Cycling the Philippines Western-Visayas

The Western-Visayas includes the main island of Panay and Negros Occidental.  Our tour took us around the south and west coast of Negros as far as Bacalod before taking the ferry to Iloilo on Panay. We continued west and north up the west coast of Panay to reach Caticlan where we caught the small passenger ferry to Boracay.


Schedule

  1. Atmosphere to Kukoo's Nest
  2. Kukoo's Nest to Bayawan
  3. Bayawan to Sipalay
  4. Sipalay to Kabankalan
  5. Kabankalan to Bago
  6. Bagao to Iloilo
  7. Iloilo to Guimbal
  8. Guimbal to San Jose de Buenavista
  9. San Jose de Buenavista to Tibiao
  10. Tibiao to Boracay


Our ride descriptions give an account of the ride that we completed. As part of the description we also provide links to google maps and elevation profiles based on mapping data available through the internet. The ride profiles are smoothed to give what in our opinion is a more beneficial view of the profile. We use paper maps, GPS and on line data to plan and conduct our rides. We are happy for you to use our descriptions, but be aware that we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided as situations surrounding any ride change over time.

Western-Visayas: Day 1 - Atmosphere to Kukoo's Nest

  • Distance         25km
  • Max Elevation   46m
Atmosphere_to_Kukoos_Nest_profile

Western-Visayas - Atmosphere to Kukoo's Nest Ride Profile

Ride Description

Negros is divided into two regions. The northwest of the island is Negros Occidental and this part lies within the Western-Visayas. Negros Oriental in the south and east of the island is actually within the Central Visayas are along with the main island of Cebu.

After a break from cycling of more than 4 weeks and all the excesses of Christmas and New Year we decided the first day back on the road should be a short one. It was past 10am before we hit the road and the short ride up the rough and bumpy Atmosphere drive was enough to cause a bit of panting.

Like most of the islands of the Western-Visayas the main road runs around the coast and here, about 25km south of the capital Dumaguete, it is quite busy. The traffic consists of Ceres buses which ply the Western Visayas travelling very fast and their drivers expect total subservience from all other road users, moderate sized lorries carrying sugar cane to the refineries, jeepneys  and motor trikes. Bicycles are unusual but gradually gaining popularity. With the Philippines flags  that Simon and Emma had given to us for Christmas fastened to the back racks we were constantly greeted and waved at by everyone we passed.

After 7km is the village of Malatapay which holds it's famous bartering market every Wednesday morning. We have been there before but the busy, bustling mayhem of the place is magic. Vehicles of all sizes struggle to drive between the market stalls carrying their cargo of live animals to the livestock market. Pigs, goats and cattle in lorries, on tricycles, lashed to the rack of a motorbike  or just led on foot with a rope harness. The highlight of the morning is the delicious roast pig (lechon) cooked whole on a spit and served in chunks with steamed rice. After only 30 minutes riding we were sitting down for a feast.

Matapalana_Market

From there it was only another 6km of flat tarmac before the turn off to Bonbonon Bay. This is mostly an unsurfaced road with a few cemented sections. It is well graded and shaded with tall trees. There are several short steep climbs and descents but the last one, up to the top of the headland and Koo Koo's nest is the steepest with a loose stone surface and we had to push up the last section.

Kookoos_Nest

The resort is beautiful with just a few bamboo cottages built on stilts on the beach, a restaurant and a small dive shop. We spent the afternoon relaxing, snorkeling and wading round the rocky headland with the resident resort dogs. Unfortunately Steve slipped on a rock and dropped the camera into the sea. It died instantly.

Kookoos_Nest_Beach

Back to Schedule

Western-Visayas: Day 2 - Kukoo's Nest to Bayawan

  • Distance           70km
  • Max Elevation    125m
Kukoos_Nest_to_Bayawan_profile

Western-Visayas - Kukoo's Nest to Bayawan Ride Profile

Ride Description

Continuing our Western-Visayas ride we headed out from the resort and returned along the track for 4km to rejoin the unsurfaced road that continues around the bay. The morning was cool and cloudy with slight drizzle and the dirt road climbed up and down through forest and palms. There was hardly any traffic but plenty of people on foot.

At the village of Bonbonon we passed the ruin of an old convent and then rejoined the main road. It rolled gently up and down but the wind in our faces made it seem harder work. The next town was Siaton and for the first time we missed Vietnam where there is always a cafe serving glasses of iced coffee with a shady seat. We had to be content with a bottle of Pepsi and a straw. The streets here were busy but the majority of the traffic was bicycle cabs so it was much more peaceful.

