Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sogod, Southern Leyte ~ Zip Southern Leyte

Waking up on that Saturday morning was associated with infectious excitement coming from all of us. It was our third day in what we labeled as "The BACKPACKERS Eastern Visayas Escapade" and what made us all ecstatic was the fact that we would be having adrenaline rush-triggering activities that day in Sogod, Southern Leyte - ziplining and riding a cable car over the tallest bridge in the Philippines, the Agas-agas Bridge!

Sugod Na Sa Sogod!
(Let's Rush to Sogod!)
By Heinz Lopez Alvarez, Jr.

The BACPKACERS with Ralph's Sheryl (second from right)

Perhaps, the most familiar route going to this exciting place in the Visayas, if coming from Manila, is by plane to Tacloban City. And from there, you can ride a van bound for Maasin City (Php 150.00) asking the driver to drop you at Mahaplag Crossing; then, hire a "habal-habal" (back-riding a motorcycle for another Php 150.00/way) going to the Agas-agas Bridge for some extreme fun! When in Poblacion (means town proper) of Sogod, tourists need not to worry about where to stay because hotels and travelers' inns that offer affordable accommodations are available there all year round; while going back to Tacloban City, where you might have had an advanced hotel reservation, is another option. 

The strong Agas-agas Bridge, by far the tallest in the country.

Since we were coming from Maasin City, we hired a van which brought us to this destination and expected that it would take us straight to Palompon, Leyte, because reaching Kalanggaman Island was listed in our itinerary for that day. 

A light breakfast composed of freshly-baked pan de sal and hot coffee, courtesy of BP Weng's relatives, was enough to fuel us as we tried to stick to our tight schedule. Unfortunately, while we were on our way to the city's central transport terminal, we noticed that a tent was accidentally left behind the Arguelo's humble residence. Considering the time travel going to our next target places, we needed to move double time. We maximized our time so that BP Weng, along with a childhood friend, proceeded to a cemetery to pay respect to her grandparent's remembrance while BP Lead Ivan and BP Treasurer Chons stopped, contacted Jhana (Weng's cousin), waited for the tent, and studied the Group's budgetall at the same time. The rest, led by me and BP Vice Lead Ralph, went ahead to negotiate for our transportation.

The BACKPACKERS' pose with the host (center) before leaving Maasim City for Sogod and Palompon.

With a dosage of excitement in our tone, we politely and clearly laid out our itinerary to Manong Driver - "Would you take us to Sogod, where we want to spend an hour or two, then afterwards drive us to Palompon?" The same driver accepted and agreed to receive PhP 4,000 at the end of that expected-to-be-a-long-trip. The six of us (me, Ralph, Sheryl, Percy, Marion and April) boarded the van and asked a short drive to Jollibee where we fetched the three (Ivan, Weng and Chons) and where we bought our packed meals for "brunch".

Maasim City Hall and Cathedral are both very near Jollibee :P

It was an approximately 72-kilometer ride from Southern Leyte's Capital, Maasin City. And, because it was indeed a relatively long trip, we spent the time joking, chatting and appreciating those nice places where we passed by. Some of the many beautiful things that I noticed everytime we were on the road exploring Leyte were its well-paved roads, properly labeled bridges, and of course, fascinating roadside views. 

Ivan fell in-love with Leyte right at his first sight of it when the love-of-his-life, BP Angel, brought him there the previous year. No doubt. He and I were seated beside the driver in the van so we got a better view of the beautiful spots along the way. I was not able to photograph it, but my favorite was the part where it was the blue sea on the left side, the dark gray highway at the center, and the rich green coconut trees that form a perfect line to the right. Captivating views never fail to keep my mouth shut to completely adore them in silence. It was Marion who brought my mind back when she exclaimed "here we are!"

Almost right away after the van made its complete stop in the parking lot, everybody excitedly alighted the van and started walking towards the Agas-agas Bridge while taking random pictures.

Starstruck by the Handsome Bridge

The Agas-agas Bridge is exactly located at Brgy. Kahupian, Sogod, Southern Leyte. It is by far the tallest in the country standing 292 feet above the ground and with 350 linear meter bridge that serves as an important link for motorist traveling from Luzon to Mindanao.

