March 22, 2016

Travel Guide: San Pedro Island, Hinunangan, So. Leyte

San Pedro Island is one of the twin set of islands off the coast of Hinunangan, Southern Leyte. Although not as famous as the other white-sand islands in Leyte like Kalanggaman and Canigao, San Pedro Island also has its fair share of a beautiful white pebble beach, crystal clear waters, rich marine life, and picturesque views of sunrise and sunsets.

How to Get There
 Aeroplane from Manila or Cebu
There are passenger flights from Manila to Tacloban, or Cebu to Tacloban, every day. If you're from Manila, the flight takes at least an hour and fifteen minutes. If you're from Cebu, it takes about forty five (45) minutes. After touchdown, head for the Tacloban City Bus Terminal. You can rent a taxi or a transfer service from the airport.

Tacloban City
At the Tacloban City Bus Terminal, look for southbound vans or buses that are traveling to St. Bernard, Southern Leyte. Make sure that the PUV (Public Utility Vehicle) traverses through Silago municipality, because some PUVs bound for St. Bernard, go the other route via Sogod. Travel time to the town of Hinunangan spans from two (2) hours to two (2) and a half. You'll have to tell the driver to be dropped off at Brgy. Canipaan, this is the jump-off point to either San Pedro or San Pablo islands.

The pump boat ride to San Pedro or San Pablo Islands ranges from 15-25 minutes. You can either rent the whole boat for a two (2) way service or you can take a one (1) way ride to the island, but you’ll have to wait until the boat gets to max capacity before it leaves, and that’ll take a while.

You can rent any boat service to the island, but I highly suggest you look for Angelo Zoilo (+63-905-824-2330), not only is their service fast and friendly, but you can also ask for a discount, on account you make them your “suki”, (Filipino for person/s you prefer to do transactions with, frequently).

Cebu City via Ormoc City
Assuming that you’re going to Leyte through boat, you’ll have to board either a fast-craft or a ferry liner via Cebu City Port. Large ferry ships take about seven (7) hours to get to Ormoc City, Leyte, but just three (3) hours when you take a trip using fast-crafts. The Bus Terminal of Ormoc City is just beside the City Port, you can directly board a bus named Ms. Canipaan bound for Hinunangan, Southern Leyte, which takes around four (4) hours to travel.
Vista Beach Resort
What to Bring
San Pedro Island, or politically known as Barangay San Pedro, Hinunangan, has a sustainable community of less than five hundred (500) people. Because of the influx of tourists, visitors, and for the consumption of the locals, the island has small convenience stores (Sari-sari stores in Filipino), that sell items for immediate needs such as canned goods, liquor and beer, preserved food, rice, soap, shampoo, some other toiletries, and spices if you want to cook food yourself.

Although there are Sari-sari stores in the island, you have to remember that these are only limited, so it’s better to bring the things that you need and buy them from the mainland, and it is relatively cheaper this way too! They also have cottages that you can rent that have its own Abuhan, where you can cook food using charcoal or firewood. Down below is the list of things I’ll advise you to bring.

Food and Beverages
Do remember that you have to bring food that can easily be prepared and cooked in the island. This includes marinated meat for barbecue, seafood, etc. This also means you’ll either have to grill or stew your food. You can also buy fresh fish from the local fishermen. If you’ll be cooking food in the island, bring your own cooking utensils such as casseroles, knives, etc. Bring charcoal and a lighter as well. The usual utensils for eating must also be present; plates, spoons and forks, glasses, etc. Also bring at least two (2) liters of potable water per person, per day. To keep your drinks cold, and your food from getting bad immediately, I suggest you bring a cooler and fill it with lots of ice.

