Monday Musings: 10 Life Reminders from Siargao

Oftentimes, the best memories happen when you do not plan. The Surfing Capital of the Philippines definitely took my heart away.

It started with a last-minute decision after the French Embassy denied my visa application, ruining my holiday plans and putting a huge shadow over my festive mood. Luckily, I found out that my former roommates and Couchsurfing bestbuds were celebrating New Year’s Eve in Siargao so I decided to join them.

I had my bag packed and got my gears ready but I forgot that it was the holidays. I confidently thought that there would be loads of tickets to go there. It turned out to be one of the biggest struggle I’ve had to reach one destination! It involved hours of riding on habal-habal, ferries, bangkas, jeepneys, and tricycles! I ended up arriving a day late from my hostel booking.

People asked me why I went through all those instead of just staying at home. At that moment it seemed like a great idea and I knew complicated journeys always turn into good stories (sometimes I lie to myself).

Anyways, after days of random overnights in unplanned stops, I realized that I have been reminded about a lot of things in less than a week of travel.

Chillin like a villain at Cloud 9

  1. Relax! I usually feel that I am Roger the Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh or the Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland and I am not alone for sure. Humans naturally want to control and predict basically everything. The thought of not knowing makes us all feel uneasy. When I took the fast craft to head to Southern Leyte, I had everything calculated and yet I still missed some of my schedule and my worry was unnecessary, because I still ended up where I used to be. Sometimes you just have to let things be, as what Timon and Pumba would say “Hakuna Matata!” I have not reached Timon levels yet but I started Headspace to help me be calm.

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    Sunset as I left San Ricardo Port
  2. Be open. I only had one thing in mind when I went to Siargao and it was to surf. This one thing I never got to do because I decided to open myself up to other possibilities. I did not regret missing out on the surfing because I had tons of fun memories with people. That is how it should be! We should set our path towards the door and remain open enough to let new things come our way. It helps us grow. If we just keep on doing the same things over and over, it is like you living in a program. We are not born robots and we should not live like one.

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    Team Blue Bloods vs. Team Diarrhea (Diarrhea won Paglaolympics)
  3. Make new friends. Most of the people I knew booked in another hostel and I felt quite uneasy the minute I arrive (my anti social side always kicks in). I did not know anyone and it was great because at the end of the trip, I made a lot of new friends. Sometimes, we have to leave our usual circle to get new perspectives on life.

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    Enjoying the waves as they kiss the shore.
  4. Live in the present. Everyday, you would normally seeing me posting a lot in FB about different things but while in Siargao, I was too engrossed in what was happening locally so I barely had time to post or read anything. This somewhat reminded me to really make it a point to disconnect regularly to connect with the real world. I’m a bit slow on this but I am making progress. Count moments not milestones.

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    Fail at the swing
  5. It is perfectly normal to make mistakes. When I started driving the scooter, I was so scared of making mistakes that in the end, someone still hit me at the back. I know motorbikes are not good examples but it does tell you that you can be extremely careful but there will be things beyond your control and it is completely fine to just make mistakes (as long as it is not deadly).

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    Channeling the inner monkey at Secret Spot
  6. Dare to do something you have never done before. The countdown was finished and everyone was already partying yet I was standing there still worrying about a lot of things. Should I do it? What will people say? Will I mess up? These are my normal mind prompts when faced with having to do something out of my usual and often I normally let them win. All my what if’s stopped me a lot of times from enjoying. I would rather do what others expect of me than what I would like to do. This has led me to a lot of regrets. This was also one reason why I ended up in Siargao, I never celebrated New Year outside of house or away from people I know and for the first time I did. It did not kill me, in fact, it was one of the good decisions I have made despite one huge mistake. I enjoyed the night of dancing with friends and saying hi to strangers.

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    Andrea checking out the waves
  7. Ride the waves. I haven’t done this in Siargao (Unfortunately!) However, I saw it a lot and noticed how it was so close to real life. We all have our struggles and sometimes we just want to give up but that should not be our primary reflex. If you just ride the waves, the whole process will give you joy. Waves are there to challenge your strenght and build your character. Each wave you ride adds up to your beautiful story.

