Southern Leyte : Padre Burgos

The Philippines has over 7000 islands. The most popular ones being Palawan, Boracay, Bohol, Siquijor and Siargao. If you are planning your trip to the Philippines, chances are, most of your destinations are in some of the islands mentioned. On the other hand, the islands of Samar and Leyte (excluding western Mindanao), are among the less traveled in the country. Leyte still shows the damage caused by typhoon Hayan (Yolanda) in places like Tacloban and the East coast.  Having visited almost all the islands in the country, Leyte deserves a lot more attention than it gets.  Padre Burgos, in southern Leyte, is not only a great place for scuba diving but also an ideal place to learn about and swim with whale sharks in a non intrusive, eco friendly way. There is more than enough information on the internet to know why you should not go to Oslob to swim with whale sharks. Going there and paying to swim with these beautiful creatures is highly discouraged, among other reasons, because the fish are fed, touched and abused by the thousands of tourists that jump in the water with them every month (about 1000 per day). The interaction with these animals in southern Leyte is, on the other hand, conducted by scientists volunteering for Lamave, the largest independent non-stock, non- government organization dedicated to the conservation of marine megafauna and the marine environment in the Philippines. Their volunteers will not only guide you through the interaction but will also answer all the questions you may have about whale sharks and what they have learned through years of study, research and observation.

A ride through the less densely populated Southern Leyte is an amazing way to appreciate and admire the islands nature.  The scenery is stunning — with beautiful coastal roads that run through Burgos, Sogod, Liloan, San Ricardo, Bato and Maasin, and twisting roads that cross the mountainous areas as well as the breathtaking views from Agas-Agas bridge (the tallest in the Philippines).  If you like winding roads and an easy joy ride with very little traffic, then Leyte is one of those places to put on your list.

Sogod Bay Scuba Resort is a nice, clean and cozy resort, the staff is extremely helpful and friendly, the beach front is clean and beautiful with crushed corals and the food is simple but very tasty. Don’t forget to try their homemade apple pie! They also organize scuba diving to the best dive sites in the area as well as tours to swim with the whale sharks. Remember the whale shark season goes from December to May.

Padre Burgos is easily accessible by road. It takes around 3 and a half hours from Tacloban.  It is also close to the ports of Bato, to and from which you can travel between Cebu or Ubay (Bohol), the port of Maasin, the port of Liloan, from which you can take the Fastcat ferry to Lipata (Surigao City), and the port of San Ricardo, from which you can take the Montenegro Shipping Lines ferry to the Macapagal terminal, also in Surigao City.

Pagudpud

Pagudpud lies in the Ilocos Norte province in the northern-most point of the island of Luzon (Philippines).  It Is a popular destination among local tourists and kite surfing enthusiasts.  Its location and generally windy conditions make Pagudpud the ideal place for wind surf and kite surf, having a long season that goes from October to May.  This 4th class municipality of the Ilocos region, also offers some great surfing opportunities and as opposed to most other surfing destinations with seasons defined by the Amihan (neortheast winds) or the Habagat (southwest monsoon), due to the different orientation of its various breaks, it is not strange to encounter a good swell, almost any time of the year.

Pagudpud is, however, not only a haven for water sports lovers.  Just 2 hours to the south (and about an hour and a half north of Vigan), one can find the Paoay sand dunes and Suba beach.  Here, one can ride a 4×4 through the dunes and also have a go at sandboarding for around php2500/hour.

Also in the vicinity of Laoag, the St. Augustine church is a must if you are looking to learn something about the history of the Spanish colonial era.  Built in the early 1700’s, St Augustine church stands as one of the few remaining Baroque structures in the Philippines.

If you are looking to lose yourself hiking and admiring the breathtaking natural sights, Pagudpud counts with a great number of amazing waterfalls (around 18 in Adams alone) and some unforgettable sunsets.

Where to eat in Pagudpud?

Kingfisher is tucked away along the coast in between Saud beach and the Blue Lagoon and not only is an amazing place to stay, but also a great place totaste some of the local delicacies.  Staff is friendly and the place is just gorgeous.  Not to mention it is THE PLACE if you want to throw a kite in the air and be literally blown away by the experience.

The Blue Lagoon is somewhat a little bit of a cocktail of feelings.  The horrible eye sore that is called Hannah’s Beach resort, makes you want to turn around and ride away as fast as one can go.  However, once one turns to the sea and avoids the ridiculous statues of superheroes and Egyptian pharaohs, it is possible to enjoy the beautiful colours of the bay.  Ride up north past Hannah’s and get to Casa Consuelo, where you will be able to enjoy a great, fresh, local meal with very nice views of the sea (and an amazing wifi connection).

