Biri Island’s School of Rock | Northern Samar

The waves were a little rough on our way to Biri Island from the port of Lavezares. I started to get dizzy midway and even envied the boat's youngest passenger, an infant boy, who slept the entire trip. His young parents perfectly shielded him from the splashes of sea water. I covered my camera and counted the minutes, knowing that each one that passed meant a half-kilometer shorter swim to safety. That is, if I could swim and save myself if the boat capsized. We passed through the northern part of Biri, but the boat continued until the water calmed and the clouds above us dissipated, revealing a bright sky. The boat begins to sail smoothly, and the threat of rain has vanished since we set sail. The infant boy awoke with a short cry. He stretches both his arms and feet, while I patted my legs to prevent cramps.

Biri Island travel guide

It took two flights for me to arrive at Catarman. The first occurred in January, when the plane I was aboard was unable to land at the airport due to thick fog engulfing the airstrip. The pilot circled for 20 minutes and then rerouted the plane back to Manila because the sky condition had not changed. I wasn't too bothered because I wasn't all that interested in visiting Biri Island at the time. There was no excitement, or perhaps I was simply losing my travel mojo. I did, however, reschedule the trip for the middle of February.

Alyanna Bromeo

Our plane landed at Catarman airport under clear skies during my second attempt to reach Biri Island. I just remember going through the motions. I'm not used to traveling alone, and I'm feeling a little lonely without anyone to share whatever adventures await me. I wasted no time and went straight to the port of Lavezares, where I waited for a small passenger boat with at least 5 passengers. (Each pays approximately 150 pesos.)

Biri Island rock_Marky Ramone Go

After settling into my 500 pesos-fan room at Villa Amor, I found myself riding in the back of my tour guide Orlando's habal-habal a few hours later. My full travel mojo returned to me the moment I saw the sweeping seascape, highlighted by the towering rock formations, of which I counted at least five. Each is placed a short distance apart, like watch towers standing guard over a kingdom, where ancient soldiers are positioned surveying the sea for attacking pirate ships.

Sophie Gianan

There you have it. Macadlao, Magasang, Magsapad, Bil-at, and Karanas are the colossal boulders. Orlando told me we were going to Magasang first and to watch my steps because we'd be stepping over some moss-covered rocks and navigating on shallow waters with uneasy stones. My first step slipped and I landed squarely on my buttocks. I dismissed it as one of many blunders. At the time, I could only care about where I pointed my line of sight because the circuits inside my brain were busy processing the perfect out-of-this-world scenery I was surrounded by.

We attempted to go around Magasang towards the route facing the sea, but the waves were higher than usual, so we abandoned the route and returned to its next-door rock formation called Magsapad. We had to negotiate a slippery slope of porous volcanic rock. We arrived at the top to strong winds and knee-high swaying grass, as well as a few observant cows who, as if on cue, stopped chewing the grasses in their mouths and stared at us. Those cows, according to Orlando, belong to the property's caretaker.

Celine Murillo

We sat there for an hour. I felt relaxed just stretching both my feet and staring at the Philippine sea and the waves as they crashed and kissed violently, the breaking walls from below. Orlando told me that Magasang and Magsapad were used as locations for a few scenes in the film "Iisa Pa Lamang" starring Richard Gomez, Dawn Zulueta, and Maricel Laxa. "Yung lugar na yon hanggang dito, puno yan ng tao. Mga taga Catarman, Lavezares pati Tacloban pumunta dito para manuod ng shooting," he says, pointing to Magasang and drawing an imaginary diameter. The other film that was shot in the same location was "Spirit Warriors," about which he said, "ah yun konti lng nanuod, Streetboys bida dun wala namang Dawn Zulueta na naka swimsuit" (Almost no one came to see the shoot of Spirit Warriors, it stars the fucking Streetboys, you won't see any Dawn Zulueta in a swimsuit)

Alyanna Bromeo

We called it a day as the sun was setting. Orlando, who has become an avid photographer as a result of guiding photographers to the location, convinced me to wait for sunset so we could get some good shots. He's even learned some techniques that I was unaware of.

Biri Rock Island

I can tell he takes pride in showing visitors what his island has to offer, and in doing so, he has learned why photographers fell in love with the place. "Yung ibang photographers ni g-guide ko dito, grabe isang bato, isang araw sa kanila" ("When I guide photographers, we spend one day in one rock formation only, just taking pictures throughout the different parts of the day, sunrise, morning, mid-afternoon and sunset")

Mangrove forest

It was great to have a tour guide who understands the art of photography, like Orlando. I've had tour guides look at me strangely whenever I stop and try to angle for a shot. Back at Villa Amor, we shared a beer with a middle-aged Australian named Lou, who showed us photos of his motorcycle collection, roadtrips in Oz, and current and former Filipina girlfriends. It was awkward, though, because we got to see photos of his girlfriend and exes in various sexy poses while he was scrolling through his photo albums with the thumbnails set to largest. "My girlfriend now, is from here (Biri Island), she's a keeper mate," he says in his hard to understand accent. "She don't ask me for money, her father always tells her never ask the white man for money, so unlike my previous girlfriends, the first one always asking for money, the second one, she just want to have my baby. A white baby, can you believe that? She doesn't even want to get married, but this one's a keeper I tell you that," 

Biri Rock Formation

He is currently living on Bantayan Island, renting a house for six months before returning to Australia. "I come home and look for something to sell; my bikes have been reduced from six to three; I sell things and return here; I love the life here in the Philippines."

Dulcinea Dantes

We went to the other three rock formations the next day: Macadlao, Bil-at, and Karanas. I had lunch with Orlando's family at the foot of Bil-at and spent the entire afternoon at Macadlao, which provided me with such beautiful scenery that I found it difficult to leave.

Desa Tayting

Like going into a therapy session, I finally got my travel mood back. Following the lengthy holiday break that lasted into January and February. I've reverted to my former self. I've Biri Island is to thank for this. Life can be monotonous at times, but once one learns to embrace the simple life and appreciate small things, I believe life can be rewarding. It all comes down to perspective.

For tour guide services: Contact Orlando Bulosan (0920-5246773)