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Doing the Luzon-Visayas Loop: a Masochist’s trip

Luzon - Visayas Loop theloop.gif This is the 2nd of 16 installments of the Luzon – Visayas – Luzon Loop series. Click the image on the right to check out the rest of the posts.

Call it madness, call it a masochist’s trip but, after much ruminations, I finally made it: The Luzon – Visayas – Luzon Loop. Of all the days of 2007, I picked the end of the year holiday rush to head for home in Cebu from Makati and back (after 3 weeks) by land and sea. I intentionally didn’t book any plane tickets so that I will be forced to take the land route.

No doubt about it, the trip itself is a bit brutal, taxing, draining and not for the faint of heart as I had to endure almost 30 hours of no sleep negotiating the Bicol – Eastern Visayas leg and partly clinging my butt on an improvised wooden seat without cushion inside a crowded van just so that I can at least make it to Ormoc on time. But despite all these hardships, it was an experience!

Just imagine:

  • 2,600 kilometers
  • 63 hours of total travel time
  • 3 taxis, 2 cars, 5 vans, 5 buses, 3 jeepneys, 4 tricycles, 2 pedicabs, 3 fastcrafts, 3 barges and 2 pumpboats
  • P4,700 total expenses for fare, terminal fee and a dorm type accommodation, and
  • 16 provinces

The loop actually traced the following: Makati City – Laguna – Batangas – Quezon – Camarines Sur – Albay – Sorsogon – Northern Samar – Western Samar – Leyte – Cebu – Negros Occidental – Iloilo – Capiz – Aklan – Oriental Mindoro – Batangas – Makati City.

Ready… set… go! Me and my gear.

I did not travel light. Maybe this was one major mistake considering the breadth and duration of the trip. I was lugging my full camera gear crammed inside a convertible LowePro bag, a mid-sized 5 year old backpack filled with stuff and things and my aluminum, heavy duty tripod that really saw little action, except for a church visit in Cabatuan, Iloilo, that I was regretting bringing it. The planned Cebu church interior photography didn’t materialize. When I got to Iloilo, my shoulders were already aching especially when I was changing vehicles frequently.

Also because of this heavy load coupled with uncertain schedules, I totally skipped Tacloban – Maasin via Sogod in Southern Leyte, Ubay in Bohol and Dumaguete in Negros Oriental.

Guide book, notebook, pen and receipts.

My main reference for the routes, trips and other information was my two month old and ever reliable Lonely Planet (9th Edition) guide book. I took lots and lots of notes like travel time, expenses, routes and stops and observations on a cheap spiral notebook where I crammed all my tickets and terminal fee receipts.

The LVL Loop is not easy to negotiate. One has to prepare for it. But frankly, I should confess that I didn’t have all information ready like the travel times and fares that I have to discover it en route or at the stop itself. I’m not regretting this part, though, as the uncertainties add up to the sense of adventure, discovery and fun.

Will I do this again? Sure! And when that time comes, I’ll take my time, include as much provinces and routes as I can and enjoy again this masochist’s trip.

NOTE: This is the start of a series. The rest can be read at theLOOP.

Map by Eugene Villar’s Lakbayan

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40 thoughts on “Doing the Luzon-Visayas Loop: a Masochist’s trip”

  1. Looks like a nice trip… warn me if you need someone to carry your bags/tripod next time… 😉

    Lonely Planet is still the best guidebook around. A bit surprising that no Pinoy traveler (like you) never wrote a better guidebook.

    Being a lot older than you, I already stopped traveling on a hurry to visit as much places as I can. I learned that you need time to discover the soul of a place. You can’t just go to a place, take pictures and move to the next place. Sometimes less is more…

    This doesn’t mean that I am not jealous of your trip… I would do it any time if I had the opportunity.

  2. By the way, P4,700 for 21 days is amazingly cheap. That is less than 225 pesos a day!
    I guess your food allowance is not included.

