Tag Archives: eastern visayas

Sambawan Island, Maripipi, Biliran

WATCH: A video created by my friend Jao that features our trip to Biliran and their freediving adventure:

Sambawan was and I hope will remain beautiful. It reminded me, as well as a couple of other people, of Gigantes, only there was more fish here. According to the people who had been here before, it is more developed now than it was a year ago. On their map posted on the beach, it looked like the management still has more plans for the island.

The first picture of the island I took when we set foot on it. Pardon the not-so-straight. Unsteady hands I suppose.
The first picture of the island I took when we set foot on it. Pardon the not-so-straight horizon. Unsteady hands I suppose.

After lunch, I went up the nearest hill together with Jao. It was the hill where they recently built a staircase on the side so people would have an easier time going up. There was also a cottage or a watchtower built on top of it. There were also huge rocks placed on this part of the hill and, guess what, they’re vandalized.

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Come on! Do you think it’s funny to scratch “LAMOK” on that rock? Whoever you are, Mr. or Ms. Vandal!

Anyway, when we got down, I tried snorkeling around. The sea was teeming with wildlife even at the shallower part. The waves scared me though so I didn’t get too far.

There was some sort of misunderstanding with the staff. The cabana that we got was actually reserved for another group of guests, so we ended up being kicked out of it, but would return to the next door cabana the next day. The resort should be more organized next time. Good thing we brought tents, yey!

Jao and the rest of the free divers in the group went out for their first-day diving. I could only tell you second-hand stories because I never got to see what they saw. Coward me! I’m still a work in progress.

I have some underwater pictures from Jao. I don’t know which shots were taken on which spot so I’ll give you a couple of pictures at a time. Drool at your own risk.

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Images courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.
Images courtesy of Jao.

Around 5pm, we went up the other hills to see the sunset. I climbed up the steeper hill by myself but did not find a good view there. While on the way back, however, I found a nice spot where the sunset was in its full glory.

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After stuffing ourselves during dinner, we spent the night on the beach trying to figure out if it was the Milky Way we were looking at or not.

I was too excited about the sunrise the next day, but as luck would have it, the part of the sky where the sun was coming out was mostly covered with clouds so this was the best I could do.

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Later in the morning, the free divers and some more people in the group went out to the sea again. They explored the other side this time.

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Images courtesy of Jao.

They said the corals were prettier and the fishes were bigger on this side of the island. Their words, not mine.

The rest of the day was gloomy and it even rained briefly, but that didn’t stop the divers and the snorkelers from stepping into the water again.

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Images courtesy of Jao.

And a few more really nice pictures from Jao:

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Images courtesy of Jao

The sunrise on our last day did not disappoint. Jao has a time-lapse shot of that sunrise which is breathtaking, which you can see on the video above.

The sun rising up from the center of the mountain in mainland Maripipi.
The sun rising up from the center of the mountain in mainland Maripipi.

Jao then went out to the water by himself first and found a pair of Nemos, which amused everyone.

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Then the rest of the diving guys went back to the water one last time to see more.

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Images courtesy of Jao.

It was an amazing experience. My only frustration was not being able to see what was underwater, but other than that, I enjoyed the shallow waters, as well as the calm and the peace I had while on the island for three days. Yep, Globe had a fairly strong signal in Sambawan, but electricity was not 24/7 so I got a chance to unplug.

How we got to and out of Sambawan:

We took a Roble Shipping ferry from Cebu to Ormoc. A tourist class ticket was at P520 (preferred accommodation) and an economy ticket, which was what Jao and I had after they ran out of tourist class tickets, was at P410.

Ferries from Cebu to Naval do not operate daily so we had to take the ferry going to Ormoc.

We then took a passenger van from Ormoc to Naval for P130 and a multi-cab from Naval to Kawayan where the pumpboats going to Sambawan were docked. At this point, I no longer had any idea how much was paid for what because these were all included in the P2000/person budget we paid for this event.

Cabanas are available but guests, such as half of us in the group, are free to set up their tents.

Going back, we took the same boat to the Kawayan port and the same multi-cab to Naval. Ferries going directly from Naval to Cebu areavailable on Sundays so we took that. Departure was scheduled at 8pm (I slept before 8pm so I didn’t know the exact time the ship left) and we arrived in Cebu around 7am.

A few things to keep in mind when going to Sambawan:

– Electricity is only available at night. Bring powerbanks or just simply accept this fact.
– Our group of 21 was only allotted 400 liters of fresh water per day. Any excess will be charged P1 per liter. I think this is true for any other group. But just to make sure, ask the management about the water situation.
– They also sell fresh water at P25 per container which can be used for showering and, for those people who don’t have a sensitive digestive system like me, drinking.
– There is a store on the island which sells basic goods. They don’t sell booze and cigarettes so bring your own, or better yet, stop!
– Parties and bonfires are not allowed on the island.
– My companions who had Smart and Sun numbers were having troubles with their phone signals. But, as I mentioned above, those with Globe had better reception. Do I hear some Globe endorsements?

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Magsuhot Park, Sogod, Southern Leyte

My friend Jao and I left Emma’s grandmother’s house in Hinunangan early on Sunday morning. Again, we would like to thank Emma and her family for hosting us despite their preoccupation with their reunion.

