Everything looks better when the sun is out. The same roads and structures which I found scary the previous night look perfectly ordinary in the daylight. It’s like watching a horror movie with a particularly tense nail-biting scene set at night. Then the scene shifts to a sunny day and you breathe a sigh of relief because you feel the worst is over.
Kids in school uniforms walk along the roads lined with rice fields and locals are going about their business. I think briefly of going back to Matupad Resort to take photos of the lagoon and rock formations, but decide to just go forward to make the most of the good riding weather to proceed to Borongan City, the capital of Eastern Samar, which is roughly 173 km away according to Googlemaps. It may not seem very long on the map, but just to put that in perspective, that’s about the same distance between Sta. Rosa Laguna and Tarlac City (171 km).
ROUTE: Mapanas – Gamay – Lapinig – Arteche – San Policarpio – Oras – Dolores – Taft – San Julian – Borongan (173 km)
I drive through a few small towns. Aside from churches, the main landmarks are welcome arches and municipal halls with Hollywood-style block letters bearing town names. It seems like every town around the country has signs like these. I guess it’s the easiest landmark tourists passing through can get if they want a “proof” shot. That and lots of bridges over clear rivers fringed with thick coconut trees and houses lining the riverbanks. I lost count of the number of bridges I passed.
Though I pass a lot of scenic spots while driving I don’t bother to stop to take a lot of photos. I take a couple of breaks just to drink and stretch my legs. It feels like a long, endless, lonely stretch before I reach anything significant.
Finally by the side of the road seemingly in the middle of nowhere, I spot a green marker bearing the words: Welcome Eastern Samar. Woohoo! I made it!
For most tourists, this sign may not seem like much, but since it’s been my personal quest to ride to all three provinces on the island: Samar, Northern Samar and Eastern Samar, getting here feels like a major achievement. The next few towns I pass feel more familiar and friendly, with lots more people. Progress!
The town of Oras looks like they just celebrated a fiesta. Banners are strung up on the streets and there are a lot of vehicles on the main road. The Oras Bridge is pretty long as it cuts across the a wide river which leads directly out to the Philippine Sea. The weather is good right now, but I can imagine how vulnerable these coastal towns are during typhoons.
In the town of Taft, I reach the junction on the highway where there’s a fairly large gasoline station. From here, I could veer right and loop the cross-country road to head back to Catbalogan City, but I decide to ride on further and stay in Borongan City instead.
I originally think of going all the way to Guian, but that’s still another 100 km away from Borongan. I know most guys would probably choose to cover more miles, but I prefer driving only 4-5 hours a day and keeping afternoons free for exploration. I kind of want to stay in a hotel where I’ll be able to charge my gadgets and have Wifi and I’m not sure if I can get that in Guian. I wouldn’t mind a good meal in a decent restaurant either since I’ve been subsisting on puto and crackers from sari-sari stores and water on the road, so I decide to stay in Borongan, since it’s a city.
While driving into town, I see a hotel and decide to check in there. GV Hotel is a chain of value inns that offers practical budget rooms. Their promo rate for a single air-con room is P600 a night. The room is very basic, but the place is secure. They have CCTV and parking for the motorcycle and it’s centrally located. After roughing it out the previous nights, it feels great to have an air-con room and shower.
After notifying people of my whereabouts, resting during the hottest part of the day, and getting recommendations from Cedric of Gala Pinoy Redux, a blogger friend from Borongan, I spend the afternoon checking out the city sights. He recommends an island nearby called Divinubo which has a good beach, but since my time is limited, the most scenic spot I can visit nearby is Baybay, the public beach.
The coastline of the beach begins from loom river delta to Borongan river to the north. I drive to the Baybay boulevard and Borongan Bay walk, which runs along the coast for 1.5 kilometers.
You can tell the area was hit hard by past typhoons. One section of the Baybay Boulevard is being rebuilt and some beachfront restaurants and establishments look like they’ve seen better days.
In one section of the Bay walk, there’s a public park with a playground and several food kiosks. For every open barbecue stall, five more along the street remain closed. Still, there are signs of hope. Barefoot teens are playing frisbee on the beach, students are just hanging out catching the breeze and parents with little kids are taking selfies with the Borongan marker.
I end the day with barbecue and beer along the beach. This is my second to the last night before I have to catch my flight home from Tacloban. My main mission of reaching all three provinces is complete. Now I just have to get back home safely. Home stretch!
NOTE: This is Part 3 of my Solo Motorcycle Ride around Samar Island series.