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Bucket List: Day 4 & 5

Up at the crack of dawn, the group was raring to go. The hotel would be serving breakfast at 6 am and we were at the coffee shop by 5:45. Once done with the food, we were off. Hitting the road at round 7 in the morning, Surigao City was in full swing by the time we were passing through it’s streets. This was to be one of the highlights of the trip. This long almost 400 kilometer leg which will take us from the northernmost tip of Mindanao and cross a ferry to the Island Garden City of Samal. The route would take us through breathtaking mountain passes with magnificent views of Lake Mainit. My Vespa suffered a flat tire in one of the seemingly endless, sweeping turns. I felt the slight wiggle coming out of a turn and knew right away I had lost my rear tire. No drama there, just stopped on the side of the road and replaced it with my spare tire (don’t you just love Vespas). Continuing on the rout we reached the junction of the Butuan-Davao highway junction. We had a long break here since Bunso made some repairs on his battered suspension that had him bouncing all over the road on the way there. The repair was unsuccessful and we had decided that we’ve stopped long enough and that the repairs will have to wait till we get to Samal. After making small adjustments to his suspension to make his scoot rideable, we were off. But not before we had a bit of fun. Uriel had been eyeing the Habal-habal for some time now and was eager to ride it. He couldn’t help himself any longer and approached one while it filling up with gas. The driver reluctantly agreed to a photo-op but had insisted there be two rider so it would be easier to balance. After giving me the “What the hell are you waiting for?” look, Uriel and I were now trying to balance ourselves on the small platforms connected to the motorcycle. It was no mean feat, the guy was a legend trying to balance to oversized bears on his bike and after a few shaky starts, we were off. Once around the station was enough. Once we had dismounted the driver quickly left before we could appeal for “Manong, isa pa!”. The highway towards Davao city has got to be one of the best pieces of road I have been on. Immaculately asphalted and, in spots, ridiculously...

Bucket List: Day 3

Waking up just before dawn, we were surprised to see that the weather had turned sour. The wind had kicked up a lot and the rain was pretty strong. Butchoy’s tail end had finally caught up with us. After frantically searching for news about the weather, we decided to push through as scheduled. Donning our rain gear we were off. The road out of Catbalogan, was very slippery, made much more dangerous by a lot of oil on the road. You could see the rush of the oil carried by the rainwater crossing both lanes of the highway, specifically during downhill turns. This slowed the pace down, better safe than sorry, we still had a looong way to go. The weather was breaking as we approached the fantastic San Juanico Bridge. I had long aspired to cross the mighty San Juanico (the longest bridge spanning a body of water in the Philippines) ever since I started scooting and here I was literally minutes away from doing it. The crossing itself was uneventful but the experience was fantastic. We couldn’t really slow down or stop too much since there was traffic crossing the bridge and I don’t think they’d really appreciate 4 scooter riders stopping every 100 meters to take pictures, so we crossed the bridge and made our way to a well deserved brunch at the lovely Rafael Farm care of Bernie Lim. The next stop was the McArthur Shrine in Palo, Leyte. The shrine commemorates General Douglas McArthur’s promise to the nation made in March, 1942 which he kept on October, 1944 signalling the beginning of the end of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. You get an eerie sense of history just standing there. Overwhelming. After the McArthur Shrine, Bernie went back home to Catbalogan, Samar since he would not have enough time to get back if he took us all the way to Lilo-an. After bidding farewell to Bernie, we were on our way. The roads to Lilo-an were good with very little construction. The weather also cooperated. The rain had finally stopped but the weather remained cool as we traveled the remaining 150 kilometers to the Port of Lilo-an. Along the way we stopped and checked out the tallest bridge in the Philippines, the Agas Agas bridge. And tall it was. Towering 75 Meters from the forest floor of the mountains of Southern Leyte, the bridge connects two mountains and provides a vital lifeline to those traveling between the islands of Visayas and Mindanao. After...

Bucket List: Day 2

Day 2 began with the group leaving Legazpi City around 8 in the morning. We were supposed to take off at 6 but the hotel didn’t serve breakfast till then so we decided on the late start. The road to Matnog, Sorsogon is one of the best roads I have ever ridden on. Road condition was excellent for the most part, and where it had damage, the area was painted in a bright yellow box which you could see a good ways away. We had our full of pretty fast paced riding zooming past the different cities and municipalities of Sorsogon. Around an hour before lunchtime we finally arrived at the port of Matnog, Sorsogon. We were leaving the island of Luzon. We spent the next few minutes parking our scoots inside the ferry. Checking and double checking that they were secure. As expected, the guys were in high spirits since this would be the first time that some of us were making the crossing. That crossing has to wait, and wait long. The ferry did eventually leave, 3 hours after we had boarded. Still, we didn’t mind. The Visayas was just an hour away. After an hour of uneventful travel, we finally landed on the island of Samar. A quick lunch followed and we were off again. Bernie Lim, one of the intrepid scooter riders who had just come from the North Loop 2, resides in Catbalogan and that’s where we were headed. Road condition was great save for a few areas where bridges were under repair. The pace was pretty quick and we were enjoying the fantastic twisties of the road between Calbayog and Catbalogan when, for the first time on this trip, we had a taste of tropical storm Buchoy. Gusts of wind and a slight drizzle greeted us as we entered Catbalogan just before dark. After checking in in our hotel we dropped Bernie off to reunite him with his family who clearly misses him. It felt good to unwind after a hard day of riding. After another fantastic meal, care of Bernie, we decided to head back to the hotel and prepare for the ride the following day. We were making the jump to Mindanao. But Buchoy would make an unwelcome...

Bucket List: Day 1

The chance comes once in a lifetime. When fellow scooter fanatic Uriel Protomartir asked me if I wanted to join him in riding to Mindanao, I jumped at the opportunity. Having gotten the permission of my family, we were off. Expecting rain, we had our bags wrapped in plastic and raingear prepped. Departure time from Manila was 3 in the morning. Without the usual fanfare of people seeing us off, 4 riders somberly began the quest. Passing through provinces previously passed, the ride was uneventful. The weather held up beautifully and we reached our breakfast stop in Gumaca, Quezon in 4 hours. Not bad for 3 PXes and 1 GT300. After a hearty meal we took off and hit Bicolandia around 9 in the morning. Going to Naga City via the Andaya Highway, we never thought we would get there in one piece due to the horrendous condition of portions of the highway. Potholes as big as our scoots and around 8 inches deep littered the roads and all you could do was suck it in and take the hit. With more than 50 pounds of baggage and 200 pounds of rider on the scooter we were lucky we didn’t break anything. Reaching Naga by lunchtime we decided to go straight to Legazpi City in Albay end the 1st day there. Of course no trip to Albay would be complete without passing by the Cagsaua ruins and have a peek at the Majestic Mayon volcano. We reached Legazpi City at 3 in the afternoon, a full 12 hours from the time we left, not bad for old farts. We checked into the fabulous Orchid Hotel where we ended the day with much needed R&R. Tomorrow we cross over towards the island of Samar in the...

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