Historically, the Philippines has been instrumental in the Second World War due to its strategic location for the western allies. Corregidor island is one of those sites that has not only been used by the American and Filipino forces to defend the country, but is a historically rich island filled with stories of valour and hardship.
Converted into a tourist destination, I’ve heard stories from friends that Corregidor Island offers bikers a chance to go and experience history on two wheels.
A month ago, a couple of friends and I availed of the Corregidor biketour offered by Sun Cruises (you can check out the details here http://www.corregidorphilippines.com/activities.html)
Leaving early morning from the Seaside terminal near Mall of Asia, the ferry trip lasted about 2 hours. Once we got to Corregidor, our guide met us and gave us an orientation on what to expect during the tour.
From different military buildings established by the Americans, to heavy cannons, the spooky tunnel to a Japanese memorial and the local museum, Corregidor island has everything to offer for the history buff. Aside from great sites, the ride is pretty straightforward-a climb here and there, a nice view of the beach and plenty of scenery!
We opted to stay for the night and had a good time going around the island the next morning. Overall, the Corregidor biketour is an ideal itinerary for those intending to do relaxing cycling trips in preparation for longer biketours.
Fully loaded and all aboard
Some of the Military Structures destroyed during the War
some off road riding
Japanese Memorial and War Museum
Hostel and mealtime
The ferrytrip costs Php 2000. this includes the roundtrip fare, bike stowage fees (the staff will load your bikes), buffet lunch and guide (it’s advised to give a tip to your guide after the tour). It is also advised to book your tickets early as ferries that shuttle from Manila to Corregidor have a limit on the number of bikes allowed on the cargo. Also, you’ll need to fill out a waiver and bring the necessary gear (helmet, tools etc before loading).
Sun Cruises can also help you with reservations in the hostel (good for 25 people). the hostel charges Php500 per person for overnight stay. The hostel is quite basic, a large air-conditioned room, with plenty of double deck beds, a shared bath, and drinking water dispenser is provided.
The buffet is the only meal provided in the tour. though there are several stores around the island, it is advised to bring food with you. In our case, we brought food and cooked in the hostel
This past week, we had a long week vacation due to the ASEAN summit. There were several groups and individuals who had multi-day trips and a couple of friends and i decided to do the Infanta Loop in Quezon province, southeast of Luzon, Philippines.
Almost a hundred Kms of flats before the climb to Real, Quezon
Starting in Alabang, we proceeded further south by traveling to Laguna until reaching Famy, Laguna early afternoon. The climb from Famy to Real, Quezon was approximately 15km and luckily it was drizzling making the climb more manageable. After descending a good distance (about 10km), we reached Real around 630pm. We checked in at the Pacific Recreation Kamp and were welcomed by a pack of white dogs (who were really nice by the way)
At the Camp with our white doggy hosts
the long way home
We left the resort at 730 and it was nice 20km stroll to Infanta, Quezon and started our climb back to Manila (via the Marilaque highway). As far as i recall, it was a long stretch of climbs of gradual and some steep sections (around 20km in total at least). As a consolation though, weather was fair (certain parts of the route had a different climate due to the elevation and land mass-that’s why we encountered rain all day) and very few vehicles would pass…the view was stunning as well.
Silent Hill Cycling (Courtesy of JT Tanangonan)
Road Construction-what do we get to the other side?!
One challenge though is that the bridge connecting Infanta to the next part of the highway heading home was under construction and good thing is, the locals and workers helped us transport our bikes to the other side.
At Jariel’s peak heading home (courtesy of JT Tanangonan)
The road home was a bit slow and we got home quite late but the trip was well worth it.
The Infanta Loop is a nice quick tour if pressed for time and for someone looking for training for longer trips, this one is a worthy challenge.
The area is also connected to other off road cycling routes worthy of explorations
Weather is one issue that needs to be considered as there are areas with a micro-climate. That is, it can be scorching hot in the lowlands and heavy rain when you get up.
