Merloquet Falls (Zamboanga City)

I am in love with this world . . . I have climbed its mountains, roamed its forests, sailed its waters, felt the  the oppression of its heat, the drench of its rains, the fury of its winds, and always have beauty and joy waited upon my goings and comings.  John Burroughs

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When we think about Zamboanga City, images of colorful vinta, Yakan-weaved products and historical vista like Fort Pilar usually comes to mind. But for the past years, the city government has been promoting Asia’s only Latin city as an eco-tourism hub.

Being the Philippines’ third largest city in terms of land area, Zamboanga seems to have several well-kept natural wonders that will sooner or later lure us nature-trippers. One natural treasure that is rapidly becoming a favorite attraction from among backpackers and visitors alike, is the magnificent Merloquet Falls.

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My second visit to this Chavacano-speaking city in Mindanao gave me an opportunity to see what Merloquet has to offer. Together with 2 friends from Laguna, a friend from Leyte, and an Ig friend from Zambooanga, we went on to see the white curtain-like water flows of Merloquet Falls in Barangay Sibulao in the east coast of the city.

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We were greeted by a heavy downpour once we rode a habal-habal on the way to the falls. But that did not stop us from wanting to see and experience this natural wonder. The heavens must have heard of our plea since the rain stopped when we arrived at the area. A 334-concrete stairs led us down to the waterfalls that is tucked inside a lush environ. True to the descriptions made by several bloggers, the cascade of Merloquet looked like a curtain.

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Merloquet Falls is a two-tiered beauty. The lower level is about 10 meters in height. This is where most visitors stay and get their body battered gently by the falls heaps. (Caution: The mosses that has grown on the rocks are really slippery so be extra careful). The higher tier requires making your way to the side of the falls’ lower level. A thick rope and some sturdy tree roots will help you as you saunter your way up. The fall’s upper tier is a succession of serrated rock formations with diagonal angle and is about five meters high. Just like the lower tier, it also has a catch basin that isn’t too deep, making it ideal for swimming safely. Again, the area is slippery.

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How to Get to Merloquet Falls:

From the town center, make your way to Sevilla Street where you can find the jeepneys (with a “Putik” signboard) going to Guiwan Terminal. You can also ride a tricycle and just tell the driver to take you to Guiwan Bus terminal. At the terminal, ride a bus bound for Pagadian City. Both air conditioned buses and ordinary buses are available. The travel time is around 1 hours and 30 minutes to 2 hours (including several stop-overs, and yes, that is how lengthy time travel is and you are going somewhere in the city). Inform the bus conductor to drop you off at Barangay Vitali. Once in Vitali, you will see alot of Habal-habal on the street which can take you directly to Merloquet Falls. Haggle with the driver. We gout ours Php130 per person, both ways (including their waiting hours). Some parts of the road is rough and really steep. Upon arrival at the area, an entrance fee! Of Php5 and a parking fee of P10/per motorcycle (P20/for cars and other vehicles) will be collected. And finally, a 15 to 30 minute trek through concrete stairs will lead you to the mesmerizing Merloquet Falls.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

White Island (Camiguin, PH)

“To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.” – David Viscott

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Wanna get kissed by the sun as you bum around a sandbar that seemingly floats in the middle of the sea? With an unobstructed view of the sea and sky… with your feet being tickled by the very fine white sand and relaxed by the cool turquoise waters?

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White Island, an uninhabited sandbar, located about 1.4 kilometres off the coast of Mambajao (capital town of Camiguin Island, Philippines). Also called Medan Island or Medano Islet, the shape and size of the sandbar changes depending on the tides. At times, it looks like a boomerang or a horse-shoe, and at times, the center part is submerged making it appear like 2 separate pieces of land.

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Being unpopulated, there are no structures of any sort. Not even a single tree/plant can be found here. The mid portion of the C-shaped Island is a radiant, clear, cerulean lagoon-like body of water. The backdrop of the island is the verdant slopes of Mt. Hibok-hibok and Mt. Vulcan on one side, and an ostensibly continual view of the sea on the other side.

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This is one of Camiguin’s main attractions, drawing in a large number of tourists all-year round. The island can be accessed from Brgy. Agoho or Brgy. Yumbing in Mambajao. Outrigger boats can be hired from any of the resorts adjacent to the island.

Boat rentals are available for P400 – P500 (two-way trip). The locals also rent out beach umbrellas for P200 each.

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Do not forget to bring with you food and drinks and your sunblock specially when you intend to spend several hours in the island. The place is indeed perfect for swimming, snorkelling, camwhoring, bumming or waiting for both the sunrise and the sunset.

Truly, White Island is an embodiment of a postcard-perfect tropical delight.

1,2,3... Jump!!!
1,2,3… Jump!!!

How to Get to White Island:

From Manila, you can fly to Camiguin via Cebu. You can fly to Cagayan de Oro City. Once in CDO, take a shuttle to Agora Terminal. From there, take a bus bound for Balingoan Port and ride a ferry going to Camiguin. Upon arrival in Benoni Port (Camiguin), you can either take a multi-cab or tricycle to Brgy. Yumbing or Agoho. Finally, rent an outrigger boat to White Island.

Batad Rice Terraces (Ifugao, PH)

Batad, a village positioned amid the Ifugao rice terraces, is perhaps the best place to view the UNESCO-inscribed heritage site. There are no roads that directly lead to this peaceful community of about 1,500 people. Hence, trekking is the only form of reaching it.

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Painstakingly sauntering the rice terraces of Batad is something praiseworthy to any travel-enthusiast. These 2,000-year-old uniquely carved paddies entail watchful routing. With trails ample enough for just one person to pass through, a good sense of balance is necessary. Nonetheless, reaching the viewpoint, and standing in the middle of these wonders would recompense those risks. The landscape is beyond spectacular.

