For this last day in Biri Island, we planned to go to the two southernmost rock formations of Bil-at and Karanas. Bil-at is primarily known for the natural saltwater pool that separates it from Karanas. This saltwater pool is larger, deeper and supports more aquatic life than the one which separates Magasang and Magsapad.
But before anything, breakfast. This consisted of 3-in-1 coffee, pan de coco and spanish bread, which we all purchased from the town’s bakery. The walk to and from the bakery enabled us to observe the Birianon’s morning activities. There were lots of dogs too. Seemingly every family here has at least two dogs.
Before long, we set out for Bil-at. The path we took going there was different because they were so far on the other end of the line of rock formations. The water was a bit deeper in the morning high tide and the five of us – Orlando, Aisa, Julien and Marjorie – waded through waist-deep water to get to there. To me, this was a bit unnerving because although the water was clear, we were stepping on sea grasses and occasionally rocky areas where anything can hide and snap at our ankles for invading their territory. Luckily, nothing of the sort happened and we soon got to shallower parts of the mangrove.
Upon arriving at Bil-at, we found out that a group of tourists were already there ahead of us enjoying themselves by the saltwater pool. We remember encountering this same group the day before in Magasang and one even helped us shoot pictures with our cameras. Since they also spoke Waray like the Birianons, we surmised that they might have been students on vacation from the Northern Samar mainland.
My only problem with them was that they had a penchant for scratching the surface of the rock formations to write their names, which of course had an effect of vandalizing the naturally smooth sections of the rock formations. It seems that a lot of people still have to be educated about the proper appreciation of natural treasures.
It was possible to climb to the top of Bil-at, and so after taking the customary photographs at the base of the formation, we then ascended. A section at the top was coated with grasses and other plants, and judging from the reddish color of the soil, then the top layer of the formation must be iron-rich. A short distance away, one could see Pohonan, and further away, Macadlao, with its distinctive 2 coconut trees.
So while I was busy taking pictures of faraway subjects, Aisa was doing her jumpshots with Orlando’s help and the Belgian couple did their own shots. Before long, it was time to descend and check out the other nearby formation which Karanas.
We had to wade through waist-deep water to reach Karanas from Bil-at. Despite it being just a very short distance away, it wasn’t an easy task to cross because the waves already reached this part (see picture above), and one had to make an effort to keep a stable footing. So we had to waterproof our bags as a precaution.
Karanas turned out to be a great area to take pictures. The rugged cliff walls were awe-inspiring and seemingly a different place pops into view at the slightest adjustment of the angle of the camera. Like the other formations though, the these are actually fragile and can easily crumble under blunt force. I hope subsequent travelers to Biri are reminded about this fact.
Towards lunchtime, we made our way back to the island. It was already low tide at that time so the water in the mangroves wasn’t as deep as when we arrived. On our way back to our lodging house, we went to buy food for our final lunch on the island and to arrange our stuff for the trip back to the Samar mainland. Orlando arranged for a boat to take us back to the Lavezares port, and from there, we’d be going back to Catarman.
Biri was certainly everything that I expected and a few more that I didn’t expect. On one hand, I was glad that I was able to see great sights that most people in this country have never even heard about, and actually taking photographs of them. On the other hand, it was sad to see poverty in a place so beautiful. It seems as if the people of this island were forgotten by the provincial government and left to fend for themselves. Just outside of the town, I’ve seen children who were clothed in tatters – the kind that you would not even turn into a rag – and some were not clothed at all.
Since Northern Samar’s tourism brochures always prominently feature Biri Island’s rock formations, I hope the provincial government actually makes an effort to develop the island not only for tourism but also to uplift the lives of the ordinary Birianons.
= = = = = = = = = =
This entry is part of the Biri Island series dated April 8-10, 2011: