Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Leyte: Binagol, moron and other Leyte treats

Day 7, my last day in Eastern Visayas... I stayed in the hotel the whole morning since it was raining cats and dogs. It was a pity since I wanted to explore Palo. Anyway, after lunch, my brod Gil passed by for me at the hotel and we stopped by an area along Zamora Street near the corner of Rizal Street where vendors sell binagol, moron and sagmani.

Binagol is a mixture of talyan (a type of root crop similar to gabi), coconut milk and sugar placed in coconut shells or "bagol" and steamed inside. This is made in the town of Dagami. Chocolate moron is suman made of ground rice cooked in coconut milk flavored with cocoa. Sagmani is another suman made of cassava, gabi or sweet potatoes cooked with coconut cream, sugar and sometimes coconut meat.

We also passed by the Leyte Capitol and the Sto. Nino Shrine. As much as I wanted to enter the shrine, the tickets cost P200 for the first five people. Talk about pricing! We should fry the PCGG for this!

Anyway, my flight was still at 4:50 p.m. but we decided to go to the airport early since there was nothing much we could do given the weather. I'm sure to go back to Eastern Visayas if time and funds permit and when the sun is out most of the time. I heard rainy season here starts in November. There's still a lot to be seen and its a pity I missed Southern Leyte too.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Biliran: More waterfalls in Biliran

Biliran is an island province at the northern tip of Leyte. And just like Samar, it's connected by a bridge so there's no need for a boat ride.

From Tacloban, I took a van to Naval which was about 3 hours away. I took some photos at the Biliran Bridge. They don't make infrastructure with character nowadays. If there's one thing I liked about Marcos, he made infrastructure grand such as the San Juanico Bridge, and not like the ugly, kitsch infrastructure our current DPWH churns outs.

The next day, I took a habal-habal ride to Tinago Falls. The drivers charge so much here in Biliran, it's so difficult to get to these out-of-the-way places without creating a big hole in your pockets. The local government should enforce standard rates to get to these places to save tourists from the hard-bargain, especially since they are vigorously promoting their many attractions which are most definitely worth the visit.

There are more waterfalls such as Casiawan Falls, Casabangan Falls, Bagongbong Falls, etc. and the Mainit Hot Springs in Caibiran. Just like Camiguin, they also have a sandbar in Higatangan Island here in Naval. I'm saving them for my next trip. The weather cooperated with me while I was in Biliran since the sun was out. But when I got back to Tacloban, it was raining again. More photos in Multiply.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Samar & Northern Samar: Chasing waterfalls in Samar

Day 4 of my Eastern Visayas trip was around Calbayog, known as the City of Waterfalls. So it's a shame if I didn't visit at least one. After going around the city's historic core, I proceeded to the terminal to take the jeep to Allen. The jump off point in Brgy. Tinaplacan is an hour away, halfway between downtown Calbayog and the port town of Allen in Northern Samar. Looking at the map, Calbayog is almost twice as big as Biliran Province!

I ended up in Brgy. Bugtong, a few meters from Tinaplacan. The waterfall is in the territory of Bugtong but you need to pass through Tinaplacan. It's 3 kilometers from the road. And the locals suggested I hire a habal-habal so I have a guide to the falls which turned out to be a good idea since the path was very muddy. The motorbike actually slipped and we fell off on the way there. Luckily, I escaped with minor scratches.

To get to the main falls, you had to walk on several cascades. There were some slippery parts so I had to take off my shoes. I injured my toe when I slipped on one of the rocks which left me limping for several days. Good thing I had the guide with me since it was really difficult to walk on the rocks.

I asked around if there was another falls nearby and the driver brought me to the next town (the next province too) San Isidro, Northern Samar. Veritao Falls, is in Brgy. Veriato, one of the boundary barangays.

I was planning to stay over in Allen so that I could visit Capul and Biri Islands. But since the weather wasn't cooperating, I decided to abort that plan since I didn't want to ride a pump boat for over an hour with strong waves. I took a jeep back to downtown Calbayog and since I was wet from the rain, I decided to ride on top. That was a great experience and it was fine until it started to rain again just when my clothes where getting dry. What the heck! So I just stayed up the jeep while it was raining cats and dogs.