Ruined_Convent_Bonbonon

From here the road was significantly quieter with just the occasional Ceres bus and motorbikes.  There were a few rolling hills to climb around Gillgaon Point but then the road was flat all the way to Bayawan. This town claims to have the longest beach side boulevard in Negros but it has no other tourist infrastructure.

Bayawan_Boulevard

There was a small hotel near the bus station, advertising  a range of rooms at different prices. The receptionist told us that all the rooms were full except for the most expensive 'suite' room so we booked that. Don't be misled, it wasn't luxurious, it just had a settee and two small armchairs as well as the bed. We never saw or heard another guest.

Back to Schedule

Western-Visayas: Day 3 - Bayawan to Sipalay

  • Distance              88km
  • Max Elevation       185m
Bayawan_to_Sipalay_profile

Western-Visayas - Bayawan to Sipalay

Ride Description

The hotel breakfast was served in the Internet cafe next door on a little table in the middle of the lines of computers and monitors. The typical Western-Visayas breakfast consists of cold rice, cold fried egg and either fish, ham or beef (cold, of course). We had to pay extra because we wanted a cup of coffee, no drink was included.

We set off along the wide, impressive boulevard, a dual-carriageway with grand lamp-posts. The tide was out and the large fishing boats were stranded on the pale sand.  After 750m  it stopped abruptly in a heap of earth and we had to do a u-turn and return to the main road. The sky was clear today so it was much hotter, but there was still a cooling breeze.

Boats_At_Bayawan

Heading north on our Western-Visayas ride we had a few more rolling hills to climb on smooth tarmac with only light  traffic. About 20km north of  Bayawan we passed a beach resort called Fantasea which looked like a good, budget place to stay.

The next town was Santa Catalina where we had a morning break. Beyond that there were major roadworks. The road was being concreted. Several sections were complete and they were wide and silky smooth with the luxury of a hard-shoulder. Between these the surface was very rough and loose. All of the river bridges were being replaced. It was quite hard work in the hot sun but with little motor traffic it was bearable. Once back on the smoother surfaced road we noticed that one of Karen's rear spokes had broken, another repair needed.

In the early afternoon we came across the first reasonable restaurant/bar at the roadside and pulled in for a drink. There was a party of about eight cyclists there with a guide, doing a 2 week supported ride around the Central and Western Visyays organised by Bugoy Bikers in Cebu. We chatted to them for a while but they were travelling in the opposite direction so we parted. It was only 25km now to Sipalay  and a  310m hill to climb on the way. The compensation was in the fabulous views over Campomanes Bay on the way up.

View_To_Campomanes_Bay

At Sipalay we felt we were almost finished so had a beer in one of the cafes on the beach while we telephoned  Artistic Diving, a resort at the Punta Ballo beach. When we asked her, the receptionist assured us that the road there was 'just a bit up and down' but nothing too bad. After a beer, the 7km of steep hills and descents felt more like crossing the Alps. To make matters worse, it poured with rain the whole way so we arrived bad-tempered, muddy and soaking.


The beautiful beach and lovely resort made all the suffering worthwhile and we enjoyed a few more beers and a delicious meal in the restaurant watching the continuing rain.

Western-Visayas, Punta Bello - Day Off

The weather was better today and Steve did two enjoyable dives while Karen did some snorkeling. It was warm and sunny and we enjoyed chatting to the other guests, mainly German and Swiss. One couple, Matt and Karen, had spent the last 10 years running a dive resort in the Maldives and were in the Western-Visayas getting a feel for the diving before considering taking a job managing a dive resort near Dumaguete. Maybe we'll meet them later. Steve also had time to replace Karen's spoke and re-balance her wheel.

Artistic_Divers

Back to Schedule

Western-Visayas: Day 4 - Sipalay to Kabankalan

  • Distance              83m
  • Max Elevation     128km
Sipalay_to_Kabankalan_Profile

Western-Visayas: Day 4 - Sipalay to Kabankalan Ride Profile

Ride Description

Knowing there were a few hills on the road out of Sipalay we decided to hire a tricycle to take us from the resort into town. With the bikes lashed on the back and our gear stuffed around our feet we enjoyed the steep hills and views that we had missed because of the rain. In Sipalay we brought new lube for the rusty bike chains and searched in vain for an ATM.

