Story and photos by Lovel Aniag
Bato in English means stone or rock. In colloquial slang, it can also mean boring – which, at first, what the town would seem like. But of course, the country being blessed by 7,000 beautiful islands, I’ve always believed every place in the country has a little secret just waiting to be discovered. And the small municipality of Bato, Leyte has once again proven me correct.
1. The Baywalk
Bato is a coastal community in Leyte with its own port where RoRo (Roll-On, Roll-Off) ships heading for Bohol and Cebu dock, wait for passengers. My friend, who is a local, tells me that it is actually a transient town – people come and go and don’t really stay around to explore.
Interestingly enough, this was also her explanation when I asked her why there were so many barbecue stands in the area. Literally. She said, since people come and go, they wanted something fast, good and cheap.
The coastal community also comes alive at night with a long strip of sugbaan (grilling stations) that line the bay area. The grill houses offer meats, fish, vegetables and other food items for grilling you can imagine.
But the best one for me is the Special halo-halo. For only PHP 50, you get a huge cup filled to the brim with beans, jellies, fruits, and other sweetened things, topped with shaved ice, milk, leche flan and a huge scoop of ice cream. This alone is worth coming back to.
The colorful lights, live music and the cheap and tasty offerings was truly inviting and comforting. My friend and I had dinner here every single night.
2. The Beach
What I love about coastal towns are the dramatic sunsets. Bato was extra memorable because the beach was literally all our own. Like I mentioned, no one really goes around the area. Beach huts are usually empty, despite the long holiday when we were there.
My friend brought me to one of the local favorites. After buying food at the market, we headed down to a spot simply called Fresh Air. The name doesn’t really give justice to the place. It offered more than fresh air, it had a long stretch of sandy brown beach that goes for miles. It was also so shallow, the water didn’t even reach up to my knee despite being nearly a kilometer away from the beach.
Because of the destruction Typhoon Haiyan caused in nearby Tacloban a couple of years back, the locals have decided to plant mangroves to help minimize tsunamis.
3. The Batis
Located in Matalom, Leyte, Kiosko is an open-air restaurant with an actual stream passing through. For a small fee, visitors can swim in the stream while enjoying their food.
My friend and I decided to walk upstream and find a quiet spot. We had to go through an insect-ridden trail that leads to a beautiful grassland opening. Several groups of locals were already enjoying the cold water, so we decided to go back to the restaurant.
At the restaurant, the stream passes under a bridge road that leads to rice paddies. This side of the stream have women doing their laundry and several carabaos idling about.
We swam until our fingers were pruney and we were shaking from the cold.
4. The Bahay
The Bahay is a lone house that stands along the highway. Locals believe it to be haunted. Years ago, there were two families fighting over a piece of property. The mayor met with both the padre de familia in this house to try and settle the matter. But the discussion turned violent, until one of the men ended up killing everyone present in the meeting.
Since then, the house has been abandoned and people living in the area reported sightings of ghosts and heard violent noises coming from the house.
To get there:
From Tacloban, take a Van-Van and Duptours shuttle heading for Maasin and get off at Bato. Fare is around PHP 200.
Where to stay:
As a transient municipality, there are several transient apartments / hotels that you can check in.
Ingat and see you on the road!
Know a place I should discover? Or want to travel together? Email me at email@example.com