One of these amazing places can be found on the island of Biri in Northern Samar. Going there is in itself an adventure. Those who are brave enough to go Biri are rewarded with the view of the most breathtaking rock formations in this side of the Pacific, and they get to meet the people of the island who are perhaps the most hospitable Filipinos.
Biri Island is where Chito Rono’s film “Spirit Warriors” was shot. The rock formations became the battleground where the evil and the good spirits fought.
The island is indeed a battleground of the spirit warriors. This is where the mighty tides of the Pacific clash with the strong currents of San Bernandino Strait. The spirit warriors unleash their power through winds and waves and Biri is caught in between this constant battle. The island stands strong, refusing to concede. As it takes the beating from the seas, it allows the mighty forces of nature to shape its cliff. The result is a huge monument in its purest form that constantly changes shape with every punch from the wave.
The rock formations belong to Biri, a small town in Northern Samar. It is home to about 11,000 people. The town covers several islands with Biri being the largest. The other islands belonging to Biri include Talisay, Magasang and Magnipa. The whole municipality has a total area of less than 25 square kilometers. The main source of livelihood is fishing.
The island is so laid back, and the roads are quite narrow and mostly unpaved. The only form of transportation is the habal-habal or a motorcycle modified to carry more than three passengers. Electricity is available only from 12 noon to 12 midnight. Water is rationed in some areas. Visitors must be ready to go back to basics when they stay at the island.
How to get there
The easiest way to reach Biri is to fly from Manila to Catarman. Only Philippine Airlines now flies direct to Catarman. From the airport, take a tricycle to Catarman Transport Terminal. It takes five minutes and a fare of P100) to get to the terminal. From there, take a jeepney going to Lavezares Port. The fare is P50 and takes one hour. From the port, take a boat going to Biri town. Fare is P50 and it takes 45 minutes to reach the town. From Biri town, take a habal-habal to your hotel or direct to the rock formations.
The longer alternative is to take any bus passing by Matnog, Sorsogon. From Matnog, take a ferry going to Allen and from there, take a jeepney to Lavezares. From the Lavezares port, take the regular boat going to Biri.
But there’s a shorter but more challenging way to reach Biri from Matnog. Once or twice a week, a supply boat travels between Matnog and Biri, and it takes a limited number of passengers to the island. There is no fixed schedule and you have to ask around Matnog if there are supply boats coming from Biri. The trip takes around three hours and the boat passes through the treacherous San Bernardino Strait, so be prepared to get wet.
What to see, what to do
The highlight of the trip to Biri is to see its magnificent rock formations.
The island is still trying to cope up with the influx of travelers and they are slowly trying to develop their own tourism programs. Visitors are advised to get in touch with the local tourism office (0948-408-8200 and 0915-627-5444) for assistance on tours, lodging and transportation. Visitors are required to pay P50 tourism fee upon arrival.
The only way to go around the island is to take the habal-habal. The local government has trained local habal-habal drivers as tour guides. Fixed rates are strictly implemented in Biri and so visitors need not worry about overcharging.
The habal-habal-driver-cum-guide can help visitors plan their tour of the island. They can also advise visitors on the best time of the day (usually during low tide) to visit the formations.
The Biri Rock Formations are one of the many wonders of nature. It must have taken thousands of years to curve out these solid stones into many different formations reflecting the changes in weather, sea level, natural occurrences such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. This must have been a natural barrier to protect the island from the tumultuous waters coming from the Pacific Ocean. What remained standing now are the islets of Magasang, Magsapad, Macadlat, Puhunan, Bel-at and Caranas, each one with its own unique formations and characteristics, and each one requiring long hours to explore and enjoy.
Aside from the formations, there are several diving spots near the island. Biri Resort can arrange diving tours around Biri.
For those who enjoy trekking, the whole Biri Island can be explored in one day on foot. This is also the best way to meet the locals and to get a better vibe of this enchanting island.
Where to stay, what to eat
Lodging in Biri Island is quite limited. Most of the divers usually stay at Biri Resort that charges about P2,250 for airconditioned rooms.
For those traveling in a group, the alternative is to stay at the nearby Villa Amor where fan rooms are available at P500 to P800.
Recently, several homestays have been opened to visitors: Gloria Vista (0921-611-7749); and Magasang Resort and Cottages (0908-9784489) where rates start at P150 per person.
Dining is also very limited in Biri. There is one carenderia (local eatery) in Poblacion with no name that serves mostly fried fish and rice. Biri has no public market, so visitors are advised to get their food supplies from Lavezares and just bring them to the island. Most of the resorts accept paluto for a minimum charge.
Biri is not for everybody. Getting in and staying there require some getting used to. But for those daring enough to visit the island, they are bound to discover that Biri simply rocks!