The Pinoy Rider: No destination, just a direction.
This article will be extra special to me. Going towards the end of this year, I was looking for something new to experience. I’ve basically been to all the provinces in Luzon Island, and I was looking for something new to discover. As the title states – no destination, just a direction. As some of you may know, I live in Manila and have been riding all over the country for some time now. I wanted to try out something different, instead of going to a certain destination and then go back home after a few days… I decided it might be high time to immerse myself in their culture. And by immersion I mean not staying there for just a week or two.
I’ve set my sights on Central Visayas.
Cebu is very similar to Manila in terms of urban living, but on the other hand, it still has that old school vibe that is deeply rooted into the Cebuano people. Also, since it is located in Central Visayas, I could easily go to the nearby provinces, or even to Mindanao (from Cebu to Cagayan de Oro) to explore further the rich beauty our country possesses.
I loaded up on my bike with 95 octane fuel as my final full tank of gas before leaving Manila. So I guess this is a goodbye for me.
I left home at 4 am with a heavy heart. Belle bid me goodbye, and although I had a lot of apprehensions (I will be gone a long time) I knew it was time to go. I prepared so hard for this trip, so I guess there would be no stopping me anymore. I could see the stars shining as I left my Paranaque home but I don’t know if it’s a sign of something – the rain poured hard just a few minutes after I left home. I quickly parked my bike under a gas station right before the boundary of Muntinlupa and San Pedro, Laguna. I wanted to just go back home and maybe leave another day, or cancel this trip altogether. I figured that since I have made all the necessary preparations, I might as well go for it. I said to myself, “This has the potential to be a ride of a lifetime!”
Even though it was raining hard at some points, the non-existent traffic helped me push my fast pace. I breezed through the whole of Laguna and Batangas until Tiaong, Quezon where I took the bypass road going to the National Highway towards Bicol. I was in Lucena, Quezon for my first stopover. Time to stretch after 120 kilometers straight. Target for the day is to end up either in Legazpi City, Albay or Sorsogon City by 5 pm.
At my first stop over
I also passed through the old zigzag road in Pagbilao – Atimonan. At first glance, the route this road will give you might be too daunting a task so make sure your bike is in tiptop shape before passing here, otherwise take the National Highway. I have been riding for quite some time now so I could confidently say that this is definitely not for beginners. The zigzags here would put Marilaque to shame, not only are the turns very tight, most of them are very steep too. The road rules here might also be confusing to some as there were some one-way stop and go traffic being implemented at certain points so you need to be at the left side of the road instead of the usual right. Did I mention that this might be confusing for some?
Passed thru the old zigzag road in Pagbilao – Atimonan. Make sure your bike is in tiptop shape before passing here, otherwise take the National Hiway. Not for beginners
One of many steep twisties of the old Pagbilao – Atimonan zigzag mountain pass. Not for beginners.
There will be concerned citizens manning the traffic at the Quezon National Forest Park due to the number of accidents that occured in the past
Warning sign in Atimonan, Quezon
After Pagbilao, Atimonan, Gumaca all the way up to Lopez, it was at long lastthe Camarines Norte boundary Arc – Welcome to Bicol! Maganda ang weather, mainit. Pero mas okay na ito kaysa sa ulan, hindi pa delikado. The sun was at its peak. Sobrang init na, pagkatapos kong mabasa kaninang umaga. Buti nalang mayroong nagtitinda ng fresh buko juice sa ilalim ng arko, nakaapat ako sa dahil sa uhaw at pagod. The roads in Camarines Norte were horrendous. Hindi basta lubak lubak, malalaking butas na kahit anong gawin mo ay di mo maiiwasan. And these would go on for kilometers and kilometers of painful riding. I have no choice.
The gateway to Bicolandia
Junction in Camarines Norte. Turn left for Daet, turn right for Albay
I reached Region 5 right before lunch time
I’m going towards Naga City
First night in Bicol
First overnight was in Bicol – Avenue Plaza Hotel in Naga City (www.theavenueplazahotel.com) . After a long and tiring trip, it was time to rest, and I had a good one indeed. This place has everything a rider could ask for after a very draining 400+ kilometer rain-and-shine ride. All the amenities one would need – a large, comfortable bed, huge shower room, and even a sofa inside the hotel room! I was able to relax so well that I missed my alarm! After taking a quick buffet breakfast at their Café, I went back on the road.