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    Drinks and fire at Guyam Island
  8. Trust people. There were instances where I let people I barely knew drive the motorbike because of the unpaved roads and normally I would never do that. I have trust issues. I always think that people will fail me and in the end it will hurt me but in Siargao, I learned to not think about this and just believe in the goodness of people. Another instance was when I was pissed and decided to walk home to the hostel, there was one habal-habal driver who asked me if I needed help. I turned him down and 500 meters later. I was nowhere near the hostel and my phone was dead. I had no way to know where I was since it was my first night there and I greatly relied on my map app. I luckily chanced upon two nice street sweepers who showed me the way and finally trusted a driver to take me there. Nothing bad happened to me and I arrived safely. With the crazy world we now live in, trusting people has become more difficult than ever but it does not make the world better to be part of the cynics either. When you trust people, they also feel good about themselves. So instead of being negative, just be positive.

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    The annoyed kid :))
  9. Do not judge. We tend to have our own prejudice on different people. I had a terrible judgement of one of the habal-habal (motorbike) drivers. It was the first night at Siargao and I realised everyone already left. I did not have a ride and had a number of drinks. I was pissed and decided to just walk back to the hostel (not a good idea if you are new to the place). As I walk through the pitch dark road, I heard a man calling out, ‘Do you need a ride?’. I replied with a loud, ‘No’. He did not leave right away and he wanted to check if I was sure. Stubborn as I am, I told him to leave me alone and he did. After 30 minutes of walking and following the gps, my phone died and I ended up in town with two guys sweeping the street. I tried to ask them the way back to the hostel but I was not sober enough to remember. Finally, I gave up and just decided to get a motorbike driver. I arrived in the hostel safe and sound. The next day, I needed to go around so I decided to rent a motorbike (did not shower yet) so I walked back to town and then a driver called me. He was the guy who offered me a ride. All the while I thought he was just being nice to get more money but he went out of his way to find me a scooter. Being in the big city, people tend to use you a lot and then you become cynical. You start to categorise people without second thoughts. The incident reminded me that some people may look devious but they can be good natured.15822598_10154777794348329_6934201963544954634_n.jpg
  10. Enjoy the simple things. Siargao is still an under developed area. Although, there are several resorts most of the areas remain provincial and some roads still do not have streetlights or pavement. I enjoyed the rawness of the area. It is this simplicity that truly made my motorbike trips around the island pleasurable. The thought of adventure, the smell of fresh air and the unending lush greens, these made me happy and it was for free! As a city girl, I have moments where I just unwind by purchasing things that I probably would not ever need and this is what capitalism thought us. Money can buy happiness! I do not agree completely (although it can make me a bit happier if I get my dive master license and funding to educate more Filipinos) because this kind of happiness does not last long specially if it is just to buy objects. There are a lot of good things in this world that is free. Like the love of your family and friends and the beauty of nature, you do not need to break your bank to be happy.
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Finally getting the hang of it!

Getting to, being in and leaving Siargao were all equally memorable. I thought that spending four days in the island is enough. I was wrong, very wrong! I am grateful for having met different people through the trip they were good reminders and inspiration. I cannot wait to be back in Paglaom Hostel this May (to finally catch my first wave)!

Survival Guide: 10 Tips for An Epic Sinulog Experience

Are you ready for the 2016 Sinulog Festival? Here are my tips to prepare you for the grandest celebration in Cebu.

Cebu is one of the most known city in the Philippines. Although it is generally laid back, the city transforms from quiet to crazy every third weekend of January. The Queen City of the South becomes remarkably vibrant celebrating the arrival Child Jesus locally called as Señor Santo Niño in the shores of Cebu. It is a commemoration of start of Christianity in the country. Despite the religious nature of the celebration, it includes various higlights such as Miss Cebu, Festival Queen Competition, Sinulog Idol, Photo and Film Competition, Fluvial and Solemn Procession, Grand Parade and Street Dancing and Grand Finale Fireworks display, you are sure to find something to suit your taste.

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Photo by Roland Pascua

Sinulog Festival is the grandest festival in the Philippines bringing in about 1 million visitors. As the weekend draws near, here are some tips to prepare you for the mother of all celebrations.

