Bike Touring the Philippines: Leg 4 (Cebu)

On our way back home from Cagayan de Oro, Northern Mindanao, we took a boat to the Island of Cebu, which is located mid-east of the Philippines. As a center of commerce in the Visayas, it is to a certain extent modernize yet keeping the countryside charm which every biketourer clamours for. In this entry, I detail our experience in this leg of our Philippine bike tour in Cebu

Day 20 Cebu port to Argao (Approximately 68km)

We arrived early morning (about 5am) at Cebu city port taking the Cokaliong liner (Php 890 per person, economy accommodation) and proceeded to southwest to Argao. Though we initially planned to just stay at Carcar City, our ride was quite fast compared to the previous days since the terrain was straightforward. Very few climbs and weather was perfect. Though we encountered moderate traffic in the city proper, we eventually speed past the slow build-up of vehicles as we went away from the center.

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heading south (courtesy of Rahnel Sison)

The day was special as we dropped by the popular Carcar city public market. For those (un)familiar, Cebu prides itself of its native Lechon (roasted pig) and we were told that Carcar public market sells them at a cheaper price and are very fresh from the grill (Php300 per kilo). After lunch, coffee and a nap at a nearby café, we headed to Argao, Cebu and ended up staying at Looc Beach Resort.

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Carcar City Market
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inside the market where the good stuff is!

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Jun excited for this roasted delicacy!
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Our accommodation for our first day in Cebu (1100 good for 4-5 persons, fan room)

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Jun and Rahnel by the Sea, Argao Cebu (courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

Day 21 Argao to Oslob (approximately 52km)

Though it was hot that day, we managed to ride out early and enjoy the countryside. Heading south meant getting farther, deeper into the province where the sea and heavy patches of trees were commonplace. We spent time at the town of Boljoon which had an old church  and school constructed in earlier times. Eventually we reached Oslob and stayed at a pension home.

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early ride out (courtesy of Sagada Loopers)
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en route to Boljoon, Cebu
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Boljoon Town Proper
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Old school built in the 1900s

 

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our accommodation at Oslob (1,000 Php good for 4 persons, airconditioned room)

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Spanish Era Buildings in Oslob
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the old town buildings

 

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at the Oslob Museum (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

Day 22 Oslob to Santander port (approximately 34km)

The next morning, we decided to go around town and enjoy Oslob. Though we weren’t really in to the Whaleshark offering, we wanted to go to Tumanog falls only to find out that trips there via motorcycle were a ripoff. Instead, we went around the old buildings such as the church, old town walls built during the Spanish era. In the afternoon we proceeded to Santander port to take the next boat to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental.

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en route to Santander (courtesy of Sagada Loopers)
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S(Trolling) by the sea
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off to the next island

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Rider Notes and Reflections:

 

  1. I’ve biked in Cebu a few years ago and this province remains to be one of those havens for cyclists due to the many tourist spots and trails one can visit.
  2. As far as taking boats are concerned, the Cokaliong liner remains as the best so far as the boats are “bikefriendly” (plenty of ramps, accommodating and helpful staff and very clean and spacious)
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at the ship by Cokaliong Liner

3. In terms of cuisine, you might find food in Cebu a bit salty and you would need to brace yourself for this as the food experience might be a bit awkward at first.

4. I was a little disappointed with our experience in Oslob as tours offered by the locals change in prices and are aimed at foreigners. For instance, as claimed by the caretaker of our pension home, the motorcycle ride we were supposed to take at Tumanog falls costs just 50 pesos but when we got to deal with the drivers, they claim it is Php150. Morover, though many suggested the whaleshark tour, we weren’t in favor of it as it is against sustainable tourism practice, -feeding the whalesharks-effectively disrupting their natural patterns of living.

5. I’d say, this leg of the biketour is the start of our “food coma” as cuisine is definitely memorable as with the remaining destinations of our tour going home.

6. for the previous leg in our tour, check this out https://pedalpowerphilippines.com/2017/04/14/bike-touring-the-philippines-leg-3-bohol-cagayan-de-oro/

7. The Santander port is a small and you may need to seek the help of locals who can direct you to the area. The fee for the trip from Cebu to Dumaguete is 70 Php.