  3. WOW. Bilib talaga ako sayo, Estan!

    The Lonely Planet book is really something else. I’ve put off buying it for a long time (because I’m cheap that way haha), but I finally bought it last December. It really does get you fired up to travel! Are you doing the Luzon-Mindanao overland trip next time? 😉

  4. Idol talaga! I think you can do a book similar to Carlos Libosado’s 28 days around the Philippines.

  5. Sidney, Nina, I’ve always thought of doing this trip. Not only this one but around the country: Manila to Ilocos then Cagayan Valley – Bicol – Samar – Leyte – Mindanao entering Surigao and exiting Dapitan but not before rounding Zamboanga then the western part before exiting Mindoro. While this needs much preparation, I’ve done the Luzon route before and would like to do it again but this time with documentation.

    I think Lonely Planet has already done a good job and other writers who would want to make a guidebook should focus on those not readily found at LP.

    Getting the sense of place is important Sidney. It’s what makes the journey more meaningful. This journey was more on getting the experience of feeling and doing the loop.

  6. Doing the “entire Philippines loop” is definitely on my “Bucket List”. I hope I will not need to be terminal ill before I have the guts to actually do it! 😉

    Enjoy your travels my friend!

  7. estan, you’re really a fighter huh. 🙂 i wish you well! take care. 🙂

  8. wanted to do something like this but never got the long vacation. but this is really one interesting trip. nakita ko yung gear mo and i wondered how you managed 🙂

    anyway, imho, jens peters guide to the philippines is a thousand times better than the lonely travel guide.

    hahaha, natawa ako sa sinulat ni sidney na bucket list. it is is mine, too, and i, too, hope i won’t be so old when i finally have the time and resources to do it, maybe, just maybe, i’ll include mindanao na rin in the loop.

  9. i never had the guts to travel alone so i really admire you for what you have just accomplished.

    the most of what i have done is a road trip around luzon and also a road trip of few places in mindanao late last year… but never alone.

    this post kept me thinking… can i do that?

    i still don’t have the answer.

  10. lawstude, you should try it. in this way, you will discover more of yourself, your limits, your capabilities. yun nga lang its kind of lonely but i often do this to clear my head, to think, or just to experience a place.

  11. OMG! This is such an amazing project! It must be a hell of tour if it ever was organized for a slightly larger group (logistical nightmare, to say the least) but I salute you for the courage and thank you for the inspiration. This is one reason why I have always loved your site.

    Padayon, bai!

  12. Wow! The whole loop at P4,700? Amazing!

    I’d love to do something like this soon. But I think I’ll leave my tripod behind. Oh wait. Sayang naman, I’ll bring it nalang.


  13. yep. but that is not including the food. Accommodation was only dorm type and just one night as I was sleeping at a friend’s.

  14. ang galing. i suggested sometime ago to fellow travellers and bloggers to come upwith a philippine travel bookmade by filipino travelers but nobody took the challenge 🙁

  15. a friend

    Hi Estan,

    this is my first time to read your nice project. Its great and continue your work. Now, i have another place to visit with.

  16. estan,

    you’re a bit nuts (in a good way),
    you’re now my favorite Amazing Racer!

    more power to you, bro!!!

  17. Jhong

    Sir nakaka amazed yung mga pictures na kuha mo. Hope makapunta ka dito sa Subic dami rin magagandang mga places here. I can tour you pag pumunta ka. See you and congrats

  18. This is a nice project. I’ve already dont half of the loop. cebu-negros-iloilo-manila. though not in continuous travel. that would be too taxing for me. congrats for enduring it. had i known of this blog earlier i could have assist you in a thing or two. 😀

  19. gladita, thanx, I will count on your help when the time comes that I will travel to this parts again 🙂

  20. How can I obtain the burial plot number or crematory of Nenette C. Colacion-Pancoast (American citizen)whom died from cervical cancer back in September 6, 2006 while at the Mission Hospital Iloilo.
    She has family located at 94 San Pedro Street Janiuay Iloilo 5034.
    I have been unable to contact any of the Colacion Family
    Please contact me at

    There is a reward for this information !