The road north was smooth and quiet, just the occasional motorbike. There were more hills as we approached the top of the 'heel' of Negros. The gradient was gentle and leveled out regularly. It was only about 150m high but the lovely sweeping descent on the other side was a joy. The villages we rode through were friendly and neat but they were poor with few shops or places to eat. Just as we were about to loose hope of lunch there was a little bamboo shack at the roadside overlooking the sea. It was called 'Little Shamrock'  and promised coffee and food. It was actually owned by a Dutch man, married to a Philippine lady and they had only started trading 2 weeks ago. His wife served us some traditional chicken soup with vegetables and rice. It was delicious and we wished them luck with their business.

Sugar cane is the most abundant crop in this Western-Visayas with vast fields of tall green canes. It is a very labour intensive harvest with gangs of men cutting the cane by hand with machete type knives. Then it is all loaded by hand into large high sided lorries to be transported to the refineries.

From here it was a level ride all the way to Kabankalan. The town was holding its annual music festival and tonight was the climax. Unfortunately it meant that a lot of the accommodation was fully booked but we found a nice, newish place called West Side Inn with a vacant room. That night we were so tired that we just walked to the nearest restaurant, ate and went back to bed. We just couldn't face the throng and noise of the festival.

Back to Schedule

Western-Visayas: Day 5 - Kabankalan to Bago

  • Distance          80km
  • Max Elavation    30m
Kabankalan_to_Bago_profile

Western-Visayas - Kabankalan to Bago Ride Profile

Ride Description

It was not a pleasant ride today. We were now into the more intensive agricultural and industrial part of the Western-Visayas and the road was busy and noisy. There was only a rough hard shoulder and the buses here hunted in packs. Usually in threes, the Ceres buses would come up behind at great speed. The first one would pull out just enough to pass but the two behind were travelling so close that they couldn't see the bikes so we had to drop onto the rough several times. It was hot and there was a head wind.

imamaylan_Church

The plan was to get a ferry over to the small  island of Guimares, also in the Western-Visayas and which lies between Negros and Panay. We wanted to get one from Valladolid but we arrived about 12md and the daily ferry had departed at 10am. A tricycle driver advised us  to continue on to Pulupandan, where there were 'frequent ferries'. But actually  there were only two a day and the last one had left an hour ago. An elderly local pointed us in the direction of a small boat yard which could rent us a private bangka. The problem was that it would cost  2,000 pesos, compared with  200 for the ferry.

We decided to continue into Bago for the night and return to get on the 7.30am ferry the next day. There was only one place to stay in Bago. Called   'L E Pension', it occupied the second floor of a small shopping centre and took a lot of finding.

Back to Schedule

Western-Visayas: Day 6 - Bago to Iloilo


  • Distance by road     34km
  • By Sea                  47km

Ride Description

Today was one of those days when it seems the whole World is ganging up on you to make life difficult. The room in the pension had no outside window so we set the alarm for 6am so that we would have plenty of time to get to the ferry. Packed and ready to leave we went outside  to find it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale.

In the little shopping centre cafe we brought coffee and local breakfast and considered the options. The idea of getting a little open bangka to Guimaras in the rough sea was not attractive. Instead we set off to cycle 20km to Bacolod and get the passenger ferry to Iloilo on Panay. The road was being resurfaced and so half the road was closed off and all the traffic squeezing past on the other lane. Luckily the hard shoulder was closed off but not obstructed so we rode along that. Before setting off Karen's front tyre had to be pumped up as it had a slow puncture, and halfway to Bacolod we had to stop and mend the puncture.

Arriving at Bacolod we were immediately lost in the busy traffic and incomprehensible one-way system. Finding sanctuary in a cafe we asked the staff the way to the ferry port. We might as well have asked them the way to the moon for all the help they were. They acted as if they had never heard of an island called Panay, let alone a city called Iloilo.

It was raining again as we rode down the hill towards the sea and the probable port location. We saw a queue of lorries and cars and thought that was it, but in fact they were waiting at the Vehicle Emissions Test Centre. Eventually we found the ferry and brought a ticket at the first counter, paid a 'Terminal Fee' at the next, then had to check the bikes in at the freight counter. Luckily there was plenty of time to spare.

We boarded the boat and the bikes were loaded by the porters. We learned a valuable lesson - always supervise the loading of the bikes. Arriving at Iloilo an hour later we discovered that Karen's front tyre had rubbed so badly on something  that all the side webbing had ruptured and it needed replacing.