1. Plan your events well.

Here is a map of the Solemn Procession 

If you are more on religious events and plan on going to the Basilica to see the image of the Child Jesus, make sure to be there as early as 5 a.m. because the queue is really long.

Activities from Friday to Sunday:

January 15, 2016 (Friday) Visual Merchandising Contest (Dept. Stores and Malls)
4:00 A.M. – Walk with Mary (Area) Fuente Osmeña – Sto. Niño
9:00 A.M. – Solidarity Meeting (All Competing Contingent/Floats/ Higante/ Puppeteers) @ Cebu City Sports Center Gym
6:00 P.M. – Sinulog 2016 Dance Crew Finals @ Cebu City Sports Center
6:00 P.M. – 12:00 A.M. -Coke Party @ Fuente Osmeña Circle
7:30 P.M. – Sinulog Festival Queen 2016 Coronation Night @ Cebu City Sports Center
8:00 P.M. – Cebu Popular Music Festival @ Cebu Coliseum

January 16, 2016 (Saturday)
6:00 A.M. – Fluvial Procession of the Miraculous Image of the Sto. Niño
8:30 P.M. – 10:00 P.M. – Yamaha Party @ Fuente Osmeña Circle
9:00 A.M. -Re-enactment of the Baptism of Queen Juana and Rajah Humabon Basilica del Santo Niño
9:00 A.M. -Sinulog 2016 “Balik Baroto Regatta”
12:00 P.M. -11TH “The Street Vibration & Big Bike Rally 2016” by V-max Owner’s Group, Inc Cebu Chapter
2:00 P.M. -Solemn Procession of the Miraculous Image of Sto. Niño
7:00 P.M. -Sinulog Fireworks Competition @ SM City Cebu
10:00 P.M. – 12:00 MN -San Miguel Party @ Fuente Osmeña Circle

January 17, 2016 (Sunday) Sinulog Grand Parade
4:00 A.M. -Mañanita Mass @ Basilica del Sto. Niño
6:00 A.M. -Pontifical Mass
8:00 A.M. -Holy Mass @ Cebu City Sports Center
9:00 A.M. -Sinulog Grand Parade Carousel Kick Off
7:00 P.M. -Grand Finale and Grand Fireworks @ Cebu City Sports Center
7:30 P.M. -Party Bands, Fuente Osmeña
9:00 P.M. -Pyrospectacular Show (Pyromusical Show @ SM City Cebu)
9:00 P.M. – 2:00 A.M. – Sinulog DJ Mixing Grand Finals Night @ Fuente Osmeña Circle
12:00 MN -Sinulog Fireworks @SRP

Map for Sinulog 2016 Festival Grand Parade Route Map

If you are more for dancing and parties, here are just some of the parties happening over the weekend.535081_10206495239958529_7494243345047192356_n

2. Bring Cash.

12571415_10153784062098329_171818833_n Avoid long queues to the ATM or worse running out of money when you need drink. Make sure you have enough cash on hand. It would be wise to keep them in different places, some could be hidden inside your bra (my mother’s advice). If you want to make the most out of your dollars, I recommend you head to Alco Credit and Foreign Exchange, Inc. they offer the best rates within the city, you can find them at Raintree Mall.

3. Prepare you Sinulog Looks

Jover Alforque

You can buy cheap Sinulog shirts that you can cut and redesign. Opt for cotton and avoid wearing clothes with thick material. I discourage you from wearing jean pants, it can get heavy once it gets wet. You have endless options for accessories from feather to wooden beads. It is a great time to get your henna tattoo, you can easily find an artist along the street.The weather can get really hot and humid so do not be afraid to bare more skin. Unless you plan to go to the Basilica then you have to be covered. Do not wear expensive jewelries too unless you want to make friends with robbers. Also make sure that the bag you bring is always close to your body and waterproof.

4. Practice the Sinulog dance steps.

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Photo by Victor Kintanar

It would not be an authentic Sinulog celebration if you do not learn the steps. It is not that complicated, it is close to the basic one two step. All you have to do is move one foot forward and take two steps backward.

5. Think of Sinulog as a Marathon.

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I am not saying you have to wear your running shoes but it would be a good idea to wear your most comfortable footwear since the main streets in Cebu are closed specially on Sunday since parade starts as early as 6:00 a.m. People are forced to be more fit and you will not notice that you have been walking for hours because of the loud music, smiling dancers and happy people you meet in the road.