The BACKPACKERS pose at the Bridge
One more!

Knowing that it is one of the Philippines' significant structures, we did get a "taste" of actually "being there" by walking towards the center a bit. We also made sure to have a group picture while on the actual bridge. Everybody liked the bridge, definitely.

The Agas-agas Bridge was built in a modern design and it looks very solid - most probably the reason it never fails to amaze tourists like us. It is both an engineering and an architectural marvel.

Flying Without Wings

What else made Agas-agas Bridge more famous? The zip-line and cable car.

It was a good brief leg exercise climbing to the Point A platform. We paid Php 5.00 each first before given the access going up, registered the group on a guests logbook by the entrance to the view deck, decided which course to take, and paid. All of us agreed to take the zip-line first, then to decide whether or not to have a second round in a discounted rate later.

For Rates (?), please refer here.

Most of us in the group had tried flying by zip-lines several times in the past. Some of us were able to fly by cables in Dahilayan Park of Bukidnon and over the Madlum River in San Miguel, Bulacan. But, interestingly, the excitement and the boiling adrenaline rush that we felt this time were no different!

Who would dare to underestimate Agas-agas Adventure Park's extreme sports that hangs you in the air for a two-kilometer long wire, in atmost 377 feet height above the ground, and zips you down at a speed of 160-kilometer per hour? The Agas-agas Bridge Zip-line is considered as the fastest, for us the steepest, and definitely one of the longest zip-lines in the country.

Everybody patiently and happily waited for his or her turn to fly. It was fun watching how first timers like Percy, and extremely excited adventure seekers like Marion and Chons, tried to control their mixed reactions while the zip-line crew readied them for their flights!For sweethearts Ralph and Sheryl, it must have been a romantic zip-line moment for them.
Sweethearts Ralph and Sheryl (a guest)

We were nine in the Group and because it was a dual zip-line, someone had to fly alone. I volunteered and took the fourth flight. It was my third time zip-lining and what made it extra special was the fact that I was doing it right there in Leyte. I had experienced zip-lining in Bulacan and in Bukidnon. In short, I was able to fly by cable over the country's three major islands - Luzon, Visayas  and Mindanao!

On the way to facing the challenge
Platform A and B and the cables await!
BP Weng excited to be readied

April and Ivan: ready to fly

Percy and Weng are flying without wings here!

Heinz: the lone flyer

Marion and Chons: about to touch Point B

Flying and zipping down from Point A to Point B that fast provided an extra-ordinary experience for all of us. It was a total adventure; an activity that when completed provided us a good and lighter feeling, and it made us feel happy about ourselves! Certainly, extreme activities like this help to improve self-confidence. The bonus? The fantastic view of the green forest below as the stony river snakes through it.

We were brought back to Point A Platform the "habal-habal" way. Everybody enjoyed the experience of flying without wings, rather with cables. As a matter of fact, all of us wanted to reach the other point again except from April who wanted to spend some time joyfully capturing the great view on her tablet. Weng and Ivan had their second round zipping down while the rest rode the cable car!

Mounting Habal-habal: Chons, Heinz, Weng, Percy

Mounting Habal-habal: Ralph, Sheryl, Marion

Mounting Habal-habal: Ivan, Weng, April

Enjoying the cable car ride!

The cable car riders

That was a fantastic cable car experience! It was completely relaxing. And, the travel from Point B going back to Point A provided a perfect position to fully appreciate the handsome bridge and the beautiful things that surrounded it.

An hour and a half was just enough for our Group to enjoy those major activities when in the Agas-agas Adventure Park. We headed back to our hired van and readied ourselves for a supposedly longer trip - Sogod to Palompon. "Supposedly"? Yes. Unfortunately, the driver backed out and said he could no longer drive us straight to Palompon because he did not want to drive back home to Maasin in darkness. He instead brought us to Ormoc, where we hired another van bound for Palompon. We then paid him PhP 2,500 from the original PhP 4,000 negotiated price for that Maasin - Ormoc transport service. It was not a good experience with that local driver at all, but it was not enough to destroy our happy journey. And good thing, we found an instant tour guide in the friendly driver who drove us to the very organized gateway to the Kalanggaman Island, Palompon Port.  

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