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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

BIRI NORTHERN SAMAR TRAVEL GUIDE: Of Giant Rock Formations Resisting the Wrath of the Pacific Ocean

Biri Island in Northern Samar and its famous Rock Formations reminds me of The Lord of the Rings movie. That scene when the Fellowship of the Rings members had to navigate through the river to escape the pursuit of the evil hunting them and two giant statues of kings by the waterfalls were shown with their hands raised forward as if warning bad elements to stay out. That scene which gives one goosebumps because of the symbolism magnified by to the grand statues.


Back to reality and imagine six giant rocks almost equally apart from each other, majestic in thier formations, at the Northern front of Biri Island as if citadels placed there to break the brute waves of the Pacific Ocean before they hit the main island of Biri. This is nature vs nature at its finest. A display of how nature protects itself from the same forces that shapes it.

Biri Rocks Formations in Samar is to Kapurpurawan Rock Formations in Ilocos Norte. The latter is known for it's white rocks while that of Biri are rather dark as if volcanic in nature. Between the two, Biri is the standout when it comes to grandeur. Its rock formations are giants.

Itinerary: Day 1

6:20am -ETD Manila
7:20am -ETD Legazpi 
7:30am-1000am -Legazpi to Sorsogon City 
10:00am-12:30pm -Sorsogon City-Matnog Port 
1:00pm-2:30pm -Biri Island via direct boat 
3:00pm -check in accommodation 
4:00-6:00pm -explore town center 
7:00pm -dinner 8:00pm -socials 
10:00pm lights off


Of Big Waves

The first thing you will remember on the way to Biri Island are the giant waves. We were witness to the tantrums of these waters. First of alp, one has to cross the San Berbadino straight to et to Biri, either you are travelling from Matnog Port (the southernmost part of Luzon) to Allen Port which is the gateway Samar and Leyte or go straight to Biri Island from Matnog. We have contacted a guide prior to going here and it proved to be very helpful as we got tips along the way. It was him who told us of the giant boat from Biri that brings good back and forth Biri and Matnog.

We took that boat to save on travel time but there was a thunderstorm before we left Matnog and we encountered two more while en route to Biri Island. Say hello to giants waves. And that's not even the Pacific Ocean. We were so wet and rattled the moment we set food in Biri Island.


- Manila-Legazpi by plane
- Legazpi-Sorsogon City by fx
- Sorsogon City - Matnog via jeepney
- Matnog- Biri via big boat for goods

Matnog port direct to Biri via this cargo boat

-Biri- Lavezares via small boat -Lavezares
- Allen Port via tricycle -Allen Port
- Matnog via RoRo -Matnog-Legazpi via van
- Legazpi - Manila by plane

Lavezares Port on our way back
Roro-Allen to Matnog
Van instead of taking the bus from Allen to Legazpi by Roro. 
We ended at the back of a private van as some private car owners get
passengers along the way. I find it more fast and convenient

Day 2

6:00- breakfast
7:00 am -Start Rock FormationsTour
12:00 noon- end part 1 tour
1:30 pm - resume tour
5:00pm - end of part 2 tour
6:30pm - dinner
8:00pm - socials
12:00MN - lights off

When is the Best Time To Go

May, June, July, August
That's summer in Biri Northern Samar. Weird right? Just when we thought our schedule of early November was perfect, we were wrong. Summer in Biri starts late compared to Luzon. Also note that June is the start of rainy season in most parts of Luzon. But that's the season in Biri. Locals and our guide told us. Time you travel so as not to be traumatized by the rough boat rides.


Villa Amor

We saw a couple of new small-scale accommodations in Biri along the towns central area but nothing beats Villa Amor in terms of size, location and value for quality. I love that it is seaside. Although there is no fine sand beach in this part of Biri Island, the sunset is equally as lovely and the wide sea gives a feeling of space in an already spacious place. In between two main building of Villa Amor is an lawn which is perfect for activities. Mostly Fan rooms available, if you opt of an a/c room you have to pay for the fuel of the generator from 12 midnight to 8am.
fan room for 2 pax at Villa Amor

The island's electricity shuts down every 12 midnight til 8:00am due to supply restrictions. That means a fan room is the most practical way to go. I have to admit though, it was such a struggle to sleep that not even a fan is on from that period. Better sleep before electricity turns off and make sure you keep a flashlight handy should you require moving around or say go to the toilet during that period. It takes a lot of getting used to.

Adviseable Days of Stay
Time could be the challenge when going to Biri Island especially if you plan to take the long bus ride from Manila to Legazpi City. Imagine 18 hours on the road if you are to take the bus from Manila. That's a lot of time on the road.

So I would suggest you stay at least 2 nights 3 days at the minimum. Also take note that you cannot go to all rock formations in one day as one cannot hop from one rock formation to the other through the shoreline rather go back to the main road and to another passage to another rock formation.


6 Rock Formations
There are 6 notable rock formations in Biri. We only had whole day to explore, whole 8 hours but we only got close three (3) of them. Some were impossible to go to because of high waves. Even with only three, our day was already packed. We started with Bel-at on the extreme right of the formations. A wooden bridge put up by the local tourism authority greeted us. The bridge is up for renovation and turnover to the local government unit but despite its condition, it was still intact. We had to be watchful of our steps though as some of the steps and rails are already gone. Very good view of mangroves below.