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How To Reach Batad:

Manila to Banaue: Take a 9-hr overnight Ohayami Trans bus to Banaue. It leaves at 10PM from the Ohayami station near UST (Lacson Avenue cor. Fajardo Street). The fare each way is around 500php and it gets you into Banaue at 7AM the next day

Sagada to Banaue: From Sagada town, take a 40-min public jeepney ride to Bontoc for 50php. It leaves every half hour from 6:30AM until 9AM, then every hour from 9AM until 1PM. From Bontoc, ride in a van bound for Bananue for 150php. The van leaves from the tourism office three times a day at 8:30AM, 10AM, and 1PM. Travel time is around 2 hours.

Banaue to batad: Upon arrival in Banaue town, visitors are requested to register at the tourism office and pay the the environmental. You can then take a jeepney or tricycle to an area called the Saddle — the closest point to Batad village that a vehicle can go.

A friend of mine at the welcome post of Batad.
A friend of mine at the welcome post of Batad.

Some Essential Information One Needs To Know When Going to Batad: (from WikiTravel):

A jeepney from Banaue (P150 for tourists) will bring you to the Saddle, from which it is a roughly 40-minute trek to the village. Or you may get lucky and if you jump on a jeepney that is just about to leave for the Saddle you may pay only P50. The afternoon jeepny leaves around 2pm.The road to the Saddle is mostly unpaved and perhaps treacherous at places, but the views of the Cordillera Mountains are impressive. Also, be advised that not all jeepneys stop at the Saddle; some stop about three kilometers short of it, at the Batad junction. From here, it’s a 30-minute walk up to reach the Saddle (or if you are lucky, try to stop a nice 4WD). There are two jeepneys in the morning and one at about 3 pm at Banaue.

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If you can’t get a public jeepney get a tricycle to the junction from Banaue. You will be quoted P400 to 600. Try not to settle for this fare but ask around. There are often tricycles headed to the junction to pick up returning travellers, especially after 10 am when there are no more jeepneys out from Batad. They may agree to fares as low as P50, although P100 to 200 is more likely. Walking in from the junction will take one to one and a half hours.

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Since no road leads to Batad, there are no motorized vehicles to be found anywhere in the village. This means, of course, that one must get around on foot. (It also means that one can enjoy a delightful respite from the ubiquitous din of tricycles and jeepneys.)

You will find a lot of local people wanting to guide you through the various interesting places of the village for a negotiable prize depending on the itinerary you choose P500-P1200.

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Where To Stay in Batad:

There are a few lodges overlooking the village proper, providing basic rooms with shared bathroom for around 300-400 pesos per person.

Batad Pension and Restaurant
Contact Person: Gina or Florence
Mobile: +63 921 737 1745
Hillside Inn and Restaurant
Contact Person: Maya Addug
Mobile Number: +63 919-379 9599
Mobile Number: +63 905-769-9796
Samson’s Homestay.
Inside the Batad Village.Reserve via Batad Tourist Info
Mobile Number: +63 905 397 2317
Cristina Inn
Contact Person: John Amehna +63 906 977 3771
Ramon’s Homestay
Contact Number: +63 927 678 3932
Contact Number: +63 918 243 9827
Simon’s Inn
Contact Person: Simon Illag
Mobile Number: +63 919 261-9566
Foreigner’s Inn
Contact Person: David ChuccarReserve via Batad Tourist Info
Mobile Number: +63 905 397 2317
Rita’s Mount View Inn and Restaurant
with Special Pizza and Chapati BreadMr. and Mrs. Romeo Nabannal
Mobile Number: +63 910 842 3076
Waterfall Side Inn
Contact: Charlie Ognayon
via Batad Tourist Info
Mobile Number: +63 905 926 5423

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Contact Persons/Numbers:

BANAUE TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER
Poblacion, Banaue, Ifugao
Tel. Nos. (074) 386-40-10
(074) 386-40-11

MR. RIO DALE T. HUMIWAT
Banaue Tourism Operations Officer
Banaue Municipal Hall
Banaue, Ifugao
Mobile Phone No. 0921-808-26-67
Telefax: (074) 386-40-52

MS. MARIETTA H. HANGDAAN
Ifugao Provincial Tourism Officer
Tourism Information & Assistance Center
Ibulao, Baguinge, Kiangan, Ifugao
Mobile Phone No. 0906-774-83-10
Telefax No. (074) 382-21-08
E-Mail Address: ifugaotourism@yahoo.com

DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM – CAR
Gov. Pack Road, Baguio City
Tel. No. – (074) 442-70-14
Tel. Fax No. (074) 442 – 88 – 48
E-Mail Address: dotcar@pldtdsl.net

Boracay (Aklan, Philippines)

There is a kind of serenity in love which is almost a paradise.

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Boracay Island – A palm-studded island with its stretch of white, talcum powdery-fine beach, temperate weather, warm, turquoise, crystal-clear waters. This small, butterfly-shaped island at the northwestern tip of Panay in Western Visayas.

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Travel+Leisure Magazine named this postcard-perfect island paradise of Boracay as its Best Overall Island of 2012.

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The island boasts off a number of beaches where tourists can relax. Notable ones include the 4-kilometer White Beach, the secluded Puka Beach, the kite/wind-surfing haven Bulabog Beach, and others like Diniwid Beach, Yapak Beach and Balinghai Beach. Various activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, kite boarding, helmet and cliff diving, backpacking and just relaxing on the beach and watching the famed Boracay sunset will keep your Boracay stay a memorable one. More than 350 beach hotels and resorts dot the island along with restaurants, nightclubs and even 18-hole golf courses.

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How to Reach Boracay

The quickest way to travel to Boracay Island, is to take a plane from Manila domestic (NAIA 3 and 4) terminals and fly to the island of Panay in the Visayas. The two flight options you have, is to fly directly to either the cities of Kalibo or Caticlan on Panay Island, with a flight time of 1 hour.

The best flight to take is via Caticlan. This is so because Caticlan is the jump off port to catch a ferry or banca boat to Boracay Island, so the short transfer time from plane to ferry is minimal, no more than 10 minutes.

If one chooses flights to Kalibo, one will have to take a 1 ½ to 2 hour trip by air conditioned bus or private mini van, which will take you to Caticlan.

Once you have reached Caticlan, you have a twenty minute banca trip to Cagban Port in Boracay Island.

