The Great Philippine Road Trip: Manila to Davao by Land & Sea

As “Viber-ed” by Grace to the Paranoid Traveler

Weary of Metro Manila with all its traffic and pollution, Grace Dousel decided that Davao was the best place in the country to raise her family so off she and her family of four traveled from Manila to Davao by land and sea. 

Grace shared her journey with Philippine Flight Network's Paranoid Traveler to provide our readers with an exclusive look at 'The Great Philippine Road Trip,' a journey that perhaps most of us would not even dare consider taking, especially when there is always the option to fly!


Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Typhoon Butchoy (international name: Nepartak) was making its presence felt in Metro Manila when our family commenced our migration to the South, but the weather was expected to improve. We were excited for the adventure ahead especially after seeing the jeepney banner, "God is always with us." This was a sign of assurance as we headed out to the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) for our first stop in Legazpi.

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Entering Quezon Province

From SLEX, Waze directed us to the Pan-Philippine (Maharlika) Highway then to Tiaong Diversion Road. The highway spans from North to South taking you on a very scenic ride of the countryside.

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
The perk of traveling on a rainy day is having the highway all to ourselves.

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
As we drove through Atimonan, Quezon, the skies began to clear!


Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Seaside highway view at Gumaca, Quezon

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Downpour at Sipocot, Camarines Sur

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Entering Vice-President Leni Robredo’s hometown.


Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
After a day of travel, we finally saw someone we know in Pili, Camarines Sur.

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
We arrived in Legazpi, Albay where we enjoyed some sili ice cream.

sili ice cream bicol
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
chili ice cream
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Nice and creamy but hot once it hits the throat.


Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Now driving to Matnog to catch the ferry to Allen, Samar.

samar ferry
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
After days of rain, the sun came out and the skies were blue. Perfect for crossing the seas!

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
We admired the skill of the bus and truck drivers who could squeeze their vehicles onto the ferry boats neatly. We were last to board.

samar roro
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
This is how it looks at the bottom of the ship.

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Goodbye, Luzon!

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Visayas, here we come!

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Our voyage took us from Luzon (Sorsogon) to Visayas (Samar) cruising through the San Bernardino Strait, which they say can be very rough sailing. Thankfully, our journey was smooth and uneventful.

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Penafrancia is one of many shipping lines at Matnog pier ferrying vehicles and people to Samar.

Crossing the ferry from Matnog, Sorsogon to Allen, Samar cost P1,600 for our car freight charges and passenger fare on board Penafrancia Shipping Company which is one of many shipping lines in Matnog pier ferrying vehicles and people to Samar.

The sailing time is only 1.5 hours---faster than driving from Quezon City to Ortigas Center on a Friday night!


Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
We reached Samar safely and began driving towards Tacloban.


Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
I don't mind the long drive with this view!

Driving took half a day to Tacloban. The RORO trip was smooth with the calm sea and the sun up shining brightly. It was a perfect day to sail. I had more motion sickness driving to the port than on the ferry because my husband was driving as if he was in a Daytona race.


longest bridge in the philippines
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Entering San Juanico Bridge, the longest bridge in the country.

longest bridge in philippines
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
tacloban
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
We  paid a visit to McArthur’s landing site and spent the night in Tacloban. We headed out to Liloan Port early the following morning for the second ferry boat ride to Surigao (Mindanao), which many people said is longer and possibly rougher. We'll see.

We had a restroom break at the office of the Dept. of Public Works and Highways atop a hill on the road to the port. Too bad I forgot to take a photo. It’s a good place to stretch and rest. The restrooms are very clean even though it is in the middle of nowhere!

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
We reached the end of the Eastern Visayas after a three-hour drive from Tacloban. The Pan-Philippine (Maharlika) Highway stretches all the way to the end. The road was really good!

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
We arrived at Liloan Port, the tip of Leyte, Eastern Visayas at 8 am hoping to catch the earliest boat so we could be in Mindanao by noon. However, there was only one available vessel that day, the Fast Cat which was to leave only by noon. Thankfully, it was worth the wait because this time, we are taking the newest vessel, FastCat which boasts world-class service and international safety standards.

fastcat ferry
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Our trusted Avanza on her second RORO ride! Mindanao, here we come!

fastcat roro
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
This is how they position the smaller vehicles on the Fast Cat lower deck.

fastcat ferry
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
All aboard!


fastcat ferry
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
The economy accommodation

fastcat ferry
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
The premium economy accommodation

fastcat ferry
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
The sailing was so smooth that we did our homeschooling onboard tackling, what else, Philippine geography.