 

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)

Biketouring the Philippines: Preliminaries and Leg 1 (Manila to Matnog, Sorsogon)

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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)
  6. 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.

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Convergence at KM0

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early morning snack

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At Pagsanjan, Laguna

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accommodations for day 1 (Casitas Hotel at Tayabas, Quezon)
 

 

Day 2,

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)

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Segment of the Bituka ng Manok, Atimonan Quezon

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our bikes before the climb

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Along the abandoned port in Gumaca Quezon (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)
 

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posing by the shores of Lopez Quezon (courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

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with the whole gang at the Quezon National Park, Atimonan (L-R Buboy Perez, Jun Ureta, Rahnel Sison, Ayla Ellis and Mark Lester Braga)
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).

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Entering Bicolandia

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A nice afternoon chat over cool refreshments

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Accommodations for day 3 (https://www.facebook.com/JardinDeArs/)
 

Day 4

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/)

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nice restaurant along the road that serves spring chicken

Day 5

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

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Basilica Minore, Naga City

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A bit late and cant see the volcano
 

Day 6

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.

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Entrance to the Cagsawa Ruins

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With the whole group (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

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The old church tower
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Hot Spring Galore in Sorsogon (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

 

Day 7

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).

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Stunning view of Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon

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the walking tour

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Visiting the Cold Spring

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Our wonderul good samratians (L-R: Cyrk Lim, Natalie Gestre and Buboy Perez)

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my mentees’ hometown
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Finally leaving Luzon
Cover Photo courtesy of Sagada Loopers

 

Bike Adventure: Singapore to Pengerang, Malaysia

For the past two years in doing long distance trips on a bike, I’ve never had a chance to do cross country cycling. Probably due to our state of living in an archipelago in the Philippines (as well as visa restrictions in a lot of parts of the world), bike touring from country to country is definitely a logistic problem.

However, in this adventure, I was fortunate to be guided with one experienced bike tourer-Sk Lah of Tree in Lodge (https://www.facebook.com/TreeInLodge/) to cycle from Singapore to Pengerang, Malaysia. Though it is common here to bike from SG to Johor Bahru, Malaysia via the causeway, the itinerary for this one was different. Instead of cycling with other vehicles in a massive highway, we took another route by boat.

Penegerang, Malaysia is  part of the Kota Tinggi District and I was told that it was a large area where fishing villages thrived. As of late, the place has been undergoing massive development due to the petroleum industry.

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rough and raw 

Leaving Saturday night, four riders and I left the Tree in Lodge to head to the Changi Ferry Terminal. Taking the east coast park connector, we pedalled 30km from our hostel and camped in one of the camping spots.

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Bike Tourers Robbie and Mackenzie from the US, SK Lah and Yew Phuah
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At the East Coast PCN
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Camping for a couple hours of Sleep

At the break of dawn, we headed to the terminal after breakfast at Changi Village. The bumboat ride to Pengerang took an hour and costs 14 SingDollars.

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Changi Ferry Terminal
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loading the Recumbent Tandem
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Inside the Bumboat

Upon reaching port in Malaysia and getting cleared, we started pedalling to head to Sungai Rengit. The road was quite wide and traffic was light since it was a Sunday. We had lunch at the town and was supposed to head to  Belungkor Port while passing by the coastline where several small houses or Chalets were situated…

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An Old World War 2 Bunkey

 

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A Chinese Temple after Sungai Rengit
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Nice, well paved open road
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All that green
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Road Marker to Johor Bahru

Our trip was cut short because of a flat rear tire. Sk tried to fix but it seemed like a lemon and after three flats along the way, we decided to get a bus and a cab getting back to the port. In total we clocked in 70km and was halfway through the area…perhaps next time we’ll do this again

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Ferry on the way home
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Map and places to visit in the district

Some tips for tourers:

  1. If you intend to do a daytrip or extended tour from SG to other countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and others, this would be a good entry point as the view is great, costs are manageably low and there are plenty of homestays for you.
  2. Be sure to bring lights and there are no light posts on the road.
  3. If you intend to tour this place, consider doing this on a Sunday as there are very few vehicles passing by on weekdays and Saturday

Bike Adventure: Raffles Marina Lighthouse

On my first weekend in Singapore, I was fortunate to join a cycling group, Love Cycling Singapore to the iconic Raffles Marina (Johor Straits) Lighthouse.

