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