For a healthy option, head to Adams for a dining experience around sustainable farming and eco friendly farms.

Pagudpud is the perfect place for those looking for something a little less travelled than your usual destinations in the Philippines, and in addition too the countless activities available in the area, to ride through the famous Patapat viaduct and the grand wind farms in the area, will make your ride, a difficult one to forget.

Motorcycle Rental Philippines

Renting a motorcycle in the Philippines is something which is becoming easier by the day.  If you are traveling around the Philippines, chances are that, even if you don’t see a motorcycle rental establishment, if you ask around, you will find someone willing to rent out his/her motorcycle for a fee.

Most motorcycles in the Philippines are small displacement (125 – 250cc), but bigger displacement motorcycles are slowly finding their way into the market and you will need one with an engine of 400cc or above to be able to ride through the expressways legally.  These expressways are not common and at the time of writing are limited to the ones taking you from Metro Manila north and southbound.

The Philippines has, however, a pretty good road system connecting the different provinces and islands.  Roro (Roll on roll off) ferries offer connections between the main and neighboring islands, making roadtrips a great alternative to traveling by bus, crammed vans or flights.  Not to mention that traveling by road with the ability to stop as one wishes, will allow you to visit some very remote areas and see some of the less travelled places in the country.

It is important to know that a lot of these roads are under construction and it is not strange to suddenly come across sections which disappear or have 2 lanes (one in each direction) merge into one, having vehicles take turns to go through.  Towns and villages are also usually built on the sides of the road, so watch out for kids running (and playing basketball in the middle of the road) and all sorts of animals on the road.

Renting a scooter or small displacement motorcycle will probably set you back php150-700/day.  Remember to ask for a helmet and know that you will most likely not be covered by any insurance in case of accident, in which case you will have to pay for any hospitalization and repairs to the motorcycle.  Also remember to ask for the OR/CR (Original Receipt/Certificate of Registration) as you will need to present them in case you get pulled over by the police or if you plan to get your motorcycle on a roro to get to another island.

At Sakay & Co, we offer, not only the rental service of custom motorcycles in different styles (cafe racer, tracker, scrambler, bobber…) but the added service of a support vehicle.  If you plan to ride around the Philippines, you may want to combine that with scuba diving, surfing, or just relaxing by the beach.

Your travel plans may also be for a duration of more than 10 days and your luggage may be bulkier than the ideal for a motorcycle trip.  So no need to worry, we take c are of your luggage, you pick up the bike, enjoy the ride and we deliver your luggage safely at the next destination.  We have ridden all the itineraries we offer and we provide valuable information about the routes.  We are not the biggest fans of organised tours, so you never have to feel you are part of one.  You only see us when we pick up/deliver your luggage, unless you want to see more of us for any guided experience or other forms of assistance.

 

Polillo Island

Polillo is the main island of a group of islands with the same name. Its biodiversity is impressive and you will find it a must, especially if you enjoy hiking and birdwatching. Island hopping is also recommended if you have the time. We paid ₱200 for a ticket and an additional ₱10 for the terminal fee to go from Real on a passenger boat. These boats leave (at the time of writing) at 5:15, 6:15, 9:00 and 10:00 (all in the a.m.); and return to Real from Polillo at 5:00, 6:00, 11:00 and 13:00. Please make sure to double check with the port as schedules in the Philippines tend to change without notice.
The arrival in Polillo island is a good boost to the morale, with a bunch of tricycle drivers cheering and welcoming you to the island without being too insistent in trying to sell you the ride to the resort.
We paid ₱50/person to get to Isla Polillo Beach Resort, a 15 year old resort where the lack of manpower seems evident at times, but where Tita Piens, Tito Bayani and their son Vani will go out of their way to accomodate and make your stay as pleasant as possible.
We stayed in their aircon bungalows for ₱2600/night. The rooms are located in a large garden, filled with coconut trees, healthy looking dogs (uncommon in the Philippines), chickens, geese and a beautiful view of the sea. They need a little maintenance, but are generally clean and comfortable.
Shortly after our arrival, we were served some amazing crabs (caught by the resort) with coconut (also from the garden).
The pool was where we chose to relax and rest till the sunset (a beautiful one, by the way) before another delicious meal for dinner.
Day 2 started off with a simple breakfast before heading down to Bato, a beach in the southern part of Polillo. If you want to go island hopping, the trip is 4 hours by boat each way.
The beach was perfect for a dip, although a little to rough for snorkeling. We had some food prepared by the resort, which was nothing short of fantastic and ended up spending a good 5 hours roasting in the sun, soaking in the water and taking a few pictures of the area.
The road to and from the resort is a rough one, but worth the trip. It is important to know that 10km in Polillo, translate to approximately 30-40 minutes by van/tricycle, so going to Burdeos may take a good 3 hours. We left this one for a future trip.
All in all, Polillo was a hidden reward behind a long rollercoaster ride of ups (beautiful Marilaque Highway on a custom motorcycle) and downs (limited or non existent decent food and lodging options for a reasonable price in Real and Infanta).
To sum it all up, we would say that if you choose to ride Marilaque, you should do this during the week, leave in time to get to the ferry to Polillo and spend at least to nights there before heading back to Manila.

