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72 Hours in Samar

by Marionne Mancol

If you’re looking for a paradise off the beaten tracks, the wondrous province of Samar is the perfect match for you.

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Even though it’s pretty low-key in today’s tourism, Samar was the first Philippine island sighted by Ferdinand Magellan and the original “Las Islas Filipinas” (together with Leyte) named by the Villalobos expedition before the whole country got the name. This Eastern Visayas haven is called the “Caving Capital of the Philippines” and offers scenic avenues for hiking, swimming, kayaking, white-water boating, and waterfalls-hopping. The locals handle all the attractions in Samar, so thrill-seekers can have the best of both worlds by having worry-free adventures while supporting the local communities. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a travel guide to help you get ready for your trip!

GETTING THERE AND GETTING AROUND

Take one of the several flights to Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City from NAIA or Clark. From the airport, take a jeep to Tacloban City downtown (₱13) and then a multicab to Tacloban New Bus Terminal (₱7). From there, you may ride a van for ₱30 and arrive at your first Samar destination, Basey, after 30-40 minutes. Alight at Basey Tourism Office, where you can get assistance for tours and transportation.

To get to Paranas from Tacloban, ride a van to Catbalogan (₱120) and alight at Brgy. Tenani. For your last destination, you can ride a bus (₱30) or van (₱100) to Catbalogan, then ride a van to Calbayog at the terminal (₱100).

DAY 1: Tacloban-Basey

Though Tacloban is technically the provincial capital of Leyte, the city is the best jumpoff point to the province of Samar, especially if you’re flying in from Manila. Here, you’ll find a variety of hotels, restaurants, and cafes to suit your travel needs.

Brunch at Dream Cafe

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At Tacloban, fuel up for the activities ahead at Dream Cafe, a go-to restaurant for satisfying food and beverage that won’t slice your wallet. The combination of bacon, cheese waffle sandwich, and cappuccino just sets you up on a good mood for the rest of the day. They also have great music and free wifi to boot. Don’t forget to buy yummy snacks to-go for your trip!

Dream Cafe
222 MH Del Pilar Street
Tacloban City, Leyte
(053) 325 8222

Late Morning to Afternoon Activity: Sohoton National Park

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The half-hour ride from Tacloban to Basey is more than worth it when it means you get to explore one of Samar’s most breathtaking natural wonders, Sohoton National Park. The 841-hectare protected area holds the combined pristine glory of rock formations, an enchanting river, and a cave with centuries-old stalagmites and stalactites. Basey’s Tourism Center helps you organize the tour, which is most affordable when taken in groups of four or more. You can let your imagination run free on the interesting rock formations when you ride a boat through the cave and kayak under the natural bridge. Plus, the chirping birds, streaming waters, and rustling leaves serve as your background music while you cruise down the river—no better food for the soul. If you still have time, you can end your Basey tour visiting the lady weavers at Saob Cave, where they make and sell Samar’s world-class banig.

Basey Tourism Center
0921 654 0096
(055) 276-1471
(055) 276-2086

Dinner at Ocho Seafood Grill

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Back at Tacloban, get the cheat day you deserve at the popular Ocho Seafood Grill. The excellent service and food quality, not to mention the free wifi, can help end the day on a high note. One should definitely not leave Leyte without sampling their delectable baked scallops, crisp tempura, and juicy pork barbecue.

Ocho Seafood Grill
Senator Enage Street, Barangay 54
Tacloban City, Leyte
(053) 832 8808

DAY 2: Tacloban-Paranas-Calbayog

Breakfast at The Q Kitchen, Hotel XyZ

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Filipino, Japanese, Italian, American, Thai, Chinese—sate your appetite for both local and international cuisine at Tacloban’s Q Kitchen located inside Hotel XyZ. The reasonably priced food, cozy ambience, and efficient service make customers come back for more. This is the perfect last meal in Leyte before heading to Samar for more adventures!

