We bought a one-way ticket to Tacloban during APEC week, with no plans whatsoever on what to do, where to go and when to go home—while slightly distressing at times when we wondered if we’d make it in one piece back to comfortable lodgings, the sense of freedom was refreshing. We just took with us our backpacks with a hodgepodge of things in it and decided to embark on an adventure—this lack of planning, while fun, can be a little disorienting for those not used to backpacking or spontaneous travel, but if you’re a newbie who’s ready to spread your wings and have some unplanned fun, the rest of this should sound like a good idea to you!
Before you get packing and hop aboard a plane, though, here are a few reminders for the excited traveler in Leyte and Samar.
- Transportation is difficult—and you will be spending a lot of money to move around, so get your change ready…
Although it’s easy enough to locate trusted van services to get you around, these are all subject to overcrowding—they definitely try to fit in as many passengers as they can for the trip. If they can place a stool in the spaces between chairs to maximize the number of people that can fit inside the vehicle, so expect movement to be hampered by the increased weight of the people (and their cargo, phew) inside the van. Additionally, because we wanted to see a lot of places, and they didn’t really have the train or taxi systems Manila kids were used to, you’re bound to spend a substantial chunk of your budget on transportation. We rode the bus, the van, the tricycle, the raft, the habal-habal, even a banca. You name it, we rode it!
- …and because of this, expect tricycle drivers and boatmen to jack up the prices if you’re not a local or traveling with one.
Despite the fact that we were Filipinos just like them, our gigantic hiking backpacks were a dead giveaway that we were tourists from another part of the country. We found ourselves constantly being charged way more than the standard price. As the vans had standard charges, we avoided being stiffed there, but for the motorcycle and the habal -habal, the prices were ridiculous. A reason why we weren’t consistently falling prey to overcharging was because we asked some of the locals how much was charged by each form of transportation—don’t be shy, people are very friendly there and responded to our questions readily. Some of my friends who went traveling in the area later also took the time to ask the DOT about the proper prices for transportation—incredibly useful information.
Not everyone tried to take advantage of us. Some of the van drivers were actually kind enough to first go down and get us a tricycle, then haggle the fare down for us before we showed ourselves. The initial prices were unbelievable—the starting one for tourists would be something like P100 per head on a tricycle, then when they’d be done haggling it would actually just be P30 per head!
- We had slight difficulty in communicating with them
We found that speaking in Ilonggo was more understandable to the locals, so we ditched Tagalog at some points to make ourselves understood. Expect to have some trouble conveying what you need done or where you need to go—the world does not revolve around Metro Manila, guys! Nevertheless, people are quite accommodating here and very patient with trying to translate what you mean, so don’t give up!
- Expect to pay for everything in cash.
Very few places accept credit cards—and there aren’t too many ATMs in the areas we visited as well, so it’s best to have plenty of ready cash on hand, especially if you’re not going to spend a lot of time in the city centers.
The locals were surprised to see us touring during APEC week, to be honest. We were often asked why we were there in the first place, and we actually had plenty of reasons for being there. Region 8 is absolutely beautiful! Here are some awesome destinations worth visiting in the region.
1.) Sambawan Island
This lovely white island has many coral gardens which are perfect for those who love to dive or go snorkeling. Definitely a must-see!
Read more : Sambawan Island – The Little Island That Could
2.) Ulan Ulan Falls
Only one of three falls located in Biliran, the crystal-clear falls are perfect for swimming.
Read more on Ulan Ulan Falls
3.) Kalanggaman Island
A beautiful, isolate sandbar, this island is perfect for getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Read more about Ulan Ulan Falls
4.) Ulot River
The torpedo boat ride that we took here was quite the wild adrenaline rush. If you’re into more adventurous activities, give it a go!
5.) Biri Island
This was definitely the best attraction we got to see while traveling. The rock formations are absolutely majestic—more details below!
6.) Sohoton Cave
This cove, which hosts a beautiful lagoon, feels like a fairytale environment thanks to the haunting limestone formations.
While there, there were a few attractions that we were told about, but missed because of our travel and time constraints. We definitely don’t want to miss out on these next time, though!
It’s a pity we missed out on the largest cave system in the Philippines—the large cave chambers are said to be as huge as stadiums. This is certainly going on the bucket list.
Also located in Calbiga, these picturesque falls found in Samar is known as the Small Niagara Falls of the Philippines for a reason—the roar of the rushing water is allegedly as intense as thunder!
The multiple streams of water going through the many rock formations of these falls makes this quite the sight even for the most jaded eyes of an experienced traveler.