so here are my photos instead. hope they impress upon you that the place is really beautiful. God bless my homeland!
much has been said about sambawan. for one, it is still in maripipi island of biliran province. for two, it still an awesome destination in the world. the island is serene and pristine. would i rather be somewhere else in the world?
so here are my photos instead. hope they impress upon you that the place is really beautiful. God bless my homeland!
Few weeks ago, the couple - TS Glenda and TS Henry - was confirmed to have a lover’s quarrel which led to TS Glenda running away. Days later, TS Henry followed her either to declare more war or to win her back – that I couldn’t say. I think they haven’t returned home yet since this week, Inday, a household member, is looking after them. The three of them passed by Biliran and they changed the landscape of my homeland. In fact, they changed the landscape of Higatangan Island.
The island, which actually comprises 2 barangays of Naval, the commercial capital of Biliran, prides itself with this sandbar which shifts with the tide, and shifts big with storms. The recent typhoon moved the sandbar to a different shape. And that exactly what makes the sandbar invitingly unique. You don’t get to see it in one same form. When I had my time in the sandbar, I wondered what shape had it been a day before.
The sandbar stretches by 200 meters, more or less. I was told the highest “high tide” never totally submerges the bar. One can enjoy swimming anytime, any tide, and it is safe. Water is crystal clear to turquoise blue. Sandbar is more of crushed corals than sand.
We went there on a gloomy day, what with the war going on in the household of Henry, Glenda and Inday. The organization which invited me to join this island visit paid around P3,500 for the boat ride - to and back and around the island. Officials in Barangay Libertad welcomed us like good old friends. We feasted on shells, crabs, grilled fish, fried fish, oven-baked chicken, boiled rootcrops prepared for us in Hagdan Resort located on the other side of the island.. We were unfazed of the weather war. There were laughter and stories and goodwill shared even if the seas were a bit rough.
On regular days, the island can be reached from Naval by public motor boat. Fare is 45 pesos in 45 minutes. Boat leaves the port of Naval at noontime, and returns the next day.
Come to think of it, Biliran has always been teeming with natural resources. If not an island, you explore the mountain. Or simply sit idly in pantalan to watch the sunset. or the sunrise. Let me, in the quietness of this place, thank God for such natural bounty. So God bless my homeland.
(underwater pictures courtesy of www.seaknights.com)
The goal is to find your neutral buoyancy – neither float nor sink. That was Alfie, our dive instructor, telling us. “But the way I look at you,” he added in jest, “you [are] positive buoyancy.” Gets, Richie and I are fat! Or I think we are just horizontally challenged.
Biliran will soon now be a diving spot. Crossing my fingers. Sambawan Island in the town of Maripipi of Biliran Province offers a world class diving area, I heard the SeaKnights (www.seaknights.com) saying that. I went one time to Moalboal in Cebu and found corals of many kinds, of many colors, and I thought that was my end. I’ve seen the wonders of the world under. When I got this opportunity to join the team of divers in Sambawan, I was expecting to see the same. But I didn’t see the colors. For one, I couldn’t dive facing the south china sea, that was scary. Second, Sambawan offers not the corals I look for but unique and awesome various structures under water. Rock formations. Gorge. Rock walls. Sunken garden. Species of many kinds.
With horizontal visibility of 7-10 feet in the 5 or more reefs they identified as diving sites, I got a time of my life underwater. I contented myself diving only up to 16 feet and only by the beach side. But blame the schedule for this. I was already praying that I dive into the open sea, with heart pumping faster than I could contain, but the Mayor was already on his way for the closing ceremony of a 4-day buoy installation and diving lessons, my dive attempt got aborted. Ok, back to the beach side dive.
Here’s my story why I got into this.
I was in town for an official business when I heard that a group of divers from SeaKnights who are based in Cebu and goodhearted enough to offer their technical services to explore diving potentials in Sambawan for the love of it were coming. The move is to promote tourism in the locality. While their intention was only to install markers of the diving sites, the LGU took advantage of their presence to hit two birds with one stone and requested them if they could offer diving lessons to 6 local dive guides for tourists. And I also took advantage of the opportunity. Richie Penaflor, a colleague in the organization and now really is my very good friend, is the brainchild for this tourism boost in this once unknown town of Maripipi. I requested him if I could join, er, actually pressured him to let me in. Before he could say he was busy, I was already listening to instructions from the dive instructor. Special we were, I could say. There was only us in the class.
