Travel Diary: A Weekend Side Trip to Biri Island, Samar

“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I”  

Psalm 61:2


Fun facts

  • BIRI ISLAND is called as the “Battle of the Gods”. You can imagine that a war between the seas is alive and Biri is in the crossfire.
  • The name “BIRI” was derived from the Spanish word to “barrer”, meaning to sweep.
  • Biri is a relatively small island, at just 24 SQ. KM in size.
  • But what sets it apart from other islands are its gigantic rock formations.
  • The place is untouched, peaceful and laid-back. The town brims with a peaceful, friendly atmosphere that the locals here effortlessly create.
  • Best time to go is from March to May when the weather is good and the sea is restful.
  • Maupay ha Lugar Samar! which means a beautiful place! Locals speak a dialect that is a combination of Bicol and Waray.
  • Do you still remember the 2003 Spirit Warriors Movie by Chito S. Roño? Most of the scenes were taken in the place.
  • Presently, Biri is a favorite destination for couples pre-wedding shoot. 

How to get there

Via  Sorsogon, Bicol

  • Take a ferry-boat ride from Matnog to Allen, Northern Samar. Travel time is 2 hours.
  • The operations of the ports are 24/7 so you can cross anytime.
  • Santa Clara Shipping and Montenegro Shipping Lines have trips from Matnog as early as 2 AM daily. A one-way fare cost ₱120.
  • From Allen, ride a jeep going to Lavezares.
  • There are also bigger boats going directly from Matnog to Biri Island.

Via Catarman

  • Only Philippine Airlines remains the big airline that operates going to the place.
  • PAL’s flights as of November 2017 are scheduled 3 times weekly (every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday) at 5:15 AM, the best time of the day because it gives you more time to explore the island that same day.
  • Travel time: 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • However, one-way regular fare costs around ₱6,000. PAL does not offer budget economy to Catarman. 

Saving Tips: Instead of a flight to Catarman, you can take a flight to Tacloban (which usually offers budget economy fare/promo fare) plus it flies daily to Tacloban and then just follow the itinerary via Tacloban City since you will do the same itinerary starting from Catarman.

Via Tacloban City

  • From Tacloban, ride a tricycle to Abucay Terminal
  • Then take a van from Abucay to Catarman
  • However, travel time requires a 6-hour land travel from Leyte to Northern Samar.

From Catarman Terminal

  • Ride a jeepney from Catarman Terminal going to Lavezares port.
  • Travel time is 1 hour. Cost is ₱50.

From Lavezares Port

  • Find a boat going to Biri Island. For a normal day and the boat is full, the cost is ₱50.
  • But when there are few passengers and you want to minimize the waiting time in the boat, you can opt to pay for the remaining passengers or split costs with other passengers. Travel time is 30-45 minutes.

From Biri Port

  • Take a habal-habal going to your guesthouse or hotel. Usual cost per person is ₱10.                                                                                                                                                                             

Hello BIRI! 🙂IMG_0307How to get around

  • The Tourism Office will provide the driver/tourist guide.
  • This is already a part of the government fees that you will pay before you can tour to the rock formations.

Where to stay/How long to stay

  • For leisure travelers and divers, Biri Island Dive and Resort Center located centrally in town would be your best option. They provide all equipment for divers and snorkelers alike. Room rates start at ₱1,500/night good for two persons.
  • For budget travelers, there are many cheaper options like homestays and guesthouse which costs from ₱100 to ₱500 per night.
  • We came from Palo, Leyte where we were so exhausted from our official travel, so we really wanted to have a more comfortable stay, even if it means paying more.
  • We stayed at Villa Amor for that cozy stay. The rate is ₱1800 per night good for 4 to 5 persons.
  • Since the electricity on the island is only available from 12 noon to 12 midnight. Take the room with large windows on the second floor.

IMG_0254 (1)What to do / Where to go

  • The rock formations are the primary reason tourists visit Biri. 
  • There are six major rock formations on the northern side of Biri Island called Magasang, Magsapad, Macadlaw, Puhunan, Bel-at, and Caranas.
  • There is a progress trail for Macadlaw, Puhunan, Bel-at, and Caranas, which look like it was purposely arranged on the shore to knock off the rough waves approaching the island. Magasang and Magsapad, are on the other side.

Day 1 (3PM onwards)IMG_0359IMG_0360On our way to Bel-at rock formation. A hundred meters of wooden boardwalk traverses the mangrove area. It connects the main road to the foot of the rock formation.IMG_0358IMG_0357IMG_0356IMG_0355IMG_0352IMG_0351IMG_0350IMG_0349IMG_0338IMG_0337Caranas rock formation.IMG_0335IMG_0334IMG_0331IMG_0329IMG_0327IMG_0324IMG_0322IMG_0321 (9)IMG_0319With all the rock formations visited that day, I enjoyed Caranas the most. The sharp and edgy lines formed on its sides, the grand boulders surrounding its base and having a moment and pictorial with friends!IMG_0318 Spend more time in Bel-at and Magasang, where the natural pools are located.IMG_0317IMG_0315 (7)IMG_0314 (6)IMG_0312 (5)IMG_0311 (4)IMG_0310IMG_0308Day 2  IMG_0306 (3)IMG_0305IMG_0304IMG_0285IMG_0282IMG_0281IMG_0280IMG_0278IMG_0277IMG_0276IMG_0274

IMG_0273Buwis Buhay! 😀IMG_0272IMG_0269IMG_0266The natural saltwater pools at Bel-at and Caranas.IMG_0265Where visitors can enjoy swimming in clear water.

