Friday, January 9, 2015

Marapipi and Sambawan Island

I made it in time when the boat going to Marapipi Island was just about to leave. I let out my biggest smile that afternoon while I entered the boat. Inside were a few passengers, mostly locals of Marapipi. Some were entrepreneurs carrying sacks of goods and other supplies to sell in the island. A lot of them were staring at me; who is this unfamiliar guy with a big backpack, catching his breath but cannot hide his big smile as the boat is on its way to our island?



Marapipi is a municipality and one of the two volcanic islands in the province of Biliran. Unlike Biliran mainland, Marapipi has only one prominent mountain in its center while its fifteen small barangays surround it. 

Matapang the Lion is ready to conquer Marapipi!

My travel to Marapipi Island was very memorable. I approached some of the locals inside the boat and asked questions about the island. They were so fascinated I was traveling alone as they have not seen frequent solo backpackers in their island. When I got comfortable, I left my pack inside the ferry and explored the boat - even going up the driver's station. The view of the small islands of Biliran was so beautiful that I could not hide my smile and excitement.

A closer view of Dalutan Island
This shot was taken by our boat driver.
Epic fail, but thanks a lot Sir!

When the boat was about to dock in the seaport of Marapipi in Brgy. Binalayan, I could not help myself but stare in amazement on how clean their port is and how clear the water is. Contrary to other seaports I have seen, theirs is just so clean and clear that swimming is feasible without you being bothered by plastic garbage floating. Two thumbs up for the municipality of Marapipi!

Getting out of the boat.. Clear and clean water!

Inside the boat, I chanced upon a very hospitable local, Mommy Nelia who I now consider my Marapipi mother. It is so comforting to know that when I bum out and plan to go on a spontaneous trip back to this beautiful place, I have one person who I can contact in a heartbeat. She, and along with the locals were very approachable and hospitable, which I truly believe are innate Filipino traits. So I was invited to their house since it was scorching hot noon when we got out of the boat. She owns a store, and I bought my supplies there. She also handed me some treats (for free!) as my snacks in my tour in the island. She also contracted a habal habal to take me to Brgy. Ol-og, where I can find boats going to Sambawan Island. The good thing about this is I only paid the local price for a habal habal ride (cue: 20Php!).

Matapang wandering in the streets of Marapipi
Thank you for the hospitality, Nanay Nelia!

bade goodbye to Nanay Nelia as I boarded the habal habal. It took me through Marapipi's circumferential road. Just like in Biliran mainland, this was an exhilarating part where I got to enjoy the view of the island. Marapipi Island has a narrow road system so habal habal is the most suitable mode of transportation. I took off at Brgy. Ol-og and contracted a boatman going to Sambawan Island. I waited inside a patio beside the sea near the church. And to my surprise, there was a day care class that afternoon. To kill time, I mingled with the adorable kids.

Ma'am Manilyn goes from town to town to teach these kids in the rustic communities of Marapipi.
I salute you, Ma'am!

Prayer time, kids!

The kids were distracted with this strange guy who showed up during their class (cue: ME). But as the class went on, they started to focus on their class and mingled with me. Their teacher introduced me as their 'principal' for the day. They performed a sweet song and dance number - which made me reminisce those songs I used to sing in kindergarten. Oh boy, those carefree days! Teacher Manilyn only has five students, one was absent during my visit. She teaches in one day care center in another barangay, this one in Barangay Ol-og was her afternoon class. I admired her dedication in bringing education to this remote island in Biliran. You are an unsung hero, Miss Manilyn!

Picture with the principal

When the kids were taking a break, the caretaker got a call that my boat going to Sambawan Island arrived. I was going to explore and spend the night in this island, alone, with no luxurious provisions aside from some treats I got from Nanay Nelia.  The Survivor vibe was starting to kick in as I strolled along the path towards the boat.

Going to the area where my service to Sambawan Island docked.


Sambawan is a group of islands off the coast of Marapipi which is home to amazing white sandy beaches, active marine life and gorgeous rolling hills that you can climb. Its diving site is starting to bloom and adventurous divers visit the place especially during summer months.

There are beach resorts scattered around Marapipi Island, but my eyes were dead set on this alluring set of islands which I have heard is a good place for camping and some trekking. Sambawan Island did not fail to deliver as this was one of the highlights of my solo backpacking trip.