6. Embrace Extraversion.

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Photo by Erick John Cuevas

If you have problems with personal space, then you should forget about it for this weekend. Cebuanos are extra friendly during the festivities. You will get hugs, greetings and drinks from random strangers on the road. You will be a dot in a sea of humans. The massive crowd walking with you will test you on this too.

7. Bring Your Squad.

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Any celebration would not be fun if you do it alone. Bring your awesome friends except for the one who always complains (no one wants a kill joy). Even if you are a solo traveler, do not hesitate to talk to people. If you are a member of Couchsurfing like me, search for Sinulog events in the website.

8. Must Haves for Sunday’s Grand Parade

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Celebrating Sinulog is like hitting the beach for summer. You must bring the following essentials: Water or any form of potable liquid for Hydration, Sunscreen, Favorite Pair of Sunnies,  Fan to Keep Cool , Small Snacks for Energy, Camera for Endless Selifes/Groufies, Powerbank

9. Eat. Party. Sleep. Repeat

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When I celebrated Sinulog 2014, I hanged out with a bunch of crazy guys so I ended up partying from Tuesday until Sunday. Make sure you get rest and nourishment in between. While you want to maximize your partying or events, make sure you will be okay on Monday and not in a hospital. There was a year when I missed out on the partying because I did not have enough sleep, my body gave in on Sunday. Also, remember to drink in moderation. It is easy to get carried away but you have to be responsible enough or at least be with a responsible friend. The past Sinulog parties have caused a major uproar from the conservative people as photos of teenagers sleeping unconscious along the streets went viral in social media sites. You do not want to leave traces of your partying in someone else’s Facebook account.

10. Be Ready For Everything and Anything.

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Photo by Restie Derigay

Make sure to agree on a meeting place with your friends. During the festival, the mobile networks normally suffer lags and some messages arrive hours later. While the weather reports say the weather will be fair, make sure that you are ready to embrace the rain as well as random showers of water, beer, alcohol and even paint. These tips should give you an idea on what to expect but nothing can be completely planned in life. Do not let this unpredictability stop you, this will make your Sinulog experience more memorable. 

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With all that said and done, I wish you the best for Sinulog 2016! May the force be with you as you brave the streets of Cebu! Prititit!!! Pit Señor!

Reginald James Lorico
Photo by: Reginald James Lorico

Shark Encounter at Malapascua Island

As a young animal lover, I have always dreamed of seeing sharks and swimming next to them. I remember staying up late to watch dive expeditions being shown on National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Diving with the thresher sharks was part of my dive bucketlist.

According to some stories, some Spaniards have been sailing through the Visayas in the year of 1520 and ended up stranded on Malapascua on Christmas Day because of the unfortunate incident they called the island Mala Pascua, which literally means “Bad Christmas”. I am not certain how they could’ve thought it was bad luck to be in a beautiful island. Although the older local people still insist that their island’s name is “Logon” (same name as the main village here on Malapascua) and not Malapscua. This island a popular dive destination in the Philippines. The picturesque island is home to a world famous treasure. A special kind of shark, the thresher shark. As a young animal lover, I have always dreamed of seeing sharks and swimming next to them. I remember staying up late to watch dive expeditions being shown on National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Diving with the thresher sharks was part of my dive bucketlist.

To get to Malapascua is not that quick, from Cebu City, you will have to take the bus all the way to Maya which takes about 5 hours. For my trip, I took the bus to Bogo  and stayed there for the night. The following morning we took the bus from Bogo City to Maya Port. I enjoyed the bus ride as it passed through rice fields and mangrove forests. When we reached Maya Port, the locals immediately asked if we were heading to Malapascua. I was told that the usual price is 80 PHP but we arrived a bit late (most boats don’t go to Malapascua in the afternoon unless you charter them because of the current) so we had to just say yes to them.

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Malapascua from a distance.

The weather was on our side that day despite warnings of thunderstorms that weekend. I sat and enjoyed the calming sea breeze for 30 minutes as the boat sailed smoothly over the placid sea. The other passengers looked like babies on a cradle slowly falling asleep.

