A couple of months ago when we went to Eastern Samar, my friend Emma mentioned that they were having a family reunion in Hinunangan in May. She invited us to join her but I myself wasn’t exactly sure because, after all, that’s a family reunion and I’m nowhere near related to Emma by blood. However, another part of me was pushing me to go because I haven’t been to Southern Leyte yet.
My constant travel buddy Jao and I were only able to finalize our plans to go there about a week before the trip, so off I went to create the itinerary.
My biggest dilemma was the transportation going in and out of Hinunangan. There was limited information online about Hinunangan and there was virtually nothing about the situation of buses going there. We also didn’t know anyone with knowledge about the place. Emma’s immediate family lives in Tacloban so she wasn’t also sure about how to get to Hinunangan.
Thankfully, after a few days of searching, I was able to find the contact information of Mr. Alan Mogueis, the tourism officer of Hinunangan according to this site: http://toursouthernleyte.net/index.php/contact-us. He gave me enough information about how to get to Hinunangan from Hilongos and how to get to San Pedro and San Pablo Islands.
It was 9 o’clock on Friday night when we boarded a Roble ferry going to Hilongos, which is the closest entry point to Hinunangan if you’re coming from Cebu.
I need to mention though that something must be done with the passenger management at the Cebu port. All passengers, including those boarding other ferries, were stuck at Pier 1 with very little ventilation because they require passengers to check in at Pier 1 first before proceeding to the actual pier (in our case, Pier 4) where the ferry was docked. The staff wouldn’t let the passengers out because we had to wait for the bus. They could have just opened the gate and asked those willing to walk to just walk.
It was already around 10pm when the ferry left Cebu. We only had sitting accommodations so we had to make do with sleeping upright. We arrived at the Hilongos port around three in the morning.
I was informed by Mr. Mogueis a few days before that Roble provides buses for its passengers that could take us directly to Hinunangan. While we were still on the ferry, however, we heard conversations that there were only a limited number of buses so they might not be able to accommodate everyone. So once we got down from the ferry, we ran to get to those buses but our effort wasn’t enough because the first two buses were already full. We were then informed that there was another bus outside the pier going to Silago which would pass through Hinunangan. So we rode apotpot (Leyte’s version of trisikad) to take us to that bus. We paid P50 (P20 each for the fare and P10 for the “entrance fee” – we were going out of the pier so that “entrance fee” was a bit iffy).
There were still enough seats on the bus when we got there so comfort wasn’t really a problem. Fare from Hilongos to Hinunangan was P160 and travel time was three and a half hours.
We arrived in Hinunangan around 7:30am and we were warmly welcomed by Emma’s family, despite our non-relation to them. Emma wouldn’t be able to join us because she had a reunion to participate in, so it was only me, Jao and Simon who were going to San Pedro Island.
Around 9:30am, Emma’s uncle drove us to the market where we hired a tricycle going to the port for San Pedro and San Pablo islands for P70. Mr. Mogueis told me that there were passenger boats that could take us to the islands for P25 per head (to San Pedro) and P30 per head (to San Pablo). But Jao and Simon wanted a boat that could take us in the middle of the sea and could wait for us, so we hired our own boat for P600.
Our first stop was at a spot near the shore where it was deep enough for Jao to dive. Aside from his own, he also brought with extra goggles and snorkeling gear that Simon and I could use.
There were no life vests so there was no backup whatsoever for me this time. I practiced my swimming skills the prior week. I knew I could move in the water especially with the snorkeling mask on but this was the first time I was ever this deep without a life vest.
It felt liberating the moment I let go of the katig. I enjoyed that moment. I might not be the diver that is Jao now (although I’m hoping to be one in a few months), but I thought it was good enough for me. A few minutes in though and I panicked in the water. Good thing our boat operator (boatman? captain of the boat?) saw me immediately and threw himself into the water to save me. I was then pulled back to the katig.
This incident didn’t deter me though from swimming more throughout the day. But to keep me safe, they got me a salbabida (a lifebuoy).
We transferred to the next spot which was their marine sanctuary. But I had to come to shore first to pay the P50/head fee. There were a few fishes here. Blue clean waters. And Jao enjoyed his time underwater.
We spent most of our time here. And nothing bad happened to me here! Yehey!
After spending a couple of hours at the marine sanctuary, our boatmen requested to have the boat docked to shore so they could have their lunch. We’re not jerks so we happily complied.
I spent time wading through the shallower water, frustrated that it wasn’t that deep enough. I’m kidding. In fact, I was even too scared to go farther because there was an underwater cliff a few meters away.
When our boatmen were done with their lunch, we decided to make one last stop at another spot.
I was feeling confident with my snorkeling now so I had to go down. Jao asked me to take underwater shots of him. This was when the current started pushing me away (I really need to strengthen these legs for kicking) and I started panicking again. Jao was quick to save me and thankfully there was another local swimming nearby who pulled us back to the safety of our boat.
Phew! That was a whole lot of near drowning. No flashback of my life happened so I don’t think it’s true for some people. Or maybe I’m an undiagnosed sociopath.
For some reason I enjoyed the experience. I know I might have caused some stress to my friends who were there. But geez, that was quite an experience for me.
We went back to the mainland around 3pm and I gave the boatmen a little extra as tip. One of them saved me after all.
We went back to Emma’s house but we would leave again to visit the Calagitan Fish Sanctuary. Entrance fee was P10 per head. I didn’t get down the water here so I just watched my companions jump from the dock and snorkel around.
We left when night fell. The people working at the sanctuary said there were sharks and other dangerous creatures coming at that time so it was best to stay out of the water.
We had dinner at the reunion party of Emma’s family, much to our embarrassment. Then we slept the night off inside a tent. Yes, it was my first time sleeping in a tent!
Here’s our video of our experience in Hinunangan courtesy of John Rey Cuyos.
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