I only get to visit the homeland once a year and so I always wanted to make it count. I’d plot my vacation days ahead, meet the friends who make time to meet me and that’s how it always happens. We meet, catch up & a few minutes in the conversation, we agree to travel together. Just like that, no excuses, they just make it happen— they file the vacation leave, buy the ticket and we start the adventure! 

My trip home in June 2019, I travelled again with my Mt Pulag crew & this time we’re heading to Leyte! We wanted to visit 3 places: The Sambawan Island, a resort in Libagon, Southern Leyte (that my architect friend designed) and my hometown, San Ricardo, Southern Leyte. Though these are all in Leyte, their distances are far off from each other. So this means long bus rides, a lot of connecting trips and surprising what nots are expected. 

My friends took a fast craft boat from Cebu to Ormoc (3hrs travel) on a Wednesday night and we decided to just meet up in the hotel in Ormoc City. I, on the other hand, was in my hometown so I had to travel by bus— apparently there was a shorter way, but I didn’t know so I suffered a long ass-numbing bus ride for 6hrs! 

The next morning, we checked out from the hotel, headed to the PUV terminal & board the van to Naval, Biliran. It was an hour ride and we aimed to catch the 10am boat trip to Maripipi Island where we can catch another boat finally going to our destination. But no, we were unlucky that day. The passenger boat was under repair & though we were presented with another option, the cost was way too expensive for 4 people ($200!!!). So, we asked for another way and this was to hop in again on another tricycle for 45mins going to Brgy. Kawayan and from there we rented a small boat that would take us directly to the island (boat rental at $60– drop off, pick up the next morning). Before boarding the boat, we went to the market & bought some provisions (water, crabs, shrimps, clams, fish… name it!!)  —we were told we can buy our food & have them cooked by the caretaker & we can just give him a tip. After that, we took off on our small boat and reached the island after an hour.

And then I saw heaven. I mean, that’s how heaven would look like to me! It was just so perfect and serene! And we were the only guests staying overnight in the island. The cottages were well kept, the rate was cheap and I was surprised that the island resort including the boat transport was run by their local government and it was very efficient and working and yes that’s surprising because government services aren’t at all like that (not a hate post, just keeping it real). So, we were so amazed! We stayed there for a night, ate crabs, swam, hike the hill to see the 360-degree unparalleled beauty from the view deck, had some booze under the stars — just perfect!

The real adventure started the next morning when it was time to go… a bit scary to be in a small boat in an open sea when the waters were bumpy. My anxieties were triggered, and I just sat there praying for an hour while keeping a straight face because my friends were scared too and if I lose it, they’ll lose it. Sure, we didn’t die but the idea crossed our minds that time. 

After our island getaway, we decided to take a side trip to see some waterfalls. Biliran has a lot of them and accessible too by habal habal motorcycle. We visited Ulan- Ulan waterfalls so we can rinse our fears (and yes, the saltwater too) from that heck of a boat ride & after some time we went to Biliran proper to catch a trip going to Tacloban. 

Sure, I’m from Leyte but I clearly don’t know this part of Leyte and how the commute is and that’s how we wasted our time waiting for a van that won’t leave until it’s full. So it was a very tiring day for us, we finally reached Malipayon Shores in Libagon, Southern Leyte at 9pm. Good thing that the resort was so relaxing we were able to relax and recharge! 

Our architect friend gave us a tour of the property & shared some stories of how the design came to be. The whole setting was pleasant, ideal for family staycation with kids who’d love the swimming pool. At the time of our visit, there was no food/ working kitchen available in the resort— which is fairly an inconvenience so hopefully they can work something out in the future. 

After staying a night in Libagon, our final leg of the trip was my hometown, in San Ricardo, about 2hrs away by bus. I wouldn’t say it’s a tourist place because if I am a tourist I wouldn’t visit there. There is nothing postcard worthy visiting there except that’s it’s my hometown and I liked how simply we lived, how our family home is a stone away from the beach, how fresh our fish are and how adorable are our family dogs. That was all I showed them, and I think that after 3 days of commute around Leyte they were tired & just happy to rest at our home that night. The following morning, they left and headed to Hilongos to catch a boat bound to Cebu City.

All in all, it was a heck of a great adventure! The kind that you’re trusting google can help you plan & anticipate ahead but life is all about surprises and you need to respond. This trip somehow has tested how we are a cool group that despite less comfortable travel situations we remain calm and we didn’t kill each other! 😀

What are the fun parts that you’ve experienced while traveling with your friends?

What about some unforgettable travel horrors?