 

Dubbed as one of the iconic lighthouses in the state, this is a reminder of Singapore’s rich history.   In addition, a glimpse of the second causeway to Malaysia makes it a picturesque place to see.

Coming from my hostel, I decided to go bimodal via train (Outram Park to Haw Par Villa Station) and pedalled my way (a short distance) to West Coast Park.

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bimodal blues

For a group ride, this was a large one and I got to see different bikes. Heading west, we proceeded to Tuas and passed by the industrial zone. The distance wasn’t too long (about 25km one way) but the heat was quite intense and there were plenty of trucks on the way.

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West Coast Park with the Group

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Mini Cargo Fattie!
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Nice Recumbent

I was also happy that a fellow Filipino joined the ride. Joel from Angeles, Pampanga who has been working here for quite some time was very kind and told me about nice routes to try around Singapore.

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Fellow Filipino Rider, Sir Joel

 

As we entered Marina Raffles where the lighthouse is located, we walked a little to get to the tip of the resort and there it was…that iconic structure and that causeway leading to Malaysia makes you want to pedal further as you see a country several strokes away (maybe on another trip)

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All in Line

Overall, I found the experience enriching as I got to interact with other riders and got to know their views about cycling and epic trips…it’s a Monday (again) tomorrow but I look forward to the next weekend for (hopefully another trip)

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I hope to see this again at Night!

On getting lost: My first group ride in Singapore

Whenever I get to stay in a different country, I’m always excited to ride my bike and see the country’s different aspects. While the typical tourist will flock to popular spots, I prefer to see how life is in different areas.

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was supposed to go to Mt. Faber but ended up here!

It isn’t my first time to bike in Singapore…but it isn’t my first time as well to get lost…even with a map, I still end up in a different place!

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just follow that lane

But today, getting lost was a fortunate thing for me as I got to ride with the Brompton club based in Singapore.

As I was riding along Marina Boulevard, I happen to see Ejin and I was told that there was going to be group ride to Chinatown…

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The first Brompton rider i met, Ms. Ejin Ang
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the rest of the Brompton Riders of SG
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pre-ride photo op
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en route to Chinatown

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When we arrived, the place is quite packed, you could feel that excitement and cheer for the  Chinese New Year.

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The Rooster

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At the Bazaar

I’m thankful to have met them as I was oriented on group cycling in SG…The ride was relaxed-nothing really stressful. Overall, this was a nice experience with a group abroad and I look forward meeting more riders in the future and who says getting lost was bad?

Initial impressions on Exustar SS503 cycling sandals

One reality of bike touring is the likelihood of bad weather at the middle of any trip and nothing will annoy you more with wet shoes and socks for the duration of the ride. Luckily, one bikeshop in Manila got new stocks of these Exustar sandals (check on Bike One cycles https://www.facebook.com/bikeonecyclemart/?fref=ts)…last week, a couple of friends and I got a pair and tested these on some rides15934165_10208335259805808_956916846_o.jpg

 

The Exustar SS503 MTB sandals has several straps that can be adjusted to get that perfect fit. Sporting a top guard, this adds protection during rides…best of all, these are SPD cleats compatible allowing you to ride even on rainy days!

For the past days, ive used the sandals in three trips using my Brompton, Surly Crosscheck and Troll. The total distance traveled by the four trips is about 120km of urban commute

Since the brompton didn’t have clipless pedals, the cleats wasn’t an issue in terms of riding comfort. That is, the cleats are positioned deep enough so it wouldn’t be a problem when riding with ordinary pedals and no metal clashing the ground was experienced while walking (this may be the perfect footwear if you’re strolling on a bike and eventually would tour places on foot)

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For my experience with the Troll and Crosscheck which had Shimano SPD pedals, the sandals worked flawlessly with my rig. Though initially, the cleats were a bit tight in terms of engagement, they were easy to take out during stretches of traffic or sudden stops…

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Overall, though I only had a couple of bike commutes with these sandals, I felt these are perfect for touring as you can wear them without socks (I didn’t feel skin irritation on my ankles or different parts of my feet as observed in other sandals). Also, these sandals may be ideal for those doing cycling/trekking trips as the cleats do not hamper your movement while walking (no metal scratching the ground sound as well!). and best of all, these save up on weight as you don’t need to bring slippers when on tour.