Some Fees
Type of Payment Amount
Van from Kalibo to Caticlan Jetty Port (1 hour & 30 minutes)  Php200.00/head
Environmental fee Php75.00/head
Caticlan jetty terminal fee  Php100.00/head
Boat from Caticlan-Cagban jetty port (10 minutes)  Php25.00/head
Tricycle from Cagban Port to White Beach (20 minutes)  Php100.00/trip

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Where To Stay in Boracay:

Here are some of Boracay’s budget friendly (Php 200.00 to 1600.00/night) accommodation. Rates indicated are their lowest.

Alamo Bay Inn
Address: D’Mall Station 2
Contact Number: +63036-288-6373
Rate: Php 1000/night
Website: http://www.alamobayinnboracay.comBambooze Hauz
Address: Station 1 Balabag Sitio Pinaungon, Balabag

Contact Number: 0920 219 5950
Rate: Php 1000.00/night
Website: https://www.facebook.com/bamboozehauz.boracay

 

Blue Bayou Resort Boracay
Address: Bulabog Road, Boracay Island
Contact Number: (036) 288 4740
Rate: Php 1000.00/night
Website: http://bluebayouboracay.com/

 

Boarding House Boracay
Address: 5608 Boracay Island
Contact Number: 0921 281 4357
Rate: Php 900.00/night
Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Boarding-House-Boracay/677252452285027?ref=stream

 

Bonzai Resort

Address: Station 3, Manggayad, Boracay Island

Mobile: 0917-723-7064 / Landline: (036) 288-5694
Room Rate: Php 550/night

Website: www.bonzairesort.com

 

Boracay Actopia Resort
Address: 1194 Cagban Jetty Port Brgy. Manoc-manoc Barangay / Manoc-Manoc Boracay
Contact Number: (036) 288-2099
Rate: Php 800.00/night
Website: http://actpia.jimdo.com/

 

Boracay Breeze Resort
Address: Brgy. Balabag, Station 1, Boracay
Contact Number: (036) 288 5846
Rate: Php 1,250/night
Website: http://www.boracaybreeze.com/

 

Boracay Courtyard Beach Resort
Address: Station 2, Manggayad, Boracay
Contact Number: (036) 508 5850
Rate: Php 1,000/night

 

Boracay Kite Resort
Address: Bulabog, Boracay
Contact Number: (036) 288 6043
Rate: Php 1,010/night
Website: http://www.boracay-kiteresort.com/kiteresort/

 

Boracay Tourist’s Inn
Address: Balabag, Boracay Island
Contact Number: (036) 288 3957
Rate: Php 1,200/night
Website: http://www.boracaytouristsinn.com

Boracay Tree House

Address: Station 3, Angol, Manoc-Manoc, Boracay Island

Contact Number: 0918-661-9640 / 0916-341-4031 / (036)288-3601
Rate: Php200.00/night

Website: www.boracaytreehouse.com

 

Ernest Place Boracay Resort
Address: Bolabog, Boracay Island
Contact Number: (036) 2881965    (036)5063150
Rate: Php 1,500/night
Website: http://www.ernestsplaceboracay.com

 

Escurel Inn
Address: Station 3, Boracay Island, Malay 5608
Contact Number: 0942 843 2328
Rate: Php 800.00/night
Website: https://www.facebook.com/escurel.inn

Frendz Resort

Address: Station 1, Boracay Island

Contact Numbers: Mobile: 0939-324-2789 / Landline: (036) 2883803

Rate: Php 250-500.00/night

Website: www.frendzresortboracay.com

 

G Suites
Address: Station 3, Ambulong, Manocmanoc, Boracay
Contact Number: (036) 288-26-05 / 288-33-00
Rate: Php 1,500/night
Website: http://www.thegsuitesboracay.com/

 

Galleria de Boracay Hotel 
Address: Old Talipapa, Boracay Island
Contact Number: 0920 920 0553
Rate: Php 1,500/night
Website: https://www.facebook.com/galleriadeboracay?ref=stream

 

Hangin Kite Resort
Address: Bulabog Beach, Boracay
Rate: Php 1,500
Website: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.551821544832623.142012.339828319365281&type=1

 

Holiday Homes De Boracay Hotel
Address: Station 3 Manggayad, 5608 Caticlan
Contact Number: (036) 288 5803
Rate: Php 1000/night
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/holidayhomesboracay

 

Isla Kitesurfing Guesthouse
Address:  Boracay Bulabog Rd, Boracay
Contact Number: (036) 288 5352
Rate: Php 800.00/night
Website: http://www.islakitesurfing.com

 

La Bella Casa De Boracay
Address: White Beach, Station 1, Balabag, Boracay
Contact Number: 0917 964 1456
Rate: Php 1,200/night
Website: http://www.labellacasaboracay.com/

 

La Oviedo Villa Boracay
Address: Bulabog, Balabag, Boracay
Rate: Php 1,300night
Website: http://laoviedo-boracay.com/

Lakbayan Hotel Boracay
Address: Station 1, Balabag, Boracay, Boracay Tambisaan Jetty Port Rd, Boracay
Contact Number: 0917 853 1770
Rate: Php 900.00/night
Website: http://www.boracay.lakbayanhotel.com 

Levantin Hotel
Address: Bulabog Beach, Boracay 5608 Balabag, Aklan, Philippines
Contact Number: 0939 937 9052
Rate: Php 1,300/night
Website: http://www.levantinboracay.com/

 

Melinda’s Garden

Address: Station 3, Boracay Island

Contact Number: (036) 288-3021
Room Rate: Php700/night
Website: www.melindasgarden.com

Merly’s Place Hotel Boracay
Address: Station 3 Ambulong Manoc Manoc, Boracay
Contact Number: (036) 288 3117
Rate: Php 1000.00/night
Website: http://www.merlysplaceboracay.com

 

MiSueno
Address: Bulabog Beach, Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan
Rate: Php 1,500/night
Website: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150275492017914.331498.268776317913&type=1

 