Gumanda na ang mga daan simula Camarines Sur, bandang Sipocot. Finally, I might be able to do some hassle free riding. Since maganda ang daan hanggang Sorsogon, minsan napapapatulala ako sa mga nakikita ko sa tabi na puro bukid o mga puno, dahil minsan ilang minuto pa bago ka makasalubong ng sasakyan. Buti nalang di ako naaksidente.
Turn right at this junction if you want to see the famous Butanding Whale Sharks of Donsol, Sorsogon
Heavy rains kept me from breezing through Bicol Region
660 kilometers into the trip, and at around 12 noon, I finally reached Matnog, Sorsogon – the last town in Luzon island. After running around the whole compound of the port and after getting chased by a lot of fixers, I finally got all the necessary documents. I do not support the use of fixers by the way. Kahit na mas mahirap at sariling sikap, I am helping eliminate red tape in our government offices, hindi po siya nakakatulong. May proseso naman eh, kaya ito ang ating dapat sundin. After getting all the necessary permits and tickets, I boarded M/V Reina Emperatriz bound for Allen, Northern Samar. Goodbye Luzon.
Welcome to Matnog Ferry Terminal
The last town in Luzon island – Matnog, Sorsogon. Goodbye
Sa biyaheng ito, dalawang beses akong sasakay ng barko kasama ang motor ko. Ganito ang itsura ng motor pag nakatali na sa RoRo: laging naka gilid just in case malakas ang alon e hindi siya matutumba. Nakatali lang din ng lubid, so kung sobrang maselan kayo sa mga motor niyo, baka ma hurt kayo kasi paikot yung tali pati sa upuan. Sa kabila ng lahat, masarap pa rin bumiyahe ng malayo, try niyo rin.
You can look, but you can’t touch =)
Lubid lang ang pagtali sa katawan ng motor, so kung masyado ka maselan, baka mahirapan loob mo sa pagsakay sa RoRo
Ganito ang itsura ng motor kapag nakatali na sa RoRo, nakagilid lang at nakasandal para di matumba pag malakas ang alon
By the way, some useful info for you guys. After travelling some 660 kilometers and passing through the entire Bicol Region ito ang binabayaran kapag gusto mo pumuntang Visayas gamit ang inyong motor. Eto ay para sa Matnog Port in Sorsogon papuntang Northern Samar.
Philippine Ports AuthorityTerminal Fee (Arrastre) – Php 65.00
Passenger Terminal Fee – Php 11.20
User’s Fee – Php 15 (para san ba ito?)
Barge Ticket for bike including 1 passenger (Montenegro Lines) – Php 384
Philippine Coast Guard Clearance (voluntary) – Php ??
Total – Php 475.20
Welcome to Eastern Visayas
Thank God I arrived safe and sound in Eastern Visayas. Upon reaching Samar, I noticed that it was 1 pm already. I had to hurry up as I wanted to end up in Tacloban or maybe Ormoc before night time. Tough task.
After numerous road repairs encountered, first stopover is Calbayog City, Samar. There was till a lot more riding to do though. Whenever I ride, you will hardly see me travel in a very fast pace. Although sometimes I do it, most of the time I just make sure to have a relaxing pace. This way, I get to enjoy the sights, instead of breezing through the clear roads. During my travels, most of my delays could be attributed to me stopping at beautiful sights just to take pictures. It’s never the destination, always the journey.
My fans at the background cheering. Just kidding, we’re all getting ready to get off the barge!
A common fixture along the Northern Samar highways
I love Calbayog
One of the road accidents I saw along the way
Such a beautiful sight in Gandara, Samar
A side trip to Biliran perhaps?
