From Luzon, crossing over seas via roro, and then arriving in Kalanggaman Island in Leyte, this road trip south of Manila is the longest Hali and I have been on so far.
This was planned to fall on the Holy Week, so we’d have ample time on the road without using up all our office leave credits. I actually considered other destinations — some friends were inviting us in Calayan Island, for instance, but I believe hopping on a car for a days-long road trip is something everybody should experience at least once.
Our whole group met up at Buendia and left in the evening of Tuesday and were back early morning of the same day of the following week.
Road trip south of Manila itinerary
I would like to credit our tour organizers, Ate Moon and Kuya Brahma, for the original itinerary. I’d edited it a bit to reflect the actual schedule we followed.
Before going, we all understood that the road trip follows an open itinerary (as road trips should be). This means that it is open to change as per the overall convenience or happiness of the group and that we stop whenever there is a point of interest even on locations not originally tagged as pit stops.
0830PM ETD Manila
0800AM ETA Cagsawa Ruins in Albay
1100AM ETA Paguriran Island in Bacon, Sorsogon
0230PM ETD for Matnog, Sorsogon
0400PM ETA Matnog / boat ride to Subic beach / set camp
0700AM Island hopping (Matnog Lighthouse, Juag Lagoon Fish Sanctuary, Tikling Beach)
0200PM ETD for Catarman
0500PM ETA Catarman / set camp
0500AM ETD for Biri Island in Samar
0200PM ETD for Tacloban
0600PM ETA Tacloban / settle in a commercial lodging
0500AM ETD for Palompon, Leyte
0700AM ETA Palompon / boat ride to Kalanggaman Island / set camp
1200PM ETD Manila
0530PM Short stop in San Juanico Bridge
1200PM ETA CWC / short wakeboarding session (Optional)
1200AM ETA Manila
We’d planned to visit Sambawan Island in Biliran as our last pit stop. After a group discussion — in which there was silent mutiny from the people in the back — we decided to cross this off and stay overnight in Kalanggaman Island in Leyte instead. I’d wanted to go to Biliran, while Hali voted for the more practical choice. Well, some other time then.
The change was better money- and time-wise anyway, and we were able to just chill on our last day.
Albay and Sorsogon
After a night on the road, we had breakfast and a short tour in Cagsawa Ruins in Albay. It was our second time here, the first was during an outreach event the year before. We took a couple of shots, greeted the other joiners in the road trip, and then proceeded to Bacon, Sorsogon, to see Paguriran Island Lagoon.
Paguriran Island Lagoon is an emerging summer destination in Sorsogon. It’s near a resort and features a natural pool that fills up with aqua-green water during high tide. It’s strikingly similar to Tangke Lagoon in Islas de Gigantes.
It was still low tide when we arrived, and we didn’t really had enough time to enjoy swimming in the lagoon. After lunch, we hurried to catch the last boats in Matnog port going to the Subic Laki beach, where we’d be staying the night. After arriving in the island, the sister of Subic Liit beach we’d visited in our previous outreach, we pitched our tents on the shore. We watched the bright March full moon and had a group socials in the sand.
The day after, we re-visited Matnog Lighthouse and Juag Lagoon Fish Sanctuary, where guests can see and feed various sea animals. Hali and I were looking forward to this so we could ask how Kuya Alex and his family were faring, after the severe typhoon the past year.
See everything we loved on our revisit to Sorsogon.
Our last stop in Sorsogon is Tikling Beach, where after a year, Hali and I had finally been able to test its shimmering blue waters to our hearts’ content. Visiting Sorsogon for the second time was delightful as the first time.
From Matnog Port, we rode a large roro bound to Samar. We headed to Marson’s beach resort in Bani Island, where we settled for the night in our tents.
Early in the morning, boats took us for a one-hour ride to Biri to see its famous out-of-this-world rock formations, Bilat and Magasang. I’d been to Kapurpurawan rock formation in Ilocos and didn’t really enjoy the experience.
See more photos of the famous rock formations and tidal pools in Biri.
The Biri rock formations in Samar caught me by surprise. These proved to be a spectacular sight, and it was fun climbing up to see cliffs to see the strong waves of the seas below.
Our last stop in this almost week-long road trip south of Manila is Kalanggaman Island in Leyte. We arrived in Kalanggaman Island in what is probably the most busiest day in the year — on a weekend in Holy Week. It was crowded and a bit tiring to be surrounded with all that people, but it was nonetheless impressive in that it’s not chaotic or neglected as you’d expect crowded holiday attractions to be. The Palompon tourism office did a good job.
