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.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. Nicely and professionally-taken photos of natural beauty of the place.

    Nevertheless, it would have been nicer if you share some pot shots on some portions
    of the unpaved circumferential roads of the province as reminder to the politicians to do something about it.

    Wala unta nagsakit imong lubot pagsakay-sakay sa
    habal-habal ug sementado pa ang mga dalan.

    Make the power of your photo lenses and brain perspectives contribute for the improvement
    of the community you visited – not just explore
    (or exploit?) the natural beauty of the place.

    Thanks though for sharing.

  2. WOWWWWWWWWWWW

    You are one hell of a photographer!!! Ive been with the Tourism Council and was part of the earlier shots done for the Tourism promotion of Biliran but your shots are great! they are worthy of keeping for promotions and just for the pleasure of appreciating our beloved Biliran. I wish many Biliranons abroad will get to see these so their passion for Biliran will always be rekindled. Also for foreigners who love to venture to new places, the pictures could surely entice them. Again Congrats for the good work!!! and thank you for giving justice to God’s mighty creation.

  3. A great little article with some excellent photographs. Thanks very much Oggie. I can’t think of anything better to send to friends to say “This is where I live”.

  4. Nice photos.
    Can anyone tell me what the population of Naval is? Also, if I’m travelling to Naval, is it possible to hire a car in Tacloban and drive to Naval?

    Cheers,

  5. Hello Mr. Oggie Ramos. I am totally mesmerized of your short article with professionaly taken pictures! Yap, you’re a gift to our place. Thank you very much of posting your vacation experience back here.

    To Frank: I am Nards the Planning Officer of Naval, our town is about 45,000 of population. There must be car for hire in Tacloban. Just try to contact with their city planning office so that they may guide you where to negotiate beforehand. I dont recommend you to negotiate directly with people at the Tacloban airport.

    Thanks for considering of visiting our place. Welcome!

  6. to everyone, thank you very much for the warm welcome and response. i’m a first-time visitor to biliran and i intend to go back to explore more.

    batu-batu: i share your sentiment about the roads. i think biliran has a lot of tourism potential given the chance and better roads.

    dianne: thanks so much for the overwhelming response. i would surely love to capture more of biliran given the chance to go back soon.

    bill: i’m envious of your place of residence. would love to live there myself.

    nards: i would get in touch with you when i go back (i hope real soon). perhaps i can get your email address/mobile so i can contact you beforehand. i would really appreciate all the help i can get.

  7. Thank you for sharing your photographs to us.

    We will be glad to have you back again and spend a beautiful summer in Biliran.

  8. Beautifully done, overall.

    I feel your picture on Day 2 stop, Iyusan would have been an opportunity to showcase the happy people of Biliran. You could have added a fill flash to add details to the shot’s foreground and the face of the man.

    I’m sure the would-be travellers to Biliran would also love to see the faces of locals, children specially, featured in such a beautifully written travelogue as this. After all, a place is only as good the people who live in it.

    Again, nice job.

  9. i wish the best wishes to the biliranon,, sana pagbalik ko after 5 yrs. city na ang naval.. more power to the gov. nd d sanqa gaanung corrupt.

  10. i was in biliran last april 2006 with my kids .biliran island has its natural beauty.yes i agree with oggie that biliran has a lot of tourism potential,bec its all there the mountain and the beautiful beaches.hope to be back this summer.

  11. GREAT PICS. amazingly done. your photos can capture the hearts of those who see it. i’m from caibiran and thank you for visiting our place. we have so much to offer to tourists in terms of beautiful places. our province abounds with gifts of nature. kudos to you sir. hope to attract more tourists to visit our province.

  12. ana, i sure hope to be back this summer, too.

    jayvee, thanks bai. i’m a travel photographer and blogger who’s mission is to help fellow pinoys discover places like biliran which are not otherwise promoted as tourist destinations. i hope to visit again and take more photos.

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