MNL Beach Hostel 
Address: Road 1A, Bulabog, Barangay Balabag, Boracay
Contact Number: 0917 702 2160
Rate: Php 400.00/night
Website: http://www.mnlhostels.com/

 

Morenos Cottages
Address: Station 3 Ambulong Malay
Rate: Php 1000.00/night
Website: http://www.morenoscottages.1stboracay.com

Ocean Breeze Inn Boracay
Address: Station 3, Boracay, Angol,, Boracay Island
Contact Number: 0917 484 6727
Rate: Php 1,100/night
Website: http://oceanbreezeinn.info/pageID_5051572.html

 

Orchids Resort Boracay
Address: Station 3 Boracay Island
Contact Number: +63 36 288-3313/5079
Rate: Php 600.00/night
Website: http://www.orchidsboracay.com/

 

Panorama Sunrise Resort
Address: Road 1-A, Banwa it Malay
Contact Number: (036) 288 4437
Rate: Php 1,300/night
Website: http://www.panoramaboracayhotel.com/

 

Patrick’s Home Boracay
Address: Bolabog, Balabag, Boracay, Boat Station 2, Boracay Island
Contact Number: 036 288-2883 & 0918-9994678
Rate: Php 998.00/night
Website: http://www.patrickshomeboracay.com

 

Q Lodge Boracay
Address: Sitio Bulabog, Balabag, Boracay Island
Contact Number: (036) 288 4243
Rate: Php 1,300/night
Website: http://www.theqlodge.com/

 

Sandra’s Place

Address: Station 1, Boracay Island

Contact Numbers: 0921-240-4600 or (036)288—3246

Rate: Php 250-500.00/night

Website: www.sandrasplaceboracay.com

 

Seabird Boracay Resort
Address: Road 1-A, Balabag, Boat Station 2, Boracay

Contact Number: (036) 288 3047
Rate: Php 1,600/night
Website: http://www.seabirdboracay.com/

 

Secret Garden Resort 
Address: Station 2, Boracay Island
Contact Number: +63-036-288-5411
Rate: Php 1,500/night
Website: http://www.secretgardenboracay.com/

 

Star Fire Resort
Address: Boracay Highway Central, Banwa it Malay
Contact Number: (036) 288 3030
Rate: Php 1,300/night
Website: http://www.starfiremainboracay.com/

Surfers Home Boracay Cottages 
Address: Bulabog Beach, Boracay (Aklan) 5608
Contact Number: (036) 288 4787
Rate: Php 1,300/night
Website: http://www.surfershomeboracay.com/

 

Trafalgar Cottages
Address: Boat Station 3, Manoc -manoc, Boracay Island
Contact Number: (036) 288 3711
Rate: Php 450.00/night
Website: http://www.trafalgarcottages.com

 

Villa De Oro
Address: Station 2, Brgy Balabag, Boracay Island

Rate: Php 1,100/night

Website: http://villadeoro.boracayresort.info/

 

Villa Romero De Boracay Hotel
Address: Station 3, Manoc Manoc, Boracay
Contact Number: (036) 288 4421
Rate: Php 1000.00/night
Website: http://www.villaromerodeboracay.com

 

Wendy’s Apartelle
Address: Station 3, Boracay Island
Contact Number: +63036288 1267
Rate: Php 1,250/night
Website: http://www.wendysapartelleboracay.com/

 

White Beach Divers Hostel
Address: White Beach Divers White Beach Station 3 Off Angol Road Boracay

Contact Number: +63 36 288 3809
Rate: Php 600.00/night
Website: http://www.whitebeachdivers.com

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Kabalin-an Lake (Negros Oriental, PH)

The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.” – Anais Nin

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I have a penchant for places that screams mystery… one that makes me stare for a moment with several thoughts clouding my mind..

That is exactly what I thought of when I first gazed at Kabalin-an Lake in Sibulan, Negros Oriental.DSC_1535Sibulan, a pretty large town adjacent to Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, is gifted with both beaches and mountains It is known for its golf courses and the Twin Lakes of Balinsasayaw and Danao.

Although the Twin Lakes are more famed, I personally love the charm and anonymity of Lake Kabalin-an, which is found at the foot of a mountainous area where the twin lakes are nestled.

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Going to Kabalin-an requires a risky ride via “habal-habal” (a motorcycle taxi or skylab). The ride will take you into some unpaved, dust or muddy terrain (depending on the weather) as it penetrates into the rain forests of Sibulan. The road heading up the mountain was actually picturesque (and if only I wasn’t  scared of the ride, I would have captured loads of photos. The ride took around 30-45 minutes (but it felt like it was longer due to the dodgy ground).

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Upon arriving at the registration site, your sense of sight will automatically be drawn into this very serene lake that is Kabalin-an. What is very striking are the tall trees submerged in the middle of the lake. It is really pretty interesting as I have only previously seen such a thing in marshy areas. Lake Kabalin-an is definitely an undisturbed refuge that made me forget about that  gruelling ride.DSC_1550I have seen photos of this place prior to visiting the area. And that prompted me to visit the lake. Never did I think that it is way more magical to see them in person. After some reading, I have come to learn that the trees are willow trees (Salix tetrasperma). It just felt good looking at how verdant they are as there reflection becomes vivid in the water.

Despite the fog slowly setting in (as the lake is at the foot of a mountain), the area became more mysterious and lovely.DSC_1540

How To Go to Kabalin-an Lake:

From Dumaguete,  ride a Ceres bus bound for northern part of Negros Oriental and tell the bus conductor to drop you off at the junction going to Twin lakes. The ride should only take more or less 30 minutes. For your reference, there is a signboard at the left side of the road going to Sibulan directing to the Twin Lakes.

From this, hire a habal-habal. They normally charge Php200-300 per person one-way. The habal-habal drivers can wait till you’re done exploring the lakes. There is an entrance fee of Php10.

Lambug Beach (Badian, Cebu, Philippines)

“Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind.” – Amit Ray

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This is a somewhat unfamiliar beach tucked 98 kilometers southwest of Cebu City, in the town of Badian. This coastal town is more known for Kawasan Falls. ( https://roamulofied.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/kawasan-falls-cebu-philippines/ ) Moreover, it is over-shadowed by its neighboring won of Moalboal for its beaches. But, in case you want a serene and seamless beach to yourself and perhaps, with your friends or loved ones – consider the unspoiled beauty of Lambug Beach.