At this point, let me acknowledge the generosity of the Municipal Mayor of Maripipi, Uldarico Macorol, and the Sangguniang Bayan Tourism Committee Chair, Nitoy Atiga, for including me in the list. Not just the diving I took part, my food during my stay was also served with kindness. My personal salute to Richie. One item in the bucket list down.
The diving seemed easy. Or my diving master made it easy for me. He was easy on me, he was encouraging, he was demonstrative. His name is Phedias of SeaKnights. He pulled me down if I floated. Pushed me up if I sank. I did struggle with my buoyancy, and that was difficult to control. My BCD – buoyancy control device – that inflate-deflate thing was not actually easy. Deflating was more difficult. You do this to go near the corals, but not that close. Once down on seabed, you inflate to float. But you have to have the control in order to kneel down or stand up underwater as you wish.
The only rule given to us once underwater was simple but terrible: don’t forget to breathe. I did learn to locate my breathing apparatus underwater and to wash out the water inside my goggles. And EQUALIZE, equalize, equalize. That term I couldn’t actually perfectly do. Once down to 8 feet, you need that. Let’s reserve the explanation to YOUR registration to a diving class. Please contact SeaKnights. I owe them this diving experience.
The experience down was exhilarating to my eardrums but who cared, I was already diving. I was looking at the sea creatures, however, I couldn’t see much. Blame that on first times. My eyes were open, but my mind was preoccupied on the 8kg tank at my back which actually is weightless underwater. I was amused of the bubbles, the inflator/deflator, the flippers and the depth indicator. That alone was exciting. It was new, it was different. It was wow. Looking forward to second times.
Sambawan is an ideal diving site for both openwater divers and professional drivers. It is also friendly to divers wannabe. The beach side offers corals and fishes at 8 to 16 feet. The reefs to the south china sea at the back of the island offer wonderful and exciting underwater structures for hard core drivers.
I have always been a believer that the land and the sea are God-given gifts to man. I don’t own it. I am only a steward. After that diving experience, with some painful lessons learned from the past illegal fishing practices that destroyed most life underwater, I am now saying that I would be one best steward in the world. So help me God.
Lovely Guiuan. Heaven knows how much I thought of coming back to you! Malapit ka lang naman. 155 km mula Tacloban? Etong katabi ko sa Office, si Geselle, taga Guiuan, pero umuuwi lang tuwing election, pasko at pista. Di ko sya tutularan!
Pagkatapos kong makita ulit ang mga larawan ng pinagsamahan natin, panahon na para paghandaan ko muli ang pagkikita natin. Hintayin mo lang ako. Alam kong napakaganda mo pa rin, nakakabighani. Masaya pa ring kasama. At likas talaga ang yaman mo. Kawalan lang ni Officemate, mamimiss ka lang nya palagi.
Perhaps no other place in my region has prided itself with an all-in-one endowment than the town of Guiuan in southernmost tip of Eastern Samar. The place boasts of rich culture and history (it has a 16th century Immaculate Concepcion Church, a national treasure; it has Homonhon island where Magellan first set foot on Philippine soil; it has a military base built during World War II na nagpagawa pa ng airport). Guiuan also boasts of many natural wonders - the place being now declared as a “tourist zone and marine reserve”.
Isa sa mga likas yaman ng Guiuan ay ang Calicoan island. 12 km ang stretch ng white beach. Tinagurian na ngayon na Surfing Capital of the Visayas. May basehan yan. Since Guiuan is facing the Pacific Ocean, you can expect waves ideal for board surfing. Medyo dollar rates ang Calicoan Surf Camp, kaya sa katabing resorts kami pumunta – same stretch, uninhabited kaya masaya. We were in Monay Beach at sa Dumrog rocks. At umakyat kami don sa kanilang Yoga Camp.
Most supply of fish in Tacloban comes from Guiuan. Their marine resource is abundant and diverse. We just threw the hook with bait, and we got colorful fish. May pearl farm sila, at ang seaweed, hay naku! Kung magharvest ka nito, in less than 15 minutes, puno ang sako mo ng seaweed (lato in our dialect). Di pa yon cultured. Seaweed farming has been successful in the area. And my friend, Mark Magalona, who accommodated me for this particular trip, is into seaweed farming. Previous trip to Guiuan brought me to a sand bar – and sand bar lang yon, walang mga kahoy – in between Manicani island at ang mainland, at nanguha kami ng ganga – a kind of shell (parang hand fist na may fingers), hindi ko alam ang English equivalent. That shell is delicious eaten raw, but best taste when cooked like adobo.
Soon, I will see you again, Guiuan. Balik uli ako sa Timala, at sa mga dagat na nakapalibot sa yo. Police Officer Willy Sabalberino, ihanda na ang banda!
