Build, Ride, Inspire: Dean and Dang’s biketour of the Americas

In the Philippines, it’s very rare that you get to hear fellow Filipinos doing biketours outside the country. I first encountered Dean Cunanan and Dang Huervos’ adventures in bikepacking.com (http://www.bikepacking.com/routes/oh-boyaca-colombia/)  and crazyguy on a bike (https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1mr&doc_id=14353&v=1jx). I was really impressed with the amount of detail and generous advice given by these two in their entries and it was a fine treat to actually meet them in person in a talk organized by Lagalag Store Manila. (https://www.facebook.com/lagalagstoremanila/).

 

IMG_3406.JPG The placed was packed with people and aside from descriptions of their adventures, we were treated to wonderful photos of their exploits of their trip from Canada, Alaska to the Mainland US and parts of South America.IMG_3409.JPG

What i found interesting is the pieces of advice i got from them such as running tubeless for tours, keeping costs at minimum, taking the lesser known routes, knowing the mother tongue of the place your heading to and anecdotes of experiences that shows a nuanced and fulfilling experience.

For those who may be experienced in doing tours locally but are still clueless on how is it like to go on two wheels in a foreign land, Dean and Dang’s experiences paves the way for most of us dreaming of going out of the confines of home on a bike.

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Bike Touring the Philippines Leg 6: Palawan and Final Thoughts

Biketouring the Philippines: Leg 6 (Palawan & Final Thoughts)

In this final entry about our tour of the Philippine Islands, we focus on one set of islands-Palawan which is part of Western Luzon.

Days 29-31 (Approximately 40km total)

Heading back home to Manila from Western Visayas, three of us (Jiggs, Edan and I) took two boat trips to Coron (Iloilo to Puerto Prinsesa with a stopover to Cuyo & Puerto Prinsesa to Coron)

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the bunks at Milagrosa

Scenes at Cuyo

The nice sandbar/white beach in Cuyo (perfect for kitesurfing!)

Heading to Puerto Prinsesa from Iloilo, we took the Milagrosa shipping lines (Php 1,200 for deluxe accommodations 36 hours). We also had a 6 hours stopover at Cuyo which is a small island with a great white beach and sandbar-the best thing is…it’s free!

After that stopover, we boarded the ship again to head to Puerto Prinsesa, Palawan. Good thing, I had a friend (former student) who hosted us for the day and she directed us to head to Aldo’s pension Inn which was very spacious and provided all our needs. Since we  almost had a whole day, we decided to head to the crocodile farm and saw some other wildlife in the park. We were off at 8pm from Puerto Prinsesa for that 16 hour trip to Coron.

With Janet Oab of Puerto Prinsesa Palawan at Aldo’s Pension Inn

The Crocodile Farm and Conservation Center

Different stages of development

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At the Provincial Capitol and a must try restaurant “Ka-Lui”

Days 32-35 (approximately 60km Total)

When we arrived, a friend who had a resthouse in Coron requested some folks from the island to pick us up and brought us to the Kubo sa Gubat (Hut in the Forest) for our accommodation. It was indeed a very nice place as  we were surrounded by heavy vegetation. And for the next few days, we went to different islands and spots in Coron such as the Barracuda lake, Twin Lagoons, the public beach. Morover, we also hiked up to Mt. Tapyas (around 700 plus steps!) and spent a couple of hours at the Maquinit hotsprings which was a few kilometers away from the port.

At our friend place “kubo sa gubat” (courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

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the chapel at the hill

Barracuda Lake

The twin lagoons

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A floating restaurant

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Kingfisher Park

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The trek to Mt. Tapyas

At the Maquinit Hotspring

 

Day 36-37

We took the 430pm trip via Superferry from Coron to Manila and arrived at 730 in the morning the next day to end our tour

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Final thoughts

 

  1. I believe that the Palawan leg is a good way to end the loop because very little cycling was done to cap off a lengthy tour. While there are many activities here, touring the island by bike might also be another option in the future though there are very few towns (and are far apart) in Palawan.
  2. Coron has that “otherworldly” character. That is, it’s landscapes and bodies of water are pristinely preserved as locals are highly engaged and very much protective of their lands.
  3. With tourism as the main industry in Palawan, expect costs of goods to be quite expensive. Therefore, it is practical to have your hosts/hotel staff cook meals for you. You can buy canned food and other meats at the public market.
  4. Overall, I felt that after several weeks on the road, bike touring the Philippines may be much more manageable if one goes around in specific regions/islands as transfers by boat can be tiresome and inefficient. For instance, boat schedules, port locations and even destinations vary from region to region which can greatly affect the scheduling of your biketour.

