Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hidden Paradise...

  The Philippines. 7,107 majestic islands of paradise and most of this were left undiscovered or better yet unheard.   I am not a big traveller myself but i wanted to share a place that is worth visiting and worth seeing. We are famous with the white beach of Boracay, the serenity of Palawan and among others yet few of us have heard of Islas de Gigantes. Located at the Northern part of Panay Island in Western Visayas, this paradise is part of the Municipality of Carles.  Going there is so easy and the best part of which is you don't have to bring tons of cash (which you may have saved from your salary for a year) nor there is a need for you to bring your Gold Credit Card for it will be rendered useless on this serene place.  Coming from Iloilo City, its a 2 hour ride from the van or almost 3 hrs if you take the comfort of the bus going to the port of Estancia where a ferry is waiting to depart every 2 PM.  Ferry fare is only P80 and that's a once a day trip to the islas and travel time usually took 2 hours depending on the sea condition.   If you are travelling with a group it is best to rent a boat from the Estancia port which ranges from P4,000-P4,500 the inclusion of which is the Island hopping and the trip back to the port depending on the schedule you have set with the boatman.  Upon arriving at the accommodation, hot coffee is awaiting while your room is being prepared. The hosts were very cordial and accommodating.  The place (I'd rather call it a place than a hotel) is not a grandeur if that is what you are expecting.  You can choose to stay in a nipa hut or in the main house or if you want to put a little adventure,  you can opt to stay in the tree house.

Taking this trip is truly a kiss in nature. Why? you will be unreachable by the rest of the civilization for the rest of your stay for there is no phone signal on the island itself (though they have a calling center in cases of emergency).  Electricity will start power at 4 PM and will end at around midnight and the lone generator will carry the load till the morning.  Worried about the air conditioning? Don't.  For there is none.Yes.  All rooms are non-air con.  Not bad for a P200/ head charge. Yep you heard me right. Its P200/head and there's more.  Wait until dinner is served for you will be surely overwhelmed. Delectable dishes will be served all in your amazement. All the seafood that were served were the catch of the day so guaranteed fresh and you are only paying what is the cost per kilo plus the ingredients. No extra charges so you would be surprised that it cost really, really cheap.

The next day the adventure began.  Our tour guide was apparently a well-informed guy. Born and grew on the island gives him a lot of knowledge when it comes to the history of the islands.  He shared important events and historical knowledge that gives a better impression of the place itself.

He had the schedule ready, and gave us our itinerary for the day. We first visited the lighthouse where he took charge of the photography posing us from different angles which admittedly, is somewhat passable for a newbie photographer.  We then proceeded to the island hopping of which the first stop is the Tangke where you would mistaken the place as if you were in Palawan.  Or even better. The stone formations were so amazing and the water is crystal clear that you can even see the tiniest ocean creature swimming below.

 In Tangke, there is a lagoon within the walls of stone formations where swimming is so inviting that you wouldn't hesitate to jump in and enjoy the refreshing  water.  Again the picture taking was being done by the tour guide/photographer and then you were given a choice to take a plunge from the cliff to put additional thrill and adventure.

Our next stop is the Antonia Beach where you have the chance to snorkel and see the beauty underneath where you can see different kinds of species and other sea life. This is also the area where sumptuous packed lunch prepared by our hosts at the accommodation. 

The next stop is the Cabugao Island where you can climb atop of a hill and have a glimpse of the whole island.  One of the best place to take a picture with the whole back to back island as the background. You can plunge in the water on both sides given that its a back to back beach.  The water turns to blue and green all because its so clear and clean.

Overall the experience is overwhelming.   Not bad for 3 days and 2 nights at the cost of P5,500 or roughly $1,300.  Islas de Gigantes proves to be one worth of a summer getaway in a world of stress, pressures from work and the noisy life in the city. This is the real vacation.  No worries, no phones to check, no ipads or whatever gadgets to browse.  Secluded, away from the busy urban life.If you want a total relaxation, this is the place go to.   A virgin place not contaminated by the civilization, where nature still took its course and where life is still considered simple. 

Preserving this place the way it is would become the next challenge for the residents of this community. Personally i dont want this place to be the next Boracay in terms of commercialization and way of life. That, we will see in the next 5 years or so. But for now, enjoy the sun and the sand at Islas de Gigantes.

Visit this place and experience life in its best.