“I’m going to Biliran this weekend.”/ “Okay. Uhm, where is that?”
Sambawan Island, Biliran
Biliran Island is formerly a sub-province of Leyte. Since 1992, it was declared as a separate province. It is one of the smallest provinces in the Philippines. But wait, when talking of Biliran, one can say that small is the new big.
The island is perfect for those seeking adventures that involve nature, or for those who just want to take in the sights. It has mountains, waterfalls (lots of waterfalls), beaches/islets, hot spring, caves and rivers. To summarize, it is a complete package.
Here’s how we spent 4 days, 3 nights in Biliran, including travel time from Manila.
Getting to Biliran Island
I took a flight to Tacloban from Manila. I met up with a friend who traveled to Tacloban from Cebu by air. An alternative to flying from Cebu is to take a ferry to Ormoc, then take a van to Naval, Biliran.
From Tacloban airport, there are jeepneys that will take you to Tacloban downtown. We asked the driver to drop us at the van terminal (Duptours) going to Naval, Biliran.
Though we took the early flight to Tacloban, the van going to Biliran Island only arrived at the terminal at past 10AM already. Travel time from Tacloban to Naval is 2 hours 30 minutes.
A bridge connects Leyte with Biliran Island so you won’t have to get a boat ride to get to the island. We arrived past lunch time at Naval, Biliran. This is also past the time that passenger boats bound to Maripipi Island leave from Naval port. We opted to stay overnight at Naval and explore the small town in the afternoon ‘til sunset.
Biliran’s padyak: the most common mode of transportation in Naval. I’ve seen a similar design in Palompon, Leyte, the take-off point to Kalanggaman Island.
Sunset in Naval coast
Naval to Maripipi Island
Passenger boats depart Naval port at 10 AM. There are three boat trips, but all leave Naval between 10 AM to 11 AM. If you want to go to Maripipi Island earlier or later than these times, private boats may be arranged from Naval port or from Kawayan port. Private boats are more expensive but if you are a party of six passengers, the private boat may be the way to go.
Arriving early before 10 AM is advisable if you want to get a good seating spot because they let the passengers in as early as 9:00 AM. The boat ride to Maripipi Island is about one hour.
Maripipi Island to Sambawan Island
Maripipi Island is located northeast of Biliran Island. Though the smallest municipality in Biliran province, the island has relatively unspoiled coasts and lush mountain. It is also a place to find peace and quiet. Curfews aren’t needed because the island comes to a still as early as 8 PM.
We had prior reservation at the Napo Beach Resort (For booking, text Ate Emy at 09212125164 or 09062520845). Ate Emy arranged a habal-habal to fetch us from the port to Sitio Napo, located northwest of the island. We reached the resort after about 20 minutes.
View from the Napo Beach Resort – I already saw fishes just by standing on their small dock
After lunch, we set to leave the resort for Sambawan Island using a private boat owned by the resort’s neighbor. Normally, boats leave for Sambawan from Brgy. Ol-og, and I think it’s cheaper to start from there. However, we accepted the resort’s offer to take us to Sambawan directly from the resort.
We found it hard to resist Ate Emy’s friendly offer after the warm welcome she and her husband, JD, gave us upon arrival. She also told us that we’ll be the first ones to rent the new boat of their neighbor. We agreed, but that was after we had been cleared that the boat has already been tested on water.
Sambawan Island is the most famous among the islets surrounding Maripipi Island and you will see why, once you arrive this island. Sambawan Island is composed of five islets forming an L-shaped mass of lands.
Panoramic views of the island can be seen by climbing a path of stairs to the top of the hill. Getting to the top reminded me of Isla de Gigantes’ Cabuyao Gamay. The difference is that in Sambawan, you have stunning views on both sides looking from your left and right, because the viewing deck is at the middle of the island.
Activities you can do in the island, aside from beach bumming and picture taking are snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming and bird watching. We went in June 2016 and at that time, proposed developments in the island are on its way. This includes a zipline and a hanging bridge connecting two of the islets.
I am not against developments but I would rather keep the island as it is and enjoy the island as it is. With development comes the influx of tourists, and more tourists means more resource consumption, more waste generation, and more strain on the island’s environment. Well, there are ways for proper management of wastes, which I hope would be part of the plans for development.
It would have been nice to witness the sunset in Sambawan but we need to get back to Napo Beach Resort before the sun sets. Back in Maripipi, we had some nice little chat with the resort owners. We were the only guests at that time, so who would listen to each other’s stories but us who were secluded on that island.
Maripipi Island to Biliran Island (via Kawayan)
We rented the same boat we used to go to Sambawan Island to head back to Biliran Island via Kawayan. Kawayan is nearer the Napo Beach Resort than Naval port. The boat ride took about 1 hour 15 minutes. There is a cheaper alternative, however, which is to take the passenger boat from Maripipi to Naval. The thing is, you have to be up early as the boat leaves Maripipi at 4:30 AM.
Approaching Kawayan Port
Around Biliran Island
From Kawayan port, we headed to Naval to leave our bags in the hotel and arrange for a habal-habal ride to take us around the sights of Biliran. We started quite late at 11AM.
Habal-habal drivers waiting to take us to Naval
Tinago Falls in Caibiran
We started off at Tinago (meaning hidden in English) Falls, which isn’t that hidden anymore :-). Tinago Falls is located in Cabibihan Village (we didn’t see tatlong bibe in the village, but we did see more than three in another town…just in case, you may ask) in Biliran’s Caibiran town.