Clothing and Toiletries
The amount of clothes you should bring depends on how frequent you’ll have to change.  I suggest you bring at least three (3) sets of fresh clothes, per day. One for bathing at the pristine and cool beach, one  fresh set after taking a dip, and another in reserve. I also suggest you double the amount of underwear, just to be sure. Girls, don’t forget to bring your own napkins or tampons, just in case they don’t sell it in the island. If you plan to stay at a resort, you can use their toilet and shower for free. We went to Vista Beach Resort, where they have concrete cottages and rooms for rent. They also sell toiletries such as soap, etc., in case you weren’t able to bring any. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to bring a first aid kit, sunscreen, and mosquito cream.

Camping Equipment
Like all other nature excursions, you have to at least bring tent/s. This is to keep your food, clothing, and other items inside safe, assuming you leave camp and explore the island. I also suggest bringing picnic mats, and for those who don’t like to stay inside the tent, bring a sleeping bag. You can also bring rechargeable lights and portable powerbanks for use at night. Some resorts on the island offer rooms for overnight stays. The island has limited electricity which is turned on at 6:00 PM and then turned off at 9:00 PM, you can have your electronic gadgets charged at the resort or you can rent electric outlets from the residents’ homes. Also keep in mind that these resorts offer basic accommodations only.

Sports Gear
San Pedro Island offer medium sized waves good for skim boarding or surfing, on the Pacific side. They also have good underwater biodiversity if you want to go scuba diving or snorkeling. If you want to catch fresh fish, you can bring your fishing equipment. All these water sports activities can be done, but you’ll have to bring them all yourself as there aren't any on the island.

Budget and Expenses
The most important part of the trip’s planning; BUDGETING! Tabulated below is list of the expenses you will individually make. This estimate is supposing that you’re traveling from Tacloban or Ormoc City, you’re with a group of ten (10) people, and you’re staying overnight.
Breakdown / Explanation
Your Cost
Group Cost
Bus or Van
Php 140.00 for a one (1) way ride
P 280.00
P 2,800.00
Boat Ride
Php 1,500.00 for a two (2) way rented service, travels any time you please; or
P 150.00
P 1,500.00

a one (1) way trip per person, but you’ll have to wait until the boat is on full cap.
P 20.00
Cottage with seating capacity of 10-15 people, with use of makeshift kitchen
P 250.00
P 250.00
Php 450.00 per meal for 10 people (Fish: 1 Kilo, Meat: 1 Kilo, Rice: 1 Kilo); includes lunch & dinner for the 1st day, and breakfast & lunch for the 2nd 
P 180.00
P 1,800.00
Includes other necessary items, for personal use, etc.
P 140.00
P 1,400.00
Entrance & Camping Fee
They’re trusting you to leave zero footprint, so don’t litter, don’t vandalize, and don’t harm local flora or fauna
P 1,000.00
P 7,750.00

Notes and Reminders
  • San Pedro Island community offers the visit to the island for free.
  • You can set up camp almost anywhere on the island, but please don't litter.
  • They have clean water safe for drinking and/or bathing, but it is only limited.
  • Some locals operate Sari-sari stores that sell preserved food, toiletries, and liquor.
  • Although they have resorts, they're only basic, so don't expect too much.
  • They have limited electricity turned on at 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. 
  • Don't start a fire over the white sand or pebbles because it'll get discolored, you can cover it with some soil that you can get from further inland.
  • Some rare birds and wildlife can be seen on the island, they're not doing anything to you, except amaze you, so please don't do anything to them.
  • Bring a large garbage bag so you can collect the trash of the whole group and dispose of it properly after you get back to the mainland.
  • Don't forget to take pictures!

There you have it! Your travel guide and tips to spending a day or two at the beautiful island of San Pedro, in the town of Hinunangan, Southern Leyte! 

February 8, 2016

Rafael's Farm: A Tranquil Haven 20-minutes away from Tacloban City!

Scenic view of the majestic mountains behind Rafael's Farm. November 30, 2015.

