Tag Archives: southern leyte

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.

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Hinunangan, Southern Leyte

Video courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.

A couple of months ago when we went to Eastern Samar, my friend Emma mentioned that they were having a family reunion in Hinunangan in May. She invited us to join her but I myself wasn’t exactly sure because, after all, that’s a family reunion and I’m nowhere near related to Emma by blood. However, another part of me was pushing me to go because I haven’t been to Southern Leyte yet.

My constant travel buddy Jao and I were only able to finalize our plans to go there about a week before the trip, so off I went to create the itinerary.

My biggest dilemma was the transportation going in and out of Hinunangan. There was limited information online about Hinunangan and there was virtually nothing about the situation of buses going there. We also didn’t know anyone with knowledge about the place. Emma’s immediate family lives in Tacloban so she wasn’t also sure about how to get to Hinunangan.

Thankfully, after a few days of searching, I was able to find the contact information of Mr. Alan Mogueis, the tourism officer of Hinunangan according to this site: http://toursouthernleyte.net/index.php/contact-us. He gave me enough information about how to get to Hinunangan from Hilongos and how to get to San Pedro and San Pablo Islands.

It was 9 o’clock on Friday night when we boarded a Roble ferry going to Hilongos, which is the closest entry point to Hinunangan if you’re coming from Cebu.

I need to mention though that something must be done with the passenger management at the Cebu port. All passengers, including those boarding other ferries,  were stuck at Pier 1 with very little ventilation because they require passengers to check in at Pier 1 first before proceeding to the actual pier (in our case, Pier 4) where the ferry was docked. The staff wouldn’t let the passengers out because we had to wait for the bus. They could have just opened the gate and asked those willing to walk to just walk.

It was already around 10pm when the ferry left Cebu. We only had sitting accommodations so we had to make do with sleeping upright. We arrived at the Hilongos port around three in the morning.

I was informed by Mr. Mogueis a few days before that Roble provides buses for its passengers that could take us directly to Hinunangan. While we were still on the ferry, however, we heard conversations that there were only a limited number of buses so they might not be able to accommodate everyone. So once we got down from the ferry, we ran to get to those buses but our effort wasn’t enough because the first two buses were already full. We were then informed that there was another bus outside the pier going to Silago which would pass through Hinunangan. So we rode a potpot (Leyte’s version of trisikad) to take us to that bus. We paid P50 (P20 each for the fare and P10 for the “entrance fee” – we were going out of the pier so that “entrance fee” was a bit iffy).

There were still enough seats on the bus when we got there so comfort wasn’t really a problem. Fare from Hilongos to Hinunangan was P160 and travel time was three and a half hours.

We arrived in Hinunangan around 7:30am and we were warmly welcomed by Emma’s family, despite our non-relation to them. Emma wouldn’t be able to join us because she had a reunion to participate in, so it was only me, Jao and Simon who were going to San Pedro Island.

Around 9:30am, Emma’s uncle drove us to the market where we hired a tricycle going to the port for San Pedro and San Pablo islands for P70. Mr. Mogueis told me that there were passenger boats that could take us to the islands for P25 per head (to San Pedro) and P30 per head (to San Pablo). But Jao and Simon wanted a boat that could take us in the middle of the sea and could wait for us, so we hired our own boat for P600.

Our first stop was at a spot near the shore where it was deep enough for Jao to dive. Aside from his own, he also brought with extra goggles and snorkeling gear that Simon and I could use.

There were no life vests so there was no backup whatsoever for me this time. I practiced my swimming skills the prior week. I knew I could move in the water especially with the snorkeling mask on but this was the first time I was ever this deep without a life vest.

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It felt liberating the moment I let go of the katig. I enjoyed that moment. I might not be the diver that is Jao now (although I’m hoping to be one in a few months), but I thought it was good enough for me. A few minutes in though and I panicked in the water. Good thing our boat operator (boatman? captain of the boat?) saw me immediately and threw himself into the water to save me. I was then pulled back to the katig.

This incident didn’t deter me though from swimming more throughout the day. But to keep me safe, they got me a salbabida (a lifebuoy).

We transferred to the next spot which was their marine sanctuary. But I had to come to shore first to pay the P50/head fee. There were a few fishes here. Blue clean waters. And Jao enjoyed his time underwater.

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We spent most of our time here. And nothing bad happened to me here! Yehey!

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After spending a couple of hours at the marine sanctuary, our boatmen requested to have the boat docked to shore so they could have their lunch. We’re not jerks so we happily complied.

I spent time wading through the shallower water, frustrated that it wasn’t that deep enough. I’m kidding. In fact, I was even too scared to go farther because there was an underwater cliff a few meters away.

When our boatmen were done with their lunch, we decided to make one last stop at another spot.

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I was feeling confident with my snorkeling now so I had to go down. Jao asked me to take underwater shots of him. This was when the current started pushing me away (I really need to strengthen these legs for kicking) and I started panicking again. Jao was quick to save me and thankfully there was another local swimming nearby who pulled us back to the safety of our boat.

Phew! That was a whole lot of near drowning. No flashback of my life happened so I don’t think it’s true for some people. Or maybe I’m an undiagnosed sociopath.

For some reason I enjoyed the experience. I know I might have caused some stress to my friends who were there. But geez, that was quite an experience for me.

We went back to the mainland around 3pm and I gave the boatmen a little extra as tip. One of them saved me after all.

We went back to Emma’s grandmother’s house (phew that’s a lot of aprostrophe S) but we would leave again to visit the Calagitan Fish Sanctuary. Entrance fee was P10 per head. I didn’t get down the water here so I just watched my companions jump from the dock and snorkel around.

We left when night fell. The people working at the sanctuary said there were sharks and other dangerous creatures coming at that time so it was best to stay out of the water.

We had dinner at the reunion party of Emma’s family, much to our embarrassment. Then we slept the night off inside a tent. Yes, it was my first time sleeping in a tent!