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The beach shows off a long stretch of white powdery sand and non-teeming resorts. This hidden gem is also a perfect spot for both the sunrise and the sunset. The place is not yet fully developed (which I like by the way). But it has many rentable cottages and a few rooms for rent from not so high-end resorts offering basic amenities. At Lambug Beach, one need not spend too much to experience a secluded beach front.

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Where To Stay:

Magic Beach Resort 09154586637 or 09261205042
Grandeur Beach Resort 09262789880; 0908992490; 09333383686
Manang Virgie’s Beach Resort 09261745671, 09359251828, 09067378068.

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How To Get There:

From South Bus Terminal, ride a bus bound for. You will pass by the towns of Barili, Dumanjug, Ronda, Alcantara and Moalboal Travel time is about  3 hours up to Badian Town proper. Inform the bus conductor to drop you off in Badian public market or right at the crossing going to Lambug Beach where you could see a signage “Cebu International Golf and Resort”. (Both drop off area have available tricycle. Then, you eventually arrive at the Lambug port area,. From there, the resorts mentioned are accessible on foot.

The 4 Lakes of Kabayan (Benguet, Philippines)

Let yourself be open and life will be easier. A spoon of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable. A spoon of salt in a lake is almost unnoticed.

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Lake Tabeo

Kabayan is a fourth class municipality in the province of benguet, Northern Philippines. It is said to be the home of  the Kabayan mummies, mystical 4 lakes and Luzon’s highest peak – Mount Pulag.  Long before it was known or named, this quaint town was a thickly forested and mountainous settlement. The whole place was completely covered with pine trees, virgin oaks, and much higher, by the grassy height of Mount Pulag.

A river along the way to Kabayan.
A river along the way to Kabayan.

Kabayan is located along the Agno River, most easternly of Benguet Province and within the towering presence of Mount Pulag. It is approximately 335 kilometers north of Manila. From Baguio City, Kabayan is 85 kilometers northeast travelling through the Baguio-Ambuclao-Bokod-Kabayan Road. Taking the Halsema Highway, then following the Abatan-Buguias-Kabayan Road, the town can be reached after covering a distance of 118 kilometers.

By the Tabeo Lake
By the Tabeo Lake

I had the opportunity to visit this town wayback 2012 when an invitation came about. The highlight of the trip is a trek to the 4 lakes of Kabayan. Having a leaning interest in lakes, I easily gave in and the next thing I knew, i was already making my way to the serrated beauty of eastern Benguet.

Trail in Tawangan
Trail in Tawangan

Upon arriving at Brgy. Tawangan (a trail that is also used to trek Mount Pulag), we were already greeted by the 1st of the 4 lakes – Lake Tabeo. It was really cold when we arrived, and the lake was being hidden by the fog. But you can sense the beauty of the place. It drizzled for a moment, and then a few more minutes and Tabeo’s beauty was revealed. It was indescribably beautiful. It didn’t feel like I was in the Philippines.

A different angle of Tabeo.
A different angle of Tabeo.

Being the most accessible from among the 4 lakes, Lake Tabeo is surrounded by vegetable plantations and some residential houses. Mount Tabayoc, the 5th highest mountain in the Philippines, serves as a backdrop with its pine and mossy forest.

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We pitched our tents near the lake before continuing on with our trekking to the 3 other mountain lakes.

Next stop was the breathtakingly beautiful and clean and clear Lake Bulalacao.

Lake Bulalacao
Lake Bulalacao

From among the lakes, I am most acquainted with this one since during my previous climbs to Mount Pulag, a video shown to climbers at the registration center includes a clip of Lake Bulalacao. This is considered to be the most beautiful among the four and the cleanest. It has been recognized as a “three time winner” under the Cleanest Lake for the Cordillera under the Gawad Pangulo sa Kapaligiran. The lake is most of the time shrouded in very dense mist, and I am very fortunate to have seen its beauty.

So clear and clean. Bulalacao.
So clear and clean. Bulalacao.

***Trivia: The term ‘Bulalakaw’ means ‘shooting star’ in Filipino. According to folkstories, in ancient times, old men would spend their time stargazing on the banks of this lake, hence the name Bulalacao.

Our third stop is to me the most magical/mystical of the 4 lakes – Lake Letepngepos. It was like a scene from the movie Avatar. Going to this lake requires hiking through dense pine and mossy forest, with thick underbrush. The trail is muddy and at times loose thats why you have to have a good grip on tree branches and even their roots.

Lake Letepngepos
Lake Letepngepos

Lake Letepngepos to me also, is the most photogenic. There is this picture-perfect area for taking photos wherein a tree-bark-slash-root immersed over the water adds up some creepy-mysterious like effect. Just lovely!

More of Lake Letepngepos
More of Lake Letepngepos

Finally, off we went to see the 4th and last lake. We were walking over a marshy area when our guide said we were already at the 4th lake – Lake Incolos. We were all surprised because we didn’t see any body of water. He went on to explain that we were actually standing on top of the lake. (Now, that explains that feeling where my legs seem to be sinking, and my footwear getting wet). It was so cool that it felt like I was walking on water (only that its covered with colourful grasses and some thin layer of land).

Foggy Lake Incolos
Foggy Lake Incolos

We passed by the lake without some monster emerging from it (haha! wild imagination) and continued trekking until we reach a relatively higher ground they call Junior Pulag. It was understandable to call the place as such because it looks like Mount Pulag with its grassy terrain and peak. Finally, we were back at our campsite and this time, Lake Tabeo is much even more a delight to behold. I spent the rest of the day staring at its beauty while sipping a cup of warm coffee and reading some books.

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How To Get There:

Go to Dangwa Terminal (located at Baguio city proper) or at the Slaughterhouse bus terminal along Magsaysay Avenue. Dangwa Terminal is more accessible though. Then, take the bus bound to Kabayan and alight the bus when you reach Ballay. Ballay is the last stop of Kabayan buses.