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A caveat though is that some users have suggested that you need to have the soles sewn in a shoe shop to prevent damage on the soles which may be caused by exposure to water during trips. I’ve followed this suggestion and hopefully, these will make the sandals more durable.

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On the Joys and Pains of Single Speed Cycling

I’m sure that those of you who have started out riding as a kid, first used a single speed bike. It was fun, tiring yet very much fulfilling. When I bought a bike in late 2012 after almost two decades of not using  one, I found gears quite complicated. Though the learning curve was manageable, I felt that riding a bike has become so complex because of the developments in technology (yes, there’s 12 speed gearing now)…but after a couple of years bike commuting, and recently touring, I’ve had a renewed interest in having single speed as part of my stable.

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Arnold Rivera Herrera’s Surly 1×1 after a day tackling trails (Courtesy of Arnold Rivera Herrera )

So why single speed?

It’s simple. Let’s face it. Single speed bikes boast of that clean build. No shifters, corresponding cables and all those gears and derailleurs. It’s clean as it is.

 

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Anton Giron and Jacobo Santiago’s single speed rigs in Infanta, Quezon (Courtesy of Jacobo Santiago)

It’s (almost) maintenance free. Given its simplicity, single speed bikes are easy to maintain-no tune ups, very little adjustments and all those complex things we need to consider with our geared bikes arent a concern anymore.

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My Surly Troll en route to Tagaytay

It saves us stress and worries. Since some of us take a bus going home after a tour, we need not worry about small parts getting crushed or damaged in the compartment. I remember when I did Vigan last October, I just practically removed the front wheel and just stashed my bike on the compartment without being hyperconscious about my drivetrain or cockpit.

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My Surly Crosscheck during the Manila-Vigan Tour

For those doing long distance cycling, single speed riding affords you greater opportunities to get better at pacing and strengthening endurance. As they say, you’re likely to be always in the wrong gear (too slow on flats, too heavy during climbs)-and that allows you to study gearing vis-à-vis route details closely. I’d always think of this during difficulties when using SS-it’s always humbling to travel on your own powers!

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Jim Dell’s Surly Straggler at the Sungay-Talisay Climb (Courtesy of Jim Dell)

But perhaps the nicest thing about single speed cycling is that, it has that charming sentimentality behind it. Personally, I found single speed cycling a tribute to our youth…where cycling was all about adventure and exploration of the great unknown.

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Vincent Palisoc’s SSCX Crosscheck during the ride of hope last 2016 (North Luzon Loop, Courtesy of Vincent Palisoc)

For some who might wonder who’s touring on single speed check, these riders out and hopefully that might inspire you to consider having that ss build for touring!

Markus Stitz’ world tour using single speed

http://markusstitz.com/round-the-world-singlespeed/

Jaime Perez and Arthur Reblando and company’s Cavite to Mindanao Bike tour

https://www.facebook.com/bikepackingph/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

Ride of hope with Vincent Palisoc and company (North Luzon Loop)

https://www.facebook.com/thebreakawayph/

 

featured image-courtesy of Cyrus Misoles (Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Ilocos Sur-Manila to Pagudpud ride)

 

Christmas, the Good Samaritan and the Cyclist

When pedalling long distances, there are so many expectations for the rider. To be self-sufficient, to ride strong, and composed…but many take for granted the role of important people who make our trip successful and perhaps less miserable-The good Samaritan…

I’ve heard of countless stories of how good Samaritans-total strangers-have offered whatever it is needed by the biker. Whether it be food and drink, shelter, mechanical assistance or even company, these Good Samaritans are a beacon of hope for riders heading towards great distances isolated from family and friends for many days.

