After my Legazpi tour, I had about a week left in Gubat before my return to Metro Manila. I was planning to spend those days lazing around but a friend invited me to another excursion.
Our destination was Biri Island, a small municipality off the northern coast of Samar in Visayas. Its most popular tourist attraction is its spectacular rock formations, which have garnered much attention in the recent years. Honestly, I had not heard much about it until a friend posted photos on Facebook some weeks prior.
Bicol, which is southernmost tip of Luzon, is the gateway to Samar. Many visitors who opt to travel by land usually take a bus from Metro Manila, then transfer to a boat in a small town called Matnog. Visayas is only a few hours from Gubat via boat but I had never set foot on its soil. It had always seemed like another continent. This time, however, I was finally going to visit the place that had always been close to home yet strangely faraway.
We did not take the conventional route, instead we boarded 2 small boats from a neighboring town called Barcelona. Via the San Bernardino Strait, Barcelona to Biri Island takes only 2 hours. Our little voyage had started out fine; it was only after an hour when the waters began to show its wrath. Our boats bobbed up and down almost violently like a tiny toy in the immense channel.
Biri Island became visible in the horizon but our boats continued battling with the waves for what seemed like another 40 minutes before we were able to safely alight on Samar’s shore. It was already almost evening when we arrived.
There are resorts in the island that offer accommodation, but we had brought tents so we could camp at the beach, a more fun but less expensive option. Though if you are not a big fan of crustaceans, camping might not be the best idea. Hundreds of hermit crabs came out and started crawling all over our camping ground as soon as the last rays of sunshine faded, it was a fascinating show!
The tide fell. By 10pm, even 70 meters from the shore, the water was barely ankle-deep. The warm salt water cradled our bodies as we lied down under a magnificent map of the constellations, every star visible and shining brightly against the blackness of the celestial dome.
The next day, we awoke just in time to watch the sun rise
A short walk or swim in waist-deep water was required to get to the Magasang rock formations.
After exploring Magasang, we broke camp and hauled all our things in the boat that took us to the market. From the market, we took the habal-habal to the Bel-at rock formations.
Unlike Magasang that is visible from the shore, Bel-at can only be found after crossing a wooden bridge and walking through a lush greenery. It also has a mini-pool, which is apparently a popular tourist destination– children were wading in it when we arrived.
The bridge has made Bel-at more accessible to the public, a probable effort to boost up community earnings from tourism. This move, however, has left the grand sculptures vulnerable to the idiocy of some travelers and locals. Corners have been filled with disgusting garbage and the 5 to 23 million-year-old rocks have been scratched with “was-here” graffiti.
We sometimes take geography for granted by subconsciously ignoring the places nearest to home.
Exchanging house arrest for a weekend in Visayas was a good decision– and Biri had been an otherworldly experience.
Today’s lesson: Pay your neighbors a visit.