  21. From New York to Western Visayas I have tried to located the remains of my beloved wife whom died from complications of cervical cancer while at the Mission Hospital back in September 6, 2006.
    Does anyone know the Colacion family from Janiuay ? I am Lola Alicia son-in-law and have lost contact(or they don’t want to know me.)
    They also have my biological child named Chad Michael Colacion-Pancoast whom is an American citizen and has been wrongfully retained in the Province. I have not had any contact since leaving the Philippines in 2006. His health and welfare are of most importance.

  22. That looks really tiring – both for the body and wallet. :p

    Grats for the Award. Well deserved!

  23. jinx

    hi estan, my parents and i are planning to go back to cagayan de oro through batangas- cebu route land trip with our pick up truck on nov 1,o8. is the road conditon okey? and how about the ro-ro ferries is it safe? i need more information about the number of roro ferries we should take and the schedules. i would really appreciate your help.

  24. benj, tiring, yep, but very enjoyable. thanx 🙂

    jinx, traveling the Batangas – Cebu route via roro is safe and enjoyable. Medyo tiring nga lang. Generally, the roads are okay except for a portion of the Calapan – Roxas road in Mindoro and between Iloilo and Kalibo. You will need to take four roro trips: Batangas – Calapan, Roxas – Kalibo, Iloilo – Bacolod and San Carlos – Toledo (or even in Escalante – Tuburan).

    Regarding the schedules, I don’t really have the complete information but in Batangas, I think it’s 24 hours. I think there are trips in the morning and in the afternoon. Just to make sure, it would be better to be at the wharves early in the morning. Take note though, that the Roxas – Kalibo roro has the longest travel time at 4-6 hours depending on the weather.

  25. I’ve been planning travel routes like this. I already did Northern Luzon last year on my own too, from Manila, Batad, Banaue, Tabuk, Callao, Claveria, Pagudpud, Vigan, Manila. I also want to see all of the Philippines kaya inggit ako sa yo. I’m just saving enough money to go on another trip end of this year to complete another loop of Luzon, not sure yet if Central of South. I hope to do this Luzon – Visayas loop in the next few years. Bilib ako parang ang tipid ng budget mo. I spent around 20K on my last trip. It took me all of two weeks.

  26. I also have a similar travel website but I cant get around to completing it :-P. I love your site.

  27. Jasper, that north luzon route that you did is still virgin territory for me, especially beyond Banaue. I will definitely try this one out in the future, hopefully this year. 20K is, i think too huge a budget, baka naman luxurious yung trip mo. hehehe

    you should get around your travel website. i’m sure you have your own interesting stories to tell that many haven’t done before.

  28. Greetings from New York City !

    Does anyone have updates as to the appearence, and health/welfare of Master Chad Michael Colacion-Pancoast, an American citizen residing abroad (Janiuay 5034 or olton Iloilo )since the death of his mother Nenette C. Colacion-Pancoast,while on holiday at the Mission Hospital ?

  29. It’s tiring but fulfilling… Back then, I used to travel from Iloilo to Bicol, Laguna/Batangas, Mindoro, and back to Iloilo. I had to take that pump boat from Roxas City to Pilar in Masbate…
    How I wish I can take back that convenience of time to travel around just the way you do. I’m a bit envious here, Hehehe…

  30. MaxiExtreme

    Wow That’s amazing! gusto ko rin sanan magdrive from manila to cebu but still i need the detailed route para di ako mawala… sana u can help me with this kasi dun ako nakapangasawa… layo no??? hehehe

  31. Maxi, what route would you want to take? Will it be via Bicol? Masbate? Mindoro?

  32. manoli


    I plan to take this road trip via private transportation. I will be taking my two kids along (8yrs. and 3yrs.) How are the roads? Will i need an off road vehicle or is an Innova sufficient?

  33. I’m a fan of this site. Yes to tripids! galing nitong loop na to sir.

  34. Hardcore ka talaga, Estan. Ewan ko kung kakayanin ko pero we’re planning to fly to Legazpi then bus to Sorsogon then ferry to Allen then to Biri then back to Catarman then fly to Manila. hehe

  35. estancabigas

    di ko pa rin napuntahan ang biri

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