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.

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.

Marilaque

We rode Marilaque. Finally. This road has been in our list for quite some time now. Its name comes from Marikina – Rizal – Laguna – Quezon, and it is a popular road, among riders in the Metro Manila area and surroundings, for its twisties and its proximity to the Pinoy capital, which makes it ideal for a day trip or a weekend getaway to the beaches in Quezon province.

We were told to avoid it during the weekends to enjoy a less overcrowded ride, so we set off on a Thursday. Traffic was heavy, as usual, at first, but once we rode past Antipolo (It took us around 2 hours), we understood what all the hype was all about.

The next 80kms or so was a beautiful stretch of road full of turns twisting through the mountains with very dramatic views and a beautiful light cast by the foggy weather that accompanied us for most of the ride.

We were alone most of the time (except for the stretch between Metro Manila and Antipolo) and the roads were generally in fairly good condition.

We were told that the ride to Infanta shouldn’t take more than 3 or 4 hours each way, but as usual, we came across a number of unfortunate events that slowed us down, making our trip a 9 hour long ride.

1. We were riding in the company of our chase car mainly to carry photo/video gear. This made our going through the city traffic a lot longer than it would have had we not waited.

2. Shortly after the Sta Maria Laguna Arc, we encountered what was left of a bridge which was washed away by heavy rains. There was a way for the bikes to go over the river, but it was not suitable for cars or heavier vehicles. So we saw this as an excuse to ride through a different route, down to Santa Maria, Nunguma, Famy and back up to Real before arriving in Infanta. Do note when traveling around the Philippines by road, that these small roads that appear in white colour in google maps, are not usually paved for the most part.

The ride made for an interesting adventure, we got rained on on our way to Santa Maria buy not too much. The detour did take us much longer than we expected, but we did learn that the alternate route between Famy and Infanta is also something worth considering.

What about Infanta, Real and the beaches along this stretch of coast in the Quezon Province?

Keep an eye on this space and find out what is it we did with our time there!

Ride n’ Dive ::: Apo Reef

Ride n’ Dive Apo Reef

Sablayan is a small town about a three hour ride from Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro. Getting there allows for a fun (and relaxing to the eyes) ride on mostly paved roads through mountains, ricefields and a delightful view of the color green everywhere. At the end of all that a very rewarding Sablayan offers the chance to relax on a deserted beach.
Apo Reef awaits avid scuba divers and snorklers. An area charecterized with such clear visibility you’ll find yourself stating this fact over and over again. Meet and greet turtles, reef sharks, barracudas and other sea creatures of varying sizes and colours. Even if you don’t dive or snorkel, you can still enjoy by taking a dip in the sea.
As well as Apo Reef, Mindoro offers a wide variety of waterfalls, hiking trails, island hopping opportunities and the local Mangyan tribes.  Perfect complement for some of the best riding within a reasonable distance from Metro Manila
  • Rental of a custom motorcycle
  • Helmet
  • Accommodation for every night during the ride
  • Support vehicle
  • Gas/fuel, and tolls
  • Meals (note that some of the hotels provide with one or more meals)
  • Extra activities such as Diving, snorkeling, surfing, hiking, white water rafting, etc…

(Do let us know if you would like us to pre-book these activities for you)

The itinerary shown may be subject to change at any time due to weather and other unforeseeable circumstances.

Itinerary

Day 1 > Manila - Sablayan
  • Ride from Manila to Batangas Port (3 hrs)
  • Roro from Batangas to Abra de Ilog (3hrs)
  • Ride from Abra de Ilog to Sablayan (3hrs)
Day 2 > Sablayan

Things to do while in Sablayan

  • Dive Apo Reef
  • Libuao Lake
  • Siburan forest
  • Parola Park
  • Cabacungan Falls
  • Pandan Island
  • Mangyan Village
Day 3 > Sablayan

Things to do while in Sablayan

  • Dive Apo Reef
  • Libuao Lake
  • Siburan forest
  • Parola Park
  • Cabacungan Falls
  • Pandan Island
  • Mangyan Village
Day 4 > Sablayan - Manila

Return to Manila

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