CATBALOGAN — Samar is finally receiving its well-deserved attention when it comes to tourism. And just a year ago, my friends from other publications were able to see and enjoy what this province has to offer.
The trip which is initiated by the former governor of Samar to bring the province to the map of adventure seekers. Former Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan remarked, “I know not much is known about Samar, except perhaps as one of the provinces badly hit by Typhoon Yolanda.”
She continued: “People are not aware that there are actually three Samar provinces: Eastern Samar, Northern Samar and the mother province, Samar, which is also known as Western Samar. Our province, Samar, needs to be recognized as a tourist destination. We have a lot of natural resources that are waiting to be discovered more.”
She then promptly gave us the opportunity to discover these still largely unheard of destinations. So upon our arrival at Tacloban airport, not a single minute was wasted as we immediately drive straight to Samar.
The relaxing 20 minute boat ride to Sohoton Cave.
Sohoton Cave and River Cruise — The 20 minutes boat ride from Wespal passes through a river in the middle of the forest is reminiscent to those you’ve seen videos of the Amazon.
The perfect tropic scenery and fresh air is simply what makes this experience so relaxing. Closing in to the Sohoton Cave, remarkable jagged rocks and cliffs are beginning to appear. A small wharf is everyone’s jump-off to the cave, and managing your balance is your key in getting off the boat.
Before spelunking, visitors will be equipped with proper gears before entering the cave–also provided on the tour. A gallery of stalactites and stalagmites will trigger the imagination of its guests while looking at it on different angles; and some are still ‘alive’. It’s highly suggested that you wear comfortable clothing and footwear as visitors will do a little ‘trekking’ while exploring the cave. It’s been fun, thrilling and relaxing afternoon in Sohoton.
How to get there?
Sohoton Natural Bridge Natural Park (SNBNP) is located in Brgy. Guirang and Brgy Inuntan.
The boat can carry a maximum of 5 tourists plus our tour guide and the boat’s driver. The boat’s rate from Wespal to Sohoton is Php500 while the rate from Basey Town is Php1,500.
You can either ride a pump boat directly from Basey town to Sohoton or ride a habal-habal from Basey Town to Wespal, Brgy. Girang to ride a pump boat from that point to Sohoton.
Lulugayan Falls — An hour and a half hours away from Catbalogan City where we are staying, our tourist guide brought us to this magnificient falls in Calbiga. But the trip to Calbiga is something you must brace for, the complete dirt and rocky road will shake of all your heads. So better rent a car that would comfortably take you there…well probably most of the attractions here in Samar.
Upon arriving at a small village, we immediately jump off from the van and started our 20 minutes trek to the falls. A pathwalk will lead you to Lulugayan Falls, some portion of it are artistically decorated. What a reward it was to finally see what tourists have been calling the “mini Niagara Falls.” Tourists can take a little guarded dip here. The rocks tend to be slippery, so travelers with children must be very careful. Otherwise, this is a fantastic place, a true natural wonder that made us, well, wonder why this continues to be out of the radar for most nature-trippers.
How to get there?
From Catbalogan its advisable to rent tough SUVs that could smoothly traverse the unpaved roads to Calbiga. Rent cost may range from Php3,000 to Php5,000.
The weavers of Basey
We were also able to visit the women banig-weavers of Saub Cave in Basey. These women come to the cave to weave sleeping mats made of reed grass. As to why they choose to work here, they chorused that the cool temperature of the cave gives their raw materials better flexibility.
“We cannot weave anywhere else because the hot temperature outside tends to make our materials brittle and difficult to work on,” they said. The women have been at it since childhood, explaining that they inherited the art of weaving from their ancestors. They sell these mats here, although visitors would be very lucky if there are any on hand. The banigs, with their colorful designs and sturdy workmanship, are fast-sellers and easily snapped up by entrepreneurs from nearby provinces.
Rapids experience in Calbiga and the towers of Marabut Beach
A good 10-minute drive from Saub Cave brought us to the municipality of Marabut, home of the marine park that boasts of 15 towering rock islands. This side of the province was badly hit by Typhoon Yolanda, with some devastated resorts rented out to Red Cross volunteers. However, things are starting to pick up, with confident local merchants setting up shop and eager to start afresh.
One notable, if not unforgettable, destination turned out to be Rapids in Calbiga, Samar. This tourist spot requires almost two hours of mostly rocky roads to reach from the main highway. Once we reached the tourist center, we were equipped with safety gears.
The experience was totally incomparable to the modern rides we are used to in theme parks, it more thrilling and somehow “life-threatening”. We were not able to capture many photos that would justify the beauty of the river but I guess it’s for you to discover.
How to get there?
Again, renting your own vehicle while on trip is the best option while exploring the island.
The trip would not be possible without the help of the Provincial Government of Samar and Department of Tourism. We thank their generosity and hospitality during our trip. For more information, you may visit their website http://www.samar.lgu-ph.com.
ViajeroMNL (Viajero Manila) is a lifestyle blog site that features different pop culture, travel, and food destinations in the Philippines. This article was written by Gillian Gacuma.