Biri Island, a little known and relatively isolated island municipality along the northeastern portion of the province of Northern Samar has in recent years caught the eye of off-the-beaten track tourists and adventurers. In fact, Biri’s magnificent rock formations are considered as the Philippines’ foremost National Geological Monument and one of the Top 10 Philippine Gems.
The undisputed main attraction in the island is the massive natural formations that dot the shores of Biri along the San Bernardo Strait, off the mighty Pacific Ocean. Composed of seven magnificent rock formations namely, Magasang, Magsapad, Macadlaw, Puhunan, Bel-at, Caranas and Pinanahawan, the rock formations are believed to have been formed by the movement of underwater tectonic plates some 20 million years ago as well as rock erosion from ocean currents and winds.
We arrived there on a weekday, which meant that the place had no crowds. In fact, in our case, we had the place all to ourselves as if we privately owned these magnificent geological wonders (the photos would attest to this). Aside from its unique formations, the panoramic beauty of the rocks are one for the books and truly a sight to behold. Adding to this amazing view is the equally beautiful Mt. Bulusan in the background, which is situated just across the strait on mainland Luzon.
Besides exploring and climbing the rock formations (and of course draining your camera batteries in the process), swimming on the clear and cold natural pools is another must-try. For thrill seekers, braving the pounding waves against the rocks is another experience altogether.
The LGU now offers an overnight camping package along the mangrove-dotted shores for a very minimal fee to cover tent rentals and miscellaneous expenses, especially if you’re traveling in a group. You can also ask the caretaker to prepare the food for a minimal charge. Since the place is far from the city and there is no light pollution, stargazing at night could be magical. Meanwhile, the mangrove area nearby would be a promising site to explore for bird and bird photography enthusiasts.
Our guide for the tour is Kuya Hillary (short for Hilario), who happens to be a brother of one of the caretakers of the resort. We paid Php 300.00 for the whole day transport, including the sunrise watching.
HOW TO GET THERE
By Plane. The easiest way to reach Biri is via plane to Catarman or Calbayog City in Northern Samar. Philippine Airlines flies daily to Catarman from Manila. Catarman is about 30 minutes away from Lavezares town, the jump-off to Biri Island, hence, we highly suggest taking this route. PAL also operates a daily flight to and from Calbayog City, about an hour away from Lavezares. Please note that propeller planes operate this route, which, contrary to popular belief, are very safe.
By Bus. If coming from Manila, going to Biri by bus could take about a whole day trip. In our case, we took this route due to budget considerations. There are buses that directly ply the Manila-Catarman route or you can take any trips going to Tacloban, Ormoc or Maasin City from the Araneta Bus Terminal or in Pasay. You just have to alight in the town of Allen, the gateway to Samar & Leyte if coming from Matnog in Sorsogon. In our case, we took cutting trips — first an overnight travel from Manila to Legaspi then a van to Sorsogon City and a jeepney ride to Matnog port. From there, we rode a Ro-Ro boat for about an hour crossing the San Bernardino Strait to reach Allen, Northern Samar.
Once in Allen, you can hail a tricycle or hop on any jeepneys going to Catarman, and tell the driver to drop you in Lavezares town proper/market. Right beside the wet market is the wharf/boat terminal going to Biri. If you’re in a group, it is best to hire the boat for its capacity, which usually ranges from Php50 – Php100/pax. Travel time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.
WHERE TO STAY
For this trip, we decided to avail of comfort and some good food. So we reserved at Villa Amor Resort, right at the middle of the town proper. The resort is owned by a local who is married to an Australian and is managed by her siblings. It is one of at least two resorts with complete amenities in the island. You can contact Kuya Rolly for details. Recently, the Municipal Government/Tourism Office of Biri has offered overnight camping for minimal fees on tents and other incidentals.
WHERE TO EAT
Our resort offers ala carte meals and pre-ordered meals of your choice. Just inform them of your preferred dish. Please take note that there only at least two carinderia serving full meals. We tried the famous G&S Delicious Chicken and Barbecue located beside the local Catholic church and near the public market.