Calbayog - Finding a Parking Spot

Maripipi – Philippines – To San Antonio


 

JUNE 2016:

 



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OVERVIEW:

Maripipi - Napo - Pool Maripipi - Napo - BedI made my way from Naval to Maripipi and I stayed in the Napo Beach Resort for 3 nights.

The Napo were great hosts and I will have more to say about them in a future post …

It was time to move on north. My next target was San Antonio Island just off the east coast of northern Samar.

12Go Logo

To get to San Antonio, I had 2 options:Maripipi to San Antonio

OPTION 1 – VIA TACLOBAN CITY:

Head south back to Naval and take Minivans through Tacloban City, Catbalogan City, and Calbayog City. This entailed:

  • A 4:00am Moto from the Napo Resort to the Maripipi Port (PHP150 with suitcase)
  • The 5:00am 1.5 hour Bangka to Naval (PHP60)
  • Assume a 30 minute wait
  • A 2.5 hour Minivan from Naval to Tacloban City (2xPHP150 – we know that they charge for the suitcase on this route)
  • Assume a 30 minute wait
  • A 2 hour Minivan to Catbalogan City (PHP150 – assume that my suitcase is free)
  • Assume a 30 minute wait
  • A 1.5 hour minivan to Calbayog City (PHP120 – assume that my suitcase is free)
  • Assume a 30 minute wait
  • A 1.5 hour minivan to Victoria (PHP120 – assume that my suitcase is free)
  • Assume a 30 minute wait
  • A 30 minute Bangka to San Antonio (PHP50 – including Environment Fee)
  • Assume 30 minutes to get to my Hotel

Starting at 4:00am I would expect to be at my San Antonio Hotel by 6:00pm. 14 hours of door-to-door travel. I regard this as too much for GRANDPAckers to do in 1 day. It needed to be broken up with an overnight stop.

If you have read any of my previous posts about destinations in The Philippines, you will know that I have discounted the cities and big towns. I do not see any of them making it into my GRANDPAcking Retirement Locations shortlist. So, any overnight stop would be a pure in-transit stop with no interest in the city itself – i.e. a waste of time.

If you use the hotel search engines, you will find very few hotels on this route. There are hotels in these main cities, but very few are on the internet … so, the quality of the accommodation was ‘unknown’. What we do know, is that places like the GV Hotel are ‘backpacker’ and below GRANDPAcker Standard.

The logical place to stay overnight was Tacloban City. The cheapest GRANDPAcker Hotel there would cost about PHP1,200 / night. There will also be a Trike cost between the Hotel and the Minivan Terminal (assume PHP50 each way).

The total cost of Option 1 would be about PHP950 plus the PHP1,300 hotel and transfers = PHP2,250 (PHP3,200 for 2 GRANDPAckers).

OPTION 2 – VIA ALMAGRO ISLAND:

Maripipi - Napo - View Maripipi - Napo - HammocksGo by Bangka via Almagro Island. This entailed:

  • A 1:30am Private Bangka from Napo Maripipi Beach Resort to Almagro Island (PHP1,000)
  • The 3:30am 2 hour Bangka from Almagro Island to Calbayog City (PHP100)
  • A Trike to the Minivan Terminal (PHP30)
  • Assume a 30 minute wait
  • A 1.5 hour minivan to Victoria (PHP120 – assume that my suitcase is free)
  • Assume a 30 minute wait
  • A 30 minute Bangka to San Antonio (PHP50 including Environment Fee)
  • Assume 30 minutes to get to my Hotel

Starting at 1:30am I would expect to be at my San Antonio Hotel by 9:00am. This is 7.5 hours of door-to-door travel for a total cost of PHP1,300 (PHP1,550 for 2 GRANDPAckers).

I chose Option 2.


BANGKA TO ALMAGRO ISLAND:

Maripipi - Loading Bangka to Almagro Maripipi - Bangka to AlmagroRobert, the owner of the Napo, organised the private Bangka from their resort to Almagro Island.

I was up at 1:00am and waiting for the Bangka by 1:15am.

The Bangka arrived on time and they loaded my suitcase for me.

The trip to Almagro Island took 1 hour. The seas were calm. We were on shore by 2:30am.


BANGKA TO CALBAYOG:

 The Bangka from Almagro to Calbayog City is scheduled to leave any time between 3:00am and 4:00am. That is why we needed to be there by 2:30am.  On my morning, they were late and did not arrive until 4:30am.

Almagro - Launch Bangka to CalbayogAlmagro - Embark Bangka to CalbayogThis Bangka services just Almagro Island, it picks up passengers and freight to/from Almagro and Calbayog City.

On my morning, there was a lot of freight … this was made worse by the fact that it was low tide and the Bangka could not dock. All of the passengers and freight had to be boarded using a small row boat.

Almagro - Passing Fishing VillageAlmagro - Pick Up Goods on the WayThere were a few small waves, so getting into the row boat was a bit untidy and you got wet to the knees. A bit more ‘hairy’ was getting from the row boat onto the Bangka … you don’t go up any steps … the row boat goes underneath the Bangka and you have to climb out and along the outer framework.