Infanta & Real, Quezon Province

The Philippines is one of those ultimate holiday paradise locations; Beautiful beaches, mountains, rice paddies… It is the ideal place for divers, surfers, hikers, backpackers and for those who look for the most exclusive experiences.
We chose to head over to Infanta and Real mainly because we could not wait any longer to ride through the Marilaque highway. We were promised beaches, surf and beautiful nature, and encountered a very different idea of what a beach resort is, rocky beaches with no waves (best surf is supposed to start late September or October) and indeed a beautiful lush green spectacle of nature.
This part of Quezon can be considered one of the less traveled areas among tourists visiting the Philippines (especially foreigners), and whilst the beaches don’t look anything like those white sandy beaches with crystal clear water that look amazing on our Instagram feed, it would be unfair to say that they are anything else than absolutely beautiful.
Real is also the jump off point to the Polillo group of islands, which, if you are looking for off the beaten track or love nature and hiking, this is your place.
The downside to Infanta and Real is most likely caused by the lack of tourism. Finding a clean place to stay with food was quite an ordeal to say the least. Information on the internet is limited and going in person to almost every “beach resort” we saw, was extremely frustrating.
We stayed at the Blue Pavilion Beach Resort, in Infanta, for the first 2 nights. We were the only guests on the first night, we arrived late (9pm ish) and had to go to town to get some dinner, as there was nothing available in the hotel, where we were promised breakfast the next morning. Food options in Infanta at night were limited but we found a good lechon manok and liempo shop about 6km from the resort.
Next morning came and we were faced with surprise when we asked for breakfast. After a little negotiation we managed to convince the staff to prepare some coffee, juice and toast (which took around an hour and a half to prepare).
Most beach resorts in this area do not have a restaurant or any food service as most guests bring their own food and either cook it in their own portable stoves or grill it in the resorts bbq pits.
The food situation in Infanta, made us spend our day looking for alternatives, so we started off by riding down to real and stopped at every resort/hotel we could find along the coast.
Our findings were the following.
Most “beach resorts” we found in and around Infanta and Real, are extremely overpriced, offering badly maintained dirty rooms (in the ₱3000 range) with cockroaches, or/and cabanas (4 wooden poles with a roof, curtains instead of walls and a hard floor) for more than ₱1500.
Then there was Real Coast & Surf, a very new, clean and unfinished resort with 14 rooms for ₱8000 with breakfast or ₱10000 for full board. A couple hundred meters down the road, this hotel has a surf camp with cabanas for ₱1700/night and a restaurant with a good selection of comfort food dishes.
We had their fish & chips (which was small but very tasty), calamari (which did not live up to our expectations), very good longsilog (longaniza with egg and rice) and a very delicious buko (young coconut) shake. Unfortunately we did not get to try the mango shake, even though we ordered it, but it is not strange to get your order messed up in the Philippines, so make sure to have the staff repeat your order every time to avoid disappointments.
We did find one place (Real Star & Beach) on our way back to Blue Pavilion Beach Resort that had 3 very clean and new rooms clean with a very nice view of the sea for ₱3000.
Unfortunately, their older rooms were not in good shape and again they had no food. So if you don’t mind preparing your own food and are looking for a clean place, this is probably your best option at the time of writing.
In the end, having spent one whole day going to every single resort and having had no time to explore any of the fun activities in Infanta and Real, we decided to park our bikes and head over to Polillo Island to try our luck.

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