Biri, Northern Samar: The Island That Rocks!

Each time I want to have some peace and quiet; to disconnect with the bustling world; and to keep my sanity intact, there's always one place, or region rather, that comes to my mind first--the Eastern Visayas. True, it may not be as popular as Palawan, or may not be as developed as Boracay, but that's exactly the point--I want to be away from the crowd and noise; only basic conveniences, pure shores and the mesmerizing beauty of nature. In my many visits to the region, I have been able to explore the provinces of Biliran, Leyte, and Southern Leyte. This year, I see to it to explore the promising rock formations and pristine islands of Northern Samar, as well as the alluring sights of Basey and Marabut down south. The first leg of our trip was Biri, where the award-winning rock formations can be found.

Biri is an island nestled in the northernmost tip of Northern Samar. It is bounded by the mighty Pacific Ocean and the San Bernardino Strait. The name "Biri" came from the Spanish word "barrer" meaning "to sweep". They say that during the Galleon Trade, when the Spanish captain of the ship would see the San Bernardino isle of what is now called Biri, the captain would order his men "to sweep" or "clean" the deck of the ship, in preparation for its berthing in the nearby Capul Island (also a part of Northern Samar).

Do not be confused between Biri and the infamous and mysterious "Biringan City".

How to go there:
There are many ways to access Biri. The most convenient is via a flight from Manila to Catarman (Philippine Airlines is the only airlines that plies this route), and from Catarman, travel to Lavezares, which takes around 30 minutes. At Lavezares Port, there are boats that transport passengers to Biri. Should you miss it, you can hire a boat for a special trip.
En route to Biri 
If you find the flights to Catarman too pricey, you may opt to take a flight from Manila to Cebu and Cebu to Calbayog instead. From Calbayog, Lavezares is about two hours drive.

A statue of Mama Mary seen en route to Biri
You may also take a flight from Manila to Tacloban, which was what we did, and take about 5 to 6 hours of land travel from Tacloban to Lavezares. 

Biri is also accessible by land and ro-ro. From Manila, drive all the way to Matnog is Sorsogon, and from there, board a ro-ro to Allen. From Allen, Lavezares is about 30-45 minutes away. There are also buses that ply the Manila-Sorsogon-Matnog route.

The port in Biri Island
Upon arrival in Biri, you may hire a habal-habal (motorcycle), which can take you to your accommodation, or around the rock formations for a tour.

Where to stay:
There are a number of accommodation options in the island. The most popular maybe is Villa Amor, as well as Biri Island Resort and Dive Center, which are both walking distance away from the tourism pavilion.

We stayed in Villa Amor and it did not disappoint. The rooms were clean and spacious and the views specially at the roof deck at sunset were fabulous. We even witness the transition from sunset to full moon. Amazing. Although, when in Biri, be prepared for the regular power interruption. During our stay, power is from 12:00 noon to 4:00 am only.

Stand-up paddle availa in Villa Amor

Our room which is good for four
Sunset as viewed from the roof deck of Villa Amor
Full moon in Villa Amor

Where to eat:
Biri is a small town and there are no fast food stalls in the area. However, there are decent eateries where you can eat. At the tourism pavilion, there's a canteen where you can order home-style dishes at a very reasonable price. Make sure to order your meals in advance.

Dinner at the tourism pavilion
Rockin' Biri
Biri's crowning glory are the famous rock formations that dot the eastern side of the island, as if guarding it from the treacherous waters of the Philippine Sea. While it is possible to explore all the six rock formations in a day, I suggest you spend at least a night in Biri so you can still enjoy the sunset views at Geron Rock and see other sites in the area. Diving is also popular in Biri, and it was such a pity that we did get to experience this since we did not have enough time. When I saw the photos of the dive sites in the internet, I promised myself I will go back to dive!

The usual itinerary starts at sunrise. Like what we did, our guide picked us up from our accommodation and transported us via habal-habal to the entry point of the Macadlaw Rock. Its name is derived from the Visayan word "adlaw," which means "sun" as it is the point where you can have the best view of sunrise in Biri.
Waiting for sunrise in Macadlaw Rock

From the entry point, we walked for about 30 minutes through pitch dark mangrove areas on knee-high waters. Make sure to follow your guide as they know the path well and this would save you from possible accidents due to huge rocks or mangrove roots. We have brought flashlights when we crossed the area. Our guide also suggested that we bring coffee and bread as light breakfast while waiting for the sunrise. It was a good idea indeed! 

Past the mangroves, we hiked Macadlaw Rock, the only rock formation in Biri that has a part covered with carabao grass. We then settled in a spot where we set up our cameras to capture a timelapse video. As the sun slowly rose from the infinite waters, we couldn't help but be in awe as the views of the rocks unfolded before our eyes. Beautiful wonders. Breathtaking.

A view from where we had coffee atop Macadlaw Rock

Finally, our turn to take photos here!

Magsapad Rock as viewed from Macadlaw
See the rainbow?
We then went down and explored the other side of Macadlaw, where there is a natural pool teeming with corals. It might not be as colorful as you expect it to be but the underwater here is worth a visit, nonetheless. Make sure to bring your own gears, or you can ask your guide to bring you where you can rent snorkeling gears prior to your tour. Current is strong in this area so better if you use fin otherwise, be prepared to thread stronger.

