One of the three provinces in the island of Samar is Eastern Samar, located at its easternmost part that faces the Pacific Ocean. I didn’t know very much about this province until I visited it recently. I was surprised to find out that Eastern Samar is endowed with beautiful waterfalls, pretty beaches perfect for surfing and caves among others.
Eastern Visayas (Region VIII) consists of the provinces of Leyte, Southern Leyte, Biliran, Samar, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar. I thought it was possible to explore five (5) of these provinces in five (5) days but I thought wrong. Even though different means of transportation are available in these places, key destinations for a traveler to visit are relatively far from each other. Or if not, the transportation needed to go from one place to another is not always available.
This is the first (1st) part of a 5-day, 3-province travel covering Eastern Samar, Leyte (and a bit of Southern Leyte) and Biliran. It should be noted that Tacloban, Leyte’s capital, serves as the gateway to other key cities and places in Eastern Visayas. I entered the region via Tacloban and from there I went to Lawaan and Guiuan of Eastern Samar. After spending overnight in Eastern Samar, I went back to Tacloban to explore the city and spent the night there. The following morning, I (along with two of my friends this time) headed to Biliran. There we explored Sambawan Island as well as a few of the waterfalls of the island province. After spending the night in Biliran, we went back to Tacloban and spent the remaining time that we had exploring some more before heading back to Manila.
Occupying the eastern part of the island of Samar, Eastern Samar is one of the six provinces found in the Eastern Visayas Region. It is bordered by Northern Samar in the north, Samar in the west, the Pacific Ocean in the east and Leyte Gulf in the south. Because of its location, Eastern Samar is often affected when typhoons enter the country.
The province has a land area of 4,660.47 sq. km and a population of 467,160 (2015 census). Most of its people speak Waray-Waray, though many of them also know how to speak in Tagalog, Cebuano and English. I found the people of Eastern Samar very friendly, probably some of the friendliest I have encountered in the whole Visayas region. The way the people in this province interacted with me while I was there was nothing short of respectful and polite.
The province’s major economic resources come from fishery and agriculture. Its tourism activities center in the town of Guiuan, though other places are now being tapped for their potential like Lawaan.
Eastern Samar is one of the provinces most hit by Super typhoon Yolanda back in November 2013. Many lives, houses and and other structures were lost. The people’s sources of living were drastically affected. It’s good to know that the whole place seems to have already recovered, or at least, recovering from the tragedy.
WHAT TO EXPLORE IN EASTERN SAMAR
Lawaan is best known for having four beautiful waterfalls: Amandaraga, Pange, Amanjuray and Ban-awan Falls, which are all located in the Bolusao watershed. The falls of Ban-awan and Amanadraga provide Lawaan’s water system, while Amanjuray serves as its alternate hydro-electric power source.
As of February 2018, only three of these waterfalls could be reached via hiking. Amandaraga and Pange could be enjoyed for a half day of adventure, and this is what I have done during the trip. Ban-awan Falls was reported to be reached for about 2 hours before, but because of landslides due to recent typhoons, the trek going there has extended to 3 to 4 hours. It would require a whole day of adventure in Lawaan if someone would want to go to the three falls that were mentioned. Amanjuray Falls is said to be reached only by going to the mini-hydro power plant.
Amandaraga is one spectacular waterfall! After about an hour and a half of trekking from the jumpoff point, I was able to reach this towering falls. Though unclear where it got its name, “daraga”in Waray means “maiden” and my tour guide, Kuya Juijean said that the falls might have derived its name here. The river system running from the falls is long and wide, and the force of its waters as it falls down from the top is strong. This is said to make the basin near the waterfall itself very deep.
A three-tiered falls in the Bolusao watershed, Pange Falls is the smallest of the four waterfalls in Lawaan. The trees surrounding its water basin provide a much needed shade, which is perfect for those who just want to cool down and feel its calm waters. I wasn’t able to swim in Amandaraga that’s why I made sure to swim here in Pange with its shallow waters. Definitely perfect for that mostly sunny day!
Calicoan Island: ABCD Beach
I was surprised to find out that it is in Eastern Samar that the surfing capital of Visayas is found! It is found here in the beaches of Guiuan, located in the southernmost tip of the province. If you can remember, Guiuan is one of the places hit by the typhoon Yolanda back in 2013. Many structures were said to be destroyed and many people were affected by the said super typhoon. Almost five years have passed and yet people in the area still remember the time when Yolanda struck their town. It’s good to know, though, that they are already recovering from the tragedy.
Said to be the most popular tourist destination here in Guiuan, ABCD Beach boasts not only its creamy, fine sand but its sea waves that are ideal for surfing, especially for beginners! If ever you wonder where it got its name, Lonely Planet says that it is named that way after the four reef breaks along the island’s coast. However, an informer said that it was actually named after the acronym ABCD that means advance base construction depot. Guiuan was said to be a formal naval base of the US during the 1940s, and the area of Calicoan was one of the important bases for their supply. As such, many places in Guiuan were named after American names. Now, this made me want to come back to learn more about their history!
I wasn’t able to surf while I was here due to shortness of time. I strolled along the beach, though, and found interesting rock formations in the coast. Though not “very clean” in the sense that seaweeds and twigs of plants and trees can be found in the shore, ABCD Beach is also a good place for people who just want to relax or just bask in the morning sun.
Resorts and other means of accommodation can be found near the beaches of Guiuan. It is understandable that they offer their place in a relatively expensive price compared to the hostels or inns found in downtown Guiuan or even Sulangan.
St. Anthony de Padua Church
Found in the small island of Sulangan, St. Anthony de Padua Church is one of the most visited places in the town of Guiuan. People go and visit the church to pray and request for the intercession of St. Anthony de Padua, the Patron of lost items, lost people and lost souls. Stories among locals say that the wishes and prayers brought out to St. Anthony, even those that are almost impossible, are granted. Indeed, faith spells no impossibility.
