Isla de Gigantes, The Great Adventure
We missed our flight. It was an outrageous morning, we left home at 6am for our 8:20am flight, C5 traffic was really bad and the airport parking areas were all full. We opted to leave our car in Park and Fly (Php 381/night), but still we weren’t able to reach our flight. We then decided to rebook our flight the following morning, good thing everything went well.
Iloilo airport is very nice. We expected to deplane through an airplane ladder, instead disembarking was through a tube. We headed to Tagbak Terminal as directed by our contact tourism officer, Joel Decano (contact number: 0918 468 5006). The taxi fare to the terminal costs Php 400.
Next ride is a van to Estancia, this costs Php 150/person. Its a non-aircon van, but we find the fresh air outside very refreshing. When we reached Estancia, we headed to the fishing port so we coud check out the boat for our afternoon trip to Barangay Asluman. The boat was said to leave between 1:30pm to 2:30pm. We arrived at the fishing port at 10am. It was advised by Joel that while we are waiting for our boat ride, we visit Pa-on Resort and have our lunch there. Its a good thing that we decided to check out the place, the resort has a very nice view of the sea and they have wifi. We ordered Crispy Seafood Pancit Canton and enjoyed the view of the sea.
After eating lunch we headed back to the fishing port. The boat ride was supposed to be via Saint Michael’s, unfortunately the boat was suddenly put under repair. Joel then advised us to look for Zyra-Kate boat. The boat is a pump boat loaded with foods and other items for their upcoming fiesta. Among the load of the boat includes a live pig which we named Mr Porky and became our inspiration for pig jokes during our boat ride :-p
It was an experience we’ll never forget. The boat ride was about 3hours, and during the ride we felt very anxious, we felt that the boat is over loaded. However, since it was our first time to ride that type of boat ride, we relieved our anxiety to trust, the person in charge knows was he is doing. When we reached Barangay Asluman, which put an end to our butt numbing experience, we felt very excited seeing the islands that surround us.
Barangay Asluman is a small town and is part of the four barangays that comprise Isla de Gigantes. The only transportation in the island are motorcycles. My husband and I took different motorcycle rides (Php 10/ride) to the Hideaway Inn (owned by Joel) since it can only accommodate one passenger every trip. The inn was very nice! The water supply and water pressure was sufficient and the cottage design is very Filipino like. Water supply is mineral water which come from their reservoir underneath the inn. It was said that we could actually drink the water from the faucet (the water was certified as potable water). We were booked to a cottage with restroom. The furnitures such as the bed, side tables and dining table are made from bamboo, molave and acacia trees. The cottage has an electric fan, which is a sufficient cooling medium. Electricity supply is from 5pm to about 5:30am (electricity after 12am is supplied by a generator). There is no cellphone signal.
With our limited time to tour the island, we availed for cave spelunking on our first day. We arrived at the inn at 4:30pm. Our cave tour started at 5pm. Our tour guide, which is a local to Brgy Asluman, asked us to hurry since its already getting dark. The name of the cave is Bakwitan in the entrance side and it is called Lusot Lusot (Lukos Lukos) in the exit side. The way up to the cave is very challenging, well I never have imagined that I would get pass through the climbing. I just moved on, realizing that there is no turning back, I thought that I will leave the jitters of going back to the trail later. When we reached the cave, it was all worth it.
Though there are obvious vandalisms on the cave walls, the rock formations were great! Almost similar rock formations in the underground river of Palawan. The glittery rock formation awed me, it could be a stalactite, since the formation is from the top of the cave.
There were also roots of trees from the top of the cave hanging from the cave ceiling.
Our tour guide then mentioned that the way back is at the other side of the cave. I asked if it is a shorter distance compared to our trail to the entrance of the cave. He said yes, only the trail is more difficult since we’ll climb vertical walls. I thought that it would be all right as long as its a shorter track. However, we probably had a miscommunication in this conversation (since our local tour guide doesn’t speak tagalog much) since the trail back was actually twice longer and all the more challenging! Again, there is no turning back. We climbed several vertical walls. One climb left me hanging for a while, trying to figure out how to bring myself up! That part was a heart pounding experience, I felt proud passing through that part of the climb. My husband was very good in this kind of stuff, which was an advantage because the tour guide was by my side all the time to assist me all throughout the track. We finally reached the exit of the cave!
Next challenge is the track back to the barangay. It was actually easier than the vertical climb but was riskier. We passed through side of cliffs and it was already getting dark. We just followed the instructions of the tour guide and were twice careful. The majority of the trail comprise jagged rocks. We were very careful since our gears were insufficient, we were on rubber slippers. Our fears were falling down the ciff, our skin ripped by jagged rocks and insect bites. Our support include tree branches, bamboos, plants and rock grips. However we were still careful with plants and bamboos since there were plants with sharp thorns and there were bamboos with itchy surfaces.
Finally, we could now see the barangay. My husband, which is very fond of landscape photography asked us to stop for a while, he wanted to capture the view of the barangay from the track. I was hanging for my life then at the edge of the cliff, but realized that this is an unforgettable experience, he needs to have that shot, anyway my stance is stable. Since the shot was quick, the resulting photo was underexposed (sigh..).
It was really getting dark, its a good thing that we were able to reach the barangay unscathed.
When we reached the inn, we were served with a festive dinner. We feasted over fresh crabs, fish, scallops and a full rice platter.
Our itinerary the following day is island hopping. This costed us 2k, which is reasonable since its only the two of us.
