At the end of 2019, I spent some time touring around the Philippines on a Honda CRF 250L. I covered around 3,000km, visited the islands of Bohol, Cebu, Negros, and Mindanao, 4 islands down, with only another 7,637 to go!
Be warned, this is a “brain dump” style blog post of my tour, apologies upfront for jumping around a bit. If you have a specific question, feel free to contact me directly.
I have been to Manila many times, so know it pretty well. That said, I always find a new spot that surprises me, this time it was the Venice Grand Canal Mall or little Venice as Filipinos call it.
It was built in 2017 and makes for a nice escape for a few hours. They even have gondola rides if you are into that.
I’m not a huge fan of Manila and only really served as a short stopover for my arrival and departure. A million websites online are much better resources than me, when it comes to the touristy stuff, so let’s move on to the important stuff, motorcycles!
I rented the Honda CRF 250L from an American-owned and run rental business on the island of Bohol called “Mikes Island Motorcycle Rentals“. The owner of the business “Mike” is a great guy to deal with and makes renting a bike an easy process. He has been renting motorcycles since 2008 and has a fleet of bikes, ranging from small scooters to big bikes (Yes, 250cc is moving into the big boy’s category in the Philippines), all the bikes are well maintained and in good condition.
The video below is Mike talking about his CRF’s.
Bohol is an island in the central part of the Philippines. It can get pretty busy due to the great beaches and popular dive spots. Its other attractions are the “Chocolate Hills” which are mounds of brown-colored limestone formations, zip lines, and wildlife parks.
The best part of the island for riding is away from the bulk of the tourists, so best to head towards the west and north/west coastlines.
Riding the Ferries (RoRo’s)
Some shorter ferries are nice and easy, others a little less so. They often offer multiple levels of classes, which range from having a private cabin, air conditioning, and a bed, to being open to the elements. Plus the style and size of the ferry will differ depending on the route.
You can get ferry timetables online, but at the smaller ports, I found it easier to just show up and find out, as the online timetables had no bearing on reality.
Be prepared to get stuck for a day or two or try another port if possible.
Below are some photos of one of the ferries I rode, cannot remember the actual one, but many of the longer distance ones are similar. Also added a short of a small hop car ferry.
Getting on the ferry with your motorcycle
This is a breakdown of the steps traveling from Cagayan de Oro (Mindanao) to Jagna (Bohol), this is one of the more tedious ones as you will see.
Submit bike registration papers and pay the freight for the bike to the ferry company. Receive a bill of lading so you can load your bike on the ferry.
Buy a rider ticket upgrade. Riders travel free with the bike but only economy or “roast your ass off” class. Better to pay to upgrade to business. Get a bed and AC. This is a 6hr ferry ride, so worth the upgrade.
Pay 65 pesos (US$1.30) terminal fee.
- Take a ticket and get inline
- Window 1: Submit a bill of landing
- Window 2: Pay 65 pesos
- Window 3: Get approved and signed off.
Go to the Coast Guard office and get them to approve bike docs and verify the bike is not stolen.
Have your bag’s x-ray scanned. Only some ferries do this. It’s a pain off-loading your bags off the bike and re-loading etc.
Present the pile of paperwork to the loading master/boss.
Secure bike. Tie-down if needed.
Find tourist class and shed a tear for those in the economy.
Unload bike. Be aggressive, you don’t want to get stuck behind a bunch of nervous car drivers that are all of a sudden terrified of the near-vertical off-ramp 🙂
Make sure you have kept every scrap of paper, as security will require a piece of one of the 18 pages before letting you leave the port.
Get a rear puncture fixed due to a big ass nail picked up in the ferry loading area.
This is the stuff that separates the hardcore adventure riders from the “Starbucks” crowd!
10 steps, 18 separate pieces of paper, and 2560 pesos (US$50) later.
The joys of riding Philippines ferries!!!
Mindanao is regarded as the southern Philippines and the 2nd largest island after Luzon, which is home to the capital, Manila.
Mindanao is to date my favorite island in the Philippines. It has some very good riding, from decent tarmac, back roads to dirt trails, lots of nice scenery all over, from beaches to mountains, it has something for everyone and plenty of it.
Many of the “Gringo” friends told me not to go to Mindanao due to the security issues with Muslim extremist groups like “Abu Sayef” being active in the southern part of Mindanao and some inland areas. As is often the case, many of them had not actually been to Mindanao and were only repeating what they had read or heard via Western media.
One thing I have learned traveling around the planet, you need to speak to boots on the ground (cops, military, locals) to get the real insight into what is happening. So that’s what I did after I arrived of course. I know, it’s like reading the reviews after you have brought the product.
The threat of Muslim terrorists in Mindanao is “real”, as you can see by the travel warning below and it can get a little interesting in places. I found this travel warning after 4-5 days of traveling all through the areas they highlight you shouldn’t go to. Oh well 🙂
Whilst touring Mindanao I rode through some “so-called” highly populated Muslim areas, some highlighted as unsafe for foreigners. Yes, I ran into plenty of checkpoints and few remote camps (see image below). I’m obviously still here and never had any issues.
The chances of you being kidnapped or shot etc is a lot less than getting hit crossing the road, yet we do it daily without thinking.
I’m not saying that the threat isn’t real, but 99% of Muslims are peaceful, law-abiding people and you are not going to have an issue, especially as a transient traveler.
Many Filipinos warned me against riding in some areas or to be very careful. Normally they have never been there or just repeat the news, not necessarily the best source.
Usually the police or military in those areas will tell you the actual reality. Best to put your boots on the ground and go find out for yourself.
Many Filipinos I spoke with have a dislike or mistrust for Muslims, primarily based on the actions of the Islamic terror groups running around the south of the country, plus the lack of condemnation from the Muslim community when a terrorist-related event makes the news here. This Filipino logic I can understand, although somewhat ignorant.
Most Filipinos (regardless of religion) are happy, caring, and peaceful. The likes of Abu Sayyaf have brought a lot of pain to this wonderful country and people. The sooner they are eradicated, the better.
The sooner the entire Muslim community here in the Philippines starts getting vocal against them the better.
Don’t let the fear-mongering stop you from getting out and exploring, a lot of it is not the reality when you are actually in these places. 99% of the people you will meet are good people and will want to help you if called upon, regardless of their race, religion, rich or poor.
At the end of my time in the Philippines, my departure was affected by a typhoon, so decided to relax for a few days on the beach in Bohol. I rented a Honda Click (125cc) for running around and my guess is it was worth less than my Shoei helmet!
Remember… It’s more fun in the Philippines!