Islas de Gigantes, Iloilo: Island Hopping

It was around 7:00 am when Joel had a tricycle pick us up from Paon Beach Club, then we bought breakfast from Andok’s before heading to Estancia Port to meet up with my colleagues. It was already about 8:00 am when we set sail.
 
We were blessed with great weather that day. ‘Great’ is even an understatement because we had clear skies and calm seas. It was azure everywhere I looked you can hardly distinguish the sky from the sea. It was surreal that the sea was so calm, almost glass-like, that our boat was just literally gliding through the water.
 
If not for the clouds, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish the sky from the sea.
 
After cruising for an hour, we reached our first destination – Pulupandan Island or Gakit-Gakit Island. From afar, it looks like an ideal island with a handful of trees and fluffy clouds perfectly hovering over it; like something you just see on earlier versions of a Windows wallpaper. :p  
 
First glimpse of Pulupandan Island
Some fishermen use this island as a ‘stopover’
Nope, this is not Amanpulo 🙂
 
About 15 minutes from Pulupandan Island is our next stop – Tangke Saltwater Lagoon. I’ve read other blogs where they weren’t able to go inside the lagoon because the waves were strong they had a hard time anchoring the boat. But because the sea was very calm that day, we had no problems docking outside.
 
Tangke Saltwater Lagoon entrance
The inviting emerald green waters of Tangke Saltwater Lagoon
 
Just to set expectations, you might no longer be wowed if you’ve already been to Coron or El Nido — where several lagoons and lakes can be found — but that’s not to say that the place isn’t as gorgeous. The water temperature was just right and the chirping of the birds can almost lull you to sleep. Best of all, we had the place to ourselves. It was very relaxing.
 
We were also fortunate that it was high tide when we went. The water goes from just knee-deep up to chest-deep in the farthest part.
 
The similarity with Palawan’s lagoons is undeniable.

 

Locals also dub it ‘Enchanted Lagoon’ because they believe ‘enchanted beings’ live here. Additionally, while it is surrounded by foliage, the water remains free from fallen leaves. Fact or fiction, we tried not to be rowdy as not to disturb its peacefulness.

After spending almost an hour in Tangke, we had to go to our final stop that morning: Cabugao Gamay Island.
 
We could see some dark clouds as we were approaching Cabugao Gamay Island. But we remained hopeful that the skies will clear up again and we’d have beautiful weather throughout the day.
Kidding aside, our guides took good care of us.
They made sure we’d get to the top in one piece.

 

To get a 360° view of the island, we must climb the rock formations on one end. The climb wasn’t that hard…only there were some unstable rocks. Remember Takeshi’s Castle where they have faux rocks that send its contestants plunging to fake ponds? haha That’s how some of these rocks are. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating…but you get the point. Better feel the rock first if it’s sturdy enough to hold your weight before stepping on it. 

Cabugao Gamay Island
Aside from Tangke Saltwater Lagoon, Cabugao Gamay Island is also one of the most photographed spots in Islas de Gigantes…if not its ‘landmark’.
 
Spectacular view. The climb was worth it.
Azure waters on my right
And to my left: an endless sea transitioning from seafoam green to turquoise to deep blue
Ingat-ingat din sa pagbaba

 

We didn’t stay long up there because it was scorching. Besides, the clear water was just too tempting to pass up. We frolicked for half an hour before our guide called our attention. It was time to head to our accommodation at Gigantes Hideaway Inn for lunch. (This will be on a separate post).
 
After lunch, we wasted no time and resumed island hopping. We only got two more on the list anyway.
 
We passed by Bulubadiangan Island (?) on our way to Antonia Beach
Antonia Beach
Just like a postcard 🙂
 
The island (as well as Brgy. Asluman) is brimming with scallop shells. If memory serves me right, our guide said some have actually tried grounding the shells and mixing it with cement to build homes. That would be profitable and good for the town’s economy…only if they can find a way to export mountains of these shells.
 

