Holy Week Caravan: Road Trip from Manila to Leyte

Road trip from Manila to Leyte
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What’s the longest road trip you’ve taken? Ours is from Manila to Leyte, where our final stop was at Kalanggaman Island. It took us almost 7 days to complete this, and here I’m going to tell you all about it!

As a short background, this road trip was scheduled on the Holy Week, so we’d have ample vacation time and those of us who’re working won’t have to use up all our leave credits. I was actually considering other places — 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.

This was a packaged tour, by the way, but if you plan on going on a road trip yourself, you can use this as a guide. Our group met up at Buendia on a Tuesday evening and got early morning a week after.

Road trip from Manila to Leyte

Here’s a map to show you our pit stops. The cars designate the starting and end points.

Manila to Leyte road trip route in Google maps

As it’s a road trip, we followed an open itinerary which means it’s open to change depending on factors such as convenience or whatever else we decide at the moment. It’s understood that we could stop whenever we find a new point of interest even if it’s not originally in our itinerary.

Our tour organizers (Ate Moon and Kuya Brahma) came up with this itinerary, and I’d edited it a bit to reflect the actual schedule we followed.

Day 0
0830PM ETD Manila

Day 1
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

Day 2
0700AM Island hopping (Matnog Lighthouse, Juag Lagoon Fish Sanctuary, Tikling Beach)
0200PM ETD for Catarman
0500PM ETA Catarman / set camp

Day 3
0500AM ETD for Biri Island in Samar
0200PM ETD for Tacloban
0600PM ETA Tacloban / settle in a commercial lodging

Day 4
0500AM ETD for Palompon, Leyte
0700AM ETA Palompon / boat ride to Kalanggaman Island / set camp

Day 5
1200PM ETD Manila
0530PM Short stop in San Juanico Bridge

Day 6
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

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 our next stop, Sorsogon.

Mayon Volcano
Mayon Volcano as seen from Cagsawa Ruins. (Photo by Hali)

Sorsogon

Paguriran Island Lagoon is an emerging summer destination in Bacon, Sorsogon. It’s just a walking distance from 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.

Revisiting Sorsogon feature
Paguriran Island Lagoon in Sorsogon. (Photo by Hali)
Paguriran Lagoon, Sorsogon
Outside the lagoon, the water is a deep shade of blue-green. (Photo by Hali)

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.

Tikling beach in Matnog, Sorsogon
The perfect vacation spot? Tikling Beach. (Photo by Hali)

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.

Full Read: Bacon and Matnog, Sorsogon: Revisiting an endearing province

Samar

From Matnog Port, we rode a roro bound to Samar.

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.

Sunrise in Catarman, Samar
What’s the most beautiful sunrise that you’ve seen? Taken in Catarman, Northern Samar. (Photo by Hali)

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

Magasang rock formation in Biri
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)
Biri rock formations in Samar
Natural lagoon found in Biri rock formations. (Photo by Hali)

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.

Full Read: From the Battle of the Gods: Biri Island, Samar

Leyte

Our last stop in this almost week-long road trip 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.

Kalanggaman Island beach, Leyte
Beach side for snorkeling in Kalanggman Island. (Photo by Hali)
Kalanggaman Island sandbar
Kalanggaman Island’s famous sandbar. (Photo by Hali)

We pitched tents in Kalanggaman Island and enjoyed social drinks. As Kuya Ram said, “Ito talaga yung buhay beach bum.”

Full Read: Why Leyte’s Kalanggaman Island is a prime example of tourism done right

What can be improved

If I were to change some things in our road trip from Manila to Leyte, 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.

Our decision to stay at Kalanggaman Island was a good idea since it would’ve been too bitin if we were only there on a day tour. Even though we visited on a busy day, a lot of the tourists left after 3PM so we get to enjoy a little quiet afterwards. If we had another day or two, I would’ve liked to proceed to Sambawan Island in Biliran as originally planned.

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.

Tips on how to survive 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 from Manila to Leyte, 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. If you have it, use packing cubes to save more space. 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.
  • 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!

Budget

As said above, this was a packaged tour. 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.

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.

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 / 0907 957 7748 or 0918 304 5437
Marson’s Beach Resort in Northern Samar: Facebook
Palompon eco-tourism: (053) 338-2094/ 0917 3037 269/ 0917 3037 267

Afterword

Thanks to Kuya Brahma of The War Fish’s Lair and Ate Moon, both comprising #TEAM, for organizing this road trip which is 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.

Sorsogon-Samar-Leyte road trip group shot
Say Hi, six-day road trip buddies! (Photo by Hali)

Don’t forget to watch the video for our road trip from Manila to Leyte 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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Road trip from Manila to Leyte - ending up in Kalanggaman Island.

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14 Comments

  1. Hi, Just want to ask if you have list of expenses in this trip? We want to try this via own car and I want to have an idea how much we will spend or atleast the fare in Roro including the car. Will appreciate your response. Thanks!

  2. Ovaltine biscuits? Where did you get them? Haha! I remember that I have eaten Ovaltine candies but not biscuits. This is such a long trip! The longest road trip that I have experienced was from Manila to Pangasinan. It was enjoyable because I live here in Oriental Mindoro. I have not visited the northern part of the Philippines prior to that trip. I agree that you should travel with the ones whom you want to be with. It is a long trip and if you are in a wrong company then the trip would be unbearable.

  3. Amazing! the route is very familiar for me beacuse that’s the same route that I take whenever I go back to our province in Laoang, Northern Samar.

    Too bad that I’ve never been to Biri Island. That’s a shame for a nortehanon like me LOL! But at least i’ve been to Tacloban and Palompon.

    Grabe, I would also love to try that kind of adventure. Too bad I don’t have enough leaves this year 🙁 Love your adventures Kat!

  4. Wow this is an amazing road trip. I think I agree to all your tips. Always pack light as much as possible bring 1 bag, traveling with people you love makes the travel less boring and you wouldn’t notice the time. Plus yeah the not tinted car. I agree with that I love seeing the world runs through the window. I’ve been to bicol region and it was really a long land trip. I can’t imagine pushing it forward to samar and leyte. That’s so awesome:)

  5. Wow you were able to take three provinces in only 5 days. That must have been really tiring eh? I’d been to Sorsogon but not in Matnog. I haven’t been to Samar and Leyte, I didn’t even know they can be reached from Sorsogon.

    The first thing that I remembered when I saw your pictures of Biri is also the Kapurparawan Rock formation. It looks so beautiful!

    My grandfather hailed from Barogo, Leyte. That’s the only thing I knew of Leyte until Kalanggaman Island became famous. I’d sure love to go there too.

  6. Such a long roadtrip! But it is obviously worth it! I am from Leyte but I haven’t visited Kalanggaman yet. I love your photos. It really shows the beauty of Samar and Leyte!

  7. Road warriors! I have been to Sorsogon so many times already due to work decades ago. Couple of years ago, I made two trips to Samar and Leyte. In Samar, I went to the three main cities of Catarman, Calbayog and Catbalogan… and then all over Leyte. One place I missed? BIRI! 🙁

  8. Thank you so much Hali and Kath for being such wonderful travel companions! Cheers to more travels!

  9. The longest roadtrip I’ve ever been to is when we went to Bicol for a wedding shoot. Damn, that made my butt hurt so bad and become numb… XD Anyways, I love the video that you made, and it just so happens that I also made a video of my recent trip as well, got inspired by your videos that’s why I made my own 🙂

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