Buses bound to Kabayan leave Baguio City at 10 AM; last trip leaves at 12NN. It is a 5-6 hour trip. From Poblacion, it’s about 30 to 45 minutes’ ride to Barangay Ballay, the jump-off point for various attractions, including the 4 lakes.

Truly magical, mystical lake of Kabayan.
Truly magical, mystical lake of Kabayan.

The usual route: Ballay visitors’ welcome/reception area, then take a ride to Lake Tabeo, ride to hiking start point to Lake Bulalacao, Lake Letepngepos, and Lake Incolos, then Junior Pulag, then back to Tabeo. (A climb to Mount Tabayoc may also be done).

If you want to go and visit these spectacular lakes, it is best to coordinate with the Tourism Office of the local government unit of Kabayan. Sir Berry Sangao and Ma’am Ghislyn Marave will definitely welcome and entertain all your questions. You may also contact Arlan Bugtong (Park Ranger) – 0946-592-8483 / 0999-389-8711

Marinduque: The Heart of the Philippines

“You have a good heart. Sometimes that’s enough to see you safe wherever you go. But mostly, it’s not.” – ― Neil GaimanNeverwhere

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Have you been to the Heart of the Philippines? This, at one point, was asked by a friend who also loves to travel. I blankly stared at her for a moment before she finally said – “Have you been to Marinduque?”

For several years, I have always wanted to see this small island province situated at the heart of the Philippine archipelago. It’s moniker “Heart of the Philippines” is not only associated with its geographical location but surprisingly, the island’s contour looks like a human heart.

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The metaphor of the heart does not end with the island’s geo-physical traits. There are far more reasons that go beyond the physical inkling.  Yes, there are many spectacular places to see in the heart of the Philippines, but to me, my Marinduque trip’s main heart and soul are its naturally good-hearted people.

Where is Marinduque: This heart-shaped island-province of eminent volcanic peaks , clear aquamarine waters and laidback vibe lies between Tayabas Bay to its north and Sibuyan Sea to its south. FYI: It was ranked number 1 by the Philippine National Police and Philippine Security Forces as the 2013 Most Peaceful Province of the country (due to its low crime rate statistics) conversely ranking with the province of Batanes yearly.

Marinduque is also known to be the hub of the ever famous (and one of the oldest religious festivals of the country) – the Moriones Festival — celebrated during the Holy Week.

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WHAT to SEE: Marinduque is divided into 6 municipalities: Here are the 6 municipalities and some of their major attraction-drawers:

BOAC. The capital town is known for the oldest existing structure of Marinduque built in 1580 – The Boac Cathedral, an earthquake-Baroque architecture originally called Monserrat de Marinduque. Moreover, Boac is also famed for its old Houses that reflect Spanish influenced architecture diversed with customarily Filipino ingenuity.

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STA CRUZ. This town boasts off paradisiacal beaches. Notable beaches are in the islands of Mongpong and Maniwaya. Mongpong is an island with distinctive land bridge rock formation on its eastern periphery adds beauty to its off-white sand beaches and nonchalant island ambiance. Maniwaya Island , on the other hand, also boasts off its crystal clear waters and white sand beaches. A sandbar called “Palad Sandbar” is located northeast of the islet, and would disappear during high tide. The towns church is also worth a visit, together with other attractions like Kawa-Kawa Falls.

GASAN. There are 3 islets on the mid-western coast of mainland Marinduque named after the biblical Three Kings. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to try it out, it is said that the area is a haven for scuba divers. The 3 islets are: Melchor Island, also called Polo Island; Baltazar Island, also called Pangikog Island; and Gaspar Island, also called Manya Island – all three has steep cliffs and underwater caves.

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TORRIJOS. This is the home of Poctoy Beach – a stretch of fine, white sand almost a kilometer long. This is a great spot for sunset viewing with the majestic Mt. Malindig as a backdrop. Also in this town is Pulang Lupa Historical Park – a marker that reminds us of the site of a battle fought in the island between the Philippine Revolutionary Forces and the Americans.

BUENAVISTA. If you have some extra (extra, extra) cash to spend, then Bellaroca might just suit your taste for a staycation. This Santorini-inspired architecture on an undulating topography contrasted with the cerulean sky and water, presents a relaxing and memorable experience. However, if you are a mountain enthusiast, then climbing Mt. Malindig (Marinduque’s highest peak at 1, 157 meters) would delight you. Then there’s Malbog Sulfur Spring. The only sulfur springs found at this part of Luzon. You can also try the Marinduque Hotspring Resort, a privately-owned resort located about 300 meters away from Malbog Sulfur Springs.

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MOGPOG. Visit the Luzon Datum National Landmark, located on the highest hill at the northwest point of Marinduque, is a geodetic datum origin traced to the surveying and mapping activities in the Philippines of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. Trek your way to Paadjao Fall, a series of gently cascading that settles into a 15-foot fall with a jacuzzi-like catch-basin. The port of Balanacan (the most frequented entry point in Marinduque), is a good vantage point to view the sunset.

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HOW to GET THERE:

By Air: There are daily flights from Manila to Gasan, Marinduque.

ByLand: From Pasay or Cubao, ride a bus bound for Lucena or drive there through the South Luzon Expressway.

By Sea: You can  ride a fast craft or ferry from Lucena City to Marinduque. There are several seaports located at Boac (Cawit Port), Mogpog (Balanacan Port), and Sta. Cruz (Buyabod Port)

***There are public utility buses from Metro Manila that will take you to the Grand Terminal, Lucena City where public utility jeepneys bound for Talao-Talao?Dalahican Pier are available. Buses with direct route to Talao-Talao Port specifically those with signboards “Lucena-Talao-Talao Pier” are also available.

From Manila, you may take off at Buendia Terminal in Pasay City corner Taft Avenue. From Quezon City, get to Kamias Road Terminal corner EDSA or Ali Mall Terminal at Cubao. Available buses at said terminals are Jac Liner, Jam Transit , Lucena Lines and Dela Rosa Lines. Jac Liner, Inc. also offers direct route to Marinduque. For more details or reservations, you may contact Tel. # 02-404-2073 (Buendia Terminal) or Tel. # 02-927-6139 (Kamias Terminal).