(most pictures appearing herein were taken by mark's friend.)
If not for the jellyfish – or that stinging trail of jellyfish tentacles which badly scarred the wow legs of a friend – the place of Marabut in Samar, an hour away from Tacloban whether by boat or van, with its rock islets sprawling like popcorn in the middle of San Pedro Bay (exaggeration supplied), would have been a perfect getaway come summertime.
Those rocky islets in my younger years provided me convenience in my escape from a city life. My friend from Barangay Osmena (a rich barangay in Marabut) was a polio victim but he made the place more beautiful with his determination and grace in climbing those rocks and jumping off to sea. One time I followed suit and almost got injured when I bumped on a rock on the seabed. That was adventure for us, that is Marabut for me.
Marabut, a small town, is observed to be sleeping in the midst of its tourism treasures. The town proper is not economically at par with one of its Barangays, Barangay Osmena where Marabut Marine Park is located and now owned by a Chinese businessman after it had been passed on from one logging concessioner to another in a span of 40 years. Marabut has also Caluwayan, where now it becomes famous for its sunset view and infinity pool and rock formations. (I just don’t like their halo-halo which contains no real fruits and which crushed ice is hard as the surrounding rock islets.) Had the local government unit taken an active role in envisioning a progressive community enjoying a sustainable development, LGU Marabut could have led us to a better Philippines, and the crushed ice would have been soft as a freshly fallen snow.
Foreigners are slowly owning (through mail-order brides) beach properties. Whether I would be happy to see them developing the place or be sad coz I am losing the area to a stranger, I could not really say. The stranger appreciates both the beauty and the potentials of the place, and my native kin just disregarded both, who could blame the stranger to get interested in owning the place?
I used to see corals along those rock islets, and in between, darkness of the underwater world. We used to swim from one rock to another. I saw nemo then, promise. But with fish illegally killed by dynamite – a fishing malpractice which the local government could not apprehend – corals have almost been permanently destroyed. The LGU’s idea of development is just like the swarm of jellyfish, they are there but they sting. The place is rich with natural resources, they just don’t know how to tap that resources to move the town to become a better place to live in.
But the place is beautiful, bar none. The rocks are well-sculpted. They are God-given. They are designed by the persistent fury of waves and winds over a span of a thousand years. Well-taken cared of by God for us to enjoy the amenities. A little thank you will spell a great difference. Go, explore, and take care of Marabut yourself.
There are travelers who travel for the sake of traveling. I envy them. I couldn’t set my pocket to travel mode every time I want to, to every place I dream of. That’s the basic problem of holiday economics in my homeland – it is not just possible for everyone of us. Per capita income in the Philippines is PhP3,951 (2009) (pinoymoneytalk.com quoting the May 2012 report of NSCB), a bit lower than Thailand and way, way lower than Malaysia; Catbalogan City, one of 7 cities in my region, posted a per capita income of PhP2,133 (2009), making it to the bottom 10 cities in the Philippines (in terms of per capita income).
How could one wish to travel in his very own homeland, where it has been prided to be known as Pearl of the Orient, when all one could wish for is food on the table, an access to safe water and an access to sanitary toilet?
My travelling status is very opportunistic. I travel not for travel’s sake but for other purposes. I usually have a job to do. And this job, with more limitations than privileges, becomes an opportunity for me to see the corners of my homeland.
Despite constraints, every plane ride I get, I wonder – and literally wander. The prompting within to be grateful to God for every occasion encourages me to see goodness and beauty for every constraint. This is my version of travelling. I call it oportunista - that’s why window seat is always preferred. When everybody else complains how busy he is, I set my camera to M, white balance to auto, f/8, ISO 200, then look at every nook and cranny this travelling experience brings me to and enjoy the clicking ride. I learned that from Jesus who was born in a manger instead of in a palace.
First to observe is the cloud formation. How cottony, the cloud? Any amusing form? Arriving in the work venue, thing to survey is the lobby. Is there something wow in the area? Chandeliers? Uniqueness of the furniture in the waiting area? Painting on display? Then a short environmental scanning for some interesting things around the area.
The best part of this travel is always expectedly surprising: the room, my room. Actually the window view. I may not be able to roam around interesting places in the area, what with workshops sometimes end at past 6:00pm, but I am able to let my window do my travel experience and take snapshots of what beauty I get through it. Sunset by the window? Or is it sunrise?