WHERE TO STAY IN EASTERN SAMAR
Borongan Transport Inn (to reserve, contact: 09167085976)
P300- Fan room, shared bathroom
P450- Room with aircon, shared bathroom
P600- Room with aircon and own bathroom
WHO TO CONTACT
Waterfalls chasing in Lawaan:
Kuya Juijean (tour guide)- 09104861773
Ma’am Sarah Gabornes (tourism office)- 09292777223
Tour in Guiuan:
Kuya Jayson (habal-habal driver)- 09056038451
EASTERN SAMAR Travel Itinerary
6 AM ETA Tacloban
7:30 AM Van-van’s terminal (Tacloban to Guiuan but drop off in Lawaan)
9:30 AM ETA Lawaan
You’ll be dropped off near Divine Child Academy, Lawaan’s school that is found along the main road. Walk towards their tourism office and register your name. Ask for a guide for waterfalls chasing. In my case, it’s Kuya Juijean (09104861773) who was a delight to be with because he answered all my questions about the place and took my photos during the travel. Ma’am Sarah Gabornes (09292777223), the head of tourism in Lawaan, can also be contacted. She was having a 7-day workshop at the time I went there that’s why we were only able to mingle by the time I ended my waterfalls adventure. By the way, prepare your clothes, dry bag and food that you would be bringing during this time.
10 AM Head to Bgy. Guinob-an, where the jump-off to the waterfalls is located. Walk for five to ten minutes and pay the environmental fee (P50).
10 AM to 3 PM Waterfalls chasing
It took us more than an hour of hiking before reaching the first waterfalls in Lawaan: Amandaraga. The first part of the hike was easy as you just have to walk in a concrete road. It should be noted, though, that you’d be crossing a river before going to the waterfalls. There was a bridge built here but due to the recent typhoon, Urduja, it was destroyed. We had to cross the river that was a bit deep (the water has reached my lower chest while crossing) for about a minute before heading to Amandaraga. The second part of the hike was relatively harder because the trail could be very muddy and slippery. It was sunny when we started our hike but when we were halfway towards Amandaraga, it was raining!
The hike might not have been very easy but it was totally worth it when I reached the waterfalls. Amandaraga was beautiful! I took many pictures of the place. It was also here where my guide and I ate our lunch. We met two men working on a huge tree that was uprooted due to the typhoon while we were here.
It was past 1 PM when we left Amandaraga Falls to head to Pange Falls. The hike going back was still muddy and slippery but it was easier because the trail was heading upwards. It only took us about 30 to 40 minutes before reaching Pange Falls, which may not be as high as Amandaraga but was still beautiful. Besides, its water wasn’t falling too hard and this enabled me to swim and spend a bit more time enjoying it.
It was 2:30 PM when we started heading back to the jump-off point. We had to cross the river again before reaching the paved road towards the main highway.
3 to 4 PM Heading back to the main barangay of Lawaan, taking a bath and preparing to travel to Guiuan
It was in my guide’s house where I took a bath and changed clothes in preparation for my next destination. It was also there where I met Ma’am Sarah again after meeting her for a short bit along the trail towards the falls. She and Kuya Juijean shared stories about the place before and during our waiting in the main road for the next van to Guiuan.
It took about 45 minutes before a van going to Guiuan passed by! Because of this, I knew I would be reaching Guiuan in the evening.
6:15 PM Reaching Guiuan
I was supposed to ride the multicab going to Sulangan but because it was already evening (last ride was said to be 5 PM), I rented one for about P250 (instead of P300). My guide, Kuya Jayson, agreed to guide me towards Sulangan Church and Calicoan Beach where I intended to stay. It was the night of the super blue blood moon, and I thought the beach was a perfect place for that. It was! After riding the dark and woody road going to Calicoan for about 30 minutes, we reached Sulangan Church. It is where the miraculous parish of St. Anthony de Padua is located. After that, we proceeded to the beach of Calicoan (called ABCD Beach) where I spent some time observing the moon (yes, it was the time when the moon was in its super blue blood phase!). I intended to stay overnight in one of the resorts here but the relatively low costing resorts were fully booked! So I went back to downtown Guiuan and stayed in the inn of Borongan Transport Terminal. The only available room at that time was an air-conditioned room that costs P450. I agreed and slept there for the night.
7:30 AM Going back to Calicoan Island
I hired a multicab again going to Calicoan Island because I wanted to explore more of the island. Just like the night before, I was able to rent the multicab for P250 instead of P300. There, I spent about an hour or two taking pictures and talking to other visitors.
10 AM Checking out of the inn
I asked my habal-habal driver if he could take me to Van-van’s terminal after going to the inn and he agreed because the terminal was relatively near. I have already prepared my bag back then that’s why my checking out was only quick.
11 AM Heading back to Tacloban
The van wasn’t full yet when I reached the terminal. There was a bakery beside it and so I bought bread that I could eat for lunch. There was also a Mercur Drug Store nearby where I got to buy drinks and chips that I would be eating for the rest of the day. Even though the van wasn’t full yet, it already headed to Tacloban at around 11:30 AM.
List of expenses:
Van from Tacloban to Lawaan – P150
Lawaan Environmental Fee- P50
Lawaan Guide Fee- P300
Van from Lawaan to Guiuan- P100
Multicab for Calicoan and Sulangan- P250 + P250
Borongan Transportation Inn- P450
Van from Guiuan to Tacloban – P120
Watch out for the second part of my adventure in Eastern Visayas Region! I’ll be sharing there my experiences in the province of Leyte and a part of Southern Leyte! Thank you!