My first encounter with a good Samaritan was in June 2015 when I and several members of the Centurion Cycling Club did a long distance cycling trip to Baguio (estimated distance is 270km from Manila)…after pedalling the whole night and early day, we made our climb  in the afternoon. And as I recall hard rain hit us at Kennon Road…witnessing rainwater bringing in soil and rock and vehicles rushing through the road…two of our companions who were ahead of us shouted …they took refuge in a small store…The old lady in the counter allowed us to stay in her small space and even offered food and other stuff to buy and allowed us to stay for the night…What I recall is that she warned us not to ride it out as land/rockslides might put everyone in danger…Most of us didn’t make it up that last climb to Baguio (and we have unfinished business with this route)…but we will never forget the kindness of that good Samaritan…

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members of the Centurion Cycling Club on that Baguio ride

As time passed by, doing several multiday tours, good Samaritans have always been a part of the success of our trips…offering their space to rest during intense heat or rain, offering cold drinks or coffee,a hot meal, or even a place to stay for the night.

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Ate Anitz from Carranglan, Nueva Ecija during Sagada loop 43 (Woman in White)
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Sir Jun of Bagabag Airport, Nueva Vizacaya during Sagada Loop 45 (man in yellow)
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Ate Ella of Banaue (Woman in white with a Child) during Sagada Loop 45
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Ate Doris of Sabangan, Mountain Province (Woman at the center) during Sagada Loop 45

This holiday season, we are reminded of the good Samaritan for two things. Unlike the regular tourist, these good Samaritans are never part of the tourist spectacle. That is, they are never obligated to help or assist or even entertain the tourist-they are regular people who are part of the place we visit. And for that, the cyclist will always be fortunate-to have a much more enriched experience with these people. Often times, these good Samaritans give beyond what they possess-time, resources, effort.

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Our good Samaritans Sadeck and Gerald from Mt. Polis together with Buboy Perez

More importantly, as cyclists who travel great distances, we live from what we get (and our success can be greatly attributed to their help), but these good Samaritans live a life from what they give.

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Donald Uy (man in glasses and grey shirt at the center) of Pozzorubio, Pangasinan during our Manila-Vigan bike tour

Happy holidays!

 

 

 

Bike Adventure: Caliraya bike camping

After the Sagada Loop, I wanted a shorter tour that’ll end 2016 on a high note. During the trip, ive been curious about many biker friends camping to Caliraya, Laguna. Situated approximately 100km away from Manila, I was told that there are several resorts in the area because of the beautiful man made lake that spans several municipalities such as Lumban, Cavinti and Kalayaan Laguna. More interestingly, many have bought houses there decades ago and left them behind and since then, these have been made into vacation homes for people wanting to go camping or a quick getaway from the metro. In this entry, I detail our two day bike camp to Caliraya.

Day 1

We all met at the Petron Station, National Highway exiting Alabang and pedaled our way through Muntinlupa, San Pedro, Binan, Sta Rosa, Cabuyao and regrouped in Calamba…

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from left to right: Jiggs Veloso, Nerica Joy, Marvin and Jen Martinez, Ninfa Bito and JT Tanangonan

Though we encountered traffic in Los Banos, the bridge in Bay, Laguna was undergoing renovation resulting in MORE TRAFFIC (one jeepney driver said they have been stuck there for an hour already!) and four of us (Jiggs, JT, Ninfa and I) took a detour to Calauan and ended up in Victoria…Marvin, Jen and Nerica took a different route and ended up ahead of us several kilometers.

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Traffic in Los Banos-Bay

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Ninfa and her Surly ECR
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JT, Jiggs, Ninfa and I had lunch here…the meals are great as well as prices

We regrouped in Pagsanjan and started our climb up to Caliraya…the 8km climb isn’t steep but the first 5 kilometers is a non-stop stretch of curves. Good thing it wasn’t hot and there are small stretches of recovery…What made the climb a bit difficult is rain pouring…it started with a drizzle and eventually it poured heavily prompting some of us to take cover.

