Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sun-kissed skin in Guimaras

One of the best discoveries I uncovered in visiting Western Visayas is discovering Guimaras as a perfect summer destination. Dotted with coves, beaches, nature beauty and pockets of coastal sceneries, no wonder it is a perfect place to worship the sun and enjoy pristine seascapes. Though, almost hidden and underrated, Guimaras is suitably dubbed as “an island that fits your taste” for it doesn’t just fit for a summer destination.   It fits to any season to be visited because of the best kept secret it offers to its visitors. From various beaches, islands to explore, unique local cuisines up to the selection of its prided mangoes, it has everything to fit your taste.

The highly prided mangoes of Guimaras - in a form of 
keychains at Trappist Monastery!
Guimaras is the youngest and the smallest of the six provinces of Western Visayas. It used to be a sub-province of Iloilo until 1992 when it became a full-fledged independent province. Local folklore tells that the island exists after an ill-fated lovers Princess Guima and slave Aras lost from their escape because of unapproved love for each other. The island is formerly known as Himal-us before it gained its present name after the folklore story.

Guimaras can be reached from Iloilo via a 15 minute boat ferry from Iloilo’s Ortiz Wharf that goes straight to the capital of the province – Jordan. After a day long trip in Iloilo City, we arrived six in the evening in Jordan Wharf. Though, we arrived in the province’s capitol of Jordan, our destination is to the municipality of Nueva Valencia where we will stay for a night. In Jordan Wharf, we have an option to either take a jeepney, multicab or tricycle to Nueva Valencia. We took a tricycle after bargaining for a standard rate since it was getting dark already and it is the fastest way to Nueva Valencia.

First glimpse of Guimaras island.
Arriving at Jordan Wharf.
As the tricycle goes through Jordan then passes through Sibunag, I noticed the province’ status as a progressing and developing province. Some of the roads were not yet paved in concrete cements as some of the roads we have run through were still in flattened soil. And at times we have to endure a rough ride on the road because of unpaved roads. Streets and roads far from capitols and establishment areas have no street lights to guide the way so imagine our dark road ride to Nueva Valencia which is 1 hour away via a tricycle ride. Public transportation is also scarce at night time. But dispelling all this, I know a trip to this province is worthy because it offers beautiful islands, pristine beaches and exciting adventures to explore.     

Nueva Valencia is a 4th class municipality of Guimaras province.  It was the site of Guimaras oil spill in August 2006 when a boat named MT Solar 1 sank a few kilometers from Nueva Valencia. But today, the municipality has been recovered to the ecological disaster after years of clean-up. Sitio Alibuhod is part of Baranggay Poblacion, where Alubihod cove and beach are found. Travel time to reach these places is 45 minutes but it ranges to 1 hour trip from Jordan Wharf during our tricycle ride.

Accomodation at Raymen Beach Resort.
Good morning, Guimaras! Its sunrise!
 One of the fame resorts in Alubihod is Raymen Beach Resort, where I and my travel mates stayed for overnight. The resort sits at the center of Alubihod cove and beach making it accessible for beach bumming and island hopping. It’s night already and we are tired from a whole day activity in Iloilo, so I decided to reserve our energy for tomorrow’s activities in the island by resting and sleeping early but before that we indulge in Pancit Molo for dinner. It is a soup dish rather than a noodle (pancit) dish with spiced pork and chicken meatballs daintily wrapped in thin dough, boiled in chicken–pork broth. It is must-try cuisine when in Iloilo or Guimaras.

The following day, I woke up at 6 in the morning to witness sunrise in Guimaras. So I quickly went to the beach side of the resort. The sunrise did not fail to marvel me! It was enough a beautiful sight to make my morning in Guimaras. But along with this sight is also the wide and gorgeous Alubihod Beach which the Raymen Beach Resort shares with the other two resorts. It is one of the most scenic beach in the country that I have been. On the right side of the beach is a lush vegetation of trees jutting with sea rock karst to the sea. On the center, is the wide calm and cerulean water of Guimaras. While on the left side of the beach is a scenic nipa huts sprouting over the rock formations owned by the other resort in Alubihod beach. This is also where one will see a group of islands on the sea that are just near the beach and made the left view of Alubihod beach uniquely beautiful.   
 
