My good friend Jem Mamayson and her travel buddies recently went to Iloilo to journey to Guimaras Island, home of beautiful beaches and the sweetest mangoes in the world. She’s written a guest post especially for http://www.budjetsetter.com
My travel buddies and I all agreed that the highlight of our three-day adventure in Iloilo was our day tour in Guimaras. We marked the location on the second day of our three-day itinerary because we knew we would need at least one whole day to enjoy some of the best tourist spots in the area. I have also read some blogs that it would be quite a challenge to tour in and around the island on our own so, we decided to have a breezy getaway by contracting the services of SPM Travel which then hired a tour operator in Guimaras.
On March 22, our second day at the Circle Inn City Centre Hotel (where we booked our three day escapade), we met our slim and friendly tour guide, Ms. Arlene at the lobby at exactly 8:00 am. From the hotel, it only took us less than five minutes to Ortis Wharf. There we registered our names and rode a ferry boat (transportation fee is only P14 per pax) which took us to Jordan Wharf in Guimaras. The travel time from Ortis Wharf to Jordan Wharf was pretty short – only 15 minutes. Upon arrival, we registered ourselves in the area’s Tourist Information Center and rode a multi cab going to Alubihod beach, our jump-off point for island hopping.
Along the way, Ms. Arlene shared some information about the island’s political and cultural history. She also showed some famous landmarks and tourist spots in the area. We even stopped at one point during the trip because she directed us to a field lined by mango trees, which from our vantage point were shaped like the Chocolate Hills in Bohol. Sweet mangoes abound in the island as evidenced by the long lines of mango trees on both sides of the road. Also according to Ms. Arlene, the Guimaras mango is among the sweetest in the world as it is the only mango in the Philippines that has passed the quality standard of developed countries like the US. These and her other interesting stories made us forget that we have actually spent 45 minutes on the road.
Our entry point to Alubihod Beach was the Raymen Resort. We ordered our food in the resort’s lone cafeteria which serves sumptuous Filipino seafood dishes before riding our rented boat (It is advisable to have your lunch prepared in advance so that by the time you’re back from island hopping, the food is ready to be served). Thanks for the gift of a fair weather, we found it to be a leisure-filled boat ride because the sea was calm and we have seen the some landmarks which can be found only in Guimaras like the Fairy Castle (not an actual castle, but a scenery that somehow looked like a castle in one of the small islands), Ave Maria Islet, Natago beach and the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) where endemic and nearly extinct breeds of fishes are found and taken care of. We also expected to visit a pawikan sanctuary in Lawi, but, unfortunately, no more sea turtles can be found there. We were a bit lucky though because we found a pawikan in Natago beach where we spent an hour or so for sightseeing, picture taking, and swimming. On our way back to Alubihod beach, Ms. Arlene directed our gaze to a small island called Isla Tiniguiban, it is considered mystic because it is famous for its “pulang pasayan” or red shrimps which can be found only in very few places. These shrimps hide in the crevices and would usually come out only during high tide.
Indeed, our half-day boat ride was memorable because it took us around the nooks and crannies of this limestone-rich island which revealed a lot of rock formations, coves and isolated islands which were then converted into private beach resorts. A piece of advice though, the entire boat ride might take more than three hours so be sure to bring some food and water because you won’t find any in the islands that you would be visiting.
The final leg of our day-long adventure was an inland tour. This took us to some notable places like Camp Alfredo (we already paid for the entrance fee, but we opted to skip this part of the itinerary because we were too tired to do some thrill-seeking activities. But, this is a must-see place in the island, so don’t follow our lead), Trappist Monastery (It is a sacred sanctuary where you can pray and offer your petitions. If you’re very lucky, you could be prayed over by one of the monastery’s monks. The monastery also has a gift shop where you can buy Trappist Monastic products and island souvenirs), Fresh Mangoes Market, and Guimaras Trade and Investment Center where we bought our pasalubong.
On our way back to Jordan Wharf, Ms. Arlene shared that in the northern tip of the island, one would find Roca Encantada (Enchanted Rock). This used to be the vacation home of the Lopezes, one of the richest families in Iloilo and in the country. The place according to her would give one a perfect view of the Siete Pecados (Seven Sins) which are rock-like islets in the sea. She even narrated the stories (folklore) about Siete Pecados and a Mansion built along the road of Buenavista which were known to the locals of the island. She also added that they venerate the province’s famous food produce through the Manggahan Festival (this week-long event is usually held in April, but this year it will be celebrated on May 11-22). Locals and tourists alike enjoy the festivities especially because mangoes may be eaten for free.
All in all, our short stay in Guimaras was fun-filled, but it has also left us craving for more. Our tour guide herself has said that one day is too short as it usually takes three to four days for one to enjoy everything the island has to offer. That being said, my friends and I resolved that we will definitely come back to this island that fits our taste.
We paid 1,700/pax for a one-day tour. We also paid for our lunches as this was not covered in the package. It would definitely cost you much less if you will tour the island on your own because entrance fees and transportation costs (ex. Ferry boat going to Jordan Wharf, boat ride for island hopping, and multicab for inland tour) are reasonably priced.