My friends and I took advantage of the APEC holidays last week, Nov. 18-21, 2015 to go on a trip to Iloilo and Guimaras. Actually, we all had to file for vacation leaves because the companies we work for were all business as usual last week.
The vacation was such a refreshing and welcoming change from my largely routinary life. It was so nice to be near the sea again. The fact that I was able to spend it with my boyfriend and friends that I’m truly comfortable with made the trip much more memorable.
Our flight to Iloilo was scheduled at 5:40 AM on Nov. 18. Days and hours before the flight, we kept checking the Cebu Pacific website because they cancelled most of the flights for that day already. I think our flight was one of the last two flights that didn’t get cancelled. Whew!
Our flight did get delayed but only for 15 minutes or so. My boyfriend flew to Iloilo via PAL.
We arrived in Iloilo at around 8. Unfortunately, I had no “Touchdown Iloilo” pics because we went straight to the van that took us to the bus and van terminal. Our first itinerary was Gigantes Island. To get there, we were supposed to take another van going to Estancia Port, but we decided to take a bus instead because it looked like there wasn’t much space inside the van. So to avoid a potential uncomfortable 3-hour ride, we took a bus. From Estancia Port, we needed to take a 2-hour boat ride to Gigantes.
The bus ride was so loooong. I think the 3 hours turned into 4. I drifted in and out of sleep. When we finally arrived at the port, we took a quick lunch in one of the carinderias there.
It actually took awhile before we finally left the port to go to the island. The first boat we boarded wasn’t allowed to leave because the coast guard said it was overloaded. So the five of us, along with another group, had to transfer to another ferry. The new boat that we boarded was then loaded with frozen meat and fish and other heavy cargo but the coast guard let it go. Weird.
It was another long ride. I think it took about 2 and a half hours. Surprisingly, I didn’t experience motion sickness during those 2 hours. Probably because of all the kulitan and talks with my friends.
Islas de Gigantes is an island chain in the Visayan Sea. It has about ten islands and is part of the municipality of Carles, Iloilo, Philippines. The Gigantes Islands used to be named after a tree endemic to the place, the Sabuluag. But during the Spanish era, legend has it that locals found coffins inside a cave. When they opened the coffins, they found giant human bones.
When we finally got to the island, a group of tour guides were waiting for us. We were then taken to our inn in motorcycle taxis or “singles”. Since the island has narrow roads, riding a single is the only way to get around.
We stayed in Gigantes Hideaway Tourist Inn. We were served coffee and refreshments by Kuya Paeng, the tourist guide assigned to us. It began to rain seconds after we reached the inn, so we began to get worried that we won’t be able to visit the Gigantes Norte Lighthouse.
Thankfully, the rain stopped after about a few minutes. So after dumping our bags inside our room, we were all set to go to the lighthouse! Going to the lighthouse took about 15 minutes. I actually got legitimately nervous and paranoid because we were driving on steep streets and the driver was driving the single too fast because we needed to reach the lighthouse before it gets dark. When we reached the place, we had to trek an unpaved trail that goes up and down for another 5 minutes to go where the lighthouse is.
The Gigantes Norte Lighthouse was one of the 27 lighthouses built by the Spanish in the Philippines. But in 2008, Typhoon Frank destroyed the original lighthouse and the left the keeper’s house in ruins. The new lighthouse that stands today is made of iron and solar-powered. It was donated by Japan.
We actually climbed the 67-ft lighthouse. The steps were made of steel ladders instead of the usual spiral staircases in older lighthouses. I was a bit apprehensive at first even though I’m not really scared of heights. But it was already getting dark fast and there’s no more time to dither. So up we went.
The view at the top was very beautiful. You can see rocky cliffs, the beach and the Visayan Sea. It was also very dizzying once you realize how very high up you are. Plus, the strong winds at the top made it feel like the lighthouse was swaying.
The sun had begun to set while we were going down. We couldn’t see the steps anymore so we had to work together as a team to go down. Some of us went down first and provided light from their phones and the GoPro to light the place up. Needless to say, we were all sweaty and panting when we finally exited the lighthouse.
Our lighthouse trip marked our first adventure in Gigantes. When we got back to the inn, we freshened ourselves up and rested for a while. Electricity was still on so we charged our gadgets; the power switch to generator from 11PM to 6 AM. Then Kuya Paeng called us to the dining area for dinner.
Isla de Gigantes is known as the “scallops capital of the Philippines”, so it’s no surprise that we were served mostly scallops cooked in different ways throughout the duration of our stay. I think one of the tour guides mentioned that Joel Decano, the owner of the Gigantes Hideaway Inn, worked as a chef abroad before opening the inn and being elected as Carles’ Tourism Officer. So it was also no surprise that our meals were exquisitely prepared.
After dinner, Kuya Paeng told us that we can use the KTV beside the inn. So we went there and sang a couple of songs and had a few beers. But we didn’t stay up too late because we had to wake up super early the next morning.
So that’s Day 1 of our trip! Hopefully, I’d be able to finish Part 2 soon.