Biri Island, Samar: From the battle of the gods

The views in Biri Island, Samar, surpassed my expectations. I’d visited Kapurpurawan rock formations in Ilocos years ago and was not impressed, though perhaps this is caused by my take-pictures-and-go touristy attitude then rather than a quality-focused backpacking I do nowadays.

Anyway, before going to see the Biri rock formations, I thought we were just going to do the same thing: basically, walk around and take pictures. But the rock formations in Biri proved to be a sight to behold, and the huge waves splashing against boulders in Magasang rock formation in Biri is something that I will always remember in my mind.

To be honest, I was hesitant at first to write a separate post about the Biri Island, Samar. I thought I’d just dump everything in our full article about the road trip. But Hali has got so much beautiful photos, and it’d be a shame to keep them for ourselves. (Hali accepts freelance photography projects, you know? *wink)

Getting to and settling in Bani Island, Samar

From Sorsogon, we rode a roro in Matnog port bound to Samar. Right before passengers were allowed to alight from the roro, we saw sisid barya kids in the port. Sisid barya kids have previously been a hot topic in the media. Small children ask the passengers for some coins to throw in the water, and the children will dive to retrieve the coins. It was sickly entertaining.

We spent the night in Marson’s Beach Resort, also known as Villa Patria, in Bani Island. From here, it’s just 1-hour ride away to the port in Biri. As the previous night, we pitched tents in the campground of the resort.

I so love this humble accommodation. There were hammocks for guests beside the campground, and just outside the entrance are two swings, where you can sit and get your shins wet when it’s high tide. Hali and I hanged out here after pitching our tents and just chatted, with bright fireflies swaying across the tree branches.

At about 5:30AM in the morning, we road boats from Bani Island to Biri Island. The ride took about an hour.

Biri Island, Samar

We registered in the tourism office in the municipal hall and rode habal-habals, which can take up to 2 passengers. The habal-habals dropped us off near the bridge to the Bel-at rock formation.

The bridge to Bel-at rock formation. (Photo by Hali)

I had talked with a friend about this wooden bridge and agreed it was scary. The handrails were mostly gone, caused by the same typhoon that ravaged Sorsogon. I was anxious my foot would slip through one of the openings on the bridge floor… and I would die. This aside, most people will appreciate the long walk through this bridge, where you can see mangroves and shrubs and what seems to be a shallow pond below and the Bel-at rock formations at the distance.

Our tour guide, kuya Louie, told us that we should stay at least 2 days in Biri Island in Northern Samar to explore all the rock formations in the area and perhaps try our hands in surfing. Since we were only there for a half-day tour, we only got to see Bel-at and Magasang rock formations.

Bel-at rock formation

Bel-at rock formation features huge limestone rocks that is a prominent feature of Biri Island, what Inquirer calls a result of a “battle of the gods.” So you know that the title is not mine originally but ascribed to this article. The rock formations are a long time in the making and caused by various natural phenomenon and weather disturbances.

Waves in Biri. (Photo by Hali)
I would like put some nice poem here. Okay, here goes.
“We fall in and out of love in every one of these stories. I feed you dandelions. I eat honey off your back. We hold hands like we are going to fall off the edge of the universe together.” – Azra T

When we saw the limestone formations, Hali whispered, “Star wars.” I nodded. It definitely looked like the formations in the dessert in the famous fantasy movie series.

Beach where we found a few groups of people swimming. (Photo by Hali)

Aside from the smooth-surfaced stones, there was also a large pool where a few tourists where taking a bath and a cliff where people gathered for picture taking.

Overview of the shallow pools in Bel-at rock formation. (Photo by Hali)
In this fairy tale, I’m a goddess who swooped down to this beautiful lagoon to bathe. (Photo by Hali)

Another striking feature of Bel-at rock formation, for me at least, are the scattered natural pools just beside the cliff. People normally pass by these without a second glimpse and nobody was taking a dip (anyway some are too shallow), but above the cliff the view looks something you’d put on a desktop wallpaper. A little bit breathtaking, that is.

Magasang rock formation

From Bel-at rock formation, our habal-habals took us for a short ride to Magasang rock formation. We wade through shallow water toward the formation. A bridge built in the middle helps tourists cross over and also serves as a rest stop for families with picnic items.