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Jiggs chillin like a boss at Pagsanjan, Laguna

Jiggs and I arrived last to Soleviento resort and we were transported to the resort via a short barge ride pulled by one of the staff…scary at first because of strong wind but the barge was very secure. Upon arrival we were greeted by the wonderful Bingo! The dog who is a popular feature would always join guests as they arrive/leave the place.

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lakeside view

Soloviento (https://soloviento.ph/) is one of those “luxury” resorts around Caliraya -that is if you prefer cooked meals, several services offered such as kite sailing, boat riding and finishing this is one option to consider. The place isn’t big but there are spots where you can pitch a tent, build a campfire and stay in their campers. Also, the place is situated in a bird sanctuary and provides a good vantage to take photos (too bad it was raining and getting dark!)

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the Soloviento Hall

 

It was 6pm already and everyone in the group settled on a table and ordered food…we shared stories about different things over coffee. We all went to bed a little past 11pm.

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Arriving at Caliraya after the climb
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waiting for the barge
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bingo making the rounds
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the menu front
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the other side
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house specialty! good for sharing
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more food

 

Day 2

It was raining all night and we all met at the resort hall around 8am, had breakfast as we watched the view as it was still raining… there were other guests in the place that were doing other stuff such as kite sailing and swimming around the lake…on the other hand we decided to chill around until the rain weakened a bit and left around 11am.

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waking up at the camper (courtesy of Jiggs Veloso)
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waiting for breakfast
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Bingo again waiting for other guests to arrive
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the view with clearer skies
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the barge ride back home

The trip going down was quite easy and good thing we only encountered strong wind and the road wasnt as slippery compared to the other day.

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view of Laguna

We had lunch at Pagsanjan and rode back home. Though we all thought the trip home was a breeze, traffic was just terrible. Perhaps in the past tours that we’ve done this holds the distinction where traffic was such a problem!

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a must try in Pagsanjan (pancit here is highly recommended!)

Overall, I felt that the trip was nice but it could have been better if it was well timed and well scouted. Soleviento and the lake could have been more enjoyable if it wasn’t raining for the past days but im glad to see new faces join this and the experience going to lake Caliraya is something worth repeating in the future.

Ride Notes:

 

  1. I remember Kuya Edan (aka Sagada Loopers) telling me that there are cheaper accommodations in Caliraya. That is, there are big houses that have caretakers that will allow you to stay but there’s no cooked food or electricity so camping outside is the go to option. For riders on a tight budget and little bit adventurous, you might want to consider these.

 

  1. After the ride, I realize, the route is a good opportunity for those starting out on touring. The close to 200km trip has a mix of flat roads and climbs (though very short) and varying weather conditions (and even a dog chase!). This may be a good trip for you to test your rig/setup and gear as well as determine group dynamics with fellow riders and of course skills and endurance as you prepare for a much longer tour. Though some may claim that the route can be done in one day, I feel that you really can’t appreciate the place if you don’t stay awhile and go around (not to mention eat good food and interact with locals).

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The climb to Caliraya (courtesy of Nerica Joy/Marvin Martinez)

 

  1. One of the staff of Soloviento suggested that prior to visiting it would be wise to give them a call to find out the weather conditions. During heavy rain, Jiggs and I took shelter in one of the houses and one of the locals claim that weather has been fair and rain was experienced for the past month!
  2. Personally, I think Soloviento is a well maintained facility. Even if some of the facilities are shared (dining area, bathroom), they are clean and free from flies or crawling insects which can spoil your eating.

 

  1. In Soloviento, the campers are a must try for those who have difficulty sleeping in tents. It has electric outlets, a fan and the beds are quite roomy (at most 4 per camper). Tents are available for rent as well and the staff can even help you out pitch them.
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one of the campers
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tent area
  1. The road going up to Caliraya is surprisingly well paved! The view of Laguna is definitely a must see if you’re climbing or  descending back to the Metro. Also, consider leaving late morning or early afternoon at most as you wouldn’t want to be stuck in the dark as most municipalities do not have lightposts on the street.
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a relaxing view of Caliraya

featured pic courtesy of Ninfa Bito