I’m pretty sure any rider doing a Samar – Leyte crossing would have to agree that the San Juanico Bridge would be one of the highlights of their trip. At a length of 2.2 kilometers, the San Juanico Bridge is the longest bridge in the Philippines spanning a body of water. Connecting the provinces of Samar and Leyte, it is considered to be one of the most beautifully built bridges in the country. You have to see it to believe it! Nabigla talaga ako sa ganda nung view, and I’m not even exaggerating. Parang ganito yung na feel ko nung umakyat ako papuntang Banawe Rice Terraces in Ifugao, or the Philippine Pali Highest Point in Atok, Benguet. Sobrang breathtaking, and amazing ang view, up to the point na gusto mo nalang tumigil at pagmasdan yung nakikita mong kagandahan. Yung iba ay matatakot tumawid ng San Juanico dahil umuuga daw ito. Sa totoo lang oo, at meron pang steep uphill sa gitna kung kelan nasa gitna ka na ng tubig, pero sulit naman ang kaba at takot dahil di mo na rin siya maiisip dahil sobrang ganda talaga ng view! For me, nakaka proud talaga na meron tayong ganitong kagandang tourist attraction sa Pilipinas. Adjectives such as “wonderful” or “amazing” seem to be a perfect fit to describe your breathtaking experience. In fact, di ko na napigilan mag video at kumuha ng photos sa gitna, kahit na may sign na no taking of pictures, kasi baka hindi ko na magawa ulit.
I posted a photo on Facebook and one of my friends from The Pinoy Rider fan page said that I looked a bit tired. I found the comment funny but yes she is correct, I am already tired at this point. 900 kilometers into the trip, having not completed an 8-hour sleep for consecutive days, riding through sun and rain, and being away from my loved ones, well yes I guess I am a bit tired.
I just had to stop and admire the view
At a length of 2.2 kilometers, the San Juanico Bridge is the longest bridge in the Philippines spanning a body of water
Pushing 1000 kilometers into this trip, it seemed like mud has coated my bike all throughout. And this is already considering the fact that rain has been present during the most unexpected times during the trip, just when I thought everything would be smooth sailing. I guess what I’m saying is that if you are too obsessive compulsive about your beloved bike, you may find it a little bit difficult to stomach whenever big patches of mud gets stuck onto your bike.
Somewhere in Leyte
The roads seem endless in Samar and Leyte
Riding through Samar and Leyte – the roads seemed to never end. Mahahaba talaga ang daan, at akala ko paikot ikot lang ako pero malayo lang talaga ang biyahe. Ito ay isa sa mga pagkakataon na minsan ako ay tila nag auto pilot, natutulala nalang minsan dahil sa pagod at pare parehas na kalye. But at the end of the day, when I reflect, I always end up saying to myself that if I had to do it again, I would – all for the love of riding!
My last stop before reaching Central Visayas
I constantly keep my readers updated real time whenever I am on a roadtrip. While doing this one, I got a message from my fan page in Facebook –
One of my readers gave me a very flattering comment: “That broomstick took you beyond boundaries! I salute you for promoting the country and safe travelling.” – Emil Abrera
Well, thank you for that feedback and yes, it sure did and that is why I am so thankful that I have my motorcycle to join me in my journeys. I get to go to places wherein others probably wouldn’t reach in their lifetime, so I am very thankful that I am able to do this on my own power. And that is also the reason that whenever I go to a new destination, I try my best to visit the local church to give my thanks and also pray for guidance and safety on my next trip.
Although very tiring, motorcycling has made me realize that it is what I need to get away from the stresses of life. And that is an irony because going on long rides is physically and mentally demanding. The memories I make and the pictures that I take will surely last a lifetime, and it will surely be a good feeling to reflect and reminisce when I get old. Touring solo is not easy, but the rewards definitely outweigh the risks. And for that I am thankful.
I hope I am inspiring other people to travel too – hopefully by land so you will get to see all the in-betweens, as compared to riding by bus or via plane, you get to your destination yes but miss the fun part – the journey.
On next month’s issue – Join me as I explore the Queen City of the South – Cebu and how I feel as I go on my 30th day on the road.
– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of http://www.pinoyrider.com – Journeying the Philippines SOLO on a motorbike.
Follow his adventures on his website or through his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PinoyRider