We only got one other attraction to visit after Antonia Beach so we spent more time here. Anyway, our last stop would be Bantigue Sandbar, which according to our guide, should be visited in the late afternoon when it’s visible during low tide.

Unlike the previous islands we visited, there are several families who live here. They even have a pet dog and monkey. 🙂 It was also here that our guide asked if we wanted to do caving which we initially turned down (but went for it anyway; that deserves a separate post too). This change of mind prompted us to leave Antonia Beach earlier than expected to head to the sandbar. 
Bantigue Sandbar
 
No offense, Bantigue, you’re pretty but I still love Caramoan’s Manlawi Sandbar. 🙂  
#ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines 😉
While I fervently hope that tourism will boom in this side of Visayas, I do not wish it to be as commercialized as Boracay or end up as the next Caramoan. I feel really lucky we were able to visit these islands while they’re still pristine…and I hope it remains that way.
*Photos with Iloilo Trip 2012 watermark owned by my cousin, Bernadette Sarmiento

Islas de Gigantes, Iloilo: The Plan

Did you know that in the northeastern part of Iloilo (Carles) is a hidden gem — a group of beautiful islands called Islas de Gigantes? Well, I didn’t know about it either until a fellow blogger, Chito, invited me Q1 of 2012 for the first ever trip he was organizing. As much as I wanted to join, I was already scheduled to go to Palawan in February and the March schedule was too close (budget-wise). They pushed through with the trip. And as soon as Chito posted pictures of it, I knew I had to go there as soon as possible.
 
Cabugao Gamay Island
 
Fast forward to May 2012, I found out two of my colleagues are from Iloilo. Surprisingly, they aren’t familiar with these islands, but were very enthusiastic when I pitched the idea. We scheduled it for October since two of us share this birth month. Coincidentally, one of my fellow GirlTalkers and her hubby were also heading there and were looking to join a group to split the cost of boat rent and island hopping.
 
So what happens when you go on a trip with a couple you’re going to meet for the first time, and with colleagues from different teams with different shifts? Well, you ‘coordinate’ via Facebook, agree on the dates, file your vacation leaves, and book different flights. -_-
It is important to note that the only boat trip from Estancia Port to Islas de Gigantes leaves at 2:00 pm. Knowing this and the flights we booked, we informed Joel Decano^ we’ll need a chartered boat so we can start the island hopping early morning the following day. The couple, and me and my cousin spent a night at Paon Beach Club while my colleagues went to their respective homes when they arrived.
If you can book the earliest flight from Manila to Iloilo and want to head to Estancia Port directly, follow Chito’s instructions here.
 
Here’s how our first day looked like:
  • The couple arrived in Iloilo at 7:00 am via Seair. They did a city tour that morning.
  • My cousin and I flew via PAL and arrived at 1:00 pm.
  • My colleagues took a Zest Air flight and arrived at 6:00 pm.
DAY 1
  • Arrived at Iloilo International Airport
  • Rode a van (parked at the airport grounds) going to SM Iloilo – Php50.00, about 30 minutes
  • Met with the couple at SM Iloilo. Crossed the footbridge, rode a jeep going to Leganes, and got off Tagbak Terminal – Php10.00, about 10-15 minutes
  • Rode a van going to Estancia – Php150.00, around 2-2.5 hours
  • Took tricycle to Paon Beach Club – Php15.00
  • Overnight at Paon Beach Club – Php300.00/head
  • Dinner – Php114.00
Total expense for Day 1: Php639.00
 
DAY 2
  • Checked out from Paon Beach Club, took tricycle to Estancia Port – Php10.00
  • Breakfast – Php62.00
  • Island hopping*: Pulupandan Island or Gakit-Gakit Island, Tangke Saltwater Lagoon, Cabugao Gamay Island
  • Checked in at Gigantes Hideaway Inn**, lunch***
  • Resumed island hopping: Antonia Beach, Bantigue Sandbar
  • Went back to Baranggay Asluman and rode a habal-habal – Php10.00
  • Caving****
*This is a chartered boat that includes service to and from Estancia Port and island hopping that’s why the price is higher — Php4,500.00/7 pax: Php643.00/head
**Overnight accommodation — Php200.00/head
***Full board meals — about Php400.00/head
****Additional Php400.00/7 pax — Php57.00/head 
 
