January 1-6, 2019
Getting onto the ferry to Leyte was quite a challenge. But it was just half of the way. Getting from Bato to Padre Burgos (PB) was not so simple either. The ferry itself was comfortable. We paid a few bucks more for indoor seating. There was no need for aircon but watching a film on a big TV was quite fun. While debarking the ferry, Bato made an impression of a welcoming city. We did not spend much time there but saw some kind of a promenade with few bars and restaurant, and everybody seemed to be relaxed. There were few big buses parked next to the port and drivers pointed us to the local market from where shared vans were leaving to Maasin. Squeezed like sardines in a tin we were soon leaving the city. The Toyota Hiace had 12 seats, but we were 16 people in there. Luckily, the road was well maintained, and the trip was relatively quick. In Maasin we ended up at the central bus station. The van driver was kind enough to wave for a tricycle to take us to a Jeepney station.
Finally, after the whole day of travelling, at the edge of the night, we reached Padre Burgos. We were so tired and happy to be there that we even did not protest when jeepney driver charged us extra for our bags. We did not book anything in advance for the night. Happily, a young lad helped us with direction to practically the only guesthouse in the city. We did not expect much out of it. However, the Jd Beach Front Hotel turned out to be quite a fancy place, and not even so expensive. On top of that, it was ideally located just at the shore with a beautiful terrace overlooking Sogod bay. It is a pity that we arrived at the night and had to leave early morning to catch a boat to Limasawa where we stayed for a few days and could not enjoy the place properly.
There are practically two places in PB. The Jd Beach Front and Peters Dive resort. Once we returned from Limasawa we thought to go back to the Jd Beach Front. However, our mission was to see whale sharks, and therefore a dive resort was more convenient. It was perfect as well — cheap room with shared bathroom, little pool, directly on the beach and a good restaurant. The food there got tourist price tags, but PB is a sleepy town, and in the evening it is almost a mission impossible to find the other place that serves dinner. Even during the day, options are minimal. So we were a regular visitor to the hotel restaurant.
Read more: Cebu & Moalboal
Despite the sh*ty weather, we enjoyed our stay very much. The entire area is fantastic. Secluded, off the beaten track and with great locals. And of course with gentle local giants – whale sharks. It is not a circus attraction like in Oslob. You really need to have the luck to see them and it is a relatively eco way. Nobody is feeding, touching or anyhow limiting the sharks. On the other hand, it is fine as far as there are almost no tourists. If there are ten boats instead of one, the eco feeling would be gone. The full-day trip does not come cheap, and there is no security to see them. We had that privilege, but people on the boat the next day did not. There was just one drawback, that is nobody’s fault. Visibility in the water was ridiculously bad (but it is somehow normal in December) + cloudy or rainy weather just made it even worse.
I wish we could stay much more time on Leyte. It is a dreamy place. The whole way from PB to Maasin and then to Tacloban by bus was full of green scenery, palms, rice farms and lovely villages. Ideal location for discovering it by scooter if we had that possibility. Since we didn’t, we went straight to Tacloban for one night before flying to Manila. The first impression was quite bad. It looked poor and run down. But don’t get confused with the first glance. The city used to be beautiful before cyclon Yolanda in 2013 that made ruins from most of the town. Despite that, it still has a relaxed vibe and a certain charm. We found a beautiful cafe Jose Karlo’s where we felt like back home in Europe. As well, we visited Santo Niño church, and at night we went to the popular street food area on the seashore. All in all, it was a pretty busy day.