Touch down, Sambawan Island

The two boatmen asked me in the same fascination of the other locals about traveling solo. They shared their experiences in meeting other solo backpackers and bloggers as well. They started dropping names of famous Pinoy travel bloggers and I was excited to have the same experience in this promising destination. Upon reaching the island, I was ecstatic - there was a long stretch of semi commercialized beach with flags and cottages. I also saw a view deck on top of a hill and other accessible non commercialized beaches with a prominent white sand. White sand, baby!

The northern side of the island where cottages lie
There were cottages in the main island, but I was planning a cheaper and more conservative travel. Since I was almost friends and at ease with the boatmen, they told me that I can stay in their quarters where I can also charge my phone. It pays to be nice with the locals! I dropped my backpack, charged my phone and wandered off alone. I guess mountain climbing is really my first passion as I chose to go up the hill rather than enjoy the enticing sea. Off to Sambawan Hill!

Sambawan Island!
Sambawan Hill is the highest point where you can get a breathtaking vantage point of the whole island and the sea. There is a stairs built to go up the hill in the northern side of the island. The view just gets amazing as you go higher. On top of it is a shack where you can rest while enjoying the awesomeness that Sambawan offers. I love this place. Especially that afternoon, I was the king of the island! Aside from the boatmen, I was the only visitor of the place. If I will be exiled, I would love to be banished here.

Matapang on top of Sambawan Hill.
Behind is a great back drop of Marapipi Island

The southern side of the island.

Northern side of Sambawan

The shack on top of Sambawan Hill

Thanks to my tripod and one of the boatmen traversing the hill, I had some selfie pictures on top of this stunning hill. I can not explain in words that would give justice to the 360 degree view I had that afternoon. Beyond Amazing.

The west side of Sambawan Island.
The faint island on the horizon is the province of Masbate

Going down the southern side
followed the local who was on his way to the southern part of the island. This time, there were no cemented stairs, but I loved it... Hiking! When we reached the other side, the other boatmen where there fixing a boat. I mingled with them with a helping of tuba, an alcoholic beverage created from sap of trees which is very popular in the Visayan region. The boatmen in the island were so hilarious and I enjoyed socializing with them. But I had to excuse myself as I was also planning to go up the hills of the southern island of Sambawan before sundown. Off I went.

Boatmen bonding

The southern side of the island also has a nice vista. It offers a view of what to expect in the other side of the island which has three things: cliffs, waves and rocks. I was also surprised to see a herd of sheep in this island. At first, I thought these were ordinary goats - but they were not. Interesting! This is one place in the Philippines where wild sheep can be found happily eating and galloping around.

These are not goats, they are sheep - some of these have remnants of their wool

The view of the center island, with the shack on top of the hill

This is the so called 'camel' of Sambawan

After exploring the southern side of the island, I took off, traversed through the hills again to get to the boatmen quarters. The sunset greeted me good night and it was so marvelous that it bear a promise that tomorrow will be a brighter and a more adventure filled day. Sambawan Island will always have a place in my heart. Spending time alone on top of that hill gave me a lot of realizations in life. One of my co PTB (Pinoy Travel Blogger) once told me, 'Travel teaches us a lot of lessons in life'. And my solo backpacking in Eastern Visayas surely did. Sambawan Island gave me a perfect tranquil place where I can just stare at this marvelous creation, and at the same time it gave me the thrill I love from traveling. I am definitely coming back.

The promising sunset.
Thank you, Sambawan Island!

Part Three of my solo adventure in Eastern Visayas is the most spontaneous one. I was not planning to visit this area, but fate allowed me to. And what's sweeter is I met not just one person, but a whole family who 'adopted' me that I would never ever forget.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ivan! I have been following your blogs and I am really stunned not only with the pictures you posted but with the rich information I read. Your posts of Biliran as well as this post are for me important since I am in the process of planning of Summer Biliran province tour. The highlight of my tour is that of Sambawan. I want to get more information and contact numbers from you since I am working with our budget. I want to get in touch with you and my mobile number is 09176349725 and email address is I will appreciate any amount of help I will get from you in finalizing this group tour of ours. With me are just teachers who are about to retire and they wanted to join me in this trip. Thanking you in anticipation of your assistance. Thank you very much for sharing this post. This is truly amazing. I really digested every word you wrote in this post. Thank you so much.