Biketouring the Philippines: Leg 2 (Samar-Leyte)

In this entry, I detail our second leg of our biketour around the Philippines. If you’d like to know what happened during the first part, just click on this https://pedalpowerphilippines.com/2017/04/05/biketouring-the-philippines-preliminaries-and-leg-1-manila-to-matnog-sorsogon/?frame-nonce=e178fb8396

Our friends from Irosin, Sorsogon (approximately 600km away from Manila) brought us to the Mateo Cold and Hot Springs resort for a well-deserved R and R (we’re eternally grateful to Cyrk, Natalie and Paolo for the food, warm welcome and guidance) and the next day they brought us to Bulusan Lake and after a proper send off, we took the boat to Allen, Samar…

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our lodging at Irosin, Sorsogon
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Cyrk and Natalie sending us off to Matnog port (Courtesy of Natalie Grace Gestre)

Day 8 Allen to Calbayog

After taking the boat from Matnog we proceeded to Cyrk’s house in Allen, Samar for the night (we took the 8pm trip and the fare is Php170-fare and bike fee-don’t forget a bungee cord to secure your bikes at the cargo bay)

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off to Eastern Visayas
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All bikes secured

The next morning, we proceeded to Calbayog (approximately 50km away from Allen Port). The road was bumpy and it was particularly hot during the day making the climbs a bit difficult yet the view which gives a glimpse of the seaside makes the ordeal less miserable.

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Loving the climb! (courtesy of Rahnel Sison)
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Seaside view after a tiring climb in Samar (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)
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a long way to go

We decided to stay at the Coral reef beach resort…though it had a view of the beach we didn’t have access to the shore! Facilities were fairly ok but we managed to get through the night with a wonderful open cottage (1500 for a night and can fit as many as you can) (https://www.facebook.com/TCRBeachResort/).

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Entrance of the Resort

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Still sleeping!

photo op before leaving (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

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Day 9 Calbayog to Catbalogan, Samar

Traveling approximately 90kms, the trip to Catbalogan, Samar was even more challenging as we encountered several rolling hills and heat seemed to intensify as the day progressed…good thing though there were several stores along the way where we could rest and take advantage of the shade…Upon the recommendation of Cyrk, we proceeded to the fame hotel located in the heart of the city (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fame-Hotel/130987193726452). The facility had the basics, but it took an effort for us to bring our bikes to the second floor as the stairs were narrow and steep.

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Capitol Building in Catbalogan, Samar

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Fame Hotel Lobby

Day 10 Catbalogan to Calbiga, Samar (approximately 55km)

Our fortunes changed when weather turned out a bit better as we encountered fair skies…though the terrain had still the occasional climbs, it was fairly manageable…for this day we were greeted with  late afternoon rain (and it was freaking cold!)…we hoped to get to Tacloban but it was getting late and after I sustained a flat tire on my rear, we decided to call it a day at Calbiga, Samar…luckily the town is quite big and had many homestays (at least Php 200 per person per day) and people are eager to point you to the right direction.

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Enjoying soup while stranded
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the homestay at Calbiga-seems to be a home refurbished for lodging-air conditioned rooms are spacious and clean!

Day 11-12

Calbiga to Tacloban, Samar

I remember Mark (who does fieldwork in Mindanao and Visayas) reminding the group that as we approach Leyte, weather is far different compared to the Metro-and he was right-I recall waking up early and it was raining and it was unclear whether we’d be able to get to Tacloban on that day. Though we only needed to bike 60-65 kms to Tacloban, I was concerned about not reaching the Iconic San Juanico Bridge before sunset…True enough, we got to Tacloban at around 7 or 8pm and we weren’t able to get good photos of the longest bridge in the country…good thing the group decided to stay a bit longer as we wanted to go around town.

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At the entrance of the bridge with the ever accommodating Police Officers

The next day, aside from running errands we had our chance to see this beautiful bridge (it is said that the San Juanico Bridge is about 2.16kms long) that connects and Samar and Leyte.

