliran was also an unfortunate hard hit area of super typhoon Yolanda. But this discussion had an interesting start. I was actually asking the locals if they knew a friend of mine whose hometown is Biliran.
Ivan: May kilala po ba kayong mga Prudenciado dito?
Vendor: Parang pamilyar. Taga saan ba sila dito?
Ivan: Hindi ko po natanong eh. Pero alam ko nauwi po sya sa Naval, Biliran lately.
Local: Ano ba ang pangalan nya, iho?
Ivan: YOLANDA po. Yolanda Prudenciado.
Local: Ay, pakisabi sa kanya, 'wag na syang babalik dito!
I just laughed out loud realizing that my friend has the same name with the cruel super typhoon that brought destruction in the Eastern Visayas region in 2013.
|My midnight snack: balut|
BILIRAN MORNING TOUR
PLACES OF INTEREST IN BILIRAN ISLAND
The next morning, I woke up and hurriedly prepared for the tour around the small province. The habal habal driver I contracted was already waiting for me. Our target was to finish the tour before the last trip of the passenger boat going to Marapipi, the other volcanic island in Biliran. The morning breeze embraced me as the motorcycle moved swiftly. And boy oh boy, the view was excellent! Towering mountains, one of which is Mt. Tres Marias, green fields and a picture perfect view of the simplicity of provincial living. My spirit was rejuvenated in that early morning stroll.
- Tinago Falls
Not to confuse with the one at Lanao's, Biliran's Tinago Falls is one of the most popular tourist attraction in the area. Located in Brgy. Cabibihan in the town of Caibiran, the falls is roughly 90 feet high and is cascading on a clean and clear catch basin.
|Matapang the Lion in Tinago Falls|
Contrary to its name which means hidden, Tinago Falls is very much accessible with the help of the habal habal. Deviating from the main road, the park is just a good five minute ride after a winding narrow path towards the mountainside. It is protected by the local government and a 10Php entrance fee is being collected as you enter the park.
|Hidden no more! Ivan in Tinago Falls, Biliran Province|
I was so excited as I entered the park. I heard the thundering sound of the falls as I went down. Getting to it does not require a long hike on a dirt path. It was rather cemented stairs and pathway that brought me closer and closer to the majestic falls. And I finally saw the beauty of the natural creation. I was all alone exploring the area, climbing up the hill and hopping on top of rocks to get close to it. Perfection.
- Lover's Cave
This was not on my list of places to visit but the habal habal driver told me that he knew a place which I will surely enjoy. Without any hesitation, I said "Alright, take me there!"
We parked on a hill overlooking the sea and Leyte province. It was astounding. And in order to get to the Cave, we climbed down stairs where flowers were aesthetically arranged to welcome visitors like me. When we reached the entrance of the cave, my jaw dropped on how amazingly clear the water was.
|The stairs going to the cave's entrance|
I could not help myself but tread carefully towards the cave entrance. There was like a pool forming where you can swim on its crystal clear water. I grabbed the chance to practice my swimming skills as this trench was quite deep and scary.
|Free boat ride, anyone?|
The caretaker of the place was so nice that he let me borrow the canoe, and I paddled like a fool since I was no expert and there was little room to wiggle for the canoe. I parked the canoe and jumped in the water as I thought I enjoyed swimming more than canoeing. This unexpected place already made my morning in Biliran. I was already falling in love with the province I was exploring all by myself.
- Agta Beach Resort
The side of Biliran Island which has sand and just the right amount of wave is found in the town of Almeria. This is where the famous Agta Beach resort is located.
|Matapang the Lion at Agta Beach Resort's signage|
I was not into commercial places and would prefer the likes of the first two places I visited, but I enjoyed swimming in the sandy shore of the resort.
|At Agta Beach Resort|
Within the vicinity of the resort is Dalutan Island, an uninhibited island which is said to have a white sand like that of Boracay, and one other island with a remarkable number of coconut trees on it.
AMAZING RACE IN BILIRAN
We literally toured 3/5 of the island that morning, only failing to roam around Cabucgayan town due to time constraints. I ate lunch at Naval town proper and hurriedly went back to TJ Lodge to pack my things as I was hoping to catch the last trip of boats to Marapipi Island and continue my solo adventure there.
Will I make it on time to hop on a boat to this prominent volcanic island?
The last trip of the passenger boat from Biliran mainland to Marapipi Island was at 11:00AM.
I was on a rush preparing my things as it was already 10:20AM when I got back at TJ Lodge.
By 10:30AM I entered the common shower room of the hotel.
It took me 10 minutes to finish off everything that would normally take me half an hour to finish inside the bathroom.
So at 10:40AM, I was heading back to my room with only a towel covering my body...and so the road block happened.
It turned out, I FORGOT TO BRING THE KEYS TO MY ROOM! And there I was half naked in the corridor of the hotel, pissed off at myself. I got preoccupied in preparing my things that I forgot to bring the keys with me to the shower room.
Then the Einstein in me said Eureka! I just had to ask for a duplicate from the front desk officer. I went to the lobby, yes with only a towel as a cover!, and asked the staff for some duplicate keys. Unfortunately, the other staff who happened to have the key to unlock the safe where the duplicate keys are kept just went outside to pay their water bill! What a series of unfortunate events...
I had no choice but to stand in front of the room, looking at the ticking clock.
The boat will depart at 11:00AM as per the published boat schedule. It was already 10:45AM... 10:50AM... 10:55AM... I could literally faint as the big hand of the clock moves from one minute to another. How far is the Naval Water Company office?
Three minutes before 11:00AM, the lady front desk officer who had the golden duplicate key to my room arrived. I was possessed by the spirit of the Amazing Race contestants as I dashed off in putting on clothes, putting everything inside my backpack, gave the keys to the staff at the lobby, went out of the lodge and ran as fast as I could to the port.
|This is the street where I ran as fast as I could that afternoon|
photo credits to www.naval.ph and www,biliran.boards.net
I really felt like an Amazing Race contestant as people on the street stared at me strangely as I ran as fast as I could with my backpack unbalanced. The port was a couple of blocks away from the lodge and I so desperately wanted to catch that last trip of the passenger boat going to Marapipi Island.
When I entered the port, I made it! The boat was just about to leave. WHEW.
|UP NEXT: Marapipi Island and the beautiful islets of Sambawan|