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ruthdelacruz | Travel and Lifestyle Blog

Ruth dela Cruz is a travel and lifestyle blogger in the Philippines. She loves writing about her travels. Drop her a note at admin@ruthdelacruz.com. The internet knew her as @ruthilicious.

Snaps @ruthilicious

March 1, 2018

Discovering Samar + Things to Do in Samar #SparkSamar

Discovering Samar + Things to Do in Samar #SparkSamar

Samar is the third largest island in the Philippines, and the first island that was sighted by Ferdinand Magellan. However, he did not land and continued with his journey thinking that he sighted an archipelago. 

Truth be told, I used to associate Samar with disasters, rebels, and poverty. I guess it is because of the damages that was brought by the typhoon Yolanda. 

When I received the invitation to the Spark Samar event and to discover Samar's unspoiled treasures, I was both excited and scared to go. The itinerary listed places and extreme adventures that I would love to try. I said yes and I packed my bag for the 4D / 3N trip to the Caving Capital of the Philippines.





Sharing with you the activities we did + some personal stories that I hope you will find entertaining/inspiring/helpful. Grab your favorite snack before you continue reading.
🍿🍿🍿

How to Get to Samar

By Air

From Manila, you can book a flight to Tacloban  via Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia.  Flight time is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. 

From Tacloban airport take the Jeepney into Tacloban City. From there take either the bus or van into Eastern Samar. There are two Public Van companies that go from Tacloban City to Guiuan (Eastern Samar). They are Van-Vans and Duptours. 

The best part of landing to Tacloban is passing the famous San Juanico Bridge. It is the longest bridge in the Philippines connecting Leyte and Samar.

Had to make a stop at the San Juanico Bridge!
Touristing in my own country

By Land and Sea 

Bus companies like Victory Liner, CUL Transport, Philtranco, Silverstar, and Eaglestar travels from Manila to Samar. They are stationed in Pasay and Cubao and leave night and day. It is a 12-hour drive with stopovers every 3 to 4 hours. It stops at Matnog in Sorsogon where you will ride a ferry. 

My sister travels from Samar to Manila via a private car and they take the van with them in a RoRo (Roll on, Roll off) system. They say the view during the road trip is amazing. But it is sure tiring. 


Where to Stay in Samar

Lola Rosa Inn Bed and Breakfast

We love this home in Calbiga, Samar! It is a restored 1930s house with 5 rooms, kitchen, and main hall. It is old but modern. We love our stay here where we even had the chance to play sungka.  You can stay here if you are visiting Lulugayan Falls. 

Lola Rosa Inn Bed and Breakfast
Lola Rosa Inn Bed and Breakfast
Lola Rosa Inn Bed and Breakfast


SC Hotel in Catbalogan, Samar

Standard Double - P1,450
Standard Twin - P1,650
Deluxe Room - P2,350
Superior Room - P2,550
It comes with complimentary breakfast
Bottled water
Internet access


SC Hotel has become our home in Catbalogan. I love that the place is in the city center near restaurants, coffee shop, ukay-ukay stores and plaza.

SC Hotel in Catbalogan, Samar
SC Hotel in Catbalogan, Samar


They take housekeeping seriously that when we got back in our room after caving, we found our stuff neatly folded and arranged. It sounds nice. But honestly, I do not feel comfortable to know people touching my stuff. πŸ˜

Nonetheless, I love that we were comfortable during our stay in Samar. It is nice to have a hot shower after a very physical activity.

What to Eat in Samar?

I was quite surprised when our hosts unwrapped a lechon during the Secret Kitchens of Samar Dinner. Samar is also very popular for its roasted pig (lechon) and I am telling you it has its own charm and flavor. A totally different one from Cebu's.


Samar is also very popular for its kinilaw (seafood dish marinated with coconut milk, calamansi or lime, onions and tomatoes topped with local chili pepper.), and fresh shrimps (usually covered with batter and fried). The tinapa is also very tasty and not salty. Spanish cuisine has also influenced the Samar flavors evident with its signature Kaldereta, Embutido and other saucy food.

 Other dishes that you have to try are tamalos, suman-latik, black puto, and native snack, Roscas.

Things to Do in Samar

Truly, Samar is a thrill-seeker's paradise with its rugged terrain, lush forest, wild rivers and pristine coastlines. I love its unspoiled beauty that conceals adrenaline-pumping offerings and accompanied by the friendliest people. 

Samar truly sparks my physical, mental and spiritual being. 

Breakfast at San Juan Floating Restaurant and Boardwalk by the Bay

There is no other way to start a trip to Samar than a breakfast at the floating restaurant in San Juan by the Bay. It is a popular destination to enjoy the view of the San Juanico Bridge, the longest bridge in the Philippines and is situated along one of the deepest traversable straits in the world, the San Juanico Strait.




I  enjoyed the fresh food and local offerings prepared for us that morning.  It was a beautiful day.
The boardwalk and floating restaurant also allows guests to kayak, swim and enjoy the water. 

