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I was in Donsol to SCUBA for Whale Sharks and Manta Rays.
The season usually ends in July … but this year it ended early.
There were no Whale Sharks nor Manta rays around. I had a quiet (and boring) 3 nights in the resort.
It was time to move on to Burias Island.
Burias Island is one of the three major islands of Masbate. The other two major islands are Ticao Island and Masbate Island. Burias Island is composed of two towns: Claveria and San Pascual.
Burias Island looked like an anomaly … I needed to check it out.
WHAT THE PAPERS SAY:
Claveria Town, Burias Island is said to be one of the least known tourist destinations in Masbate province.
Burias Island boasts some semi-white sand beaches. There are a few semi-white sand beaches located near both Claveria and San Pascual.
One such beach is San Isidro Beach near Claveria town. San Isidro Beach has an approximate and aggregate length of four (4) kilometers. Its fine and silvery white sand can easily accommodate over a thousand people. The bottom of the sea is clear and sandy extending some one hundred meters from the shoreline with a gradual (depth of 5 to 7 feet) during high tide. Further from the shoreline are beautiful and colorful coral reefs which are inhabited by a wide variety of fishes. The beach is lined by coconut trees.
“This place is truly an undiscovered gem”.
If you prefer lounging on an island with powdery white sand and having an island all to yourself, you can pitch your tent in either Tinalisayan Islet or Sombrero Island.
With 122.3 km coastline and a fishing ground of 168,000 hectares, San Pascual has exuberant marine life enough for both local livelihood and preservation for tourism appreciation. Five islands all boasting crystal clear waters can be explored:
- Tinalisayan Islet (1.5 nautical miles) has a short but fine white sand beach and a rustic scenic hill in overlooking the 80-meter long sandbar nearby.
- The large Busing Island (1.7 nautical miles) protects the San Pascual Bay and has its share of winding white sand beaches.
- Be mesmerized by Animasola Island (2.1 nautical miles) rock formations weathered by time and the elements.
- Spend a night or more at the native but comfy accommodation of the twin Sombrero Islands (4.5 nautical miles) and enjoy the natural white crushed coral beach and observe local fishermen on their daily chores.
- The farthest Dapa Island (5.3 nautical miles) is said to have a cave home to a number of sea snakes.
What’s great about San Pascual is its proximity to Naga City, Camarines Sur. You can explore the other tourist attractions that this emerging tourist hub can offer, such as island hopping in Caramoan.
THE ROUTE FROM DANCALAN, DONSOL TO PIO DURAN:
I needed to get to Pio Duran to catch a Bangka to Claveria, Burias Island. On paper, it looked easy … all I had to do was to catch a Jeepney or Trike for 15kms up the coast road.
Information on the internet says that the Bangkas from Pio Duran to Claveria leave at 6am, 7am, and 8am. I needed to be in Pio Duran before 7:30am.
I asked my hotel what time the Jeepney passed the resort heading for Pio Duran. They said that I could not go that way … a bridge has not been completed yet. I had to go via Legazpi City.
There was no way that I was going to get to Pio Duran by 7:30am via Legazpi City.
Google Maps showed an hotel in Pio Duran … I would have to stay 1 night in Pio Duran.
HOTEL TO PILAR:
There was no point in leaving too early. I left my hotel at 7:15am.
I offered PHP30 to the Trike Driver to take me to Donsol. No problem.
We were in Donsol in 10 minutes; it is only 2kms away.
He dropped me off on the main road in front of a local store. This is where the Jeepneys to Pilar stop.
I waited only 10 minutes and the Jeepney arrived. It was PHP20 to Pilar.
I was dropped off 100m from the Ferry Terminal. Next to the Ferry Terminal, there is a Bus / Minivan / Jeepney Terminal. I was there by 7:50am.
PILAR TO LEGAZPI CITY:
I prefer to catch buses in The Philippines if I can (I find them a lot more comfortable than Minivans – even though they take longer) but there are no buses from Pilar to Legazpi … I had to take a Minivan.
The next Minivan to Legazpi left at 8:30am. Again, there was no luggage space for my suitcase, so my suitcase was charged full fare. The price was 2*PHP90.
We arrived at the Legazpi Minivan Terminal at 9:45am.
LEGAZPI CITY TO PIO DURAN:
I easily found the Minivan to Pio Duran. Again, there were no buses servicing this route.
The Minivans wait in lanes under big signs that say where they go.
The Minivans leave when they are full. As I was one of the first there, I opened up the back and made room for my suitcase. I made sure that it fitted and that the back door closed … no double charge this time!
It was 2 hours before we had filled up the next Minivan. We left at 11:45am.
