Postcards from around the Philippines: Biri Magasang Rock Formations

Rock formation, Magasang, Biri, Northern Samar

4 a.m. I promptly woke up to my phone alarm. The night before some members of the team agreed to make quick early morning side trip to the Island’s world famous rock formation in Magasang. Suggested time was 6 a.m. I gave out a groan. 6:30, I said. But I’ll see, I added, if I’m not out by then I’ve decided to just sleep. They laughed, but agreed.

Four turned out to be the best time because right after stepping out of the shower there was no more water (until 1.5 hours afterward). By 5 a.m. I had packed my bags (we were to depart for the mainland at 9 a.m.) and was ready to check out. When a team member came to knock at my door at 5:30 to make sure I’ve awakened he was surprised to see that I had been ready for some time already.

Down at the marina, I saw the guys had been up and about (though obviously I was the lucky one who had showered). I still had to see two team members come out of their rooms though. We had coffee while waiting for them. When everybody who was going was accounted for, we got on the island rides- habal habal, the type that carried three back passengers each.

The morning was postcard perfect. We whizzed by the calm Pacific Ocean on our left and the endless stretch of white-ish beach. It was such a beautiful sight it made me want to cry. When we arrived the day before, after the first couple of hours moving around the neighborhoods, I had expressed to everyone during our lunch that the island should be developed as a retirement community (and I’ll be among the buyers). A few foreigner-expats have already retired there. They own the concrete and good looking properties. The place we were staying at is owned by one.

When our rides finally stopped at Magasang, my side of the team learned of the rock formation’s true siting: on two main islets partly accessible via a damaged bridge. So this was why we were advised to go in beach wear (which I hadn’t packed for this trip). The guys had offered to lend me their puruntong but obviously I am several sizes smaller. And I wasn’t in slippers because I had also forgotten to pack a pair. In fact, I brought just an overnight bag for the entire time in the field- just three other pants and five blouses all freshly laundered which I ironed in the Island the night before (in contrast to one male member of my team who brought a luggage on wheels that contained among others seven shirts just for sleep wear, one each day.). In short, I went to Magasang in jeans and doll shoes.

First portion of the Ocean to cross was shore waters. I had been able to push back my fear of open waters and got in after my two companions. The water came up to my waist at the deepest part. My fear I think had something to do with hyper imagination and loss of control ie. I had no idea what’s on the Ocean bed vs. in swimming pools one has control of variables in temperature, chlorine levels, etc.

My feet hit the shore bed and touched crushed seashells and rocks some rough-edged. I forgot all about my fear as pain from stepping on these sharp objects overcame me. What a way to be distracted! I thought. I laughed at this the entire way to the bridge.

When I finally made it to the bridge, the three of us briefly celebrated “the event” after which we walked to the other end. There we saw that the waters (second and last to cross to get to the formations) are in a more open part of the Ocean- deeper and not as calm as that near the shore. It looked quite formidable.

The thing with my fears is I’m able to forget them when I’m overtaken by my sense of exploration. I felt the latter then despite the visible change in the waters. But a member of my team, older than me who is also a friend, stopped me: if I wasn’t altogether confident maybe I shouldn’t. I felt like throwing a tantrum and insist that we go after the other three who were already specks on the horizon. In time I remembered “responsible behavior” and didn’t push it.

Then we saw our host turn back. He was among those already nearing the islet. He had seen that my group weren’t getting into the water. He asked us over the currents why we had stopped. My team member joked that nobody had wanted to carry me through. For that, our host decided to stay with us and instead go for a dip near the shore.

From the bridge, we saw our two other companions reach and disappear in one of the islets. While waiting for their reappearance, we went crazy taking photos. Everything was utterly amazing. The surf water formations. The islets that looked like they had been just one island before. I expressed my theory about them.

Then we were surprised to see a body moving in the waters. It was a local boy carrying a fishing rod and bucket strapped to his body. We were amused, me especially, at the ease and expertise in which he waded through.

Around 7:30 a.m. the two team members resurfaced, walking toward us like resurrected MacArthurs promising return. We let them onto the bridge only after they promised to share us photos of the formations they’ve taken.

After our visit, back at the Inn, we learned of the myth attached to the rock formations. As it goes, the bridges the engineers had built to connect the shore to the islets were wrecked one after another by Ocean waves even before these were completed. Also the engineers all died afterward due to accidents. The events have been attributed to the goddess protecting the rock formations.

I stopped listening there. It was a depressing story. But it seemed for us who went, the goddess had welcomed our presence. I silently thanked her for the opportunity to visit her place.

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