PLEASE NOTE: On NOvember 8, 2013, Guiuan Town was the first area where Typhoon Haiyan-Yolanda made landfall, thereby sustaining the maximum amount of winds in the country. This beautiful town was 90% destroyed, leaving many dead and the survivors homeless and with no source of income. We lost all contact with my friends there once the storm made landfall. After 5 days of distressful thoughts, I finally managed to get word about my friends, and now we are in full contact again. They have all made it out safely, and are now relocated in area hundreds of kilometers away in the northwestern part of Samar Island. Their lives are changed forever, but at least they are alive. Please remember the victims of Typhoon Haiyan-Yolanda, and continue to help them in whatever way you can.
It's 12:20 am, February 2, and I sit here at Gate A7 in Taoyuan International Airport waiting for my 1:25 am flight to Manila, Philippines. It's strange. I'm surrounded by the familiar chatter of Westerners and Filipinos conversing in ENGLISH. I'm not sure what to make of it. After 3 years of living and traveling in strictly Chinese speaking countries, this return to the familiar helps me to understand what the "reverse culture-shock" hype is all about. But of course, it's not THAT big a deal., after all, I'm still in Asia.
"But wait!" you must be wondering, "didn't you JUST GET BACK from Manila a few months ago?!" Yes, as some of you have pointed out to me after I posted my countdown on Facebook this morning, I have just recently gotten back from The Philippines, but as I mentioned in my recent posts, there was something about the country that grabbed me by the heart and pulled me back.
There's no other way to explain it but to say one word: Obsessed. For those of you who are my real time friends in Taiwan, you can attest to the fact that I've been smitten by this oft-forgotten gem of a country tucked away on the eastern edges of South East Asia. I unashamedly own up to that fact.
Smitten, obsessed, freakishly in love...I don't care what you call it, I'm going back!
But Wait, Where is Guiuan?
When people first hear the name Philippines, they will usually think of the white sand beaches in Boracay, The Chocolate Hills on Bohol, the rice terraces of Mountain Province, maybe even the hidden beach paradise of El Nido in northern Palawan.
But when I tell people I'm going to a town called Guiuan in the province of Eastern Samar, their first question is: Where is that?
Above is a map of the general area that is referred to politically as Eastern Samar. As you can see, Guiuan is on the south eastern shore of this far flung province, 30 hours away from the capital by bus, or 4.5 hours away by plane/van.
It is known by most to be one of the least developed areas in the Philippines. The way of life there is slow, unhurried and laid-back...just my vibe.
Here are four little known facts about this little known place.
Fact 1: They Were Occupied by the Yanks in WWII
Okay, maybe not "occupied", but stories are told of how the locals of Guiuan had never seen an airplane until 1944, when the skies turned black with the wings of fighter planes and American Forces. Throughout the course of World War II, Guiuan served as a US base.
Today, there is not much left of the American occupation, except for concrete slabs and two former airstrips, one of which now serves as the town's own airport, the other of which has been built up as a residential street.
Fact 3: Guiuan is the Entry Point to Calicoan Island, Home to ABCD Surf Break
Although surfers are just now beginning to discover the surf potential found in the Philippines, the surf has always pounded in Guiuan.
ABCD surf break, found on the island of Calicoan, is a sweet surf spot with consistent waves throughout the year. Even during the off-season, there are rarely any flat-spells. And seeing as it's still a lesser known spot, there is basically no crowding going on, unlike Philippines' most popular surf break, Crowd 9. Oops! I mean Cloud 9.
(Vague) Fact 4: The First Europeans to Discover Philippines Landed There
In the 1500's, a European explorer name Ferdinand Magellan 'discovered' the Philippines. Many believe that he first landed on an island called Homonhon, which is part of present day Guiuan. Even today, the majority of people in the town are Catholics, and the town's church, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, is one of the oldest churches in the country.
The Master Plan (At Least For the Next Two Weeks)
My flight departs in a little over an hour. We should land in Manila by 3:55 am. I will layover in Manila for 12 hours (intentionally), and catch the 2:15 pm flight south to Tacloban City on the island of Leyte, the nearest city to Guiuan. From there I will take a van, either VanVans or Duptours, west to Guiuan, where we will cross the San Juanico Bridge that connects the Visayan islands of Samar and Leyte. I should arrive in Guiuan by 7 pm the latest.
To see more on how I plan on getting there and getting around, check out this website here.
For a general overview of what awaits me in Guiuan, go here.
The rest of my time spent in Guiuan is completely unplanned, uncharted. You'll just have to wait and see what happens next!
Guiuan is known for it's surf break on Calicoan Island! Gear up here:
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...