Once in  Dalahican/Talao-Talao Port, ro-ro of Montenegro Shipping Lines, Inc., Star Horse Shipping Company, Boac Ferries and fastcraft of Sta. Cruz Shipping Lines bound for Marinduque Ports (Balanacan Port in Mogpog or Cawit Port in Boac or Buyabod Port in Sta. Cruz) are available. Travel time ranges from 3 to 3.5 hours for Roro and 2 to 2.5 hours for fastcraft. Upon reaching the target port in Marinduque, there are public utility jeepneys and airconditioned vans waiting to take you to your destinations with signboards – Boac, Mogpog, Gasan, Buenavista, Sta. Cruz or Torrijos.

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Schedule of BOATS

FASTCRAFT

Lucena – Balanacan
2:00 am
10:00 am

Balanacan – Lucena
6:00 am
2:00 pm

RORO (Montenegro)
Lucena – Balanacan
4:00 am
12 Noon
12 midnight
4:00 pm

Balanacan – Lucena
8:00  am
4:00 pm
12 Noon
8:00 pm

RORO (Starhorse)
Balanacan – Lucena
6:30 am
2;30 pm
11:30 pm
7:30 pm

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WHERE to STAY:

Boac Hotel – Telephone +63(042) 332-1121; Fax +63(042) 3322-2065; Mobile no. 0928-409-4329 / 0916-517-3861; email: theboachotel@yahoo.com

Abby’s Place –  Contact no. (042) – 332-2643 / email: apostolhotelsandresorts@yahoo.com.ph / Mobile nos: 0918-945-5560 / 0922-845-2833 / 0917-522-5560

A & A Beach Resort – Contact No. (042) – 332-2817 / email: apostolhotelsandresorts@yahoo.com.ph ; Mobile nos: 0918-945-5560 / 0922-845-2833 / 0917-522-5560

Lucky Seven Pension House – Address: Gov. D. Reyes St. Murallon, Boac, Marinduque;  Contact #(042) -332 – 2777;  (042) – 332-1742; 0910-822-2973 (Remy); e-mail: lucky7corp@yahoo.com

CRB Pension House – Brgy. Poblacion, Torrijos | 15 minutes tricycle/jeepney ride from Poctoy White Beach (west)

Mixt Apartelle – Brgy. Poblacion, Torrijos | Mobile:  +63.919.3668090

Briones Apartelle – Brgy. Poblacion, Torrijos | Mobile:  +63.919.5230697

Rendevouz Beach Resort – Brgy. Poctoy, Torrijos | fronting the beach area | Mobile:+63.919.5150560

Village Sunrise Inn – Brgy. Poblacion, Torrijos |Mobile:  09209093674 |E-mail:  ferman@villagesunriseinn.com | Website: http://www.villagesunriseinn.com

Beach Club Cagpo (Private Homestay Resort) – Brgy. Cagpo, Torrijos | 10 to 15 minutes tricycle/jeepney ride from Poctoy (east) | Mobile:  +63.921.9932537 (Harry) | Website:  vww.clubcagpo.tk

Jovita’s Paradise – Brgy. Cagpo, Torrijos | 10 to 15 minutes tricycle/jeepney ride from Poctoy (east) | Mobile:  +63.920.6293515

Duds Place Beach Resort – Brgy. Poctoy, Torrijos | walking distance/tricycle ride | Mobile:+63.920.7106603

Cloma’s Residence – Brgy. Poctoy, Torrijos | walking distance/ tricycle ride | Mobile:+63.920.7106603

Marilou & Hanspeter Homestay – Brgy. Poctoy, Torrijos | walking  distance/tricycle | Mobile:+63.921.7516930

Residencia De Palo Maria – Maniwaya Island, Sta.Cruz;  Contact Numbers: (+63) 919.237.5633 | (+63) 922.867.0312

For more information, you may contact Marinduque’s  Tourism Office: Tel. no. (042) 754-0136; E-Mail:tourism.marinduque@gmail.com

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Mount Timbak (Benguet, Philippines)

“Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really climb for the hell of it.” – Edmund Hillary

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MOUNT TIMBAK

Major Jump-Off: Km. 55, Atok, Benguet
Elevation: 2717 MASL (8914.04  feet)
Days Required / Hours to Summit: 1 day / 1.5-2.5 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 2/9
Features: cabbage terraces (sometimes carrots), mummies, village life, and views of major Cordillera peaks (like Mount Pulag)

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Mount Timbak – also called Mount Singakalsa is the 9th highest mountain in the Philippines and the 3rd in Luzon. It is one of the prominent peaks of the Cordillera Mountains range. If you happen to pass by the Halsema Hi-way, one would take notice of this mountain’s imposing beauty that serves as a backdrop of the highest point in Atok, Benguet.
It maybe the third highest mountain in Luzon, next to Pulag and Tabayoc, however, the hike is pretty much easy. Most people who scale the mountain not for its height but for the mummies and vegetable and flower terraces along the way.

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At the summit of Mt. Timbak are three crosses and some other religious figures. It is a great vantage point to see Mounts Tabayoc, Pulag, Purgatory, and Ugo on a clear day. One would be too glad to see also a sea of clouds, and if the weather is good – both sunrise and sunset viewing would be youre reward.

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While one can do just a day hike to Mount Timbak, it would also be good to spend a night at the peak and experience a Pulag like weather. Find a flat area to pitch your tents on. Take note that the nightly winds (and even rain) can bring a very cold temperature.

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How To Go To Mount Timbak:
Most mountain-enthusiasts go to Mt. Timbak from Manila or from Baguio City. Going from Manila first you must get to Baguio City. The easiest way is to get a bus from Metro Manila, from the Victory Liner Bus Terminal in Cubao, EDSA. Buses to Baguio leave every hour.
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From Baguio, take a bus going to the direction to Bontoc, via the Halsema Higway. Buses going in this direction depart from the Slaughterhouse Road or the terminal of buses going to Sagada at the back of Center Mall. It takes about 2 hours to the jump-off point at the 55 km of the Halsema Highway.