What I love about waterfalls is the anticipation of finally catching a glimpse of the falls once you start hearing the rushing sound of the water dropping. The sun was shining behind the falls at the time we arrived. Nevertheless, waterfalls for me is <3.
Recoletos Falls in Almeria
We went back to Naval for lunch after Tinago Falls then went next to Recoletos Falls in Almeria. We passed by a sloping terrain and had to park the motorcycle once the road got rougher. According to our motorcycle driver, the road also gets slippery after a rain. In short, we had to hike for about 30 minutes to get to Recoletos Falls.
We found locals having picnic here as we came. Recoletos Falls isn’t that grand as other falls but the waters are crystal clear. Going up to the falls are various little streams coming from a higher source and meets up with the downstream water of Recoletos Falls.
Ulan-ulan Falls, Almeria
Ulan-Ulan Falls can be reached on the same trail leading to Recoletos Falls. Recoletos Falls is actually upstream of Ulan-ulan Falls. Ten minutes walk back to where we came from leads to Ulan-Ulan Falls. I was astounded the first time I peeked through the falls before going down the slope. The falls is a towering 90 feet high.
Going down and getting nearer the falls, you will understand why it is called Ulan-Ulan Falls. Ulan in English means rain. You don’t need to take the plunge to experience the waters of Ulan-Ulan Falls. All you need to do is go near the falls, choose one of the giant pebbles scattered around, sit back, raise your two arms and receive the blessings from the falls.
I already forgot which part of Biiliran we stopped to view and take photos of the rice terraces. The hilly landscape of Biliran Island makes rice terraces the perfect method for growing rice in the island. Besides, having blessed with 29 river systems within a small island, irrigation in Biliran is not much of a problem.
Biliran to Tacloban to Manila
Day 4 is saying goodbye to Biliran Island. There are a lot more waterfalls scattered in the island and one day is obviously not enough to see all of them, or even the ones marked on Biliran Island’s tourist brochure. Hence, “see you again” may be more appropriate than goodbye.
From Naval, we took the Van Van (it’s a public van just like Duptours, need I say more?) to return to Tacloban. I would have wanted to re-visit the Sto. Niño Shrine in Tacloban but it fell on a holiday and learned it was closed. With more than 3 hours to spare before my flight back to Manila, I went to Robinson’s mall and just watched a movie. If you want to explore Tacloban city in 3 hours, there’s the San Juanico Bridge, General MacArthur’s Park or the Sto. Niño Shrine.
From Robinson’s, I took two short jeepney rides to the airport. And that, my friends, is the end of our Biliran Island trip.
6:35 AM – 7:55 AM Manila to Tacloban (waited for my friend from Cebu)
8:45 AM – 9:00 AM Airport to Tacloban downtown by jeep
10:45 AM – 1:15 PM Tacloban to Naval via Duptours van
To Naval Hotel (GV Hotel)
2:30 PM Late lunch
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Around Naval town
8:00 AM Breakfast
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM Naval Port to Maripipi Island
12:10 PM – 12:30 PM Maripipi port to Napo Beach Resort via habal-habal
1:15 PM Lunch
2:00 PM – 2:45 PM Napo to Sambawan Island
5:00 PM – 5:30 PM Sambawan Island to Napo Beach Resort
7:00 PM Dinner
7:00 AM Breakfast
8:15 AM – 9:30 AM Napo Beach Resort to Kawayan port
9:35 AM – 10:05 AM Kawayan port to GV Hotel in Naval
11:00 AM – 4:00 PM Biliran Island Tour via habal-habal
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM Around Naval town/ sunset at the port
7:30 PM Dinner
8:00 AM Breakfast
9:00 AM – 11:30 AM Naval to Tacloban via Van Van Tours van
12:00 PM Lunch/ Buy pasalubong (chocolate moron in Tacloban downtown)
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM Robinson’s Mall
3:00 PM – 3:30 PM Proceed to Airport
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM Tacloban airport to Manila
Breakdown of Expenses
Php 50 Jeep from Tacloban airport to downtown
Php 100 Van fare (Tacloban to Naval)
Php 60 Boat fare (Naval to Maripipi)
Php 10 Terminal fee at Naval port
Php 60 Habal-habal to Napo Beach Resort (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 400 Boat rent, two-way, Napo Beach Resort to Sambawan Island (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 80 Entrance fee Sambawan Island
Php 20 Environmental fee Sambawan Island
Php 350 Napo Beach Resort accommodation (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 500 Napo to Kawayan port (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 100 Kawayan to Naval by habal-habal (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 300 Biliran Island Tour via habal-habal (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 50 Motorcycle gas (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 15 Tinago Falls Entrance/environmental fee
Php 20 Ulan-Ulan Falls Entrance/environmental fee
Php 750 GV Hotel Naval accommodation, 2 nights (cost per person, shared by two)
Php 120 Van fare (Naval to Tacloban)
Php 16 Robinson’s to Airport (two jeepney rides, Php 8 each)
Php 150 Tacloban airport terminal fee
Php 1,383 Food (meals, mineral water)
Total Expenses: Php 4,534
Expenses may be cheaper if you go with the passenger boat ride from Maripipi to Biliran mainland, or if the private boat is shared by more than two people.
I hope I had given you an idea of what to expect in Biliran Island. Why not plan your next trip to Biliran?
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