A panorama shot of Alubihod Beach.
Alubihod Beach has an ivory white sand beach. While not very fine sand beach, it is one of the cleanest beaches I have seen. You’ll notice only few litters along the shores of the beach. And if there is a litter, it is mostly natural litters of dried leaves that fall from trees and old trunks of trees. This is where I commend the Guimara┼łons. They maintain the cleanliness of their natural sights and pro-ecotourism.     

Left side view of Alubihod Beach.
 Central view of Alubihod Beach.
Right side view of Alubihod Beach.
A closer look to the white sands of Alubihod...
 The sunny morning signifies a good weather for island hopping. So after exploring the beauty of Alubihod Beach, we proceeded in exploring the islands of Guimaras arranged by the resort via a banca ride.  Our first stop is Fairy Castle Island. The island is actually a tall rock formation shape like a fantasy castle that we see various medias thus it was given that name. Since it is a rock formation island, it is impossible for a banca to dock there so we just pass by around it.
Another island that has gorgeous meters high rock formation was Ave Maria Island. But this island has a beautiful and wide beach to dock with. So we spend sometime in the island for souvenir shots and explore some of its rocky sides. It also has a scenic beach side where I saw the islands near it that adds a scenic sight around the island. When I asked our guide why the island was named after Ave Maria, he informs me that it is because there is a rock formation in the island that resembles the grotto of Virgin Mary.

Spot the Virgin Mary grotto shape at the rock 
formations of Ave Maria Island?
Ave Maria Island's pristine beach...
The lone sea turtle in Turtle Island.
 Just across Ave Maria Island is Turtle Island where a lone sea turtle is under the care of the island’s caretaker. The turtle was showed to us for us to have a closer look at it. I never had a close-encounter with a sea turtle until this one. It was a learning experience about the importance of this sea creature in our ocean’s ecosystem. The island is a sea turtle sanctuary as according to other travel blogs, once the captive turtles being taken care of are old enough, they released it to the open sea. Turtle Island also has a wide and clean white sand beach.

Baras Cave was our next stop where our banca was able to dock inside its cave. It was an amazing experience because it was my first time to be inside a sea cave that is huge enough for a banca to dock inside. Though it was dark inside Baras Cave, light still passes through its openings that let’s you see numerous stalactite and stalagmite formations in its walls. Actually visitors can step out of the banca and explore the rock formations inside the cave like what I did. I only stayed in the cave for a minute since the waves are getting strong inside Baras Cave. After exiting the cave, we just pass by Baras Beach. Although it was tempting to swim in the beach’s shores we did not dock in Baras Beach because it was privately owned.

Entering Baras Cave.
A stunning view inside Baras Cave.
Baras Beach and its resort.
SEAFDEC Igang Marine Station - a government run aquatic fishery center.
Be careful with this giant Lapu-lapu... they're big enough 
to be carnivorous!
The last stop of our island hopping is a visit to SEAFDEC or Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center- Igang Marine Station. What visitors will see in SEAFDEC are big fish pens of breeded fishes like giant grouper, milk fish, sea bass and red snapper. A fun activity to do here is fish feeding which the kids will surely enjoy. I also enjoy viewing the different fishes in the big pens since its my first time to see giant lapu-lapu (grouper) and “mutant” 3 feet length bangus (milkfish). A visit to SEAFDEC let us have an education and awareness about the importance of fish breeding in our community. It was a satisfying way to end our exploration of the islands of Guimaras.

Spot the mango trees in the verdant plantation along Sibunag roadside.
Fine pine trees makes a nice view in Trappist Monastery.
Visiting Trappist Monastery for souvenirs!
On the road in Sibunag municipality going to Jordan.
Upon arrival in Alubihod Beach, we swam to its tempting waters and enjoy it for the last time. By noon, we were fetch by the same tricycle driver we had yesterday we off the road again for a hour trip to Jordan Wharf. I asked the driver to let us have a side trip to Mango Plantation and Trappist Monastery since both Guimaras sights are just on the way to Jordan. Mango Plantation is more than 8,000 hectares of mango trees throughout the island which creates verdant landscapes around Guimaras province. The province is very much associated with its mangoes produce from this plantation as this is the islands’ prided and most important product for it best exports quality and sweetness, of course! The mangoes of Guimaras have a reputation of being one of the sweetest in the world which is reportedly served in White House and Buckingham Palace. While Trappist Monastery is the only trappist monastery in the Philippines run by the order of Cistersians of the Strict Observance. The place is famous for being a stopover for Guimaras souvenirs and local products like mango jams and organic soaps. I recommend buying a mango-carved keychains as a souvenir.