The Q Kitchen, Hotel XyZ
G/F Hotel XYZ, P. Zamora Street
Tacloban City, Leyte
(0917) 773 8008

Morning Activity: Torpedo Boating

INSTAGRAM: ourawesomeplanet

The Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Adventure in Paranas, Samar is an adrenaline junkie’s taste of heaven. It costs ₱1,825 for five people to ride a long, wooden motorized boat without outriggers, steered by three guides. Check it off your bucket list and brave the white-water rapids of Samar Island’s longest river—equipped with safety gears, of course!

Torpedo Boat Extreme Ride
Ulot River, Paranas, Samar
paranas.tourism@gmail.com
(0908) 780 5608

Lunch to Afternoon Activity: Deni’s Point

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For an additional ₱150-200 per person, the tour package can include catered lunch at Deni’s Point. This is where you get off the boat to cross the river until you reach the other side, which holds swirling pools that you can jump into with a life vest after a demonstration by your lifeguard. Whether you go against the current or relax during the calm parts of the river, the virgin forests and the fascinating wildlife they shelter already make the ride one for the books.

Dinner at Marcial’s Grille

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The perfect end to an exhilarating day is devouring good food. Taste the best baby back ribs and fried chicken that rival luxury restaurants at Marcial’s Grille, Calbayog City. The vegetarian spring rolls, grilled fish, and eggplant salad cooked to perfection are sure to make your taste buds sing!

Marcial's Grille
Matobato, Calbayog, Samar
(0955) 662 7199

DAY 3: Calbayog City

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Breakfast at Rebelito’s Refreshments

Established in 1963, Rebelito's Refreshments is that one restaurant in town that everyone loves. This full-service family restaurant offers inexpensively delicious local favorites like puto, siopao, palabok, dinuguan, ginataan, La Paz batchoy, and halo-halo alongside their own take on Western flavors like lasagna, spaghetti, pizza, and cakes.

Rebelito's Refreshment
Rueda Street corner Magsaysay Blvd.
Calbayog, Samar
(055) 209 1294

Morning Activity: Waterfalls Tour

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Have your fill of nature’s wonders by discovering why Calbayog is known as the City of Waterfalls. From the town proper, three neighboring waterfalls await after an hour of traveling via jeepney (₱60). At Brgy. Tinaplacan, you can hire a guide (₱200) and motorcycle ride (₱200) to accompany you to and from the waterfalls, which do not require entrance fees. You should travel light because the hike back and forth can take an hour or two, depending on fitness capacity. The sight of the first waterfall is worth it though—the beautiful Bangon Falls has four layers of waterfalls streaming down into a vast pool that’s just waiting for you to dive in.

Lunch

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It’s best to bring packed lunches to save time. For the full native experience, we recommend getting some tinapa (smoked fish) from Pingping’s Tinapa, the most popular pasalubong place tourists and outgoing locals flock to in Calbayog.

Ping Ping's Tinapa & Pasalubong
National Highway corner Rono St.
Purok 4, Calbayog, Samar

Afternoon Activity: Waterfalls Tour Continued

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Tarangban Falls, the highest one among the three, is just another half an hour’s trek from Bangon Falls. The clear waters flowing from the majestic rock formations are perfect for swimming and taking pictures for the ‘gram. Afterwards, if you have time to spare, you can ask the guide to take you to Larik Falls on the way back. More intimate than the first two waterfalls, Larik Falls looks like a gigantic jacuzzi because of the water pooling at the center of the circular rock formation.

Dinner at Kamayan sa Carayman

INSTAGRAM: unlawyer

The best native restaurant in Calbayog City is located a few minutes away from the town proper. For reasonable prices, you may feast your eyes and fill your stomachs with their sumptuous seafood choices, such as crabs, calamares, and fish cooked in more ways than one. Their crispy pata, sisig, and vegetable omelette are also experiences to taste—coming together to make for a memorable last meal before you head back home.

Kamayan Sa Carayman
Carayman, Calbayog, Samar
(055) 301 1258

RELATED: Check out other two- and three-day itineraries in our Features section.

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About Marionne
Marionne Dominique Uy Mancol is a filmmaker and freelance writer from Samar. She graduated cum laude from Ateneo de Manila where she studied AB Communication on full scholarship and won Best Thesis for their campaign on women’s empowerment against sexual harassment. Her heart smiles for Jesus, her family and friends, chicken wings, dancing, traveling, and coming home.

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