It was 5:30am before everything was loaded and we were underway.

Almagro - Sailing to Calbayog Almagro - Sunrise Through the IslandsThe Bangka stopped at 2 more Almagro villages to collect more people and more freight before heading off to Calbayog.

The Bangka was SLOW. Apparently, the PHP100 passenger fee is set by the Almagro council (not the boat owner). The boat owner, obviously, didn’t think that this was enough … so, he cruised at the optimal speed for his diesel engine. A trip that should only take 2 hours took 3.

Calbayog - Approaching the Harbour Calbayog - On The HorizonNote: The toilets on these smaller, ‘local’ Bangkas are not the nicest. I would advise ladies to avoid using them if possible – and to pre-plan their ablutions accordingly.

Our Bankha finally arrived at Calbayog at 8:30am.

The harbour was quite picturesque.

We could have easily anchored at a spare slot at the entry to the harbour … but, no.

Calbayog - Moored BangkasCalbayog - In The HarbourOur big Bangha cruised as far in as possible … all to save us from walking another 100 metres … there were no slots available … so they made one.

They pushed another Bangka out of its slot and manipulated our big Bangka into the slot vacated. It was such a tight fit that the boatmen had to pivot around other anchored Bangkas to ensure that we didn’t get entwined. It was amusing to watch.

We finally disembarked at 8:45am.Calbayog - Finding a Parking Spot


MINIVAN TO VICTORIA:

The Trike from the Calbayog Bangka Port  to the Minivan Terminal costs PHP20.

Calbayog - Minivan to VictoriaVictoria - Bangka PortIt is worth noting that I was very impressed with what I saw of Calbayog City (the small bit that I saw, anyway). It was a very tidy city (for The Philippines). The streets were clean. There were no piles of litter on the sides of the road or between houses. People were growing plants and flowers on the streets. It almost felt normal.

By 9:00am I had my ticket for the 9:45am to Allen (seat #3). I asked the driver to drop me off just before Allen at Victoria.

Victoria - Bangka to San Antonio Victoria - Bangkas in HarbourThe Minivan left at 9:55am. The cost was PHP120. They did not charge extra for my suitcase … they managed to find a place for it … so why couldn’t the other minivans between Ormoc and Naval find a place for it?

I was dropped off at Victoria at 11:30am.

It was an easy 500m walk from the main road to the Bangka Port.

Just walk into Victoria and hit the waterfront under the ‘Welcome’ sign that spans the street.

I was at the Bangka Port by 11:45am.


VICTORIA TO SAN ANTONIO:

There is a constant stream of Bangkas going to San Antonio. You make yourself known to the Lady Organiser and wait your turn.

San Antonio - Approaching the Island San Antonio - Passing a BangkaEach Bangka takes a maximum of 13 passengers. They fill up a Bangka and off it goes.

The 13 passenger limit is obviously a safety limit … but it doesn’t stop them from loaded a couple of motorbikes on the front …

In comes another one and they start again. My turn came at 12:30pm.

We loaded up, accepted out 2 motorbikes and set off. We landed in San Antonio at 1:10pm.

Visitors pay a PHP10 Environment Fee at a small kiosk just as you get off the boat.

There are Trikes waiting if you want one.


FINDING A SAN ANTONIO HOTEL:

I had not done my usual thing … I had not pre-booked my accommodation. I could not find an internet hotel site that listed a hotel on San Antonio … but I knew that there were resorts there from my internet research.

San Antonio - Circumferential Road San Antonio - DisembarkingI, also, knew that they were close to the Bangka Port. So, I declined the offers of a Trike and walked north along the circumferential road towards the resorts.

The first resort was 200 metres up the road: the Seashore Beach Resort. I stopped to look at their rooms. They offered me a ‘very average’ aircon Double with balcony and cold water shower for PHP1,500 / night. The room was in need of a bit of maintenance. It had a tv (but no cable channels), no in-room wifi and no breakfast. I said that I would return if I could not find anything better. You will see, below, that the Seashore fails to compete on both price and quality with the Haven Of Fun.

San Antonio - Haven - Room Entry San Antonio - Haven - Ensuite EntryA further 200 metres down the road I found the Haven Of Fun Beach Resort. This is the one that most people can find by searching the internet.

They showed me a very small beachfront fan cottage with shared bathroom for PHP700. It was not to GRANDPAcker Standard.

They showed me a 2 story aircon cottage for PHP1,500. It had the bedroom upstairs. Downstairs was the ensuite, a kitchenette, and dining room. An ensuite downstairs is not suitable.

They, then, showed me a Fan Double with ensuite for PHP1,000. It had a tv (which I, later, found out had no remote and only had 1 local channel), a cold water ensuite, a wardrobe, and a balcony.

It had no in-room wifi (which the resort expects to get installed within the next few weeks). It did not include breakfast.

San Antonio - Haven - Bed San Antonio - Haven - RoomI wanted to stay 3 nights. They could only give it to me for 2 nights. Thereafter I would need to move to one of the PHP700 fan chalets. I decided to just book 2 nights.

They had to finish cleaning my room. I was in my room by 2:30pm.

