Samar: Experience Waters and Mountains at Once
The Island of Samar, which is divided into three provinces, is known as a tourist destination for its caves, rivers, cascading waterfalls, and pristine waters.
An aerial shot of Lulugayan Falls
But aside from taking photos of your #OOTD (Outfit-Of-The-Day) in San Juanico Bridge as you traverse from Leyte, or go spelunking and kayaking in Sohoton Caves and Natural Bridge, eating salukara (rice pancake) and bakintol (chocolate moron/rice cake) along the streets of Eastern Samar, or playing with the waves as you surf in Guiuan, Samar is about to boast other places to visit especially for the hungry soles (pun intended).
If you already had too much of vitamin sea from the beaches of Samar, an eco-trail and some bird watching activity might just be the next adventure for you.
The Samar Island Natural Park is the largest forest protected area in the Philippines with a total area of 330,300 hectares. It is endowed with magnificent falls, caves, a watershed, a sanctuary of different flora and fauna, and a home to 240 barangays within the perimeter of the national park.
This is where you would experience the Paranas Eco-Trail and Birding site, located in Brgy. Tenani, Municipality of Paranas.
“Ang Samar Island Natural Park, prides itself to be home to 215 bird species, 38 mammals, 51 reptiles, amphibians and over 1,000 species of plants (The Samar Island Natural Park prides itself as a home to 215 bird species, 38 mammal species, 51 reptiles and amphibians species, and over 1,000 species of plants),” Jun Figueroa, Operations Manager on Yolanda Projects of Bantay Kalikasan explained.
The 1-km eco-trail has five stations where tourists can take their instagrammable photos at the view deck with the different species of trees as the background. One can also hear the humming of birds – a moment that is definitely one for the books; feeling so close with the nature.
A tourist poses for a photo at the view deck with the trees and the sky!
Photo of the trail
Adventure seekers can also take it up a notch higher by staying in the tree houses. The two tree houses are connected by a hanging bridge. A spa and comfort rooms are also available at the fifth station of the trail.
The hanging bridge that connects the tree houses
If you are tired from trekking or hiking at the Paranas Eco-Trail, and you have suddenly missed the waters, you may visit Brgy. Literon, Calbiga, Samar and take a dip in Lulugayan Falls.
Its gushing and clear waters will entice tourists to take a plunge. Organic food will also be served in the restaurant connected to a hanging bridge (What. A. Thrill!!!). Guests can also take photos at the view deck of the restaurant and have the breathtaking falls as a background (and get more likes on your IG posts! #TravelingGram). Six units of open cottages are already set while homestays in the village will soon be available for accommodation.
Kids smiling with the breathtaking view at their backs.
A view from the Lulugayan Restaurant’s view deck
These two sites are managed by people’s organizations assisted by Bantay Kalikasan of ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, Inc. (ALKFI) or by the locals of the community. Paranas Eco – Trail and Birding site is manned by TORPEDO and TAWAD associations.
As Brgy. Tenani houses Ulot River, the longest river in the Philippines with a vast forest land, TORPEDO members were mostly engaged to illegal cutting of trees, timber poaching, kaingin, and charcoal making as their main sources of livelihood. This practice has been passed on from generations to generations of the families.
The projects were launched with hopes to alleviate poverty in the two areas by providing sustainable livelihood while protecting the environment, where each becomes a steward.
During the soft launch of Lulugayan Falls and Eco – Village, the Province of Samar donated a radio and a multicab to Brgy. Literon Women’s Association and Lulugayan Falls Tour Guides’ Association – the P.O.s managing the project.
ALKFI’s assistance includes the repair and landscape of homes in Brgy. Literon to attract tourists for homestay. Samar State University is Bantay Kalikasan’s partner in creating the design while the Province --of Samar will establish the five homestay sites. Roads were constructed by the Department of Tourism and Department of Public Works and Highways under Tourism Road Infrastructure Prioritization Program (TRIPP).
As the projects were launched, Bantay Kalikasan conducted an Earth Warrior Training to the P.O.s involved. An Earth Warrior Training is a values formation component implemented to BK’s assisted-sites together with sustainable livelihood. The training empowers the communities have the sense of ownership of the projects and aims to bring out the leader in them.
The P.O.s underwent military training to instill discipline, basic first aid to respond immediately when accidents occur, and participated in different games that enabled them to strategize.
Henry Cabansan, President of Lulugayan Falls Tour Guides’ Association shared, “Napakaimportante talaga ng Lulugayan Falls sa amin kasi nakakapagbigay ng hanapbuhay na maganda kasi marami iyong income namin katulad ng pagga-guide (The Lulugayan Falls is very important to us for it gives us a good livelihood like getting income from being a tourist guide).”
Bantay Kalikasan has different successful eco – tourism sites. As the new projects in Samar develop, they also want them to be successful as others. BK sites, despite placed in different provinces, work together to help newly-assisted sites.
TORPEDO and TAWAD members immersed with BK’s Yolanda-assisted sites through the “Lakbay Gabay” activity. For two days, they visited Sabang Daguitan Surf Camp, San Jose Organic Farm, and San Juan by the Bay in Dulag, Leyte. Each P.O. shared their best practices which can be replicated by the two new P.O.s in Paranas Eco – Trail. Members of the P.O. in Calbiga had their Lakbay Gabay last year.
So, the next time you visit the Province of Samar, perhaps, you can visit places which do not only bring you joy, fun, and adventure, but places where you, as a tourist, can help the community earn a living and preserve the environment – by just simply visiting them, and enjoying their products, services, and even their company and stories.
The Paranas Eco – Trail and the Lulugayan Eco Village will be formally opened in April; just in time for summer! Plan your trips ahead and #TravelWithACause, feeding not only your soles but also your hearts.
To know more about Bantay Kalikasan and its projects, visit www.facebook.com/abscbnfoundationkapamilya, www.abs-cbnfoundation.com,
or call at 415-22-72 local 4551.
Bantay Kalikasan would like to thank the following partners for making these projects possible: Operation Sagip (funds for Yolanda communities), LGU of Paranas and Calbiga, Province of Samar, Department of Tourism Region 8, Department of Natural Resources Region 8, Samar Island Natural Park, Philippine National Police Paranas, 87IB and 46IB of the 8th Infantry Division - Philippine Army, and Samar State University.
The Island of Samar is among the Typhoon Yolanda-affected areas (2013).