IMG_0259The bridge going to Magasang.IMG_0256 (2)IMG_0258IMG_0257

For other activities, there are surfing spots and dive spots too in the areas of Geron and Caranas. If you’re staying at Biri Resort, you can also go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding.

Where to eat

There are several sari-sari stores and eateries in the area where most of the homestays, lodging house and inns are located. You can always order fish balls, eggs, canned goods or even instant noodles if you get hungry and you want an instant solution.

We had our dinner at the eatery in front of the Biri Municipal Hall beside the tourism office. Aside from meal choices, they also serve silogs. 

Most guesthouse in the place serves breakfast. For our last day, we had our breakfast at Villa Amor since the caretaker accepts cooking requests, too.

Tips and Other Information

  • It is strictly prohibited to visit the rock formations without a tour guide accredited by the Local Government Unit.
  • You need to pass by the Municipal Tourism Office to register and pay the Tourism Fee and Government Fees before visiting the rock formations.
  • The electricity on the island is only available from 12 noon to 12 midnight.
  • Consider the tide schedules when visiting the island. The best time to reach the rock formations is at low tide.
  • Cash only please! Bring enough cash. Mode of payment on the island is cash basis.
  • If you want a contact person/habal-habal/tour guide, contact Alvin: 0905-415-5995. He has good photography skills. Alvin took all of our group photos! 🙂

See Sample Itinerary and Expense

Day & Time Activity  Actual Expense per Person
Saturday    
4:00 AM Jeep from Palo to Tacloban (McDonalds)

 ₱ 30.00

4:15 AM Tricy to Abucay Terminal

                 30.00

4:25 AM Van from Abucay Terminal to Catarman Terminal                350.00
10:25 AM Tricy from Catarman Terminal to Gaisano Mall                    5.00
10:30 AM Lunch at Greenwich                126.00
12:00 NN Tricy from Gaisano Mall to Cataraman Main Terminal                     5.00
12:05 NN Jeep to Lavezares                  50.00
1:05 PM Boat to Biri Island *paid for the remaining passengers                150.00
1:50 PM Habal-habal to Villa Amor                  10.00
2:00 PM Check-in/Sleep/Wash at Villa Amor                450.00
3:15 PM Habal-habal to Tourism Office                  10.00
3:20 PM Government Tourist Fees (inclusive of 1 tourist guide/driver/photographer)                220.00
3:30 PM Start tour
6:30 PM Dinner                105.00
Sub-Total

 ₱1,541.00

Sunday
6:00 AM Start tour

 ₱ 207.00

8:00 AM Breakfast at Villa Amor                  37.00
8:30 AM Habal-habal from Villa to Port *fare included in the driver/tour guide fee
8:40 AM Boat to Lavezares  *paid for the remaining passengers (see photo below)                175.00
8:45 AM Jeep from Lavezares to Catarman                  50.00
9:45 AM Drop by Catarman Gaisano/Lunch at Jollibee                  95.00
11:30 AM Tricy from Gaisano to Catarman terminal                     5.00
11:35 AM Van from Catarman to Tacloban                350.00
5:35 PM Bus to Ormoc *purchased ticket to Cebu is via Ormoc                150.00
7:40 PM Dinner at McDonalds Ormoc                128.00
2:00 AM Karaoke/Tambay                100.00
7:30 AM Ormoc to Cebu *reschedule ticket fee                100.00
Sub-Total

 ₱ 978.00

Total

 ₱ 2,519.00

IMG_0252
Boat from Biri to Lavezares. Muuli na gyud mi! 😉 Gipangkapoy jud sila! 😀

Saving Tips (Ormoc to Cebu)

Instead of getting a room in a hotel which will cost us ₱500 each, we decided to stay/Tambay at McDonald’s until it closes at 2 AM and then transferred to a Karaokehan near the Ormoc Municipal Hall until 5 AM before proceeding to Ormoc port. We waited for about 2 hours for our 7:30 AM boat schedule to Cebu. If you think you need to sleep than to sing, what I did was sleep at the Karaokehan and let my friends woke me up just before we are about to leave. 😀

I love work-related travels especially if it gives us the opportunity to do side trips after. It’s always fun to create special and unique memories with friends from work. You are guaranteed good company with people you know you get along well with. If things go wrong, you know someone else will be there with you to help you get through it. 

 

’til the next side trip! 🙂

Keep wandering & wondering, 

AC💋

 

 

*All photos are mine unless otherwise stated. 🙂

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