by Oggie Ramos
Photography by Oggie Ramos
I have a stubborn, hard-headed side that refuses to listen to advise that visiting Biliran in december may be fool-hardy. it’s still rainy out there says anthony of biliranisland.com. but i have other plans for the holy week break and i really, really wanted to visit Biliran soon. so i heeded this stubborn-side. oh, i did my research, booked my flights, made some plans. but i kept the itinerary loose as i was fighting some sort of fever and infection during the week leading to our Christmas-new year’s day break. there was also the budget to contend with, as a lot of billables would settle well after new year’s day. but still, off i went to Biliran on my own.
landing in Tacloban airport was thankfully uneventful. the 2 hour wait for the duptours van going to naval was a sleepy affair. finding marvin’s inn was a breeze and the staff was swell. it really is the best place to stay in out there. my first afternoon, i broke a personal cardinal rule of going out as soon as i’ve put down my bags in my room. feeling crappy from the effects of the fever and infection, i dread getting any sicker. but all i know is that tomorrow, i’ll feel better, what with the fresh air and the fresh stimuli. the pace is slow, the views of the mountains, the sea and the fields are invigorating. ahhh, i know, i’d like this place.
info: the fastest way to get to Biliran is to book a flight to tacloban. buses ply the tacloban to naval route (naval is the provincial capital) but vans are faster, taking just over 2 hours; fare: 120-130php. getting around: the habal-habal (motorcycle) is the most common mode of transportation as most of the roads outside the main highway are rough and rougher. haggle with the driver to get the best possible rates or hire on a per-day basis. there are also several buses that make the cross-country trip from naval to the eastern coastal town of caibiran, taking over 1.5-2 hours, one way. atm: there are Landbank and PNB atms in naval but bring enough cash as a precaution.
Biliran: day 1 – Dawning at Caibiran
jo, my habal-habal driver/guide, rang me up at 3.45am, perhaps unbelieving a guest would want to wake up and go cross-country at this hour. having rested during my first afternoon on the island gave me the impetus to wake up ahead of sked. so off to the eastern coastal town of caibiran we went, braving the early morning chill and the notoriously-rough, then rougher stretches of interior road in the dark. sleeping on a cloudy, drizzling night, the day opened with glorious, if cloudy, light. maybe, just maybe, coming here in december ain’t a bad idea after all (contrary to what biliranisland.com advised me, sorry anthony, i’m a stubborn fella). several mini-buses make the “cross-country” trip from the caibiran to naval and vice-versa, with the last trip around 1pm. the trip takes 1.5-2 hours on rough roads that offer scenic views of the sea and the mountains.
Biliran: Day 1 – Chilling out at Mainit
the mainit springs are oft-featured in travel sites and local tourism plugs but the falls are not. here’s a snap of the falls, compact but charming in its own way. nearer the road lies the hot and cold water springs. man-made dipping pools have been added to make it convenient for bathers to enjoy the waters without having to negotiate the rocky cascades.
Biliran: Day 1 – Finding Tinago
“Tinago” means hidden. and this falls, hidden amidst dense growth and a winding trail cannot remain hidden for long. it is another spectacle not to be missed, if the advice of local tourism billboards are to be considered.
Biliran: Day 1 – Falling over Casiawan
even before i went to Biliran, i told myself i won’t miss seeing Casiawan even if it means i won’t see anything else. it was as spectacular as i’ve read it is. the tallest falls in the province is also the most beautiful, imho. it’s an hour habal-habal drive from Caibiran and never mind the butt-numbing ride, it’s worth it.
Biliran: Day 1 – Final Stop at Kasabangan
our early start nearly prompted me to call it a day just after lunch when we chanced upon Kasabangan falls in Balaquid town. just when i thought the roads can get any rougher, here’s a rough stretch of roads out there in the rice fields that made my habal-habal driver nearly jump out into the tall grasses. just volunteered to walk the last kilometer to avoid mishap. the so-called monkey trail, which was built above the terrain to make navigating the place easier, was closed. had to wade in the water as far as i can safely go with my gear. the falls was just okay. but walking back to the jump-off point, chanced upon this scenery. the view just took my breath and fatigue away, what with Calubian Island framed by palm trees swaying in the soft breeze. it’s enough to turn one poetic.
Biliran: day 2 – Roughing it out in Bagongbong
a year of not climbing quickly showed me how much cardiorespiratory-challenged (as well as balance-deficient) i am now. putting bagongbong falls first in my itinerary for the day was a good decision. the hour-long trek through the muddy, slippery fields and dense growth made me wonder at times, what the heck i was doing. having buboy as our guide was swell. even got a welcome treat of eating fresh coconuts and drinking fresh coco juice on the way to and coming back from the falls. the place becomes even more memorable as i’ve lost the caps of my tripod in the falls, having gotten stuck in the sand underwater. but then again, great captures await the patient, perservering ones.
Biliran: Day 2 stop – Iyusan
the summer months may be the best time to visit iyusan terraces. but it’s interesting to note that with the mountainous terrain of Biliran, it’s but a natural step to adopt terrace farming like that practiced in the cordilleras. the difference here is that the terraces are hemmed in by grass, not by river rocks like the ones in benguet. here, my habal-habal driver/guide, jo, and i find some much-needed rest after our trip to Bagongbong.
Biliran: Day 2 Final Stop – Agta beach
my last stop for the day (and my biliran foto-trip) was the beach popular among the locals – agta. located just minutes away from the town of almeria, it is a bit noisy and littered. but the sunset can’t be beat, what with the view of Dalutan Island figuring in the distance.