PIO DURAN TO CLAVERIA, BURIAS ISLAND:
I asked a local where I could find an hotel; he said that there was no hotel in Pio Duran. Mmmmm … that is not what it said on Google Maps … I, later, found out that there IS AN HOTEL in Pio Duran. It was built recently. The ‘local’ did not know about it.
I saw a Bangka being loaded with building materials on the waterfront. There were passengers seated and waiting. I decided to enquire about where it was going.
The information on the internet is out of date.
There are, in fact, 4 Bangkas to Claveria from Pio Duran each day: 7:00am, 8:00am, 2:00pm, and (from July 2016) 4:00pm.
We were delayed by the loading of building materials … but, eventually, left at 2:20pm.
I got friendly with some locals on the boat and had some fun with the Captain and his assistant.
WHERE TO STAY:
In Claveria, you only have 1 option: The Montenegro.
MY HOTEL – THE MONTENEGRO:
The Montenegro has no signage, you have to ask the locals for its location. It is about 30m up the main road from the Bangka Port (on the right).
But the rooms are NOT to western standard.
I took a Family Room with Shared Bathroom for PHP500 / night.
This is the only room type that he had available. It came with 4 beds. Only 1 of which was comfortable enough to sleep on.
The Shared Bathroom was rustic and needed a good clean. I decided not to have a shower that evening – there was no shower anyway … it was just a bucket of water.
In fact, I decided not to use the toilet at all during my stay – only for ‘number 2s’.
Claveria (and Burias Island) only has electric from 6pm to 6am. The electric came on at 6pm; I was ready to cool down and my room needed the fan.
The electric cut out early the next morning: 4am. Shortly afterwards the sun started to rise – and the roosters. By 5am, I was out of bed and packing.
I decided that 1 night in the Montenegro was enough.
I took a short walk around the town that first afternoon.
There are 3-4 Eateries / Carederia / Tinpots. No restaurants. No bars.
The locals don’t see many western tourists; they were all very friendly and welcoming.
Locals on the streets greeted me and said hello. All of the children waved hello and asked for my name. Unlike most other places in The Philippines … this was not followed by ‘give me money’.
A kindly man took me back to his house for a chat and a cold coke.
CLAVERIA TO SAN PASCUAL:
The previous day I had talked to Jamal (a local Hamal / Hamal driver) and enquired about the price to get to San Pascual in the north of the island.
There used to be a road from Claveria to San Pascual but most of it was destroyed in a typhoon. About half of the road is still paved but most of that paving is riddled with cracks and looks like it has been hit by an earthquake. The other half of the road is being re-built or is a dirt track.
Some of the information on the internet is out-of-date / inaccurate. You can only get from Claveria to San Pascual by Moto (Hamal / Hamal). You cannot go by Trike. There are no Jeepneys.
The ‘quoted’ Moto price is PHP1,000. The distance is 60kms. My rule of thumb says that the price should be 60xPHP5/km = PHP300. The Moto has to get back to Claveria though, so you double this to PHP600.
This is about right as it is normal on most islands to be able to rent a Moto and driver for PHP500-600 for a day to tour an island sight-seeing.
I offered Jamal PHP600. He discounted to PHP700. I insisted on PHP600. The deal was done.
At 6:30am I was outside of the Montenegro waiting. Jerry was already there. We tied my suitcase to the back of his Moto. The configuration would be: Jerry at the front with my backpack strapped to his chest, me, then my suitcase.
We left Claveria at 6:45am. The trip took 2 hours. By the time that we got there, my bottom was very uncomfortable.
Needless to say, I was not in a position to take any photos along the way.
We arrived in San Pascual at 8:45am.
Jerry dropped me off at Fuentes Lodge: one of the 2 accommodations in town. From the outside, the Fuentes has a few shabby looking rooms over a row of shops. I enquired about a room. She said that she did not have one. I suspect (from her body language) that she did but did not think that I would be interested. I suspect that she was right.
I asked her if there was another hotel in town. She said that there was a hotel at the port.
I decided that I had seen enough. I was not going to stay in San Pascual.
There was a Bangka loaded and ready to leave for Pasacao on mainland Bicol. I was going to be on it.
The trip from Donsol to Claveria is an unnecessarily long one but it shouldn’t be long before the bridge is completed and you can go from Donsol to Pio Duran direct.
It took me 8.5 hours door-to-door and cost PHP465. Two GRANDPAckers should budget PHP720.
Burias Island may have some nice beaches; the beaches are ‘said to’ rival those of Boracay … whether that is true I don’t know (I never saw one) … without suitable accommodation, GRANDPAckers are never going to see them.
Burias Island is not ready for Western Tourists, definitely not GRANDPAckers, and it will be a few more years before it is.
However, it is a prime target for backpackers who want to pitch a tent on a secluded beach, meet friendly locals, and pay ‘local’ prices.
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