In sum, I believe that biketouring the Philippines has been a worthwhile experience and something others should look forward to in the future…

 

Cover Photo Courtesy of Sagada Loopers

 

We’re grateful to several people our friends as well as fellow riders from the different places we’ve visited around the country who have offered help and assistance during our trip.

Also, we’re thankful to Sorsogon (esp. Natalie Grace Gestre & Cyrk Ryan Lim), Cebu (Hillboy Honoridez), Iloilo (Del Britanico & Harvey Dhash), Leyte (Junnie & Glenda Cadiente), Bacolod (Carla Alcantara & Yvonne Velasco), Palawan (Prixie Tan-Cruz & Janet Oab).

Myles Jamito of Mount Anywhere and Sam and Anthony Lau of Ross bikeshop for their continued support.

Bike Touring the Philippines-Leg 5 (Western Visayas)

From our previous Leg in Cebu, we took ferry at Liloan Port at Santander and proceeded to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental which is part of Western Visayas…

Day 22

Since we arrived early evening, we left our stuff at the Coastal Inn (980, good for 5 persons, http://www.dmgte.com/hotel/CoastalInn) after dinner at one of the local grills in the city. After that, we decided to try the popular Sansrival at the café. Perhaps due to the rich American influence, one can notice the remnants of the culture in its architecture as well as food. Contrasting it with Cebu, cuisine here appears to be sweet and fattening!

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Good evening Dumaguete
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accommodation at Dumaguete
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Sweet Sansrival
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June enjoying his slice
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Silliman University Entrance

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strolling along the boulevard

Day 23-24 (approximately 40km from port to Lazi and back)

One of our friends, Jiggs joined us for the leg in this tour and the group decided to go to Siquijor which is a few hours ride by boat (http://www.oceanjet.net/dumaguete-siquijor) from Dumaguete. Arriving early afternoon, we had photo ops in popular landmarks such as the church near the port and went to Lazi, Siquijor. Similar to Bohol, the island of Siquijor is a biker’s haven due to the adequately spaced and well paved roads, very minimal traffic and countryside feel-no malls or convenience stores!. Though the general impression is that Siquijor has that supernatural character (probably due to the mythic stories about the island), one can say that travel here makes you close to nature. When we got to Lazi, we had go through uphill climbs and decided to go to the Lazi Beach club for the night. Unfortunately, a large portion of the backroads of this island remain unpaved and I remember having difficulty as terrain was brutally harsh (rolling and unfinished). The Lazi Beach club unlike the other accommodation we’ve encountered before is quite expensive (2500 good for four!) and prices of food and other services seem to be for foreigners (quite expensive)! One consolation though is that the beach view is great and visitors are situated in a more solitary fashion as the resort is one of the few ones there on that part of Siquijor.We got back to Dumaguete early evening and treated ourselves to great food and drink.

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Unloading at Siquijor

The Church in Siquijor Town Proper and Markers

The big balete tree, fish spa and public spring

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one of the cottages at the Lazi Beach club
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a Lazi morning

The backroads of Lazi

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back in Dumaguete
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The every tasty roasted pork belly

Day 24-25

We were supposed to head north to Bacolod, Negros Occidental but Jun who sustained an injury earlier in his eye needed to get himself checked and sadly was strongly advised to abort the tour.

With four of us remaining, Edan and Rahnel decided to pedal from Dumaguete to Bacolod late evening while Jiggs and I took a bus to Kabankalan to continue from there. Arriving early morning at Kabankalan, Jiggs and I pedaled 90km to Bacolod. I remember that the heat was terrible early that day and that prompted us to stop several times to rest and rehydrate. But the road to Bacolod has been memorable as sugar cane plantations are everywhere leaving that sweet, sugary scent as you pass these roads. We arrived a little bit after lunch while Edan and Rahnel got to Bacolod around 10 in the evening. While waiting, Jiggs’ cousin Carla, who resides in Bacolod gave us a gastronomic welcome-treating us to cake, pizza and the popular chicken inasal (roasted chicken). We spent the night at the Regency plaza inn, Bacolod (650 for two persons, one of the cheapest in town and had the basic necessities for the bike tourer! https://www.booking.com/hotel/ph/regency-plaza-tourist-inn.html).