My sweet Guimaras mango souvenir!
Leaving Guimaras, enroute to Ortiz Wharf, Iloilo City.
Guimaras is not just all about resorts, beaches and island hopping. Guimaras is also ideal for outdoor and adventure activities which one will find in Camp Alfredo and Guimaras Adventure Park. If you’re not contented with Alibuhod Beach, you can further explore Guisi Beach and had a side trip to another Guimaras landmark, the 18th century Guisi Lighthouse. If you prefer festivals, be sure to visit the island during Manggahan Festival which is celebrated along its anniversary as an independent province every summer of April or May.

Truly Guimaras is a perfect destination for summer. But it is not just finding a perfect summer destination when I was in Guimaras but finding it as an “island that fits your taste.” I discovered exciting island adventures, pockets of gorgeous seascapes, unspoiled beaches, rich marine life and beautiful mornings – all perfect for anyone that is looking for an island that suits any taste. And not just sun worshipping! I had great island adventures despite of worry of getting a rainy weather since I spend this trip during the wet season. But, whether it is summer or rainy season of July, whenever a great sunrise greets your mornings, the sun will always kiss your skin in Guimaras.

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*How to reach Guimaras
In Iloilo's Ortiz Wharf, ride a 15 minute ferry boat to Jordan Wharf. Jordan is the capital of the island province of Guimaras. 

*How to reach Nueva Valencia, Guimaras
You have the option to take a jeepney or tricycle. Jeepney flies on certain times only. Since we arrive in Jordan at 6pm so we took a private transportation via tricycle. Travel time is 1 hour from Jordan to Sitio Alubihod of Nueva Valencia. 

*Accomodation, island hopping and tour in Guimaras
Raymen's Beach Resort
Alubihod, Nueva Valencia, Guimaras
They also provide island hopping tour of Guimaras islands at PHP500 per hour with their private boat. SEAFDEC is the only stopover with an entrance fee.
Contact no: Not available.
Website: Raymen Beach Resort

Sun-kissed skin in Guimaras is a part of my Guimaras blog series of the same title where I share my travel experiences in exploring the province of Guimaras last July 9-10, 2012. Some information are credited to Exlopre Iloilo - one of my guide and information source for this Guimaras trip.

11 comments:

  1. Nasa Guimaras ako two weeks ago. Such a lovely and quiet place. Dito mahahanap ang peace of mind na kailangan ng mga stressed na tao hehe

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  2. galing din ako dito .. pero di ko pa napopost ... naghanp ka din ba ng mga turtle sa turtle island>? ako kasi naghanp yun pala isa lng!

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  3. Second post I read today about Raymen Beach Resort. I take this as a calling.

    By the way those keychains are cute!

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  4. @Micamyx: I 100% agree... stress free and relaxing place.

    @Kulapitot: Yup, pero sabi daw egg laying site daw yung island pag-breed season.

    @Pinay Travel Junkie: I will have a separate post about Raymen Beach Resort, an accommodation review soon. Yup, the keychains are cute that's why I bought two of it!

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  5. na-miss ko tuloy ang guimaras!!! sana makabalik soon! :)

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  6. been to guimaras but not yet blogged. i miss guimaras because of your post. at ang kyut ng keychain! :D

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  7. @Pinoy Adventurista: Summer is the perfect time!

    @Adventurousfeet: Those keychains were really striking cute that's why I took a photo of it - kinda a comical way to appreciate the province's fame Mangoes

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  8. I've never been to Guimaras but I hope to go there someday and indulge in the famous Guimaras mangoes! I love mangoes, at ang cute ng keychains ha! :)

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  9. @Cris: I've never tried their famous mangoes too during my stay. Actually we have no time to buy since we are catching to our itinerary to Iloilo.

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  10. @Christian: I will have a separate story for my Guimaras island hopping. Thanks for reading!

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All comments and reactions are highly appreciated.

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