Malapascua Island
Malapascua somehow reminds me of Boracay in a less touristy way.

Unknown to many, 2 years ago, Malapascua Island was also one of the islands ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Expats and locals both pitched in to recover from the destruction and while I was walking around there were little traces.

Bangkas in Malapascua
Clear blue skies and white sand.

We did not make any prior bookings relying on the fact that it was off season in the island. It was not difficult to find accomodations. I saw more than 10 resorts all lining the coast of Malapascua. More than a decade ago, I visited the island as part of my mother’s regular company outing. I could barely remember the details of the island and would’ve gotten lost if not for Lucas. He already went to Malapascua several times for diving.  I am always embarrassed when people ask me where I did my dives ( I probably did more dives in Mabul and Sipadan than in my own country). It was my first dive in Cebu by the way! Anyways, we headed to French Kiss Divers first to try squeezing in a dive for that day (we needed vitamin Sea so much that they anyways their local staff thought I was Thai, not sure if I should be happy or not). They were nice enough to schedule a 3:30 PM dive.

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Serene view.

After taking care of our dive for the day, we headed to Malapascua Exotic Island Dive & Beach Resort. Exotic is one of the established resorts on the island and they offer budget accomodations (for those who want to spend more on dives than their beds). We left our bags and had a quick lunch (they had a wide variety of dishes and the servings were good). Once we filled our stomachs, we walked back to French Kiss to prepare the dive gears and do all the necessary equipment check.

BCDs are ready!
The view just makes you want to jump right in without your gears.

Shark diving is the main activity in the island but you can also do macro-diving. Malapascua offers sandy bottoms, seagrass meadows, mangroves and coral reefs. The island has other top class dive sites apart from Malapascua such as Gato Island, Lapus Lapus and Dakit Dakit. If you are spending more days in the island, you can even hire a boat to take you to Kalanggaman Island in Palompon.

Here is a map I created to show you a few of the different sites:

DEEP SLOPE

Our first dive was at Deep Slope which was a unique underwater sand dune that slowly turns into a small wall which is covered with soft corals.  Pygmy seahorses, yellow and pink ones can be seen inside the different sea fans along that reef.  An interesting dive site for more experienced beginners and advanced divers. For beginners, you need to be aware of the slope and make sure to always check your dive computer to avoid diving beyond your limit. While doing the dive, I got a bit nervous when we suddenly saw a banded sea snake (more than a meter long) swimming along the reef wall (FYI: I hate snakes and centipedes).

Continue reading “Shark Encounter at Malapascua Island”

Leytescapes: Beguiling Biliran

Nothing but nature
Nothing but nature

I wanted to stay at home that day but it did not take that long to convince me to go on spontaneous adventure. Our destination, one of the less traveled islands in the Philippines.  A historic island paradise nestled less than a kilometer away from the northern coast of Leyte. Half asleep, my friends and I left Tacloban around 9’o clock in the morning. We passed through several farmlands under the sweltering heat of the sun. We were lucky that most of the roads were already paved after several typhoons. Two hours later, we reached Biliran Bridge, completed around 1975. It is about 150 meters long and its central span, held in place by an arched steel structure, hovers above a short and narrow channel of water measuring about 40 meters wide at low tide.

Hello Biliran!
Hello Biliran!

We finally reached Biliran! We could not help but stop to see Biliran Strait, one of the passages where the Japanese had their checkpoints during World War II.

A view worth taking a minute for.
A view worth taking a minute for.

According to historical accounts, Biliran was site of the first large-scale shipyard, built during the 17th century where the Spaniards built galleons  support the trade between Manila and Acapulco in Mexico. Several boatmen passed by as I peered into the clear sea. It was so inviting that I wanted to jump from the bridge.

Bangkeros passing underneath the bridge.
Bangkeros passing underneath the bridge.

Biliran’s economy is largely based on fishing. Most of its towns, especially Naval and Biliran, have excellent seaports. As we made our way to Naval, Biliran’s capital, I could not help but feel a certain nostalgia for my hometown Ormoc, Naval reminded me of the quaint aura that Ormoc exuded before malls started sprouting up. Realising that our other friends are still far we decided to stop at the first gasoline station we saw. We loaded up on fuel and washed our face covered with sweat and dust. It was already 12 noon and I could hear my stomach complaining, we stopped at the port to grab some barbecue and puso a.k.a hanging rice ( I could not help but eat with my barehands).