The traffic in Iloilo was about the worst we have encountered in the Western-Visayas. It seems like all of the tricycle and cyclocab owners have been persuaded to trade-up to a modern, long wheelbase, jeepney style multi cabs. The whole town was nose to tail with them. They stop anywhere to pick up  and drop off passengers and the drivers never look before they pull off again. We attempted to ride to Jaro, about 3km north, to see the 'china town'  but gave up half way because the traffic was manic. Instead we rode to Moro, to see the old church.

Moro_Church

After searching around the quieter backstreets we managed to find a replacement tyre and as we locked the bikes up at the hostel Steve discovered he had a broken spoke. Strange, after three years cycling with no wheel problems we each get a broken spoke within four days.

Back to Schedule

Western-Visayas: Day 7 - Iloilo to Guimbal


  • Distance      30km

Ride Description

Intending  to go the the island of Guimaras, we packed up ready to ride into Iloilo and get the ferry. The wind was still blustery and the thought of having to get through the awful traffic brought a change of mind. Instead we set off west, along the coast, with the wind at our backs, towards Guimbal. As we passed a school we could hear music and drums and got a view of the teenagers practising for their festival.

Preparing_for_Parade

It was a short, easy day although the traffic was quite busy at first. The towns along this section of the Western-Visayas all have old Catholic churches, originally built in the 1600's by the Spanish. It is such a change to see old architecture that we took photos of all of them.

Guimbal_Church


Along this coast are the remains of the look-out towers, built in the 1500's. They were built to enable the  people to keep watch for the approach of the Moro pirate boats, searching for valuables and able bodied people to sell as slaves.

Moro Tower

Guimbal had to be our next stop as the next reliable accommodation was in San Jose, a further 70km. The resort recommended in the 'Rough Guide' was tired and the rooms smelly and expensive so we booked into the Rosco's Garden resort over the road. It was an interesting little place with a small zoo as well as a swimming pool and  gardens which was popular with the locals but in need of some renovation.

Back to Schedule

Western-Visayas: Day 8 - Guimbal to San Jose de Buenavista

  • Distance              68km
  • Max Elevation       308m
Guimbal_to_San_Jose_profile

Western-Visayas - Guimbal to San Jose de Buenavista Ride Profile

Ride Description

We ate breakfast by the swimming pool, watching a group of finches making nests in the creeper over our heads. The wind had dropped at last and the sea was like a mill pond. By coffee time we had arrived at  Miagao with the most impressive ancient church yet, with a carved facade depicting typical local themes and two towers. It was a struggle to find a peaceful place for coffee. The locals love their music and weather it is videoke or just the radio the volume is always on maximum with lots of bass.

Miagao_Church

20kms further on we turned away from the coast to climb over the short peninsula toward San Jose. It was a long, gentle climb and a good road surface but the sun was hot and there wasn't a breath of wind. The sign at the bottom raised our hopes of finding a fortune but the search was fruitless.

Gold_in_them_hills

At about 11.30 the children go home from school so there were lots of them walking along the road as we toiled up the hill. One lad tried to race Steve, running along at his side for quite a way and pushing the bike along. As he tired he decided to try to jump onto the rack for a lift. This extra weight brought Steve to a complete halt and he had to forcibly evict him.

After two false summits we eventually reached the top, at the border of the Antique provinceof the Western-Visayas, and picked up a cooling sea breeze from the west coast. At the bottom of the descent there was a small village and  a welcome eatery. It was already 1.30pm and there was little left but the lady owner welcomed us warmly and we ate fish steaks with jack fruit and bean casserole which was the most delicious food yet. There were men in the back garden chopping down a coconut tree so we had free green coconut juice as well.

Following the coast road north it was just 10km further to San Jose where we had booked  bed and breakfast in a place called 'Biniraven Cottages' just on the outskirts of the town.

Biniravan_Cottages

Back to Schedule

Western-Visayas: Day 9 - San Jose de Buenavista to Tibiao

  • Distance           85km
  • Max Elevation     51m
SanJose_to_Tibiao_profile

Western-Visayas - San Jose de Buenavista to Tibiao Ride Profile

Ride Description

Today we continued to follow the Western-Visayas ride along the Panay coast north. This area was described in the Rough Guide as one of the poorest in the Philippines, but we saw more signs of wealth here than on the south coast of Negros. The road was well surfaced and there were plenty of 4wd vehicles going past us.