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Hello, Mindanao!


Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
The tip of Eastern Visayas, facing the tip of Eastern Mindanao

roro ferry
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
The trip lasted for an hour. Crossing from Liloan, Leyte to Lipatan, Surigao on board Fast Cat cost P3,558 covering car freight charges and passenger fares for Premium Economy cabin (air-con bucket seats). Here, you have to buy your snacks whereas they are free in Business class.

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN
Arriving in Surigao with our welcome banner from heaven.

It took us eight hours to get to Davao City in spite of my husband’s Formula One driving due to road constructions that rendered some one-way only. We cruised along the CARAGA Administrative Region composed of Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur. I had no idea how huge Mindanao was until we made this trip! As we were in a hurry,  we had to forego photo ops along the way. We reached the area surrounding Butuan City (the capital of Agusan del Norte) around 5 pm. It would have been an ideal place to sleep over as there were nice hotels in Butuan and malls in the city proper.

It already seemed like we had been driving forever as we made our way through Agusan del Sur! By 8 pm, we stopped at a roadside restaurant and resort called Hillview Resort for dinner and a half-hour respite. We knew we were already far from Manila because the names of food were a bit different, like "pututoy" which is like halo-halo except that it is partnered with puto.

We hit the road again determined to be in Davao before midnight. Waze was telling us we could make it by 11:30 pm. Incidentally, Waze was our very reliable guide throughout this journey. Local radio station signals were already out but our Waze was still active.

Except for gas refilling, we did not have any other stops. We kept filling up our gas tank to full every time we saw a Petron gas station, which was strategically located all over the country.

The roads were smooth, winding through the mountains of Agusan del Sur and onto Compostela Valley. Some parts were dimly lit which concerned my dad in Davao who phoned around 9 pm telling us to just break the journey and stay the night in Butuan. Too late as we were already miles away. We later found out that the areas we passed by were not very safe late at night.

For most of the night driving, we saw quite a number of trucks and SUVs speeding ahead. Our trusty Avanza couldn't go as fast but we managed to hit town after town, noticing that the highways were well-lit once nearing the town/city proper. When we hit Nabunturan, the capital of Compostela Valley, I knew we were closer to home so I phoned my mom who warned us about a speed limit “once you pass Panabo. Our traffic enforcers in Davao are strict. You best slow down.”

By this time, I could no longer take photos due to travel exhaustion and everything was already enveloped by the darkness of the night.

Tagum was well-lit with malls along the main highway lined with palm trees. Panabo comes after Tagum which was signaled by a strict military check point.  We were finally entering Davao Del Sur and going towards the city. One of the first things that welcomed us was an electronic speed monitor that told my husband that his current speed was 45 kph. That was a good reminder because the maximum speed limit in the highway was 60 kph and only 30 kph in the city proper. The smell of durian was somewhat faint but strong enough for us to know we had reached Davao. By 12 midnight, my parents were thrilled to see their grandchildren and we were able to breathe a sigh of relief. We were home.

davao
Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN

Copyright photo: Grace Dousel/PFN

45 comments:

  1. Thanks for the excellent article. I was planning to do the drive from Manila to Davao and this will be a big help for reference.

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  2. Now, how can a bullet train proposed to run from luzon to Mindanao make way through San Bernardino (Sorsogon) and Surigao Straits? There is a news that the European Economic Community will help the Duterte government with funding this project?t

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  3. thank you! my daughter and i have been planning to do this for a while now. big help :D God bless

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  4. I have done some of this route through Samar by bus. It is very scenic.

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  5. The missed to mention the following, bituka ng manok in Quezon, Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga, cities of Calbayog and Catbalogan, Agas-Agas bridge in Sogod, So. Leyte (tallest bridge in the country)

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  6. May i ask how much is the total fuel cost and ferry cost? Thank u plano po kasi magbyahe from mindanao to naga

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  7. How much cost you in all including ferry fees, hotels, food and the gas? Planning to get mirage at manila and be driven all the way to davao in similar route.

