Halfway through the trip and just under a thousand kilometres covered, we continued on and made a quick overnight stop to get some rest in Catlubang. The hotel options were limited and the one hotel that was newer was hosting a seminar with no rooms available for the night. A good tip I’ve learned is to call ahead of time to reserve a room even if you are unsure of where you will end up for the night. This ensures you have a place to stay if all else fails. Calling also seems to give you a better rate than booking online as these establishments avoid paying the extra fee.
After driving around aimlessly and frantically searching to find a decently priced, clean place, we chanced upon Casa Apostle. It was cheap for its level of cleanliness at only Php 1,000 a night, but rooms were tiny – especially the bathroom where the toilet and shower were all together with no division. It is also a walk-up which would be harder for those less physically fit.
After a solid nights rest, we resumed the drive and had a quick lunch at JRs Fried Chicken just along the highway. Run by a husband and wife, the place was welcoming and undoubtedly had amazing fried chicken! You could also order seafood along the road and for a fee, have it cooked and served at their establishment. Freshly caught, the oysters definitely stood out and were unbelievably succulent with none of that fishy aftertaste. For only Php 170 for a whole chicken, and Php 200 for a kilo of oysters, the meal was such a great value and would have cost ten times that in a larger city!
All filled up and resuming the trip, we passed the San Juanico bridge that connects to Leyte. An impressive engineering marvel, it was built in the early 80’s and stretches over a kilometre. We then arrived in Tacloban to quickly check out the city. Driving through you could not even tell that the city had been hit by one of the worst natural disasters in history, further exemplifying the resilience and ability of the Filipino people to persevere through anything. Tens of thousands of people died in the tragedy with a ship that had run aground killing thousands more, turned into a memorial for all the victims. The memorial, though one of significance, was nothing worth visiting as the ship was fixed up, repainted, and cut into a small building. The city is also home to the MacArthur Memorial, an American general who led the victory battle against the Japanese invaders, a very important part of Philippine history.
We then continued on after seeing the city sites, and got onto another RoRo (roll on roll off). The only way to travel across islands with vehicles – there a few different operators but we went with FastCat. Convenient and fast, the trip only took two hours. Make sure to go early as there is a lengthy process when booking your vehicle. You start off by paying a municipal fee and then having to book the trip with the booking office. You then proceed to the cashier to pay for the vehicle and passenger fees and finally the terminal fee. With each vehicle booking, the passenger fee for the driver is included, for every extra passenger you would have to pay. I would highly recommend the Premium Economy class. A drastic difference in comfort but only Php 30 in price, Premium Economy includes air conditioning, cushioned seats, and a large TV screening movies.
Below is a breakdown of the costs from Liloan-Lipata:
Municipal Fee – 50
Miscellaneous Fees – 129
Vehicle Booking – 2000
Premium Passenger Fee – 330
Terminal Fee – 15
Just under three hours and an I Am Number Four screening later, we finally got to Leyte and made our way to Parkway Hotel to spend the night. Only around ten kilometres away and on the way down south, the hotel was the perfect option and even has triple rooms for that odd numbered group. The rooms were impressively clean and spacious for the price. However, the A/C was pretty weak which made it hard to sleep but all we needed was a quick nights rest to start back again in the morning.