Not hot…terribly hot!

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With Jiggs’ cousin Carla from Bacolod City

The food coma doesn’t stop (at Calea cakes-try the mudpie ice cream cake and roasted pork and chicken inasal at Nena’s)

Pizza Negrense at L’fisher Chalet (Courtesy of Carla and Jiggs)

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at the Capitol
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bikes fit fine at the Regency Plaza Inn and Hotel

 

Day 26

before leaving for Iloilo (part of Panay Island, Western Visayas), Carla treated us to Diotay’s eatery. Compared to last night’s food, this time, seafood reigned supreme! After lunch, we took photos taken at the popular Ruins in Talisay City (http://www.choosephilippines.com/go/heritage-sites/2441/love-story-and-ruins/)-which was an old house built by a sugar baron from the city early in the 20th century-dubbed as the Taj Mahal of Negros (10km away from the Regency plaza Inn) , the rich historical tradition in architecture makes this place a must see. We ended the day by proceeding to the port and heading to Panay island.

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A short reunion with my former graduate student Dr. Yvonne Pedria Velasco of Carlos Hilado Memorial State College

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Strolling the Ruins

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Negros by day, Panay by night

When we got to Iloilo, a member of our bike group, Del Britanico welcomed us and brought us to the popular restaurant Tatoy’s where we had chicken and seafood and went around town and took pictures at the Molo Church and plaza. We stayed at the Highway 21 hotel (1200 good for 4 persons, https://www.facebook.com/highway21hotel/).

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With our host from Iloilo, Del Britanico

At Molo Town Plaza and Church

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A must try in Iloilo-chicken and seafood are great
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we took a room that’s good for four superior room and extra ben (1100 per night)

Day 27-28

In these days, Rahnel decided that he will pedal his way up to Caticlan and head to Boracay and proceed to Batangas while the rest decided to stay put and take two ferry trips to Palawan. Rahnel went ahead and Edan, Jiggs and I went around Iloilo to see popular attractions around Iloilo. The next day, we checked out Guimaras Island, which is 15 minutes by boat (25 pesos with bike) from IloIlo. Famous for its beaches and Mangoes, the island is a great place for bikers as it has trails as well as tourist attractions. We went to the windmills  and got around the island (about 40km in total) a bit and finally tasted some great delicacies made from Mangoes. We got back again early evening for the next leg of our tour.

Around Iloilo city and tasting the ever popular batchoy!

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The belfry in Jaro 
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Jaro Cathedral

 

An Earth hour ride meeting at Robinson’s Jaro and a visit at the Value Bikeshop in Iloilo (https://www.facebook.com/thevalueshopbikeshop/?hc_ref=SEARCH)

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approaching Guimaras Island Port

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Windmills of Guimaras Island

Mango Heaven

  1. Among the different places in the Philippines which was part of the itinerary, I would say that the western Visayas has got to be the most challenging one in terms of climate as it was very hot during this time of the year. I assume that it was in the upper 20s-low 30s and humidity was just difficult to bear with.
  2. One of the lessons I learned from other tourers abroad is that if delays are encountered, taking a bimodal route, in our case the bus ride from Dumaguete to Kabankalan is fine as some of us didn’t want to risk delaying the trip further. Personally, I felt there was a safety issue in riding late at night in the provinces as accidents are commonplace in the area.
  3. This leg has been one of those potential areas I’d like to come back to in the future as the Negros-Panay island has a lot of things to offer in terms of tourist attractions and delicacies unique in the region. Moreover, among the different places in our loop, the food here is great.
  4. The ferry trip from Dumaguete to Siquijor is Php 130 and Php50 for the bike. Going back though was different as we took a different carrier and they charged Php140 for the bikes! As mentioned earlier posts, it seems that sea travel to biketour the Philippines is one major challenge as costs seem to vary from area to area.
  5. you can check the previous leg of our tour by clicking this link https://pedalpowerphilippines.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/bike-touring-the-philippines-leg-4-cebu/?frame-nonce=481f200030

Cover pic courtesy of Sagada Loopers

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