After the morning trip in Guimaras, we headed next to Iloilo City. The nearest tourist destination is the Ateneo de Iloilo-Santa Maria Catholic School Parish Church under the titulage of Our Lady of China.
Ateneo de Iloilo – Santa Maria Catholic School
Ateneo de Iloilo is an evident Chinese School and it is not rare to see a Chinese School in Iloilo City because it is noticeable that most of the prominent privates schools in the city are run by Chinese. It was amazing because it’s my first time to see a Roman Catholic Church that is merged with Chinese Culture. Unlike the National Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus in Manila, there are Chinese characters inscribed on the altar and the image of Our Lady of China resembles a Chinese ethnicity. Furthermore, it is atypical for Catholics to use incense as an offering for the dead inside the church.
Random Places in Iloilo City
Since we only have the afternoon to tour Iloilo City, we just visited the ones that are proximal to us. We don’t have enough time to see the Miag-ao Church because it’s about an hour of travel time. We just saw an ancestral house, the city hall and near it is an old train display in plaza. We walked a little further and saw the nice old building of Bureau of Customs. But I’m not fund of Customs. Haha!
We also visited the old capitol building of Iloilo Province and beside it is the Museo Iloilo which was closed when we visited. There’s also a nice looking round-about near the capitol.
National Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, Jaro, Iloilo City
The National Shrine of the Our Lady of Candles is the second national shrine in Visayas, next to Basilica del Sto. Niño. It was canonically crowned by the late Pope John Paul II during his visit in Iloilo on February 21, 1981. The church was inspired by the Romanesque Revival Style.
Similar to the churches in Ilocos, the old bell tower of Jaro Cathedral is separated from the church and situated across the street. But the old bell tower is not in use anymore and new bell towers were built and erected within the church. We were not able to take photos inside the church to give due respect to the on-going mass during our visit.
WHERE TO EAT IN ILOILO CITY?
La Paz Public Market – Home of Authentic La Paz Batchoy
There’s no best place to go in Iloilo City but in La Paz Public Market where the authentic and original La Paz Batchoy can be found. One of the most famous eatery for La Paz Batchoy is the Deco’s. La Paz Batchoy costs PH₱70-90 depending how special you have ordered. You also have a choice of regular noodles and sotanghon. It was really overwhelming to try an authentic La Paz Batchoy not just the instant Lucky Me version. La Paz Batchoy is like a version of Mami in Iloilo wherein they put Beef innards and some crunchy chicharon for a twist and tastes really good.
Another famous eatery in Iloilo City is the Roberto’s because of their famous Queen Siopao which costs PH₱90 each. My photo though cannot justify how good it was. The siopao is very special because it contains chicken and pork adobo, sausage, egg, and bacon! It is proud to say that their siopao has no sauce! I was already too tired that time when we bought the siopao that I was only able to eat it as breakfast the next day.
Roberto’s is located at JM Basa St. corner Calle Sto. Nino, Iloilo City near the Freedom Grandstand.
WHERE TO STAY IN ILOILO CITY?
City Corporate Inn Iloilo City
City Corporate Inn offers cheaper room rates when walk-in, no reservations made in any way. But they are also available at Agoda. We availed the standard room for 2 pax which costs PH₱675 from 7pm to 7am. We just left our stuff in the inn before we went out to tour the city and just went back at around 7pm to avail their walk-in promo. We were assigned at the 3rd floor which was exhausting because there is no elevator but the room is good enough. The room is big enough, it has 2 single beds separated by a side table, air conditioner, own bathroom, tv (though we’re not able to check if it has cable), power outlets for your charging needs, and of course a stable WiFi access.
The hotel is located at Rizal St., Iloilo City just across the University of Iloilo.
ISLAS DE GIGANTES, CARLES, ILOILO PROVINCE
Iloilo City to Carles Port
Rj and I were already up as early as 3am and checked out at around 4:30am to make it sure that we’ll reach Carles Port before 8am because we’re scheduled for a tour. I think it is close to impossible or would be very expensive to have your tour in Islas de Gigantes as DIY because there are no passenger boats.
