A few months ago, I did not know that Biri Island existed. Now, I am head over heels in love with it.
Biri Island is a picturesque destination that remains relatively unspoilt by technology and tourism. The simplicity of life in the island is refreshing, and the locals are helpful and honest, like most people in the province.
Biri is derived from the Spanish word “barrer”, which means “to sweep”, a command given by the galleon captain to his men to ready the ship before docking in Biri Island. Now, Biri Island, a municipality in Northern Samar, does not have galleons in its shores, but it boasts of seven otherworldly giant limestone rock formations. These jaw-dropping rock formations are Bel-at, Caranas, Magasang, Magsapad, Macadlaw, Puhunan, and Pinanahawan.
Biri Island rock formations are exquisite creations that arise from of the chaos that happens in nature. They are formed by the combination of movements of tectonic plates, unforgiving waves of the Pacific Ocean and San Bernardino Strait crashing into the limestones, and blistering winds that fashion the long parallel lines on the side of the giant rocks.
The giant rock formations stand close to yet independently from each other and are separated by crystal clear water. Each giant rock formation has smaller rock formations that remind one of an elephant tusk, a roaring lion (of House Lannister), Snoopy (the dog), and a kissing face, among other things.
Seeing Biri rock formations was akin to a religious experience. I saw the Primordial Being’s hand moving in mysterious ways to engender something that makes me truly believe in goodness and beauty, worship nature in its nakedness, and realize the insignificance of my existence before such tremendously gorgeous scenery spread around me.
The long travel and the wounds in my feet and fingers (I usually get scratches when I walk on, touch or get near limestones or coral. What a klutz!) regress into the background because of the visceral experience I had that afternoon. It also helped that Juan and I had the whole place to ourselves most of the time, and our tour guide, Louie, was a great companion!
How to get to Biri Island by air:
– Fly to Catarman Airport. Only Philippine Airlines services the area, so tickets are a little steep.
– From Catarman Airport, rent one of the tricycles in the parking area of the airport to go to the main terminal, P150.00 (US $2.93). The drivers claimed that the normal fee is P200.00 (US $3.90), which is too much for a ride that lasted less than ten minutes.
– Ride a jeepney bound for Lavezares port, P50.00 (US $0.98). Approximate travel time, one hour. Jeepney makes several stops to pick up passengers. We were fortunate that our ride was not 100% full; otherwise, we would have to pay for our backpacks. 🙂
– Register at the tourism office in Lavezares and pay P25.00 (US $0.49).
– In Lavezares port, ride a boat that services Sto. Niño or Biri. Boat fare is P50.00 (US $0.98). It takes a while to fill the boat to its 15 – 20 people-capacity, but one can choose to pay P750.00 (US $14.64) for a special trip. Our boat had a capacity of 20 but more than 30 people and our baggage, which ranged from sacks of rice to meat, were in the boat. Approximate travel time, one hour.
– In Sto. Niño, hire a habal-habal (motorbike) to Biri. The habal-habal can accommodate two to three passengers comfortably. Register in the tourism office.
– In Biri, register in the tourism office.
– Fee for a tour guide is P300.00 (US $5.85) and fee for the habal-habal is P195.00 (US $3.80). Kindly add a generous tip to the total amount. Our tour guide was Louie. He was informative, helpful, respectful, and very creative in taking photos. He kept Juan and I safe and comfortable. I highly suggest getting his services. His mobile number is (0915) 970 – 3516 (with permission to post his number).
For more photos of the rock formations, please read Biri Island Rock Formations (Northern Samar), Part II. For accommodation and food, please read Villa Amor Accommodation and Lawud Seafood Restaurant, respectively.
For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/BiriNorthernSamar-RockFormations/.
Here are some of the photos taken in Biri Island, particularly in Bel-at and Caranas (photos were taken mostly by Juan and Louie, but I asked their permission to publish them):