My latest trip proved this point. Beyond the workshop hours is the Mandaluyong skyline. My not being able to visit places of my interest for photography, I had this skyline painted with colors of sunrays at different hours, view from the window. Same location, different time.
In most times, I settle with travel in beds, snapshots of lampshades, and yes, even bathtubs in bathrooms.
kasabangan falls, brgy. balaquid, cabucgayan, biliran
While the intention is clear and good – develop tourism, boost local economy, increase income, increase employment, make people happy– the strategy is bad.
What would I say further? Thank heavens for the waterfalls and curse people for the bad attempt? I am actually tempted to say that.
Cabucgayan, Biliran, among the 8 municipalities in Biliran island, is naturally gifted with waterfalls. Two of these I’d been to long time ago, and recently I came back. First to Casiawan waterfalls in Brgy. Casiawan, then to Kasabangan waterfalls in Brgy. Balaquid. All in one day. Farm to market roads have been constructed to primarily transport farm goods to town, with fringe benefit of free access to the waterfalls.
God decided to share these waterfalls to mankind by locating the falls a few kilometers away from downtown. That means you can go and swim in these waters anytime you want to. The first time I visited the falls, I was in love. The next time, I was broken hearted.
casiawan falls, cabucgayan, biliran
Casiawan falls no longer has the strong cascades. I heard they tapped the water upstream as source of the LGU’s water supply. Kasabangan waterfalls has undergone a facelift. There constructed an infrastructure facility where people picnic, view, tambay, cook – right beside the waterfalls! And they call that tourism development – with guts to ask for a 10-peso entrance fee.
What are the do’s and don’t’s in developing tourism potentials of an area? Let me sum it up this way: make the area accessible and the rest, protect and preserve.
And pray tell God forgive us for the good intention and the bad intevention.
While in Biliran island, you may take a quick deep breath while looking up the Biliran bridge, a short hike to Biliran watch tower and a stroll in Naval terminal.
Ibibida ko ngayon ang pwedeng ipagmalaki ng sarili kong lugar. Shoutout ito, ika nga. Shoutout tungkol at mula sa talagang homeland ko – ang Biliran Province na isang isla kung saan matatagpuan ang mas maliit na isla ng Sambawan, sa town ng Maripipi, na isa ring isla.
This is Sambawan Island – could be 1.5 hours to where I live, by boat, wala nga lang public utility pumpboat. Easiest take off point to this island is via Kawayan town (malapit lang ito sa Naval, ang capital at sentro ng Biliran). From Kawayan, madami na maliliit na boat na pwede arkilahin for 500 pesos to Maripipi town, 30 to 40 minutes lang. Then hire a motorcycle to Barangay Ol-og, nearest area para tumawid sa maliit na island ng Sambawan. Maghire din ng boat, 150 pesos, papuntang sambawan; will take you about 15 minutes to reach the island. Same boat could be hired in your return. Madami boat doon, kaya wala problema. Problema mo lang ang alon. Kaya timing timing lang. Summer talaga maganda pumunta don. Pag gusto makamura, take the regular pumpboat trip from Naval to Maripipi, mga 10am ang alis, kaso mga 1.5 hours kang nasa dagat.
Walang naninirahan sa Sambawan island. Pero may mga kiosks na pwede rin tulugan, may libreng foam at unan na, lagyan lang ng bamboo blinds para medyo may privacy. Ph500 ang overnight. Masarap pag may tent, tunay talaga na survivor Philippines ang peg. Ang entrance fee ay 50 pesos. May toilet na doon, may gripo, galing dagat ang pambuhos. Pero ang panligo, bayad ka ng 20 pesos kada 5 gallons.
Bago pumunta ng isla, magdala ng mga pagkain at inuming tubig. Pwede mong irequest ang head steward sa isla na magluto para sa inyo.
Ang sarap ng simpleng buhay sa isla. Pampagulo lang ang internet kung may dala kang tablet o pad kasi may signal doon. If you want a little adventure, pwede kang “magrock hike” para marating mo ang ibang islet. Connected naman sila ng mga boulders, makikita pag low tide. Feeling ko, dead volcano ang lugar, kasi ang daming bato na di pangkaraniwan. May hill part din ang island kung saan kita mo ang biliran island, maripipi island at sunset. Saan ka pa? May exclusivity ang lugar, tahimik at ang ganda ng dagat. May corals, pwede diving, kaso sabi ni Mayor, may mga pating din. Ang pinakapanalo, ang babait ng mga tao.
