Since time immemorial, the world has witnessed so many battles. Each generation endured and survived different struggles using diverse warfare tactics distinct to time. Man fought with man. Today, man fights with unseen viruses and nature. However times and combat forms have changed, they share the same objectives to conquer, dominate and write history.
In Northern Samar, the rock islands of Biri are fighting a different kind of battle. These tiny islands off the northernmost part of the Waray region is eternally withstanding the lashings of powerful waves coming from the Philippine Sea and San Bernardino Strait. Believed to be in existence for millions of years, these sedimentary rock islands are shaped by the strong currents of the opposing waves and the ravaging winds. It beats the island from all directions and held it in a wild yet wonderful hostage.
Super typhoon Yolanda created history. It changed the landscape, buried economics and altered people’s lives. In the entire Eastern Visayas, Northern Samar is one of the few regions left with bearable physical damages. In the chaotic course of migration, Northern Samar now cradles many of its fellow Warays who have fled their shattered homes in Leyte and Eastern Samar. Relief efforts are momentary, what they need now are sustainable income. Have you imagined how far your peso will go if you travel to Biri now? Wouldn’t you feel good that what you pay to the boatmen, habal-habal drivers, tourists guides, hotels and restaurants mean feeding their families? The load is heavy on Northern Samar too and they need to create jobs for its people. Let us help them rebuild their lives beyond donations because they are more than what those goodies in a pack mean. Come, let’s travel to Biri.
Biri is an island municipality reachable only by outrigger boats from the mainland wharf in Lavezares. An odd lighthouse sculpted in the image of the Blessed Virgin saving a man from drowning floats near the harbor. The water of Biri changing from deep green into radiant turquoise is such a dramatic entrance into a far, seemingly uncharted world. Passing through croplands and mangrove sanctuaries on habal-habal, a different picture of beauty in distress awaits on the northernmost end of it.
Getting to these geological formations mean negotiating with thigh-deep water on foot from its white sand shore. The frog-like rockheads sit on a layered flat base punctuated by huge natural cauldrons of clear water. These tidal pools are splendid spots to wade and cool down after a long trek under the hot sun.
Magasang, Magsapad, Macadlaw, Puhunan, Pinanahawan, Bel-at and Caranas are the massive geophysical formations that attract people to Biri. It is edged by fortified jugged rockbeds. As the warring powerful waves pound its fringes, the surge of unimaginable water curtains the view and bursts on mid-air. It rolls back to the sea on a thunderous faithless slapping. To reach the summit, I had to hammer out a great deal of core strength and careful maneuvers on its steep terraces of weathered rocks and sharp walls.
A visual explosion of the blue welkins kissing the deep cerulean waters rewards its visitors who mightily persevere to reach the top. Marvel at the 360-degree panorama of northern frontiers of the Waray region. Biri is a complex spectacle of earth, wind, fire and water.
Biri is in a constant battle. But it is a combat that unleashes beauty, a fight that brings out art. With eons of sculpting its masterpiece, nature proves that she is an enduring creator. I am humbled to have witnessed this bizarre natural creation at least once in my life. No one is certain if it will still be there for the next generations to experience. Are you willing to just let this pass your lifetime?
HOW TO GET THERE
Via Plane (from Manila)
The nearest airport is in Catarman, Northern Samar.
Alternatively, you may fly to Calbayog City but this takes 2 hours road travel.
From the airport, take the tricycle to V-hire terminals. There are vans that regularly ply the Catarman-Allen route (or the Calabayog-Allen route).
Get off in the town of Lavezares. Go to the public market (just by the roadside). The wharf is located within the area.
Via Land (from Manila)
Aircon buses leave from their Cubao terminals at night. Recommended is Philtranco.
This travels through the pan-Philippine highway passing by the provinces of Laguna, Quezon, Camarines Sur, Albay & Sorsogon. From Matnog in Sorsogon, it will cross the San Bernardino Strait on a barge to Allen, Samar.
From the pier, take the tricycle to Lavezares (the next town to Allen).
Instruct the driver to take you to the wharf.
This route will take you 2 days travel time.
There are regular passenger outrigger boats that travel from Lavezares to Biri. This is only P50/head.
If you want to leave immediately, you may pay for the remaining heads or hire the entire boat to yourself.
There are a few hostels in Biri. No need to panic for early reservations, as it doesn’t get filled all the time.
It is best to stay overnight in the island. If you decide to go on a daytrip, make sure you leave the island before 3PM to avoid the big afternoon waves.
There is a strong mobile phone signal (even in the rock islands). Data service is available too but fluctuating. The strongest network is Globe. But make sure to load up in Lavezares as load retailers in are hard to find in the area.
Betwixt and between the arthritic 40 and a horrendous body mass index of positive 30, escapism and yummyeology are my real-life double post-graduate degrees conferred with the highest honors.
I lived nearly half of my life in fancy suitcases, jetsetting between reality and fantasy... read more