The island of Biri has intensifies its mangrove planting efforts to provide additional protection from big waves during rainy season. From Bel-at, we were able to explore the nearby rock formation of Caranas. We spend the whole half day of the tour here appreciating the view from top to bottom, all vista points as well as the beautiful patterns on the rocks.

1. Magasang 
2. Magsapad
3. Macadlaw 
4. Puhunan 
5. Bel-at
6. Caranas



Macadlaw is our Favorite
Magasang they say is the most popular of the rock formations but strong waves denied us of reaching it. Among those we tried therefore, Macadlaw was our favorite. It is the 4th rock formation from the right if you are facing the ocean which means there are two rock formations on your left and three on your right. The view on the latter is awesome. The three rock formations-- Puhunan, Bel-at and Caranas form a lovely pattern. One that merits out-of-this-world feel. Tas malalaki pa mga alon, the white surf and strong roar of the waves create when they hit the rocks makes you feel of the constant battle that unfolds between the sea and the land. Waves are so fierce that even on top of Macadlaw you can feel water droplets on your face brought about by the impact when they hit the rocks.

Macadlaw has a grassy top which means one can camp here overnight should you secure a permit from the local authorities. According to the guide, the local tourism office was not strict about camping here before, not anymore. Still, some manage to camp here secretly.


Beautiful Patterns

The rock formations of Biri are jaw dropping not only because of their sheer sizes and perfect alignment but also because of the patterns created by years of erosion caused by the wind and slamming of the waves. This is nature sculpting artwork at its finest. The trick therefore is not just climb up and appreciate the view, go around the formations and one can appreciate the beautiful patterns. Take note that this is not possible in all rock formations. It's not just a pleasant subject for photography, it is equally stunning in person. 

Make sure you pay attention to the giant wares slamming the banks of these formations as they could either push you to the rocks or draw you to the sea. Some areas are also slippery so make sure you have proper footwear and you are always careful of your steps. Guides are therefore very important as they an help you assess whether it is safe to go around or not.



I only take note of the essential expenses here as I encourage you to be flexible with others expenses such as food, pasalubong and tip. Like for example, we went drinking for two nights of stay here, the first night with our guide in a nearby videoke house and the 2nd night with other locals notably Sir, Lito who is the secretary to the Mayor of Biri Island. Such expences are not included here.

(Per person for 2 pax)
700 - Biri Accommodation (Fan room Villa Amor)
300 - Rock Formations Tour
50 - Environmental Fee
500 - Legazpi-Matnog Port vv
300 - Ferry Matnog-Allen Samar vv
40 –Allen Terminal to Lavazeres vv
100-  –Lavazeres to Biri vv
TOTAL: 1,990.00 php



Food in Biri is rather simple. Expect karinderya-stule dining. No food unique of Bii but the typical dishes you can find anywhere in the Philippines especially Bicol. Mostly pork dishes and seafood. Eateries close at around 8pm so be sure to have your dinner before that. Even with these simple eateries, we enjoyed eating in Biri as food are cooked like your mom use to cook them, unlike in Manila where many eateries simply cook for mass feeding if you know what I mean.

Night Life 
Nights in Biri is rather simpl. That is the charm of the island, especially because electricity all over the island goes off at exactly 12 midnight. If you want to drink, there are a few sari-sari stores where you can buy alcohol and bring to your accommodation. In our case, Villa Amor has ample open spaces and outdoor tables and chair s. Or you can drink in your room if you want. On our first night, we went to a karaoke bar, the one and only karaoke bar in Biri which is a few meters away from Villa Amor. 

Our guide told us about the place. It's like a karaoke bar cum beer house where a few round tables are and groups gather. Kulang nalang ka-table beer house na beer house na. Karaoke machine works on 5-peso coins. The 2nd night, we were in front of a store near the plaza with some locals we met earlier and our guide over Emperador Light. It was fun talking with locals and learning more about their place. Special thanks to Sir Lito of the Municipal Government for keeping us company and making us feel among one of the locals.

the only videoke house in Poblacion that is open until midnight

Day 3 

6:00am brrakfast
8:00am -Leave for Lavezares
10:00am -arrive at Matnog Port
4:00pm -arrive in Legazpi (via van)
5:00pm -check in hostel Legazpi
7:00pm -dinner + explore city
11:00pm Lights off

Day 4 

Legazpi City Tour -am
Flight back to Manila- pm

A guide is required to go to the rock formations. All guides are well trained by the local tourism office and are well regulate. Aside from the guide fee of ---- A small amount of ---- is also needed to be paid at the local tourism office. Wag nang magkuripot as these fees go a long way in helping the local community which recently finds receipts from tourism vital in the improvement of the town and the livelihood of local people. Our guide was seasoned. He knows the formations so well, not just the important vista points but the the formations that few dare to notice. He was all around I would say as he also offered his habal-habal as transport to the rock formation set off points to town vv.

with our guide kuya Landoy

The weather during our visit was not that good although we were still to have a few episodes of clear skies but we still enjoyed our stay. I remember that other than me and my friend, another solo-tourist registered at the tourism office on the day we visited the rock formations. We obviously came during the low season therefore so Biri was so quiet and our experience was one with lots of interactions with locals. It was brief stay but a memorable one. Quite a long travel but worth it all. The rock formations are to be admired, I have seen nothing of this immensity before so Biri for me definitely deserves to be one of the 10 Philippine Gems in Tourism.

Our Personal Contact:
Kuya Landoy
(0920) 524 6773

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