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(S)Trolling the Bridge
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Crossing that iconic bridge (courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

 

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We stayed at the Luxury Suites hotel ((https://www.facebook.com/pages/Luxury-Suite-Hotel-Tacloban-Leyte/174721859269170)) and Yellow doors hostel (https://www.facebook.com/helloyellowdh/) in those days in Tacloban. Both had decent facilities, was quite accessible to other sites in downtown Tacloban and prices were fine (Php 1000 for 5 people at Luxury, and 550 per person at Yellow doors hostel)  compared to others around the area (some charged as high as Php 7,000 per room fit for two people!)

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Walking around Tacloban

I had a reunion of sorts with my former student and her family and i recall talking about the devastation brought about by Yolanda (typhoon Haiyan) several years ago…and she directed me to some sites which served as a reminder of that calamity…

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A nice reunion with my former graduate student, Glenda and her Family

Day 13 Tacloban to Mahaplag, Leyte

After a day’s rest we were up and pedaling again into the heart of Leyte and as we passed by different towns, we got to see different sites that commemorated those who were affected by typhoon Haiyan…

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MacArthur Park, Palo Leyte

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Among the many days in the loop, this stands out perhaps as a heavy day for me as we passed by the mass grave at Palo (which is said to be one of the most severely struck during the typhoon) and memorial marker at Tanuan to pay our respects to those who passed away because of this calamity…

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Memorial at Palo Cathedral

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Memorial marker at Tanuan, Leyte

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I recall this was a  long and physically challenging day as we needed to get to Mahaplag (approximately 90km away from Tacloban) and though the majority of the road was flat, things changed when we got to Abuyog, Leyte where unrelentless climbs were encountered…though weather was cool and breezy, very little lighting was present and made the trip more challenging. We ended this day at the Mahaplag inland resort, (https://www.facebook.com/MahaplagInlandResort/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf) a nice government run facility which charged a decent price (Php 1000 for four people) but was a fine accommodation.

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Mahaplag Inland Resort before leaving for Bato, Leyte

Day 14 Mahaplag Leyte to Port of Bato

Though we only needed to pedal  about 60kms, we took time in taking photos at the 1000km mark as well as the famous Agas-Agas bridge which is the highest in the country, I remember that aside from several kilometers of climbs, rain was light to heavy prompting us to stop several times to take shelter…The roads are wide and very few vehicles would pass by making our trip to the port of Bato manageable…good thing there was a police station at the town of Bato and led us to a lodging house beside the port (800 Php for four persons) and from there we rested for the next day’s boat trip to another part of the Philippines.

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1000km marker, Mahaplag, Leyte
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With the boys of Southern Leyte (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)
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Agas Agas Bridge
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View from afar
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Courtesy of Sagada Loopers

Some rider notes:

  1. Interestingly, the Samar-Leyte leg gives you a hint that foreigners often biketour  the area as we were often shouted at with expressions such as “Hey Joe”. Upon interviewing, some locals in different areas, this seems to validate the observation as indeed many European and American biketourers have frequented the area (which seems to be the case in other parts of the country as well).
  2. Roads are tolerable but certain sections are ridden with potholes (specifically ,the stretch from Allen to Calbayog due to many trucks travelling along the area as well as in Tacloban due to frequent road constructions). Be prepared as well to ride with EXTRA caution as traffic is a bit chaotic in the areas of Catbalogan and Tacloban.
  3. If you intend to biketour these regions, February is the perfect time as typhoon season is relatively over and summer heat isn’t as excruciating compared to the ones experienced in April and May (I am grateful to Glenda, my graduate student for reminding me to reschedule the loop from November to February as typhoon season is at its peak in the area during the closing months of the year).
  4. The path from Samar to Leyte is a scenic one. That is, you’ve got a combination of seaside views while riding and mountainous areas as you get deep into the heart of Leyte.
  5. This is where we first encountered a change in itinerary as we were supposed to head to Maasin City, Leyte for the Mindanao leg but we had to change our route due to reported skirmishes between rebel and government forces in Mindanao. Good thing, Cyrk and Natalie recommended that since we were heading to the port of Bato, we would also pass by Agas Agas bridge which was a nice landmark in this leg.

Cover photo courtesy of Sagada Loopers (taken at San Joaquin, Samar)

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