Jao was going back to Cebu (aw, no more GoPro shots) and I had my own solo plans in Sogod, Southern Leyte. We took a bus bound for Hilongos and I arrived in Sogod around 8:30am. As what I’d seen, buses from Hinunangan going to Hilongos and Maasin would pass through Sogod.

When I got to Sogod, I quickly discovered that their tricycles were color-coded. The very first blue tricycle driver I spoke to had no idea where Magsuhot Park was, as did the next tricycle driver and the gasoline boy, but the second tricycle driver offered to take me to the bus terminal (the bus I was on did not stop by the terminal) where I could probably ask others, particularly red tricycle drivers.

Just like Hinunangan, there was not a lot of information online about Magsuhot Park. I knew there were other attractions in Sogod but I was bent on going to Magsuhot.

At the bus terminal, not even the locals heard about Magsuhot Park, not even the government worker who was stationed at the terminal. But they were very helpful in looking for someone who knew about the place.

Unfortunately, there was no one in the terminal who had a hint about it. So I tried contacting the tourism officer of Sogod who fortunately responded with the information I needed to get to Magsuhot Park (he had a personal emergency to attend to so he was not able to respond to me earlier). I believe it was Mr. Estillore that I talked to at 09212918027 (he’ll answer but please be mindful of that personal matter he has).

He told me to either take a jeepney going to Libagon or a red tricycle and just alight at the barangay hall of Brgy. Mahayahay. Since I had this information, I opted to just hire a habal-habal instead. His name was Junjun, a good man. He did not have his own phone but he said you can just ask for him if you’re at the terminal.

So we drove down to Brgy. Mahayahay and met a man who lived right beside the barangay hall. I forgot his name so I’ll just call him Manong Guide. From what he told me, he seemed to be the only guide there. Not even his neighbors had gone to Magsuhot Park, although they had heard about it. If you want to arrange a tour, you can contact him at 09069544165. He charges P250.

We started the hike around 9am. Junjun, the habal-habal driver, decided to go with us too. He would be much helpful later on.

While hiking, I would hear the conversations of Manong Guide and Junjun every now and then (I’m not much of an eavesdropper and I get lost in my own world too). They didn’t know each other but they talked non-stop. I knew they had a different Bisaya accent, similar to that in Bohol, but I further noticed they would change Y to J (such as layo to lajo and maayo to maajo). They would also drop their L much like the Cebu City Bisaya. I’m not really an expert on accents but the differences and the similarities were very noticeable.

Anyway, the start of the hike was somewhat easy. Junjun asked me if I was feeling okay and I told him that I was used to this, with our hike in Lawaan, Eastern Samar in mind. The rocks were still small and the rivers were still shallow. I would later regret saying this.

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A few minutes into the hike, Manong Guide pointed to me a natural spring and insisted that I take a picture of it because he said this might become the source of Sogod’s drinking water in the future. He added that this was not connected to the rivers and the falls.

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My habal-habal driver Junjun refilling his bottle of water.

 

After 45 minutes, we found what would have been the first waterfalls but it was without water.

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Manong Guide said that the water here had been redirected to become a water source, plus it was the height of summer.

After another fifteen minutes, we reached the mouth of what seemed to me like an open roofless cave. It was the start of the real challenge. It was a series of huge rocks and small waterfalls, with some deep river in between.

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When it was time to cross the deep water, I had to call Junjun to pull me. As much as I wanted to try my swimming skills here, it was too dark and too cold.

Then it was time to do rock climbing. This was perhaps the most dangerous part of the hike. There was no room for mistake. The foothold was too high for me, even at 5’11”, and damn it was on the other side. I wish I had taken pictures of it so I could give you a better image. If I fell, I would have fallen several meters to a rock underneath, then perhaps my body would roll into the deep ravine. My palms are sweating thinking about it now. It was exhilarating, yes. But I knew this was dangerous to non-rock-climbers like me. I hope they’d put a rope in here soon.

After that ordeal, we had to go through smaller boulders (still tough but I didn’t require assistance) and shallower waters until we reached what would be the end of the trail for me.

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There should have been another waterfalls, way taller than the one pictured, beside where I was standing when I took the picture, but because of the drought in Sogod and the rest of the Philippines, the water had dried up.

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Manong Guide said there was another level beyond that small waterfalls but I had to swim the 30-meter deep water again and climb a much harder rock before getting there. A rope again would have helped.

My guides were talking beside me about how Manong Guide once saw a huge fish here, how deep the water was when Typhoon Yolanda hit and how they would once let (what I assumed were) logs float down the river. I couldn’t grasp their entire conversation because, again, of their accent and, besides, I was busy imagining other things and tinkering with my camera.

I stayed here for 30 minutes. I didn’t feel any hurry because it was still not noon yet and there was no other people around except us three.

It was 11am when we started our way back. That rock I had trouble climbing up earlier now looked more difficult to climb down. So Junjun made himself a human bridge. He made me step into his shoulder so I could go down safely. Of course, I had to be pulled again when crossing that deep river.

We were able to get back to the barangay hall a few minutes after 12noon. Contrary to what I told my guides earlier, I now told them this was the most difficult I had ever done so far. It’s true and it was also very dangerous especially doing it solo.

I asked Junjun to drive me back to the bus terminal where I had lunch at a nearby restaurant, killed some time in the heat and decided to proceed to Hilongos where I would wait for Emma and Simon to make our way back to Cebu.