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From the Halsema highway you have to turn right to a very steep cement-paved side road. If you stray away from the main path, all the other roads terminate at one of the houses of the locals who would then direct you back to the main road. The main road is actually the same road that traverses Timbak down to Kabayan Barrio. Then, one will pass by an elementary school. One may ask the locals for the trail to the peak. Following the main road farther would lead you to the Timbak mummies.

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SAMPLE ITINERARY

Day 0 – If one is coming from Manila
22:00 – Assembly
23:00 – Departure Manila to Baguio City

Day 1 

05:00 – Arrive at Baguio City / Breakfast / Buy supplies
07:30 – Proceed to bus terminal
08:00 – Depart Baguio City to Jump-off
10:00 – Arrival at jump-off (final preparation)
10:30 – Start trek (road trek)
11:00 – ETA Mongoto Elementary School / Lunch / Refill water
13:00 – Resume trek to camp or go and visit the Timbak mummies
14:00 – End of road
15:00 – ETA Mount Timbak summit/ Set-up camp / Free time / Socials/ Wait for sunset

Day 2 

05:00 – Wake-up call / Sunrise viewing / Breakfast / Pack-up
08:30 – Start descend
10:00 – ETA KM 55
10:30 – Ride back to Baguio City
13:00 – ETA Baguio City / Free time
21:00 – Depart Baguio City to Manila (time may vary)

Day 3 – September 8, Monday

03:00 – Arrival in Manila

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“Great things are done when men and mountains meet; This is not done by jostling in the street.” – William Blake)

***To date, I have scaled this mountain on 2 occasions, and it was really great to have influenced friends to come with me and enjoy the beauty of nature.

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BIRI Beautiful (Northern Samar, Philippines)

“Rocks are more co-operative than people.”  – ― Barry WebsterThe Lava in My Bones

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Biri Island is the northernmost of the 18 islands collectively called Balicuatro Group of Islands at the northern end of Samar. The island cluster is known as the Balicuartro Islands of San Bernardino Strait. This strait is accountable for moving nearly 70% of the water that flows in and out of the Visayas and hence the tidal current can be cruel.

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Because of this, Biri Island has been subjected to some major pounding by the strength of the Pacific Ocean, coupled that with the vicious currents. The result? Some unbelievable naturally carved rockscapes that stretches some 8 kilometres long across the island. The rock formations are astounding, intimidating even – not only because of its vastness but, more vitally, their grandeur.

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There are 6 primary rock formations with smaller ones and natural pools in between. From the west side to the east, these 6 major rocks are named Magasang, Magsapad, Macadlaw, Puhunan, Bel-at, and Caranas. All of which are results of the thumping waves of the San Bernardino Strait. To date, these natural wonders has been a backdrop to several Filipino movies.

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Aside from the colossal  rocks that entices visitors, the island also boasts a mangrove sanctuary, some isolated beaches and coral reefs that one may marvel at when you go on snorkelling.

How to get to Biri Island?

By Plane
Flights from Manila will take you to either Catarman, which is the closest to Biri Island or to Calbayog, which is on the western side of Samar to the south of Biri Island. Some local airlines fly to these cities.

Upo arrival at either airport you need to get yourself to the town of Lavezares, which is the jump off port, to get you to Biri Island. There are jeepneys and tricycles bound for Lavezares, haggle the fare prior to leaving.

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By Bus

The best way, is to get a bus from Manila that will travel all the way to the port town of Matnog which is on the southern most tip of Luzon. The trip will about 15 hours. From Matnog, catch the ferry to the town of Allen on Samar. Ferries make the crossing every hour or so.

In Allen, get yourself to the town of Lavezares, which is the jump off port, to get you to Biri Island. There are jeepneys and tricycles bound for Lavezares, haggle the fare prior to leaving.

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Once you have arrived in Lavezares, go straight to the town market, and look for the outrigger boats (banca) that are bound for Biri Island. There is also a ferry that leaves at 1:00 pm, however, the outrigger boats are more likely to leave earlier.

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Matnog, Sorsogon – Allen, Northern Samar

– Ro-Ro Ferries ( 2Hrs) 120 PhP/Pax

Allen – Lavezares, Northern Samar

– Tricycle ( 20 mins) 20PhP/Pax

Lavezares – Biri, Island

– Outrigger boat/Banca (1Hr) 50PhP/Pax or not more than 100PhP/Pax for special trips

Cebu City – Calbayog, Northern Samar

– Ferry 12Hrs/ Overnight) 850PhP/Pax/Economy; 990-1,050PhP/Pax/Tourist

– additional 10PhP/Pax for terminal fee

Calbayog – Allen, Northern Samar

– Jeepney (2Hrs)

Allen – Lavezares, Northern Samar

– Tricycle ( 20 mins) 20PhP/Pax

Lavezares – Biri, Island

– Outrigger boat/Banca (1Hr) 50PhP/Pax or not more than 100PhP/Pax for special trips

Cebu City – Ormoc City

– Fast Craft ( 2Hrs) 740PhP/Pax

Ormoc City – Tacloban City

– Fast Craft Shuttle (4H) free for passengers bound for Tacloban

Tacloban – Allen, Northern Samar

– Van (6-7Hrs) 350PhP/Pax

Allen – Lavezares, Northern Samar

– Tricycle ( 20 mins) 20PhP/Pax

Lavezares – Biri, Island

– Outrigger boat/Banca (1Hr) 50PhP/Pax or not more than 100PhP/Pax for special trips

Catarman – Lavezares, Northern Samar

– Jeepney (30-45 mins.) 50PhP/Pax

Lavezares – Biri, Island

– Outrigger boat/Banca (1Hr) 50PhP/Pax or not more than 100PhP/Pax for special trips

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Where do I stay on Biri Island

Biri Resort

Aircon – P1,500; Non-aircon – P750-850

Sunset Villa Amor

Aircon – P1,500; Non-Aircon – P600.00 – 1,000.00

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