It’s been a long time since I updated my blog and I had good reason-I took a 37 day biketour with a couple of friends around my country, the Philippines. As someone new to touring/long distance cycling, this ride was initially planned 2 years ago when I wanted to bike all the way from Manila to Tacloban, Leyte. But through the encouragement of friends in the community, we made it into a Philippine Loop. The succeeding sections (and entries) will walk you through our experience. But first some preliminaries…
You might think that our tour was an extensive one. I’d say our tour was a rough survey of the country-being an archipelago with several islands, biketouring the Philippines may take more than 37 days. Therefore, if you’re interested in getting information aside from the stuff I’ll share, you may refer to these pages as well https://www.facebook.com/nelography/ by Nelo Varias and http://bikepackingphilippines.blogspot.com/ by Arthur Reblando and Jaime Perez as these were helpful when we planned our own tour.
For those wondering about how our tour was done, I’d say we (riders) had a couple of common points of understanding which you may find helpful
- All of us had varying experiences in long distance cycling-nothing really serious such as joining professional races and all, but we were familiar about the physical, mental and financial demands of the activity.
- We weren’t really focused on just merely cycling the route but also devoted time to being a tourist in our country, pedaling our way leisurely with the intent of getting a sense of place and experience what each locale had to offer-food, other activities etc.
- In terms of budget, we pegged the estimated expenses at Php 1,000 a day (roughly 20 USD) for food and accommodation. The accommodation were mostly inns and lodges, hotels or resorts (there are many cheap ones with varying levels of quality in service and amentifies). Prices vary from 200-500 per person. Interestingly, the expenses for food and lodging become lower as you go deeper into the provinces (except the ones that are popular among tourists). One popular option that cyclists take would be to camp or stay in government facilities such Barangay (town) halls, Police stations or even basketball courts or waiting sheds which significantly lower expenses.
- Striking a healthy balance between safety and adventure were common concerns. This was evident when we had to change our itinerary midway and had to drop a significant portion of our trip in Mindanao where several skirmishes between rebel government forces were reported and we were advised by friends to consider rerouting our trip. Moreover, road conditions and dealing with annoying motorists in narrow roads was experience throughout the journey.
- Also, boat trips from different parts of the country were also a concern given that certain ports would offer trips in limited areas. Fees range between Php70 (Cebu to Dumaguete) to 2,000++ (Coron to Manila) and bikes also incur charges (between 100-250)
- Timing is crucial. We scheduled this tour in late february to make sure that the areas for touring would be generally dry and manageable.
Leg 1 of our tour took 7 days-starting from Manila to Matnog, Sorgsogon (estimated distance of 600++ km)
For day 1, we all converged at KM 0 in Manila to formally start the trip and pedaled to Quezon via Luisiana (to avoid heavy traffic) and ended up in Tayabas Quezon (roughly 130km). Luckily, we were accompanied by several riders who did a send off for the group.
In this day we passed by the popular Atimonan bypass road or commonly known as the “bituka ng Manok” (chicken’s intestines) which had several stretches of zigzag roads. We ended up at Villa Paraiso (https://www.facebook.com/villaparaisophilippines/) Caluag Quezon (estimated at 100km)
Day 3 was tough as we entered Camarines Sur and rode through the tough Quirino Highway going to Bicol. Though it was generally hot the whole day, we ended up at Del Gallego, Camarinus Sur (estimated at 80km).
This one turned out much better as we encountered cloudy weather with a bit of rain and made our ride through the rolling terrain of the Quirino highway less miserable. Though road construction has been a major obstacle due to several bumpy sections, we managed to get to San Fernando, Camarines Sur (estimated at 90km) and stayed at Tomoyuki inn before heading to Naga City (https://www.facebook.com/Tomoyuki-Travellers-Inn-1423675184608387/)
Though we wanted to head to Legazpi, Albay to see the popular Mayon Volcano, headwind and heat were major obstacles and had to take a significant number of breaks to regain our energy. We managed to visit the Cathedral in Naga City and decided to stay for the night at Camalig, Albay (Estimated at 95km). We stayed at the Kapistahan lodge (http://ww3.kapistahanlodgeandsuites.com/about-us) where we got to see a good view of the volcano early morning of the next day
We spent time at the Cagsawa Ruins in Albay where the old church tower and the full view of the volcano was in sight. After a couple of hours we headed to Sorsogon where a couple of friends were eagerly waiting for us to arrive. I recall the trip from Bicol to Sorsogon (estimated 105km) was a challenge as rolling terrain and certain sections of climbs were encountered coupled with dry spells of heat. Good thing our good Samaritans from Irosin, Sorsogon met us to bring us to a nice hot spring resort in the area.
Hot Spring Galore in Sorsogon (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)
For last day in Luzon for our loop, our good Samaritans Cyrk and Natalie of Irosin Sorsogon brought us to Bulusan lake-a popular site in the area. We were given a walking tour by the park staff and had lunch and coffee with our friends. Late afternoon we proceeded to the port of Matnog to take the Boat going to Eastern Visayas (estimated 25km).
Cover Photo courtesy of Sagada Loopers