The floor in Magasang rock formation is slippery, similar to Bel-at’s. Moss covers some area. One of our companions slipped on the floor, and our tour guide then told us to walk across dry ground only.

The Magasang rock formation. (Photo by Hali)
Web-like surface of Magasang rock formation. But Hali would describe this “hanging the cloth to dry.” (Photo by Hali)
Atop the cliff in Magasang rock formation. (Photo by Hali)

Again, there’s a full horizon of boulders where sea waves would angrily crash. It was fascinating to watch, and its sound was calming to the soul.

This is Hali asking me to pose ala a Star Wars character. I honestly don’t know what I’m talking about. (Photo by Hali)

Up ahead, we climbed through some sort of natural stairs to see the view from above the cliff. The stair’s surface looked like spider webs, what I imagine a Zerg’s lair’s surface would look like in real life. There are footholds so climbing up wasn’t difficult, just tiring.

There’s a rewarding view at the top.

Biri Island, Samar: A protected Philippine gem

Our tour guide Kuya Louie told us the Biri rock formations has only become an established tourism spot in Samar several years ago. I then told him about the various places we’ve visited, where both residents and tourists had done some damage such as vandalism on walls before the proper tourism office could step in and that it’s a good thing Biri rock formations didn’t suffer the same fate.

He answered that it did. Before, tourists would leave trash and write their names on the rocks. The tourism office employed people to clean up the Biri rock formations. Thankfully, these irresponsible activities didn’t leave any lasting marks.

Kuya Louie then told us some tourists would prefer not to be accompanied by a guide, and this is strongly discouraged. Aside from providing livelihood to the locality, hiring guides will ensure that there are people to oversee the activities of tourists visiting the Biri rock formations, to avoid any irresponsible or illegal practices.

Truthfully, I had never thought of it that way. A lot of mountaineers, for instance, prefer not getting guides if possible because it will add to costs. Possibly this is one of the reasons a lot of mountain sites suffer from improper garbage disposal and so on.

Anyway, this has been a long article already. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit in Biri Island, Samar, and hope that the local tourism office continues to keep this gem regulated and protected for everybody to see.


P.S. This post is part of our long road trip from Manila down south. See other pit stops we’d been to here:

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  1. I’m so impressed by the limestones!! Wauw. I also had to think of Star wars immediately. Love it. If I ever go to the Philippines I’ll make sure to visit the Biri rock formations.

  2. Bookmarking this! I’ve always wanted to go to Biri! Should have went there when I was assigned in Catarman a few years back. Hopefully i’ll get to visit soon. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I have never heard of Bani Island, Samar. It looks a little bit like Australia the rock formations along the water. Sydney has a similar area. I would love to go to the Philippines soon!

  4. The Biri rock formations look breath taking. Really majestic! Your posts never fail to inspire me to go out and travel. How I wish I can quit my job and just travel to the places you’ve went to. Hahaha! Anyway, I’m happy to hear that the Samar locality continue to protect this gem. I am with you in hoping that they keep it regulated and protected. Also, I hope that people will support tourism in this place by hiring local guides. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  5. I am glad you decided to prepare a separate post as the pictures are just stunning. There are so many places to visit in the Philippines but the Biri rock formations really stand out as a hidden gem.

  6. Biri reminds me a lot of Kapurpawan in Ilocos. They have similar rock formations. I’m not sure which one is more beautiful but I want to go to Biri and find out myself. Your photos alone look gorgeous.

  7. These are amazing rock formations. I do hope that they would continue to have this protected. I think the reason for having the tourist guide is reasonable enough because we can’t really tell if the tourist will have the place clean or will not do anything that will damage it.

  8. I loved the Bel-at rock formation more than the masagang rock formation, as the Bel-at looks like the perfect place to take photos for prenups, especially for the more adventurous couples out there. Looks so majestic and breathtaking. Okay, so maybe I want my own prenup to be done there soon enough when my husband and I renew our vows… Here’s hoping! Thanks by the way for sharing the gems of the Philippines, I’m including this in my bucket list 🙂

  9. I always have seen pictures of beautiful places in the Philippines, but this by far is my favourite post. I love the pictures that you use, and the detailed information about the Biri Rock formations. I think it is great that the rock formations are also protected as sadly, lots of beautiful places are easily destroyed when proper care of the location is not taken! I will be sharing this post on my travel group. Wonderful!

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