Since the area is less frequented by vehicles in the evening it is advised that you bring strong lights as there are very few street lamps on the way.
It’s been 4 month since I did a biketour and I’ve been itching to do a short one before I go from a year long break for work.
Since I started doing long distance trips in 2015, I’ve heard of this famous route among mountain bikers-the laiya-lobo loop in Batangas, Southern Luzon in the Philippines.
Perhaps what makes the ride special is the coastal route and challenging off road sections of this loop…so with some friends, we decided to do this trip in a shortened fashion by starting at Lobo and ending in San Juan, Batangas.
We left Saturday early morning and took the bus at South Station Alabang (we took the Goldstar bus and they charged Php180-ticket and bike storage included)
Starting in Batangas City Grand Terminal we headed to Lobo Batangas and passed by a Church up the hill…the climbs and pavement were fine though we got stuck when rain hit hard…
Good thing it was early afternoon (about 230pm) when we reached Lobo town proper and had late lunch…we got to Punta Malabrigo Beach Resort in Lobo Batangas at 5pm and enjoyed the beach.
One of the nice things in this trip is that this was the first time that we got supplies from the town market and cooked our meals (thank goodness to our companions Arnie and Fechi for cooking our dinner and breakfast the next day!)
The next day, we headed to Laiya and this is where the (off road) adventure began…
The Malabrigo Lighthouse, Lobo Batangas
Aside from brutal climbs, we had to contend with off road terrain but we were rewarded with a great coastline view of this place. Though weather was generally pleasant there were stretches where we needed to stop and take a break from the intense heat…
Off road cycling (Courtesy of Fechi Fajardo)
We were able to reach San Juan Batangas around 430pm and took the bus at the Alps Station and got back to Alabang around 730 in the evening.
Though we only traveled 110km in total, the off road section which spanned about 20-25km was a great but physically challenging experience and I look forward to doing more off road tours in the future.
Many recommend the full loop which is about 270-300km if coming from Manila (distance depends on where you’re coming from) but I believe the off road sections will definitely be a test of physical endurance as the terrain can vary from light to harsh (fireroads, rocky paths filled with goatheads which are notorious in causing flats and even unfinished pavement). Therefore, it is strategic to get to Batangas City or San Juan via bus to conserve that needed energy for the climbs and off road sections.
Very few stores can be seen along the way and therefore it is important to stock on water and small snack items to keep you going.
Punta Malabrigo Beach resort charges 2500 for a night good for 4 people in its cottage. You could also camp for a cheaper rate as they have a wide variety of options. We just got a room since weather wasn’t really all sunny.
There are very few restaurants along the way and it’s advisable to get food to cook from the public market in Lobo Town Proper.
Suspension forks will be a great plus as the rocky terrain will definitely shake your body during the trip.
Here’s the strava route of our trip if you’re interested in doing this as well
After touring the Philippines by bike (which you can read stuff about the tour here by the way https://pedalpowerphilippines.com/2017/04/05/biketouring-the-philippines-preliminaries-and-leg-1-manila-to-matnog-sorsogon/), i decided to take a rest from long distance cycling and for three months, I’ve taken shorts trips around the metro.
Since 2012, i’ve ridden exclusively in paved roads (well, except for occasional unpaved ones in routes we’ve done) and curiosity of doing trails bit me. Since my Surly Troll was an off road touring bike by design, I had the bike reconfigured into a single speed off road rig.