GETTING LOST

After a hearty lunch, we decided to head to one of the coasts to search for white sand. Little did we know that our friends signed up for a habal-habal challenge.

The challenging dirt road that turned my friend into a certified habal-habal driver!
The challenging dirt road that turned my foreign friends into a certified habal-habal driver!

After safely driving through dirt roads and getting chased by hyperactive dogs, we found ourselves in a secluded cove. Our sore butts begged for some rest time and bored me decided to climb a coconut tree and get some coconuts for me and my friends.

First time opening a buko using a small knife and the edge of a rock.
First time opening a buko using a small knife and the edge of a rock.

While I was channelling my inner monkey, the rest went for a dip. I looked like the squirrel from Ice Age trying to open the buko, so I took a break and joined them.

When you see it!
When you see it!

I found little shrimps while swimming around. I remembered when my mother used to buy live shrimps and I would play with them before my mom cooked them (sad I know) but I couldn’t really be totally depressed because she cooks them well (I just pray for the shrimps’ souls and thank them for giving their lives to nourish and make us happy).

IYUSAN RICE TERRACES AND BAGONGBONG WATERFALLS

After we had our buko juice, we decided to go to the waterfall at Brgy. Caucab in the town of Almeria (named after Almeria in Spain). We drove through a long winding paved road. The view over the Iyusan Rice Terraces made it one-of-a-kind. Imagine a smaller version of Sagada terraces but with better roads.

Iyusan Rice Terraces
Iyusan Rice Terraces

 Kalabaw (Water Buffalo) enjoying a dip.

Kalabaw (Water Buffalo) enjoying a dip.

Path to Bagongbong Falls
Path to Bagongbong Falls

We reached the end of the paved road and made our way down the dirt trail, the locals told us it would take about 30mins. but unable to contain our excitement, we made it down half the time. We dismissed the narrow muddy and rocky trail and walked liked a boss. As the sound of the waters got stronger, we walked faster. We marvelled at the 30-foot high cathedral-like falls covered by forests.

A hidden surprise between the cliffs.
Bagongbong Falls

After settling in for a bit, I started feeling my leg muscles complaining. A reminder to get back in shape. While the rest went it for a dip, I felt the asian compulsion and took a selfie (normally takes me more than 10 tries before I get a decent one).

Selfie time
Selfie time
Sunlight beaming over us.

Surreal moment as I looked up.

I wanted to take a better photo but we were on a rush so this was the best one from a moving vehicle.
I wanted to take a better photo but we were on a rush so this was the best one from a moving vehicle.

We enjoyed the moment and we barely noticed the minutes flew swiftly. Realising that it was almost sunset, we rushed back to the motorbikes to try to catch the sun before it says goodbye on that day. We wanted to catch the sunset over Agta beach but we figured we did not have enough time so we went into one of the nearby barangay.

Little girl playing by the shore.
Little girl playing by the shore.
Kid showing me his winning post
Kid showing me his winning post
We were on the wrong side but it was still a sight to behold.
We were on the wrong side but it was still a sight to behold.

Sunset by the shore with a cold drink on hand, it was almost perfect if not for the crazy kids trying to wrestle each other and kicking sand at our backs. Nonetheless, it was one of the best sunset moments that I experienced this year. I can only imagine how it looked like from the right side.

Night time came and we got separated from the rest of our friends, we went back to Naval to find a place to stay. The town did not have a lot to offer when it comes to accomodations, we found a backpackers place that charged P600 for a fan room. It was not bad until we woke up to a bunch of people talking loudly right outside the door. I dozed off quite quickly after the trekking and the bumpy ride to the beach.

Magtanim ay di biro.(Planting rice is no joke)
Magtanim ay di biro.(Planting rice is no joke)

We woke up next morning and went for some bread and head to Agta beach where the rest of our friends ended up. They decided to sleep on the shore with their sleeping bags. I missed the fun part that night. As they grabbed some breakfast, we thought of where to go next. One of the guys wanted to go kayaking to the nearby islands but the woman told us it was low tide and they do not rent out. I do not get the point but we couldn’t really spend time debating so we resolved to find Busai Waterfalls.