You don't have to go far

Rafael's Farm and Garden Restaurant is located in Babatngon, Leyte. It is the next town north of Tacloban City. It can be accessed through Maharlika Highway going to San Juanico Bridge, but instead of turning right to Samar Island, you go straight thru Tacloban - Babatngon Road. Only twenty minutes from downtown Tacloban City, most people that come here look to get refreshed and get away from the crowd and the pollution in the city. You can ride PUVs to get here via Tacloban-Babatngon Jeepneys for a fare of Php20.00 at the New Bus Terminal in Abucay. Although this is cheaper, PUVs in this route don't travel as frequently as southbound PUVs. If you don't have a ride of your own, I recommend you rent a tricycle for a fair of Php50.00 per person. The upside for this is the tricycle will immediately take you there, unlike the Jeepney, where you'll have to wait until the PUV becomes full of passengers. 

Rafael's Farm and Garden Restaurant.

Natural Re-connection

Tucked in a quiet, undisturbed location that has scenic views of mountains, Rafael's Farm is the perfect place to relax and unwind. With sophisticated landscaping, a vast lawn my daughter enjoyed running around, and tranquility that resonates through the whole place, staying here for a few hours would certainly re-energize you. They also have a man-made river. You can use their small boat and just row around. They have a tree house to get you a bird's eye view of the farm, unfortunately we weren't able to get up there because there were people already. The soft breeze of air, the relaxing music they're playing, and their posh outdoor living area will reconnect you to nature, where your soul longs to be.

Man-made river.
Tree house.
Covered walkway leading to the old restaurant area that was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan. 
You can hangout under this tree that gives ample shade.
Delicious Food, err Unwanted Visitors

Their food, I have to say, is quite good. My favorite had to be the Baby Back Ribs, it was so tender that it fell off the bones and their signature barbecue sauce went well with it. The grilled tuna was also delicious. My partner ordered tuna sandwich. Among the fine dining restaurants in the city, Rafael's Farm is in the upper echelon. The downside though, was there were so many flies. They literally came out of nowhere. Before our food arrived, it was all good, and then suddenly they came. They destroyed our whole meal experience. No matter how good the food was, the flies just stole the show. With that, they then turned on their industrial fan and pointed it at us to drive away the pesky creatures. I suggest you just eat inside instead. 

Outdoor Living and Dining Area.
Baby Back Ribs.
Fried Chicken.
Tuna Sandwich.
Grilled Tuna.

After lunch, we hanged out and roamed about. My daughter especially enjoyed running around their ultra-wide lawn. If there's a place I'd like to go to after a hectic week at work, I'd come here. I just hope they've already solved the problem with the flies. 

Rafael's Farm and Garden Restaurant is a tranquil haven that's easily accessible from Tacloban City. If you want to de-stress, just relax and have good food, this is the place.

Source: Rafael's Farm

Other Photos


February 7, 2016

Kuting Reef: A Quiet Escape!

Dusk at Kuting Reef, November 15, 2014. Tucked in a quiet 3-hectare cove property in Macrohon, Southern Leyte, is Kuting Reef Resort and Spa, a 20-minute drive from Maasin City, the capital of Southern Leyte. 
Quite the Quiet Escape.

We went to Maasin City to climb Mt. Hanginan, where St. Francis Xavier's Chapel is located. After saying our prayers and thanking the Lord for all blessings, we hiked down the 400-meter tall mountain back to Maasin City. There we rode a PUV to Macrohon, the next town south of Maasin. As we entered the resort, what greeted us were the friendly staff and the rustic ambiance that immediately took away our exhaustion from the long hike at Hanginan. Kuting Reef is a privately-owned resort and spa, that offers water activities like kayaking, scuba diving, etc. It is a 3-hectare property full of coconut trees and a posh landscaping that'll surely get you down to relax. Aside from the very native look and feel of the resort, the place is pretty modern. Their cabanas, are large, and air conditioned. They have a resident masseuse that cater to room service massage or anywhere in the resort. They also have a complete toilet and bath with hot shower. Since we came on mid-November, there weren't many guests, so it felt like we had the whole resort to ourselves. So I'll recommend you visit on non-peak months for that feel of exclusivity and quietness. 