The Department of Tourism identified Sambawan Island as one of the 3 major destinations in Biliran Province – the other 2 are the Higatangan shifting sand bar in Naval and Mainit Hot Spring in Caibiran. At ang daming waterfalls sa Biliran, pwedeng secondary tourist destinations. Most are accessible by public transport and a few-minute hike. Ang shape ng bundok, at ang taas nito ay magpapanganga din sa mga mountaineers.
Bakit kaya pinagpala ang Biliran? Bakit kaya ganon kaganda ang Sambawan? Di ko man masagot yan, hayaan ko nalang ang welcome tarpaulin na nakasabit sa puno doon sa isla ang magsabi: SAMBAWAN DIVE CAMP AND BEACH RESORT - preserved by God for you to witness the beauty of His creation; lovingly kept by Maripipin-ons for you to explore and enjoy; to God alone be the glory and praise!
Planning for this trip was a breeze. We have a great team. Sharon does the budgeting and itinerary, Jordan and I do the picture taking. Seriously, Sharon is our financial guru who knows exactly how much budget we need and how to spend it. Jordan and I? Okay, we just know how to take pictures at 4am. It was more difficult, huh?
What made this trip very memorable and smooth was the support of colleagues. Foremost, thanks to Ritchie Penaflor, productive MLGOO of Maripipi, who arranged almost everything, and even had his wife grilled fish for us. And the shells! SB Julianito Atiga, Chair, Committee on Tourism, happily escorted us. Because of Manong Jess, Head Steward of the island, we survived; otherwise, we could have died from hunger. Biko welcome us in Maripipi where we had our courtesy call with Mayor Uldarico Macorol whose vision for tourism development will soon be reality. We couldn’t have swam in the cold spring water at 12 noon had it not been for ex-SB member Teofilo (dondon) Gaviola who drove us around.
Friends from Biliran, who knew our going, prepared our breakfast in Naval, even if it was already 10:30 in the morning. Carol and Homer, plus my inaanak Carlo, really set the good vibes for this trip. Joy Montuerto spared a table for our lunch, too, on our way home. Hayy friends. I must thank God for all of you – and I must pray for the preservation and protection of this environmental wonder in my neighborhood.
You’ve never been to Bohol Province if you have not been to Panglao, an island just a few minutes across Bohol mainland. Panglao island is composed of 2 of the 47 LGUs in the Republic of Bohol – Boholanons proudly call their homeland that, and with conviction.
Bohol is known for its Chocolate Hills, but the beaches surrounding Panglao, “di rin patatalo” – pristine, white, powdery, less commercialized. It being untouched by so-called human hands in the guise of development (I really hate it when people comment that the place is not yet developed) works to its advantage – the beauty of nature remains true to its form as God designed it and thankfully Panglao beaches are preserved and protected.
There are few resorts in the area like Bohol Beach Club and a happier alternative – Dumaluan Beach Resort (less expensive and in the same shoreline). But these resorts are respectful of the integrity of the environment. Their so-called development of the area never destroys what nature in Panglao has to offer. Coming to this area requires a good deal of travel negotiation. The place is not regularly visited by public utility jeepneys so one has to negotiate for habal-habal or vans. From anywhere you are, your jump off is always from Tagbiliran City, the gateway and center of commerce of Bohol Province.
Aside from beaches, Panglao has what it takes to live a comfortable and happy life. But this is a different photoblog altogether. Meantime, enjoy the beaches come summer! Or enjoy it today if you can’t wait.
Guaranteed amazement. I need not comment further. What is there more to say when everybody else has already been there? This is Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte.
Oh, so you are saying you have been to Caramoan island, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Maldives, the Hundred Islands or hundred more islands, and not been to this tiny bird shape island in Eastern Visayas? Ah, ok, so you’ve been there. Ahh not yet? My! Pack your bag, take the van to Palompon from Tacloban City – that’s 3 hours away. Or from Ormoc City for only 2 hours. In Palompon, rent a boat, pay 3,000 pesos, and you have 40 minutes of waited excitement. Share the boat with 15 more persons to lessen your expenses. That’s already round trip. That’s already overnight. Except that there’s no hotel room in the island.
Rates are affordable. 150 pesos day entrance or 225 if overnight. Senior Citizens are charged free. Students are charged less. Contact now the Municipal Tourism Office at (053) 555-9010 or 09173037269 for inquiries and advance bookings.
You don’t need to wear formal suits to go. Be ready to live without brushing your teeth, with no electricity, no mobile phone signal. You only have the stars at night, or the moon, and the soft powdery sand for your bed.
boris p pascubillo
he writes to affirm desiderata's with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. he makes photographs to shoutout that when God created this homeland, He saw that it was good.