Going back, we decided to walk down the 400-meter bridge to see and enjoy the mangrove. It was a challenge for me because I was too paranoid that my leg might slip in one of the bridge gaps. 

Embrace the Enchanted World of Sohoton Caves and Natural Bridge 

Sohoton Natural Bridge Park is an 841 hectare protected area located in Brgy. Guirang and Brgy Inuntan. Exploring Sohoton Natural Bridge Park would take you to cathedral-like cave, calm river, lush green forests, rock formations and enchanting views.


Sohoton Caves Samar
We were welcomed with a performance from a local tribe! So nice!

Sohoton Caves Samar
The view relaxes me

Sohoton Caves Samar
They say, the boatmen used to be rebels.  ❤️ 

Sohoton Caves Samar
We love Buko Juice

We explored the Sohoton Cave (Basey, Samar) and it was my first official caving experience where I got really close to stalactites and stalagmites (I actually first tried it in Indonesia but didn't get inside). Stalactites are mineral formations that hang like icicles from the ceiling or sides of a cave while stalagmites are the ones that rise from the floors.

Sohoton Caves Samar
So beautiful! 
We are not allowed to touch anything because they react and change color.

Sohoton Caves Samar
Seriously, it was so hard to make an "aura pose" inside the cave  πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜

Sohoton Caves Samar
Flatt surface is love

Sohoton Caves Samar
I knew this was going to be an easy trek inside the cave so I wore the usual shorts and top 

Sohoton Caves Samar
This works like a musical instrument! They produce sound!

The popular "photo booth" inside Sohoton Cave

It would take years before these two connect and form a column.




Sohoton Caves Samar
They call it Mama's Room

Sohoton Caves Samar
Looks legit πŸ˜

Sohoton Caves Samar
I don't know what I am feeling when I saw this

They say that Sohoton Cave was inhabited thousands of years ago based on the findings of bones and their possessions. Our visit was very relaxed and fun as we used our imagination in exploring the cave.

We had lunch while we listen to local songs sang by a father-and-son duo. Ah, the provincial life!

Sohoton Caves Samar

We then rode a kayak and cruised the Sohoton River to get to the hidden cave. It was a calm and relaxing expedition - I felt like we were out to look for a treasure! The view of the lush forest, green river and edgy cliffs is just mysterious and beautiful. I love that I got to travel "alone" and just inhaling every moment of it.

Sohoton Caves Samar
Sohoton Caves Samar
Sohoton Caves Samar
Sohoton Caves Samar
Sohoton Caves Samar
Sohoton Caves Samar


Sohoton Natural Bridge National Park is one of the most popular eco-tourism spot in Eastern Visayas and I am just so honored to be experiencing both the work of nature and man.

Sohoton Caves Samar
Sohoton Caves Samar
Sohoton Caves Samar


Fall in Love with Lulugayan Falls

Dubbed as the mini-Niagara Falls, Luluguyan Falls in Calbiga Samar made me fall in love with nature once again. It was a little challenging going to the site because of the rough road which is (good news!) now under construction (thank you to tourism. The local government funded the road construction so more tourists can visit!).

Lulugayan Falls
We had to ride a truck to get to Lulugayan Falls. 
I recorded a last will video addressed to my friend (she knows my secrets) just in case something happens. I also did the same before my sky dive in 2015.  Haha πŸ€£πŸ€£πŸ€£

 We had to truck-pool (my first time! and I enjoyed it!) to get to Lulugayan Falls. The other option is to ride the habal habal.

From the entrance point, we had to register and meet up with the tour guide. We hiked for 20 minutes. Imagine the background sound of the strong waves and falls while walking the terrain.

Lulugayan Falls
Lulugayan Falls

Lulugayan got its name from the word "lugay", to loosen one's hair. It is said that a fairy once lived here and she loosens her hair which then became the falls. Lulugayan Falls is truly Samar's best kept secret.

Lulugayan Falls


I love folklore's and stories! This makes a visit to every Philippine Tourist Spot a lot more interesting.

Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride
Ulot River Torpedo Boat rates: 1 boat good for 5 pax – P1,825/boat (excluding food) 

Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride is managed by Tour Guides and Boat Operators for River Protection and Environmental Development Organization (TORPEDO). 


Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride

The boat used in this activity is a long, motorized canoe resembling - a torpedo! What makes the ride more exciting is you get to be splashed with water. I was actually scared of this ride before going -  I thought that the river is going to be wild and I would be thrown out of the boat - it appeared to be a very calm and relaxing experience - except for the parts where there are rapid waves and streams of water. 


Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride


To ensure safety of the ride, tourists were provided with life vest and helmet. We were also reminded to use a water-proof bag for our stuff.

This is one of the rare times I wish I had a Go-Pro.

When we got to Deni's Point, we had to trek and walked through slippery rocks and cross the raging water of Ulot River to get to the other side where the real adventure was waiting.

The highlight of the Ulot River Torpedo Boat Ride is taking the plunge and jumping off the waterfalls!

Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride

When I saw them, tourists taking the plunge, I knew I had to do it!

I didn't think twice and I just jumped! All I needed was someone to record the experience.
(so that's what it felt like inside a washing machine!).

Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride

I was impressed to see the tour guides making sure that each tourist is safe. There are guides who were standing on the sides, and jumping to the water to "save" tourists who got swayed near the boulders and rocks.


I jumped twice!

Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride
Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride
Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride
Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride
with the When in Manila Team and Page One
JP, Dani, Jake Darlyn, Christine, Carl, Justin and Dessa

Now, are you waiting for the touching story of Ulot River? Well, it appeared that these boatmen and guides used to be illegal loggers and they used to carry logs in their boats. It is a good thing to know that more and more tourists are coming to Ulot River and helping these boatmen, saving one tree at a time. 

Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Ride
Going back, I risked my camera and took this photo! 


Explore Lobo Cave for Beginners

The itinerary noted that it is an "extreme" caving adventure. For beginners like me, it would totally be a real hardcore experience. For pro spelunkers, Lobo Cave may sound intermediate.

Going to the entrance of the cave, we had to hike for an hour. It took us 1 hour and 15 minutes (while they say, Atom Araullo did it for 27 minutes. I know I could not be his girlfriend).
😭😭😭

Here's my funny story: have you ever felt that you did a bad decision in your life and you realized that you couldn't turn back and you are out to risk other people's lives?  

Lobo Cave Samar


That was exactly what I was feeling during the trek to Lobo Cave. I knew it was a bad decision to go. I was feeling weak and sore from the activities we did the previous days. But I had to continue.

I tried to make fun of my whole journey and struggle. I kept on telling them that I am not really for this type of adventure; I am more of the bubble-bath-and-champagne-kind-of-girl. We walked up and down the steep and muddy terrain. I was thinking, if I slip, I just want to die immediately. No more suffering, no more nursing inside the hospital.

We continued until we reached the entrance of Lobo Cave.

Lobo Cave Samar

They set up and gave us our helmet, headlamps, gloves and gears for navigating inside the cave (I felt so legit wearing the gears!). Lobo Cave appears to be small from the outside but there is a whole new world inside and down under.

Lobo Cave Samar


If you are not used to walking in rocky terrain, muddy surface and just being in a dark (with flying bats, insects and what-nots), you may find caving a real challenge. I took them all in. For the experience. And writing about it now, I am happy to say I conquered the most beautiful cave in the Philippines. 

Inside the Lobo Cave, there are no flat surface. You have to navigate through tunnels and walked through sharp rocks. There are parts where you have to do Spiderman-moves; or swim deep river.

Lobo Cave Samar Spark Samar Blog
One of the scariest parts for me!

Lobo Cave Samar Spark Samar Blog
Playing with my headlamp and checking what's around me

Lobo Cave Samar Spark Samar Blog
I volunteered to go down first the rabbit hole without checking what's down there. I had to descend 10 feet and do a lot of Spiderman moves. 

Lobo Cave Samar Spark Samar Blog
 I chased waterfalls 


When they say, I should be able to get through this because I already did the most extreme thing - skydive. But I told them, skydiving only requires you to be brave - you survive or die. Spelunking needs strength and endurance. You have to survive. 

In my defense, I was feeling a bit heavy at that time because of my weird bowel movement during the trip. We explored the cave and the terrain for 5 hours.

When we reached the end of the cave, we had to trek for another 30 minutes and waited for the boat. The terrain going to the river is so beautiful, calm and enchanting.

Lobo Cave Samar Spark Samar Blog
Picturesque

Lobo Cave Samar Spark Samar Blog
My guide! 

Lobo Cave Samar Spark Samar Blog
While washing up, I was like "Ang dumi-dumi ko" 

Lobo Cave Samar Spark Samar Blog
What a nice way to end the trek
The river extends to the city proper where kids can still swim. It is not polluted. Wow.  


... and yes, I survived.


But just like my other life successes, I didn't do it on my own. I am forever thankful to the people who helped, believed and cheered for me so we can all finish the journey (and these are people I just met! Huhhhh. I am so touched!).

I really enjoyed this trip. I was somewhat scared, but was looking forward to it - because I wanted to "travel solo" and just be away (will try to post a separate post about this). 

It was amazing to explore Samar and discover its hidden beauty.

If you made it to this part of the post, thank you so much for reading my #SparkSamar experience. This trip truly changes how I see Samar. Hats off to people who are working hard to protect the environment and provide jobs to the locals. Thank you to the guides and boatmen who make sure that we finish the journey safe and alive. Thank you #SparkSamar and the Provincial Tourism Office of Samar for the invitation. ❤️

#SparkSamar Blog
Check out the videos in my IG Highlights
@ruthilicious

This summer, please add Samar in your summer destination (especially that Boracay is set for a close down for rehabilitation).

Please, please share this post and help eco-tourism in Samar. 

For more information,
visit https://www.facebook.com/sparksamar/
Follow @sparksamar 



Read my other Travels and Adventures