Total expense for Day 2: Php1,382.00
GRAND TOTAL: Php2,021.00
 
 
^Joel Decano — Tourism officer and owner of Gigantes Hideaway Inn
09184685006
Facebook page: Isla Gigantes

2012 Year in Travel: Of New Destinations and Familiar Places

In just a few days we’ll be saying goodbye to 2012, so here’s a roundup of my year in travel plus snippets of my un-blogged trips; four trips with two destinations each (you gotta maximize the travel tax and/or terminal fee, you know) with different travel buddies.  



The year started with a trip to the Philippines’ last frontier: Palawan. Together with my college BFF, we explored ‘hidden’ and ‘secret’ beaches (don’t ask what’s the difference), and visited the newly-proclaimed New 7 Wonders of Nature: Puerto Princesa Underground River

Aside from a missed van trip back to Puerto Princesa and some boo-boos along the way, I’d like to believe that the whole trip went well. :p El Nido remains at the top of the most beautiful places I’ve been to.

  


Second quarter of this year, another close friend and I explored Malaysia for a week. We started our journey in Kuala Lumpur, went north to the island of Penang, then headed south to Melaka before crossing the border to Singapore.

Our goal? To eat, pray, and shop our way through Malaysia (and Singapore) and boy did we do some damage. lol We sampled Penang’s dishes, visited temples/places of worship, and shopped ’til our bodies ache. No stall was spared in Berjaya Times Square as well as Jonker Street in Melaka. I swear, my bags were multiplying like gremlins. Mind you, I was able to sneak everything as ‘hand carry’ *evil laugh*


But if there’s one thing that will be forever etched on my mind about this trip, it’s got to be when we got bumped off the bus twice: from KL to Penang then from Penang to Melaka! Good thing the border crossing was uneventful.

Iloilo – Boracay 


Together with my cousin, three of my colleagues, and a fellow Girl Talker and her hubby, we went to Islas de Gigantes in Iloilo two days after my birthday.

We visited different islands, a sand bar, a saltwater lagoon — which could pass as a doppelganger of one of Palawan’s several lagoons/lakes — and did some climbing. And even though we had a traumatic caving experience, I know everyone still had a lot of fun.


But what I find amusing with this trip was that we took different flights (heck, my cousin and I weren’t even seated together on the plane), just met at the port the following day for island hopping, then went to different destinations on the third day. lol Two of my colleagues went to their respective homes in Iloilo, and my other colleague and the couple went to Bacolod. 


Me and my cousin? Well, we were actually torn whether we should stay and explore Iloilo, do a day trip to Guimaras, go to Bacolod for Masskara Festival, or just beach bum in Boracay. We eventually decided we’d go with the latter because our bodies were still aching from hiking and spelunking that we just wanted to lay on the beach and do nothing. Well, it took us three van rides (Iloilo to Roxas; Roxas to Kalibo; and Kalibo to Caticlan), a boat ride, and a tricycle ride (a total of 6 hours) to get there. So much for relaxation, huh?  

Singapore with LEGOLAND side trip 



And just this month, my mom and I, and — wait for it — our neighbors went to Singapore. Blame it on seat sales. So yes, within a span of four months, I was back in Singapore — and unexpectedly — in Malaysia too since we went on a side trip to LEGOLAND (which by the way was not part of the original plan).

Even though I wasn’t able to make as many trips as I wanted this year, I’m still thankful I got the chance to visit new destinations and familiar places. Always go for quality over quantity, right? 


So here’s hoping I’d be able to tick off more destinations on my (ever-growing) bucket list for 2013. Oh yes Laos and Myanmar, I have my eyes on you!



K


***
This is my contribution to Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival’s yearender:

2012 Year in Travel  


Blog compilations will be co-hosted by:

Complete compilation of previous Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival here.