Our first stop is Isla Bantigue. The island has a sandbar that is visible during low tide. Isla Kabigao Gamay (meaning: small) and Isla Kabigao Dako (meaning: big), is a nice view from Isla Bantigue.
Our second stop is Isla Kabigao Gamay, the island has a facade of tilted rectangular stone slabs. When we arrived there were a group of photographers and models shooting probably for a magazine. A walk along the seashore is very relaxing, the air is so fresh and the view of the other islands and sea makes me realize that life could actually be simple and stress free if you want it to. This place is a great “escape” place.
Third stop is Isla Kabigao Dako. We actually have explored Kabigao Gamay more than Kabigao Dako. Our tour guide brought us to the best spot in the island, we will have our lunch here. However before taking our lunch, we went to a cave. The cave is not named yet. We only were able to get to the cave entrance, somebody dug a big hole along the cave (about 15 meters deep), making it risky to continue exploring the cave. They say that treasurers dug this hole, in the belief that the cave has a hidden treasure. Well they weren’t able to find one, our tour guide says. We then settled to have lunch. It was about 12noon, we were seated at a spot in the island (seashore) where a big rock shielded us from the sun. It was a very nice spot. The big rock was at our side. You could actually swim under the big rock. The water was clear and the bottom is clean (no traces of trash). Our tour guide brought lunch, we had eggplants, fish and corned beef (shared by our tour guide). After lunch, we are back to our boat, unfortunately our boat incurred motor problems (motor won’t start). We tried to reach Mr Joel, however phone signal in the island is nil. After a while, there were a group of fishermen who passed by the island. Our tour guide got their attention. He then explained that we will hitch in the fishermen’s boat to go to Island Antoneya. He will leave us there for a while while he gets another boat so we could continue our tour. Our boat was left in the Kabigao Dako Island, it will be towed back to base camp (island were our accommodation is) on our way back.
We waited in Island Antoneya for about an hour. We were endorsed by our tour guide to Manong (caretaker of the island). We actually could go coral snorkling, but thought that we will leave it for later (if there is still a chance), since its still noon. The same as Island Kabigao Gamay, Island Antoneya also has a facade of tilted rectangular stone slabs. We passed by time by taking jump shot pictures and taking pictures of ourselves and the island. When our substitute boat arrived, we headed to Island Tangke.
We thought the cave spelunking was the only death defying experience in our tour. Turned out that the way to the “Tangke”, a small body of salt water enclosed in the island’s big rocks, has a similar path as our way from the cave to the barangay. First challenge before going to the “Tangke” is we need to pass to another boat, since our boat cannot dock (due to the limited docking space). Realizing that we have our cameras while doing the challenging task made us worry. Good thing that everything went well, thanks to the help of our tour guide. The “Tangke” is the first its kind that I have seen. The water is very clear and the rocks that enclose it is a great view. My husband was delighted with the view that by all means, he really will find the best angle whatever it takes. Our tour guide followed his trail, my husband is climbing at the highest rock surrounding the “Tangke”. Well I stayed in one spot, enjoying the view. There actually are wild monkeys watching atop the rocks. They say that the monkeys go down when people leave the “Tangke”.
We then headed to our first boat to tow it back to base camp. Our substitue boat didn’t have a canopy. I realized while looking at the vast sea that this is the daily life of fishermen. While I put on sunblock and tried to hide my extremeties under my shawl, fishermen didn’t worry much of this, what they worry about is how much fish, crabs, squids or the like they could capture.
We are now back to base camp. Our last activity for the day is to watch the sunset at the other side of the island (Sitio Granada). We went to the other side through a motorcycle driven by our tour guide. The sunset view is breathtaking. This was the best sunset view (after Correigidor and Boracay) that I have seen. There were no obstructions to the view, we could only see the vast sea and the sun. With all credits to my husband, he got this very nice sunset view.
Our dinner again was festive. We had fishes and scallops (steamed and “sisig”). We ate a lot, we were both exhausted with the whole day tour.
That night was the “bispiras” of their town fiesta. The following day, we learned that there was a beauty contest at midnight. The town was in a festive mode.
Its now time to leave the island. Saint Michael’s boat was already repaired. We were surprised with our overall bill, inclusive of accommodation, food and whole day tour, we only paid about Php 3,700. They provided the breakdown (down to the cooking oil consumed) of how much was spent. Scallops only costed Php 35 per kilo. That is why the quantity of the scallops per meal is like an “eat-all-you-can” quantity. Since the costing doesn’t incude service charge, we were advised to give something for the cook. We were very grateful to the cook, she was very hospitable and very accommodating.
We headed to the docking area at 8:15am. Mr Joel and another personnel in the inn brought us there. We thanked Mr Joel for our splendid stay. We definitely will be back in the island.
Since its still morning, the boat was not able to dock due to low tide. We reached the boat by riding on a bamboo raft. It was about a 2hrs boat ride (much shorter than our boat ride to the island). The boat ride also costed us Php 80 each.
When we reached Estancia, we headed to the bus/van terminal. At 11:30am, we started our way back to Iloilo City for our 7:50pm flight. We were able to reach Iloilo City at 2:30pm. We headed to SM to have lunch (via jeepney). After having lunch, we headed to the airport via a Van I think named Merriam Transport. The van will directly bring you to the airport entrance (costs Php 75 per person).
We were happy with our overall trip! We thought that probably Isla Gigangtes will be part of the places that people will want to be in summer. For now, only a few have visited. Given that Mr Joel is geared to promote the island, we envision that the volume of visitors will increase next summer.
Go visit Isla Gigantes too!! 🙂