I settled into the room and went for a walk. About 200 metres further up the road is a small town with shops and a market street.San Antonio - Haven - Balcony


MY SAN ANTONIO HOTEL – THE HAVEN OF FUN RESORT:

As you may well imagine, after starting my trip that day at 1:00am, I was ready for an early night.

San Antonio - Haven - Beachfront San Antonio - Haven - GroundsI was in bed by 8:00pm and was immediately harassed by these small ‘fruit fly’ things.

There were dozens of them. I hadn’t noticed them earlier in the day … and I had made sure that all of my windows were closed … so, they must have been hiding in the room.

Out came my trusted Bug Spray.

San Antonio - Haven - Beachfront Seating San Antonio - Haven - Beachfront CottagesI sprayed the room and sat on my balcony for 30 minutes (with a rum and coke :-)) … they harassed me out on the balcony too. Anyway, after 30 minutes, I was back in bed for a decent night’s sleep. Not. There were still a few of them alive and they kept landing on me all night.

I was up at 5:00am. I sprayed the room again and went for breakfast.

Note: Don’t get complacent, check the room for bugs and spray it immediately on arrival.

San Antonio - Haven - Breakfast PHP85San Antonio - Haven - Fish Veg Rice Coke PHP125The Haven Of Fun Beach Resort is surprisingly good.

It has a long beach frontage with lots of shaded huts to sit in along the beachfront.

They have a small and simple menu with very reasonable prices. On my first morning I tried one of their PHP94 breakfasts. This is the cheapest breakfast that I have had in any resort so far. It was tasty and good value for money. They also do set meals for PHP138.

You order at the central kiosk and they bring the food to where-ever you are. When you pay your bill on check-out, you discover that they charge a 10% Service Fee for this privilege.

San Antonio - Haven - Chicken Adobo PHP145 San Antonio - Haven - Spicy Shrimps PHP159On my first night I tried their Chicken Adobo with Rice (PHP145). Chicken Adobo is a very ‘standard’ dish in The Philippines and I use it to compare different resort menus and value for money. At PHP145, it is the cheapest Resort Adobo that I have had so far (the next cheapest is PHP185). It was better quality than most too … very tasty.

Their Spicy Shrimps were also good value for money at PHP159.


WHERE TO STAY:

On my second day I had a look around for other accommodation options. There are no more resorts north of the Haven Of Fun.

FRANCISCO:

If you walk south past the Bangka Port for about 500m you will find the Francisco. This is targeted at the Filipino market. Only backpackers are likely to find the accommodation acceptable. They had small and very basic fan rooms with shared toilet (that needed a good clean) for PHP700 / night. The best that they could offer me was a small aircon Family room with a double bed, a bunk bed and a single bed with ensuite for PHP1,500 / night. It was very basic and came with cold water shower, no wifi, and no breakfast.

ANOTHER:

Continue further and you will find another resort but it looked so run down that I am not sure that it is even open.

YET ANOTHER:

Continue further and you will find a Dive Resort but it was closing down and moving to San Vincente.

OCTOPUSSY BUNGALOWS:

Walk for about another 1km and you will find the Octopussy. This is about 500m south of Flying Dog Beach. This is, without double, the best value for money accommodation on the Island. They have 2 fan Bungalows. Both spacious and well appointed with a nice ensuite with cold water shower, an inside seating area, mosquito net over the double bed, and outside seating area. No wifi, no breakfast. The Bungalows are PHP1,350 / night. He said that he could discount that price (but not by much) if I was interested in taking one. The Octopussy is fairly remote. You go there to relax and ‘escape’. They have a small hut on their beach where you can while away your day. However, the beach is average. The problem for GRANDPAckers with the Octopussy is that it has a ‘pricy’ menu. Breakfast will cost about PHP200, Lunch PHP250, and Dinner PHP300. A 1 litre San Miguel is PHP150.


CONCLUSION:

There is nothing wrong with going via Almagro Island. Although, it is a bit more of an ‘adventure’ … but the good side of that is that you get to see a lot more. On a different day the Bangka would be on time and it would be able to dock at the pier (and a row boat would not be needed). On a better day, I would have been at my San Antonio resort by 11:00am (a door-to-door time of 9.5 hours).

San Antonio is a simple, unspoilt place to ‘escape’ to. You won’t find any noisy bars here. Outside of the Resorts, I could only find one ‘Eatery’. This Eatery was in the village just north of the Haven Of Fun.

You will stay and eat in your resort. There are only 4-5 Resorts on the island – all are on the east coast. The island is dominated by Filipino holiday makers who come and go for a day or two. The beach and swimming are average.

BUT, having said that … this is definitely worth a visit if you want somewhere quiet to spend a few days. A week will be enough. I would have stayed longer … but, it was the 1st week of the month (when I am busiest and need the internet) … without a decent internet connection, I was forced to move on.

For most people, the Haven Of Fun should be your resort of choice. They have the room options, the beach, the amenities, and a very reasonably priced menu.

If you really want to ‘escape’ to some peace and quiet, the Octopussy is the best option.

Wifi on the island is absolutely terrible and non-existent on the west coast.

TTFN


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