(This article was published in the Lifestyle Section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on April 11, 2007)
(pics are mine)
Adventure Island Hops in Northern Samar
by: Augusto Villalon
ISLAND CARAVAN IS A YOUNG adventure tour operator offering a smorgasbord of tours to the most exciting and unexpected places in the Philippines.
Island Caravan arranges everything to get me to the many places I have always wanted to see. What’s more, they often suggest other places in this great country that I never even knew existed.
Three of these “secret” places are the islands Biri, Capul and Dalupiri, all off the coast of Northern Samar.
Remote and desolate, and definitely off the normal tourist track, forgotten Northern Samar evokes powerful images.
Among the last frontiers in the country, its rugged coastline of limestone cliffs along the Pacific Ocean is a historical landmark. During the Spanish colonial era, Samar island was the first Philippine landfall seen by the Manila galleons as they approached the end of their long voyage from Acapulco.
Entering the waters of the Philippine archipelago, the galleons called at the fortified island of Capul off Samar, offered thanks for a safe crossing at the Jesuit church, and then negotiated the rough waters of narrow San Bernardino Strait toward Manila, their final destination.
Capul also became the last stop on Philippine soil of the departing galleons before the long, often treacherous trans-Pacific sail to Acapulco in Mexico.
Island Caravan’s “Samar Outdoor Escapade” checks guests into lodgings at the port town of Allen then spends the next two days exploring the islands off the wind-swept Samar shoreline.
Walk around rock formations on the beach before riding astride a motorcycle behind the driver “habal-habal” style, climbing up a narrow, winding coconut-shaded mountain path. The rest of the trail must be negotiated on foot, but it’s an easy trek to a pair of massive rock formations atop of the hill, visible navigation markers to incoming ships seen kilometers away at sea.
The US Signal Corps used the location during World War II to scan for enemy ship sailing in from the Pacific.
The following day, a large outrigger banca takes you to largely unexplored Biri, a marine sanctuary surrounded by marshlands. Another “habal-habal” ride through rice paddies which follow the rolling contours of the rustic landscape ends at wind-battered limestone cliffs lining the shore.
After Biri, the banca crosses the open sea to fabled Capul, the next destination, the Spanish galleon staging point in the colonial era. The ruins of the massive, extensive Capul fortress, now part of the modern town, mark the strategic significance of Capul in the era of the galleon trade.
What has survived is impressive—Saint Ignatius Church, integrated into the fortress walls, the ruins of an old watchtower looking out toward the sea, and a Spanish-era lighthouse on the island’s most prominent hilltop.
The last island we visited was Dalupiri (or San Antonio), where the water is pristine, the white sand beaches deserted and spotless, and where weary psyches battered by urban stress recharge instantly, and the balance between man and nature is regained.
Fly to Catarman from Manila. The bus to Allen Baluarteco connects through the ro-ro (roll on-roll off) system to strategic points in the Visayas, Luzon and Mindanao.
Island Caravan offers an extensive menu of adventure tours in the most surprising, unexpected locations in the Philippines. For inquiries, information or bookings, call 896-1910, 816-7569, 0920-9048646, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.