We pitched tents in Kalanggaman Island and enjoyed social drinks. As Kuya Ram said, “Ito talaga yung buhay beach bum.”
See why the tourism management in Kalanggaman Island stood out.
Road trip south of Manila: Personal notes
If I’m going to make a revision in our itinerary for this road trip south of Manila, I’m going to cross out Paguriran Island Lagoon. While the lagoon is okay, it took us a long detour to get there, and even then we couldn’t stay long. I prefer going straight to Matnog and then enjoying the rest of the day in Subic beach.
Staying overnight in Kalanggaman seems like a good idea, especially since there are fewer tourists after 3PM. However, I’ll still retain Sambawan Island as the last pit stop — because I really want to get there. 🙂 As for the return trip, I think it’ll be a better idea to get a flight back to Manila.
Budget-wise, normally Hali and I are very careful about how we spend our money. In this road trip, we spent more than usual, in particular on food and drinks. Since we were inside a van and there wasn’t much to do, we preoccupied ourselves with eating snacks and chitchatting.
P.S. This road trip takes you down south of Manila. If you’re looking for a road trip north of Luzon, you can check Followyouroad’s pick on the best pit stops to visit.
Surviving a long road trip
I’m a veteran of long road trips. I’d been to various places in Bicol on a weekend schedule, leaving Friday night from Manila and getting back early morning on a Monday. Long rides are basically nothing new to me.
This has somehow prepared me for this 6-day road trip south of Manila, but not entirely. So I’m going to put in a few points here based on our post-event assessment of our vacation. Hali and I do these assessments after every travel, to see what we liked best and what can be improved in the future.
- Pack light. Seriously, try to put everything in one backpack. Exceptions are of course cameras and tent bags. Re-use clothes if possible. You’re most likely going to be in a van (or a smaller car), and it’s gonna be cramped. The most that you can do for yourself and your travel acquaintances is for your belongings to occupy as small space as possible.
- Get an awesome road trip playlist. Here’s a good acoustic playlist, for starters.
- Be with people you’d like to travel with. You’re going to be on the road half the time, so it’s important that you’re with friend(s) whom you can share various road stories with.
- Go for an untinted car. This is a personal preference. Hali didn’t mind the heavily tinted windows in our van since it protected us from day heat. Meanwhile, I craved a little sunlight and a good view outside. I love looking at endless farms, mountains and residential houses and see a little bit of the Philippines at a time. Being in a cramped van, with car windows that make everything look a shade of rose, drove me crazy. Okay, I kid. It drove me to sleep most of the times.
- Expect that the ride back is the longest. It will hurt your butt, possibly give you leg cramps or stiff neck. Going back to Manila, we’ve exhausted our list of pit stops, which meant that our vehicle rolled on a stretch. On our last day, we stopped at CWC so our drivers, going on without sleep, could rest. If you can, book a flight home instead!
Contact information section
A few contact details in case anybody’s interested and wants to reserve in advance:
Kuya Alex, Juag’s fish sanctuary: Facebook page, 0907 957 7748 or 0918 304 5437
Marson’s Beach Resort in Northern Samar, Facebook Page
Palompon eco-tourism: (053) 338-2094/ 0917 3037 269/ 0917 3037 267
Thanks to Kuya Brahma of The War Fish’s Lair and Ate Moon, both comprising #TEAM, for organizing this road trip south of Manila, dubbed the Holy Week Caravan. I am rarely pleased with tour organizers, which is why I don’t often drop names, but these two have prepared everything in advanced and brought along interesting travel stories to boot.
We paid for the van rental and then chipped in as a group for island hopping costs, cottage rentals and so on. Foods were either shared by the group or bought individually.
All in all, Hali and I spent about P7000-8000 each. This includes endless snacks for the road trip such as Ovaltine biscuits (did you know these exist?) and refreshments, which are mostly ice-cold coconut juices and P100 big-liter Coke bottles; two beach hats; a white anklet featuring small shells; and a thick four-meter rope that may be useful for survival in the future.
Don’t forget to watch the video for our road trip south of Manila here. 🙂 I’m marking this as one of my personal favorites. We don’t have a drone yet or many DSLR lenses, but I’m proud how Hali can capture our moments and apply different styles as we go along.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? Where’s the longest road trip you’ve taken?
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