Snorkeling in Macadlaw Rock
The entry to the natural pool at Macadlaw
Magsapad Rock
On to our next stop, we traveled on foot, on knee-deep waters again, towards Puhunan Rock. By this time, my S Health app on my Samsung phone had already signaled that I have reached more than 6000 steps already. And that was from from 4:00 am to 8:00 am only... Yes, that long a walk. But don't worry, the views are fantastic that you wouldn't realize you have finished the six rock formations already.

There's also a small natural pool in Puhunan Rock. I suggest you go for a dip so you won't feel the heat of the sun too much as you continue walking to the other rocks. The pool is also a nice snorkeling area.

Walking to Puhunan Rock, this view beckons

Quick stop

When our guide gave us a briefing a day before, he said that we should allot two hours per rock. We thought that was insane because we felt we wouldn't lounge much in one place and that two hours was too long. We were wrong. Two hours per rock was actually short. Too many vistas to photograph... every angle, capture-worthy. And in rocks like Macadlaw, Puhunan, Caranas and Bel-At, you can actually swim and in some, snorkel. So that adds up to the time consumed, too. That said, I highly recommend that you really stay a night in Biri so you can enjoy the views and activities it offers. You can even spend a day diving or beach bumming in other areas of Biri.

Still on the way to Puhunan Rock

Rocks galore

While Puhunan Rock is said to be the smallest among the Biri Rock Formations, do not underestimate it--it has a lot to offer, too. There is also a clear natural pool where you can snorkel; and a rock that you can trek for you to see a sweeping 180-degree view.

The clear natural pool of Puhuhan Rock

The view from the top of Puhunan Rock

Our next stop was the Bel-At and Caranas Rocks. Bel-At is actually comprised of two rocks namely Bel and At, and in between is the most beautiful crystalline natural pool in Biri. For the adventurous, there were rocks where you can cliff dive. For those who are like us who love the underwater, have a dip in the natural pool and see the schools of fish swim with you. Corals though are not abundant in the pool.

Caranas Rock
In Bel-At

Bel-At's natural pool

The natural pool in Bel-At may look small, but it's not. You can actually circle around and see colorful fish and even shrimps swimming in there.

Last snorkeling hurrah!

Can you us three? Photo taken by Biri Tourism's Henry Espinola

Bel-At is also the most popular even for locals as you can conveniently access it straight from the road an on through a wooden foot bridge that is about half a kilometer long. For us, we were already from Puhunan Rock so passed through the rocks and the sea to go to Bel-At. Our guide it is not the usual way but it is the worthier option so we can appreciate more views.

From the wooden foot bridge of Bel-At, we hopped on a habal-habal to go to Magasang Rock, which is a few meters away. Magasang is another favorite as it features a white sand shore. It is also a famous entry to the rest of the rock formations. You cannot enter its premises without a tour guide for safety reasons as the waters can be tricky here. You know, just abide. Better safe than sorry, right?

The shores of Magasang
There's also a foot bridge that leads to the deck where you can view the rocks

If you still have time, wait for the sunset at Geron Rock. We did the sunset viewing on our first day since we stayed overnight in Biri. From Geron Rock, we saw the sun slowly sinking into the horizon, with a distant view of Mt. Mayon to boot. 

Geron Rock

Sunser in Geron Rock
Geron Rock is a spot famous for surfing. When we went there, there was a grtoup of surfers riding the waves while it was still not too dark.

Surf's up in Getron Rock

Mt. Mayon peeking from afar

Things to bring and remember:
Aqua shoes or trekking sandals
In going to the rock formations, you would have to walk on different terrains...some are slippery, others rocky. Make sure to wear appropriate footwear to avboid injuries.

Going around the rocks is an extrenous physical activity. With the heat of the sun, it is best that you hydrate yourself well to avoid heat strokre or dehydration.

Waterproof camera, dry bags, or ziplocks
Since the trail is a mix of rocky and mostly wet areas, make sure to protect your gadgets and stuff. Plus, the underwater is fun to capture photos of!

Light snacks
There are areas where you can lounge and have a quick bite so you can bring chips or small sandwiches wityh you.

Garbage bag
Golden rule: leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures and kill nothing but time. Please do not leave any garbage in the area. Help us maintain cleanliness. It's so easy, just bring a garbage bag and put all your rubbish there, then bring back the bag to the mainland for proper disposal. Even cigarette butts can be thrown inside a mineral water bottle, so don't litter it around the rocks.

Sunblock, shades, shawl, etc.
Bring anything that can protect you from the heat of the sun. By luncntime, the heat becomes unforgiving.

By the time we finished all the rocks, my S Health reading was already at 12,000+ steps. It might be tiring, but the whole experience is worth it. Sure, I have seen several rock formations around the country already, but none of them is as varied and as astonishing as the Biri rocks. We were overwhelmed by the unique beauty of each and every rock formation we saw. They really "rocked our world!"

Here's a short video that gives a sneak peek of Biri in Northern Samar. It can also be viewed on HD (720p or 1080p). Enjoy!

Damo nga salamat Ms. Karen Santiago Tiopes, Sir Rodel Balierbare, Ms. Josette Doctor, Sir Romy Zaide, Sir Deo and Sir Henry Espinola for making our trip to Biri an enjoyable one!!!

Know more about Northern Samar. Visit their Facebook page here.


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