From City Corporate Inn, we walked a little going to JM Basa St. along the corner of the city hall and waited for a jeep there going to Andok’s near Jaro Cathedral for PH₱7. From Andok’s we rode another jeep going to Tagbak Terminal for PH₱7 and from there, we transferred to a UV Express (van) going to Carles Port, Iloilo. The fare to Carles Port from Tagbak Terminal is PH₱200 and about 2 hours to 3 hours of travel time.
We arrived at the Bancal Tourism Office Carles (which is also the meeting place) before 8am and saw these bunch of crazy people that we didn’t know that we’ll be having a great time with. For the mean time, let’s just say they’re still strangers to us.
There’s a great story about that Bancal Fish Port, don’t forget about it.
For Islas de Gigantes Travel and Tours, you can contact Rhett Paul Bolivar at 0915-7595000 or you can pm on their Facebook pages. You can also visit their website at www.gigantesisland.com. Since we’re just 2 who’ll join the tour, our package costs PH₱1,699/pax inclusive of free waterproof cellphone case, unlimited food (seafood and more scallops), coffee, island hopping, tour guide, and accommodation. However, we upgraded to a concrete room from a nipa hut room to have our own bathroom for PH₱200 each.
Our first stop is the Balbagon Island, which is considerably medium-sized island with white to beige mixture of fine to coarse sand. I always tell the truth, I don’t overrate the place I have gone to. Haha! We’re lucky that it didn’t rain that day eventhough the summer season has already ended.
They also offer fresh coconut in the island for a crazy amount of PH₱50 each! We thought it was only PH₱15. Hahaha! Anyway, I have warned you how much it costs.
I was able to take my first dip there and enjoyed the waters because it was already hot that time and I can’t take it anymore just seeing the water without taking a swim. I was the only one in our group who swim in the water. I don’t know why the others didn’t – and wasn’t able to know their reason until now.
The Pulupandan Island is very iconic due to its lone coconut tree that you can see standing on the island and about two nipa huts beside it. I don’t know if it’s naturally that way or they don’t let other trees thrive in the island.
The Pulupandan Island has beige to yellowish coarse sand and accentuated with stones on the side. The stony part is slippery due to the moss. The island is not perfectly clean and needed a clean up to be more of an exemplary of beauty despite having a coarse sand beach. It still didn’t stop me to swim on its water though, because it is the reason I went there which I really missed from traveling abroad.
Cabugao Gamay Island
Cabugao Gamay is the most photographed island in Islas de Gigantes due to its unique beauty when seen from above the rocky hill. It’s rare to see a aerial eye view of an island without using special devices like drone that you don’t need it in Cabugao. Cabugao means pomelo in Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) and Gamay means small/smaller because there’s Cabugao Dako (larger) which we’re not able to visit.
The island is owned by the family of Rhett Paul Bolivar (the contact person for Islas de Gigantes Tour). Yaman di ba? But we did not personally met him in the island. Nakwento lang nung guide namin and my friend RJ.
Cabugao Gamay Island has coarse but white sand which gives a pretty nice output on photos in contrast with the green colors of the coconut trees and the mountain. The water is clean and clear that gives a turquoise in appearance. Too bad it was already lunch time when we got off the photoop cliff and we’re not able to swim in the beach and needed to proceed to our accommodation to have our lunch at Isla Gigante Norte.
Isla Gigante Norte
Isla Gigante Norte is one of the two largest islands in Islas de Gigantes and it is where most of the residents are. However, it is also evident that the beach area is not that clean, you’ll see several floating plastics, and not that really good to swim in its waters. In comparison, it is still cleaner against the Manila Bay.
I am not saying this just to demoralize and devalue the island, I am hoping that someday in the nearest future that they’ll learn to take care and protect their beautiful island just by removing the trash in their environment.