From Calbayog, I took a bus back to Tacloban City. For dinner, we went to Calle Zaragoza Cafe owned by my brod Gerry Ruiz. The meals were very cheap. The bulalo and ribs were under P100 each. We also checked out the ihawan that are set-up along Rizal Street in the evenings. Reminds me of Larsian in Cebu City. I'll definitely get a bite there when I arrive Cebu next week.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Eastern Samar & Samar: From Guiuan to Catbalogan

From Borongan, we drove to Guiuan which was an hour away. The church there is a national cultural treasure. Before visiting the church, we had lunch at Aling Celing's in the market. We had kind of shell called sambong among others.

Entering the church outside Mass hours is not that easy since they are very protective after incidents of theft. But we got in thanks to some through channels. Aside from being relatively intact, what is unique about the church are the shell ornamentation in the transepts and the baptistry.

If only I had more time, I would have wanted to visit Calico-an Island, the surfers' haven of Eastern Samar. But it looks like I'll have to save that for another day.

After checking out the church, we proceeded to Balangiga to check out the church and monument. We've all heard about Balangiga Massacre and the quest to return the bells to the town. In Balangiga, I boarded a bus to Samar Province.

My plan was to sleep in Catbalogan for the night which was a long way to go. But first, I dropped by the town of Basey to check out the church. The old church in Basey is the most intact colonial church in Samar Province. Outside the church were a group of kids playing and they were excited about my camera and egged me on to take their photos which I happily did to satisfy their curiosity. If I only had time and funds, I would have checked out the caves of Sohoton, also in Basey. But you'll need a whole day to do that.

There's no direct transport to Catbalogan. So I had to try my luck by rushing back to Tacloban's Abucay Terminal to find a van. Another option was to wait at the foot of San Juanico Bridge but it was risky since it was getting dark and I might not find a ride. Good thing I caught the last van which left a little past 6 p.m.

They warned me the roads were bad. But I didn't realize they were that bad. I felt like I was on a speeding moon buggy. From Calbiga to Catbalogan, potholes were like craters on the moon and I pitied the suspension of the van as the driver sped across the bad road.

In Catbalogan, I had dinner at Tony's Kitchen. But I didn't realize that serving sizes were for groups. So I had to eat the sizzling steak all by myself. After dinner, I went around the nicely lit Samar Capitol.

The next day, I went around Catbalogan before taking a bus to Calbayog City.
More photos in Multiply.

Eastern Samar: Overnight in Borongan, Eastern Samar

They call Borongan, Eastern Samar the City of the Golden Sunrise. I finally arrived there after a four-hour van trip from Tacloban City. I asked the van to drop me off at the beach house of my brod, Councilor Jesse Solidon, where I was to stay for the night.

After getting settled, we took a pump boat to nearby Divinubo Island where they are currently organizing an eco-tourism project among the locals.

Aside from it's white sand beach, I was told that behind the island (the side facing the Pacific), there were caves as well as a light house. But since it was getting dark, we could no longer hike to that side. What is peculiar about the island is that during low tide, you can walk to it since a land bridge of coral rocks emerges. This I saw for myself the next morning.

Borongan has a lot of potential as an eco-tourism destination. It's a good place to invest for surf camps. In fact, locals were surfing when I arrived. There are several waterfalls in the city inlcuding Tres Marias, Masakpasak, Hinahanginan, Binabalarawan, Cansoriyaw, Mono, Pangi, Tagpuyucan, Bihid, Kaputian and Tumaligis Falls. There are several caves to explore too. You can also go white-water rafting (that's if you have your own raft since no one has set-up there yet). And I was told the coral reefs are also worth the dive.

I slept early since I literally did not have any sleep the night before. Although I got to enjoy some of the night scenes of Borongan such as watching crabs crossing the street or fireflies light up a nearby tree. The next day, I visited the historical core of the city. I passed by the monument and ancestral home of the local revolutionary hero Major Eugenio S. Daza, as well as the Borongan Cathedral and the Santiago Monument in front of it. Sad to say, the old Borongan Church was demolished a long way back and what's left of it is its circular belfry. There are only two other places where I've seen circular belfries namely Tumauini, Isabela and Mexico, Pampanga. But just like Borongan, Mexico's old church is gone.

Anyway, we proceeded to the town of Guiuan one hour south of Borongan, which is at the southern tip of Samar Island.
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