Frame: Surly Troll 2013 model
Fork: Epicon 2011 model, 100mm travel
Araya TF840 rims, 32 holes, Surly Ultra New Hubs (Front), Hope Pro 2 Trails Single Speed Specific Hub (Rear), Origin 8 Spokes, WTB Race Nano Tires (26×2.1)
Truvativ Firex 1.1 with Hope 36 chainring, surly cog 18t
Stem: Ritchey 90mm, Handlebar: On One Fleegle, 25.4 clamping
So far, ive tried this rig at the Filinvest and Malipay Trails down south and handles quite well in the xc portions and the bike is stable with climbs and some jumps (not to high though!). In the future, i look forward to doing tours on the off road path and for now, this build is helping me develop a new skill set for exciting new routes in the future
After 15 months and close to 6,000km of bike touring and commuting using this rig, I offer my long term review of the Surly Troll. While other riders have written similar reviews with more distance covered in varying terrain, I focus my review on the observed strengths and shortcomings in a range of purposes.
The Troll shines in three areas: versatility, comfort and cargo hauling
Dubbed as an apocalypse bike, the Surly Troll is a 26er touring bike made of Chromoly steel. The beefy build is complemented with a versatile set of dropouts that can accommodate a variety of drivetrain builds (Single Speed, Geared, Rohloff/IGH) as well as ample clearance for wide tires (as wide as 2.75). Some have even used 27.5/29 wheels for this build.
Using for touring and commuting, ive setup the troll as geared and single speed. With the capacity to accept different parts, I didn’t experience problems with using existing parts from previous bikes (when I got the frame early 2016, I simply had the parts transferred from my old Cannondale badboy-which makes this model an economically sensible purchase).
As regards comfort, the Troll allows you to ride in a relaxed position. Whether you’re cruising or tackling steep climbs, the frame geometry allows you to securely position yourself for a much more enjoyable ride. Moreover, the solid construction of the frame assures you that you’re ready to deal with a variety of terrain as the chromoly steel material can take a lot of punishment and satisfactorily flexes for more comfort. Personally, with the 26/27.5 and 29 configurations, I felt that the Troll was perfect for me as I didn’t experience toe overlap and climbs have been more manageable as opposed to using a 700c/29er bike.
Finally for cargo hauling, I believe the troll is perfect for those doing lengthy tours, bike commuting and carrying light/heavy stuff using your bike. With a lot of bottlecage, rack and fender mounts, you’re sure not run out of attachment points for your racks and others.
Overall, though I believe that any bike can be made into something to fit your purposes, the Surly Troll’s features obviously makes conversions easier to meet your expectations.
you can check out one of builds i used in a tour here
During a 37 day tour of the Philippines, one of the things that i took note of is particular pieces of gear used during the trip (check out the first entry here https://pedalpowerphilippines.com/2017/04/05/biketouring-the-philippines-preliminaries-and-leg-1-manila-to-matnog-sorsogon/). One of which is the Ortlieb bikepacking framebag (you can check the specs here https://www.ortlieb.com/en/Frame-Pack/). Ortlieb is one of the premiere companies providing quality touring bags for decades and its 100% waterproof! Similar to their panniers, the framebag uses the same fabric -PU laminated ripstop nylon-light, strong and durable.
There are a couple of features that makes the framebag an excellent piece of equipment for tours:
adjustable straps to adapt to different frame designs and uses a combination of velcro and smooth cloth protecting your frame.
The straps are robustly made-assuring you that you wont have problems making sure your framebag stays in place.
The single compartment design with internal velcro strap prevents complicated use and even bulging when loaded.
I particularly like this framebag as it fits the small Surly Troll perfectly and other similarly sloping downtube bikes in the market (i got the medium sized version)
The heavy duty zipper is not only waterproof but can be locked when closed making sure that rain will not enter the bag.
The medium size that i got can fit about 4 liters of gear. In the case of the tour, i placed all my personal stuff, gadgets, small items and even a small tab and fits perfectly.
During the tour, we experienced light to heavy rain and several boat trips and my gear remained dry throughout the trip.
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.
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…
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!
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.
The Church in Siquijor Town Proper and Markers
The big balete tree, fish spa and public spring
The backroads of Lazi
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!
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)
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.
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/).
At Molo Town Plaza and Church
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)