Biri Island, Northern Samar: Biri Rock Formations
|Watching the sunrise on Bel-at Rock Formation with Puhunan, Magsapad and Magasang in the distance.|
The Biri Rock Formations, one of the top tourist attractions of Eastern Visayas, lies along the northern coast of Biri Island, the largest of an archipelagic municipality of Biri, Northern Samar. I thought beforehand that these natural landmarks on Biri Island were only one or two massive rock sculptures, not unlike the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation in Burgos, Ilocos Norte. To my surprise, I found out that the Biri Rock Formations are really a series of seven massive monuments, called Caranas, Bel-at, Puhunan, Macadlaw, Magsapad, Magasang and Pinanahawan. These rock formations are definitely one of the most magical places in the country.
|Enjoying the magical tidal pools of Caranas Rock Formation|
Accessed by a mangrove boardwalk, the most accessible rock formation of Bel-at Rock Formation provides a suitable vantage point to watch the sunrise, while one can clamber up Caranas Rock Formation amidst its pockmarked boulders and stone chimneys. In between Bel-at and Caranas, a tidal pool harbors deep, aquamarine waters ideal for swimming and snorkeling. I spent the most time here freediving around a few coral heads that were home to wary Moorish idols and purple-cheeked cardinalfish that hid next to yellow-orange sponges and delicate feather duster worms.
|A Moorish idold next to sponge coral and feather duster worm|
|Free-diving into the aquamarine waters of Bel-at Tidal Pool|
A few minutes ride north of Bel-at and Caranas are the rock formations of Magsapad and Magasang. From the shoreline these rock formations can be reached by walking for 400 meters or so across a shallow tidal flat. The cliffs of Magasang looked like tidal waves frozen in stone. In between the two stone monuments were shallow tidal pools of green seawater, where I spotted a walo-walo or banded sea snake swim away to hide in a crevice.
According to a geological study conducted by National Institute Geological Sciences Research (NIGSR) of the University of the Philippines, the rock formations of Biri Island’s northern coastline were deposited some 84 to 24 million years ago and pushed up by tectonic movement generated by earthquakes. The uplifted continental shelf was later sculpted by the action of wind and seawater from the Pacific Ocean through thousands of years to form the magnificent monuments we admire today.
|The emerald tidal pools and tsunami-like cliffs of Magasang Rock Formation|
HOW TO GET THERE: Ro-ro ferries (PHP 120, 1.5 hours) connect Matnog, Sorsogon and Allen, Northern Samar. From Allen, ride a tricycle (15 minutes, PHP 20) to Lavezares town, where a pumpboat (1 hour, PHP 50) will ferry you to Biri Island. Passenger boats dock at Brgy. Sto. Niño, where you will have to ride a motorbike (5 minutes, PHP 10) to take you to the poblacion or town of Biri. The closest airport from here is Catarman, which has direct flights to and from Manila.
The rock formations are located at Brgy. Progress, 4 km east of the poblacion. Motorbike tour rates are standardized. Starting from Brgy, Poblacion, motorbike tours that include Caranas, Bel-at, Magsapad and Magasang Rock Formations are PHP 200 (Maximum of three persons). Tours may last up to 8 hours; and a surcharge of PHP 25 per exceeding hour.
WHERE TO STAY: Ate Glo’s Homestay (or Gloria’s Homestay) is a blue-colored house near the town plaza at Biri poblacion that offers the cheapest sleeps on the island at PHP 150 per head. Mobile: +63 920 8698668.