On our right were the towering steep sided mountains with  just a thin strip of flat rice paddies before the ocean on our left. We rolled into the town of Bugason at lunchtime. They were in the middle of their patronage  festival and as we searched for somewhere to eat lunch we came across a crowd of locals blacked up for a parade. They were happy to pose for a photo as long as we put cash into their collecting boxes.

Blacked_up

At the corner of the market there was a small eatery with the most delicious and cheap food yet.
By now the moderate head wind which had made us work hard all morning had increased and the next 40km was challenging and tiring. The rice paddies gave way to sugar cane as this area of the Western-Visayas calls itself the 'Muscovado Capital'. Here the locals call all Western men 'Joe' and by late afternoon Steve's temper was getting thin as he just wanted to tell everyone his name was Steve, not Joe.

Mountain_View_Panay

The only accommodation that was listed along this whole Western-Visayas coast was a place called 'Kayak Inn', about 9km north of Tibiao. It is run by a company called 'Tribal Adventures' in Boracay. We reached the turn-off and realised that 7 of those kilometres were uphill on an unsurfaced road and that there was no food available there so turned back to Tibiao. There we were directed to the university campus which rents out rooms. Apparently they run a course for students wanting to work in the hotel industry and have a small ' Homtel' where they get their work experience.

Homtel_Tibiao

In the evening we walked to a little restaurant behind a petrol station on the main road. As usual we were the only people eating. A middle aged man arrived alone on his motorbike and asked for the videoke to be switched on. He stood on the garage forecourt, sung a couple of his favourite songs and then went home!

Back to Schedule

Western-Visayas: Day 10 - Tibiao to Boracay

  • Distance             97km
  • Max Elevation       80m
Tibiao_to_Boracay_profile

Western-Visayas - Tibiao to Boracay Ride Profile

Ride Description

We were the only people staying in the Homtel. The students asked us what time we would like breakfast and it was arranged for 7.30 am. As usual, although there were only two breakfasts to prepare, they had been cooked it hours in advance and the eggs and bacon were stone cold.

Leaving Tibiao the road was quite sheltered for the first ten kilometres and very flat, through rice terraces. Further north we came into a very strong wind. It was blowing from the north west and varied according to the road direction from full head on or an equally daunting cross wind, blowing the bikes into the centre of the road. Either way it was very hard work and reduced our average speed to 9kmh. The dark clouds over the mountains were threatening but the rain kept off.

Rice_Harvest_Panay

Lunchtime found us in Pandan and on a restaurant search. Quite by chance we found a place near the market owned by a Swiss man and his local wife, with a good choice of international food. The rosti potatoes were so enjoyable after days of rice. From there we took the slightly shorter route to Caticlan via Nabas and then along the north Panay  coast. Here it was sheltered from the wind but the steep hills up and down the headland taxed the legs somewhat.

The ferry port at Caticlan was heaving with tourists, masses of them arriving in coaches, mini-buses, taxis and tricycles. Because we had the bikes we were directed to the Montenegro ferry which was a normal boat (ie, with no outriggers) and easier to load the bikes onto than the bangkas.

Arriving at Boracay, the rain which had been threatening all day finally arrived and it was dark and miserable. By the time we had ridden up to White Beach we were soaked so searched out a bar on the beach side to relieve the pain with beer. The problem was that the price, 60 peso, was 3x what we had been paying on the other islands. The bar menu also had peanuts, usually free, for $2 a dish.

Accommodation was also roughly 3x the price of most other places in the Western-Visayas so we had to search hard to find something in our price range, eventually settling for a room in a house with four double beds. What a problem deciding which one to sleep in.

Boracay - Day Off


Boracay really does have a most beautiful white, sugary beach but it has been spoilt by excessive development. The sea is full of boats, the boats are full of divers and the sea front heaves with tourists. The worst ones are the large groups of Korean/Taiwanese/Chinese who do everything together and follow each other around.

White_Beach_Boracay

One day was enough for us and tomorrow we would move on to the Romblon Islands, which are not part of the Western-Visayas. That evening the housekeeper of the house we were staying at cooked us three huge pizzas for tea for free a significant help for the stretched finances.

Back to Schedule

Our trip continues from Boracay and Caticlan to Romblon and Masbate.

Or

Return to our Tours page from Cycling the Philippines Western-Visayas

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.