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  8. Great! SAlamat po sa pag share nyo...

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  9. Great article Grace. I've done round trip Manila Cebu (via Bicol-Samar-Leyte and via Mindoro-Panay-Negros and vice versa) in early 2000 and in 2007 with my family, and this article relives that amazing experience. Glad to find out that Leyte to Surigao takes only 1 hour on the Fast Cat.

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  10. i wonder how tiring was the travel

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  11. Hi, I read your travel diary,It was great that you were able to document your trip with your family. Those memories are priceless. My wife anf I are also driving to Tagum, Davao and your article is helpful in planning our road trip. Thank you. Joseph Cintron

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  12. Very good account of your travel. But I wanted to see how much did it cost you all in all including hotels, food, fuel, roro and other incidental expenses. We are planning to do this by the end of this month

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  13. This is very informative and I admire how your family is bonded thru travelling. I wanted to do this and travel my 86yr old grandmom to Legazpi before she reaches her dawn of life and let her see her siblings and family.

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  14. hi. were there check points?

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  15. Great Article, Inspired me to do it again one more time, while I still can. But instead of driving a truck like I used to, I'm planning on using my motorcycle, just not sure if it would endure long travels.

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  16. Thank you for posting this article, I will be following your time table excluding the R&R though.

    I am planning to do the trip next month (on my own). I've almost gone to all the places in Mindanao by land and this will be a first for me.

    Well done on this article, God bless you and your family!

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  17. Great Article, we're planning to do the same..thank you for sharing..God Bless!!

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  18. Hi! I will be doing the same po on last week of may. Ask ko lang po, masyado bang steep ang mga daan? Is it advisable for new driver na idrive manila to davao? Salamat po!

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  19. Great! How much the cost po? Thanks

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  20. hi there. how much was your total expenses from manila to davao by land? we plan to travel next week. can you please help me with the breakdown of your expenses? 2 persons will travel

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  21. Hi! How much is the cost of fuel and ferry boat going to davao? We are planning a trip next month. Thank you for sharing. Godbless!

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  22. hello magkanu lahat nagasto niyo sa travel?

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  23. This is very informative, I would like to do the same someday. Thanks for sharing your journey and experience.

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  24. Thank you for publishing this article. It give us courage to pursue our road trip to mindanao.

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  25. Regarding safety, may maidadagdag po kayong mga tips. Salamat.

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  26. Guys ano ba pinaka matarik na daan passing Maharlika Road Davao to Manila? baka mahirapan kotse. .8hp lang power ng kotse ko. Sa alam ko, San Ricardo, Benit matarik din. Aside from Benit meron pa ba?

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  27. hi. also a family of 4... same configuration as grace's... done this 'adventure' 2x from pampanga to Davao. she is right, it's a heck of an experience and i'll gladly do it over and over again as long as we can. our first trip was on a Nissan sedan but way back 2002. it was one of my worst driving experience as the roads were truly bad. 2nd trip was again on a sedan (Honda accord) and surprisingly, it was the exact opposite of our first experience. those asking how much fuel it cost for the trip, 15k is good enough (and that excludes 2 hotel accommodation costs however).
    so if you're planning to hit the road, budget at least 30k for a round trip adventure! I tell ya, it's truly a great experience.
    before summer ends, we'll travel anew but this time I have decided to drive out on our van for the best comfort level for my family and myself.
    love to hear from the others... maybe we can start a caravan this year! cheers!

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    Replies
    1. I am planning to hit the road round trip from laguna to davao city on the month of april. Maybe we can have a caravan and i am willing to re sched my travel date...

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    2. Hi, were planning to do the same on April 13. Maybe we can do a convoy.

      @Nowell, I would assume the the 15k is for 4 person right?

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  28. hello..your article inspires me more to have this road trip with my 3 kids..i am planning to do this.on Dec 2018.. your detailed article is a big help.. thank you

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  29. Thank you for sharing your adventure. That was indeed very thrilling. How much did you spend all in all to reach Davao City? I want to try this for myself too.

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  30. How bout going back to Las Pinas? Did you use the same route?

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