There are places in the Philippines that are synonymous for their products or produce. That is why you head down to Davao for their durian, Ilocos region for their empanada; General Santos for their prized tuna; Vigan for their longganisa (local sausages); Baguio for their strawberries and the list goes on. And as for mangoes, my friends and I head to an island where you can find arguably the sweetest fruit in the world, at least that’s what Guinness Book of World Records said in 1995!
Just an hour away from Ilo-ilo proved to be too sweet to pass by so we took of a day out from our planned itinerary and head to Ortiz port and made our way to Guimaras Island. The island, sandwiched in between Iloilo and Negros, making it out of the typhoon path. Guimaras, formerly known as Himal-us, was a sub-province of Iloilo until it was made an independent province in 1992. The name is the spanicized corruption of himal-us, the indigenous name for the province’s main island, Ilo-ilo. Hiligaynon is the main dialect.
At the wharf, we head to Ortiz-Jordan Motor Banca Cooperative to get our tickets (30php, 1hr travel time) boarded on a motorized banca and reached Jordan port. From there, we rented a multi cab (presto) so we can go in and around the island for the entire day.
1. The smallest plaza – few minutes from the port, you will reach the first tourist draw of Guimaras. The elevated, circular porched plaza with a statue of a young Jose Rizal at the centre is reputedly the smallest plaza in the Philippines. You might as well top by and pose for a photo here.
2. All about Mangoes – if you love mangoes (who doesnt?) then head on this restaurant along the main road called Pitstop and order everything with mangoes in it – mango pizza, mango adobo, mango shake, mango burger, mango carbonara, piaya (traditional flatbread) mangoes to name a few of their best sellers. The place is nice, reasonably priced and the taste wasn’t so bad either! Check it and treat your diet for some sweet mango overload.
3. The Trappist Monastery – located in San Miguel, Jordan. With the designation of the only men’s monastery in the Philippines runs by Cistercian Order of Strict Observance, established in 1972. The place is always open to those who seek the solace and self examination through meditation; retreat from taxing endeavors of the materialistic world. Cistercian monasticism is a form of Benedictine monastic life, being based on the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the twelfth century monks at Citeaux, France. They welcome guests who wish to spend days or even weeks for prayer, meditation and retreats. Their livelihood involves agriculture, growing vegetables for their own and guests consumption. Aside from mango orchard, they also have processing plant that process and manufacture mangoes, pineapples, guava into jelly, jam, juice, dried, piaya, cookies and others. All products are displayed at their Gift shop and at GTIC-Pasalubong Center.
Note: Church Visit – Please turn off or have your cellular phones set on silent mode; observe silence and no entry signs. You can write your petition/intention and drop it at the box located at the entrance of the church. Wearing of shorts and sleeveless dresses are not allowed entering the church. Shopping at Trappist Gift Shop – Religious items purchased is blessed by the monks upon request.
4. Island Hopping! – aside from sampling the juicy, succulent mangoes, we went to Guimaras to island hop and beach bum! So, for our next stop, we head on to Raymen Beach Resort (Contact Persons: Annabelle Estaya / Salvacion Gentizon Contact Numbers: 033-3960252 / 09185207271) in – Alubihod, Poblacion, Nueva Valencia – our jump off point to the islands. Among the many beach resorts in the island province, this is most accessible to both local and foreign tourists for it can be reached by boat and land transportation. Tranquil cove-like beach even during turbulent seas makes it ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and kayaking and other water activities year round. Known for its white-pinky sand, blue waters, rustic ambiance and panoramic view attract both local and foreign tourist alike. If one travels by land, Raymen Beach Resort is 40 minutes from Jordan wharf by land. If one chooses to travel by boat, it will take an hour from Iloilo Wharf. The resort is also convenient because they offer island hopping packages even for walk-in guests.
Our first stop is the SEAFDEC research facility. The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) Aquaculture Department (AQD) was established in 1973 to conduct research, develop technologies, disseminate information, and train people in the farming of fishes, crustaceans, mollusks, and seaweeds for food, livelihood, equity, and sustainable development. There we saw brreds of milkfish and grouper the size of a small kid. Mr. Ramil Morales, the chief coordinator of SEAFDEC is very warm and accommodating as he give us a small tour of the floating facility in the middle of sea.
Next stop we anchored and bask in the shade and white sand of the Turtle island. The island is named thus because the island looks like a a sea turtle on one side.