View of the pebble beach facing west of Southern Leyte, fronting the island of Bohol.
Paved walkways leading to single cabanas.
 Fresh and Flavorful.

They also have a restaurant named Baybayon Seafoods. They offer a variety of dishes from the freshest catch of the day. Their dishes are also affordable that dinner for two will only range from Php300.00 to Php700.00. What surprised me was the Chef was actually a neighbor of my partner in the town of Hinundayan, also in Southern Leyte. For dinner, we ordered their best-sellers which were grilled mackerel (Tangigue in Filipino), grilled pork belly, sisig (finely chopped pork face sauteed in garlic, ginger etc.), and for dessert, turon with vanilla ice cream (banana and jack-fruit spring roll). More of a pork-lover, what I munched down first was the grilled pork belly or in Filipino we call it Liempo. But as I tasted the grilled mackerel, it was so fresh and seasoned well that it became my favorite from the whole meal. They also have complimentary breakfast serving continental and Filipino breakfast dishes. I ordered cheese and tomato omelette, while my  gal ordered Daing na Bangus, fried milkfish marinated in vinegar and other spices.

Grilled Mackerel (Tangigue).
Sizzling Pork Sisig. Finely-chopped pork face sauteed in garlic, ginger, and other spices, served on a sizzling plate topped with raw egg and chili peppers for that extra kick.
Turon with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Infinity Pool for Infinitely Relaxing Fun.

What couldn't be more relaxing than an infinity pool? Although relatively small and having a depth of only five feet on the deepest part, the pool still provides an extra unwinding because of the scenic view of the sea and the tropical ambiance. The pool also has water jets to calm you from all the bustle in life. What's also great about their infinity pool is they regulate the temperature of the water. They cool it by the day and make it warmer at night. Now if you'd like to get your fair share of seawater, you can just simply go to the beach that's only a few meters away. But I must warn you that their beach is quite steep. Just a few steps from the shore and it'll already be chest deep. There are also sea urchins that you must be weary of.

Water Activities.

They offer a lot of water sports activities like scuba diving, kayaking, jet skiing, banana boat, and snorkeling. But at the time we went there, barely a year after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) ravaged through the Philippines, most of their water sports equipment were damaged and only the kayaks were deemed usable. The unavailability of the other equipment though, didn't stop us from having fun. We paddled our way farther from the shore, the water was very clear that we saw fishes and corals below us. This made me wanted to try out scuba diving, but hey, first I have to learn how to swim. 

My partner and I tried their kayaks. 
This was the first time I tried kayaking.
They also have function rooms, scuba gear rentals, and did I forget to tell you that they have Wi-Fi in public areas? You can also rent the whole resort for virtually any event or gathering you can think of. Most people use the resort as their venue for weddings, training, and seminars.

Kuting Reef Resort and Spa is your ticket to a refreshing weekend. It is a three and a half hour drive from Tacloban City. An escape that doesn't punch a big hole in your pocket, and would certainly satisfy your cravings for Filipino cuisine.

Other Photos below

Receiving Area and Lobby.
Receiving Area and Lobby.
They have a small honesty store where you get what you wanna buy and then leave your payment on the drawer, all by yourself.
Dusk at Kuting Reef Resort and Spa.
Cabanas where we stayed for the night.
Paved walkways leading to single cabanas.
Cabanas where we stayed for the night.
Right end of the cove resort.
Closer look at the right end of the cove resort.
Left end of the cove resort.
Baybayon Seafoods.
Baybayon Seafoods.

Grilled Pork Belly.
Cheese and Tomatoes Omelette.
Fish and Chips for lunch.
View from the pool.
Still water that mirrors the tall coconut trees.
Kayaking fun!
Kuting Reef Resort and Spa. November 16, 2014.


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