Our room was located at the second floor, we had the room with its own bathroom but opted the non-airconditioned one.
All our meals are served in MJ’s Beach Inn and everything is unlimited but we didn’t try it’s unlimited prowess because we cannot even consume everything on the first serving. All our meal is served with scallops, like the steamed scallops, breaded scallops, barbecued scallops, name it and they have it! Hahaha!
It was during our lunch that we were able to talk and get to know the other three Pinoy joiners of the tour, itago na lang natin sa pangalang Laurenz, Rhenz, and Chad. After our lunch, there’s no time to spare. Island hopping na ulit, laban!
Lighthouse, Isla Gigante Norte
A lighthouse in Isla Gigante Norte was built by the Spaniards and was rehabilitated by ABS-CBN for the people of Carles and was just recently turned-over to the town.
Antonia’s Beach Resort
Antonia’s Beach Resort is the center of activities in Islas de Gigantes. Aside from swimming, you may opt to bring your own snorkeling kit so you don’t have to rent. There are plenty of fish just near the beach just be sure to wear aqua shoes or sandals so you won’t hurt your feet when you accidentally step on corals or other sharp stuff. You may also climb the cliff to see an aerial view of the beach but it’s a bit dangerous because there’s no stairs available. They also offer banana boating and jetski for a cost of course.
Mini Boracay is our favorite place to swim in Islas de Gigantes due to its fine white sand as the name suggests, it is being compared to the fine white sand of Boracay. It is very nice to the feet and it feels good. Well, as name says, it’s mini and it’s really small. Hahaha! We just stayed beside our boat because it’s already enough that we saw the shore and there’s nowhere to go. We were also able to bond here together with the French Gawad Kalinga volunteers in Roxas City.
The island hopping for the day feels like perpetual. We’re still able to visit the Bantigue Sandbar on a low tide just right in time. But I don’t think it is included in our tour, because I believe the primary purpose we went there for our bangkeros to pick up the sack of scallops that we’ll be having for our dinner! Hahahaha!
The sandbar is beige in color and a combination of coarse to rocky texture. We didn’t bother to swim anymore. I think I had enough for the day.
Tangke Saltwater Lagoon, Isla Gigante Sur
The saltwater lagoon is located in the Isla Gigante Sur just beside Isla Gigante Norte. The lagoon is surrounded by the rocky mountains of Isla Gigante Sur and the water comes from the sea that seeps in through the holes of the rocks. We initially thought that it was a fresh water lagoon and even asked my friend, RJ, to taste the water whether it is fresh or saltwater.
One of its amazing feature that we kept wondering are the diagonal clean slices between the rocks. They really look impossible to be man-made and if it’s natural, they look too perfect to be natural because of clean cut. Furthermore, they look like they were measured to be equally apart. I tried to search it in Google but I wasn’t able to get any answer.
Bakwitan Cave, Gigante Norte
On our second day in Islas de Gigantes, we given an option to have another island hopping or caving. We chose the latter and regret it immediately. Hahaha! The trek to the cave is about 45 minutes to an hour and it was exhausting and the trail is very slipper because of the mud formed from the dew.
And of course the time and difficulty level is the same when you come down from the cave. But the fun part was our guide dog who did not leave us all throughout our tour and our human guide doesn’t know what the name of the dog because it wasn’t his pet! Ahahaha!
It was all we have done in the morning before we had our last lunch and packed our stuff to get ready back to Carles Port. (To be continued, pagod na ko magsulat for the day. Hindi pa din na-proofread to.)
|Manila to Iloilo City via Cebu Pacific||800.00|
|Roxas City to Manila via Cebu Pacific||700.00|
|Jeep PH₱7 x 4||28.00|
|La Paz Batchoy||80.00|
|City Corporate Inn Room for 2 PH₱675||337.50|
|Tagbak Terminal to Carles Port Van||200.00|
|Islas de Gigantes 2D1N Tour||1,899.00|