If your thing is secluded, pristine, white sanded beaches, head to Isla Naburot in Sinapsapan, Jordan. Isla Naburot, (+63918 909 8500 / firstname.lastname@example.org) an eco-friendly family owned islet resort is one of Guimaras’ best kept secret. People running the 11 room resort chose not to advertise in order to preserve the secludedness of the place. Reservation before you go to the island is a must so we just contend ourselves to pass by at the romantic getaway frequented by honeymooners.
5. The tower and the beach – Our last stop, which is also the farthest point of our travel itinerary for that day, we head to a nice beach where you can find an 18th century decommissioned lighthouse – Guisi.
The Guisi lighthouse is the second oldest lighthouse in the Philippines. Now the tower is in a very bad state of disrepair but one can still climb the topmost part of the structure using the spiral staircase to see the panoramic beauty of Guisi beach. Also known as Faro de Punta Luzaran, the lighthouse served as a navigational aid to the fishermen and sailors cruising Panay Gulf. The lighthouse, a 17.5 m (58 ft) octagonal cylindrical tower, was completed in 1896. It appears similar to the Cabo Bojeador and Cabo Engano lighthouses in the northern Luzon regions. The entrance fee to the lighthouse is just 10php.
One might be lured to have photo-op at the ruins at the base of the lighthouse because of its very interesting, rundown appeal. The walls are covered with these thick vines snaking and covering most parts of the building, reminding me of those trees in Cambodia that almost took over the temples. From the location of the lighthouse, we trekked downwards to reach the beach. We are quite lucky to reached it at low tide so we can walk to and see the interesting stone formations which usually need a boat to reach when the tide is high. We spend a few hours basking in its cool waters and white sandy shoreline.
Other Notable Attractions
Navalas Church – Also known as the Parish of St. Isidore the Worker in Navalas, Buenavista. Built in the 1800s, it is considered the oldest existing structure in the province that has survived the ravages of time. Like most of the Spanish structure at that time, it was enclosed by some sort of a stone fortress with a wide watch tower/bell tower as its gate. A bigger bell, said that be more than four feet tall, formerly hang at the belfry was carted away and dumped into the sea near Isla del Siete Pecados by Muslim raiders. Only the façade remain untouched and the ceilings and structure inside the church had already gone extensive renovation.
Guimaras Museum – The Guimaras Provincial Monument and Museum was built in 2006 by then Governor Juan Carlos Rahman A. Nava, MD, now incumbent Congressman of the Lone District of Guimaras. The structure serves as landmark for the people of the province as well as a museum for the memorabilia of the Pagtaltal sa Balaan Bukid among others. The museum as of this writing is gone under renovation and closed to public.
Camp Alfredo – Envisioned to be a one stop family, nature- adventure destination in Baranggay Ravina Sibunag, Camp Alfredo brings in a lot of fun and excitement amidst the serene and lush backdrop. The facility have 330 meter zip line, high rope obstacle course, hanging bride, tree houses, infinity pool among others. To avail of their customised tour/packages, contact Alfredo Jr +63908 123 2977 / +63917 840 2532 or email email@example.com.
Getting There and Away
From Manila, he most convenient means to travel to Guimaras is to take a plane to go to Iloilo first. Local carriers like AirPhilippines (PALExpress), Zest Air (AirAsia) and Cebu Pacific have daily trips from Manila to Ilo-ilo. From the city, make your way to Ortiz wharf, ride motorized banca to reach Jordan Port within an hour. From the port, you can rent multicabs or tricycle to explore the island. It is the busiest jump off point to Guimaras because the ferries bound for Jordan, the capital town of Guimaras, are stationed here. Tourists transit Ortiz Port to go to popular beaches (such as Alubihod) found in Nueva Valencia town and Poblacion.
Parola is located at the mouth of the Iloilo River (near the Iloilo Domestic Port). Ferries bound for McArthur Port in Buenavista town, Guimaras are all stationed at Parola. There are ferries leaving Parola and Ortiz ports every 15 minutes and the trip lasts about 10 minutes. There are daily trips from sunrise to sunset, night trips are rare because of the danger of navigating the Iloilo Strait during nighttime because of rough sea. The fare is 30php.
Another jump off point from Iloilo City is in Muelle Loney (Iloilo River Wharf). The RORO vessel is bound for the RORO Port in Brgy. Hoskyn, Jordan, Guimaras. There’s a service daily from Iloilo-Guimaras. During weekdays, there are 4 trips a day (8:30am, 10:30:am, 3:00pm, 5:30pm) and 2 trips a day at weekends (8:30am, 5:30pm). For more information contact F.F CRUZ SHIPPING CORPORATION at the following numbers +63(033)3371046/3369329/3364195 (Lapuz, Iloilo City) and (033)5811701 (Jordan, Guimaras)