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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Revisiting Sorsogon: The place that captured our hearts
- From battle of the gods: Biri rock formations
- Why Leyte’s Kalanggaman Island is an example of tourism done right
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