More of the road
More of the road

We drove for 30 minutes trying to figure out where Ungale 2 (dos) was. I asked more than a dozen of people for directions (luckily Biliran speaks Visayan).

BUSAI WATERFALLS

In search for the other waterfalls
In search for the other waterfalls

We followed a path right through different barangay and as we ended up on a dead-end of a dirt road. On the left side was a barely noticeable trail where we had to walk over boulders and metal pipes (Busai Waterfalls is a water source for nearby dwellers of Kawayan). My slippers gave up on me so I walked on barefoot for 15 mins. (like a local). We crossed streams (you need to have a lot of leg power) to reach the mouth of Ungale River. Hidden among the thick foliage and slightly obscure from all angles was the tranquil Busai Waterfalls.

Busai Waterfalls
Busai Waterfalls

I was a bit disappointed seeing that it was not as grand as Bagongbong but I realised Busai had its own uniqueness because it is quite tricky to find there were not a lot of visitors. If you are coming from Naval, you would need to travel the Biliran Circumferential Road via bus bound for Tucdao, Kawayan. From the main road of Tucdao, you can hire or rent motorcycles for Php 25. Visitors may also ask the locals to guide them to the falls ( we had a little girl who volunteered to take us to the falls).

Cascading waters
Cascading waters

I had a serene dip in the cold waters. I saw a bunch of local guys climbing on top of the cliff and jumping into the middle. They are crazy I thought to myself, I got scared as hell for their safety and they started doing it like their lives did not mean anything. The water slowly glides over the mossy bedrock and you can see a bunch of frogs leaping from rocks to rocks. As we took our time to take in everything, we thought of pushing ourselves further and going for another waterfalls at Brgy. Cabibihan, Caibiran.

TINAGO WATERFALLS

From Naval, it would take around 30-45mins. Ironically, Tinago (which means Hidden in Visaya) was the least hidden among all the waterfalls. From the highway, you will find a loop trail that is 10 minutes away from the falls.

Tinago Waterfalls
Tinago Waterfalls

Unlike the first two waterfalls, you cannot enter Tinago free. Adults have to pay P10 and P5 for children (expensive! not…) Tinago Waterfalls is a perfect hideaway for bigger groups being the grandest among the Biliran Waterfalls. The battery in my camera gave up at this point (thus the sole photo of Tinago, click here for more photos). Frustrated by the inability to take photos (first world problems), I just took a dip into a seemingly natural jacuzzi and tried real rock climbing. I took my moment as I know it would be another 3 hours motorbike ride back to reality.

Truely underrated.
Purely underrated.

Biliran is not getting the reputation it should have. For one of the smallest province in the country, it has a lot to offer. I found out later that we missed 4 other waterfalls, not to mention we did not even make it to one of the 4 islands, the rich history Biliran has from Moro invasions to aiding the Americans during World War II and the dormant volcanoes and hidden springs. For all this reasons, I will definitely go back!

Iyusan Rice Terraces
Iyusan Rice Terraces

TRAVEL TIPS:

  1. Bring drinking water (saves the planet as it lessens water bottles floating in the ocean) and food ( lots of them specially bananas) as some parts of Biliran do not have sari-sari stores for more than 5 kilometers.
  2. Rent a motorbike for a day if you do not want to wait for buses as commuting around the island is not that easy and would take a lot of your time.
  3. Bring your powerbanks, there are a lot of things to take photos of. ( This is more of a note for myself.)
  4. Do not forget your sunscreen or cover up with long sleeve shirts and pants as driving around the island can take a toll on your skin.
  5. Bring cash as there are only a few cash machines and that time when we were there none working.
  6. Most of the stores in Naval close by 8p.m. so it is best that you stock up earlier.
  7. Wear comfortable trekking shoes as trails can get slippery (Do not imitate me, I’m a local).
  8. Do not bring a friend who likes to complain a lot (general travel tip, you would not want to ruin awesome moments just because of a negatron, maybe you need to start thinking about your friendship…).
  9. Make sure you or your friend have habal-habal driving skills as the roads of Biliran will test you from time to time.