Early in 2012, I decided that I would do my best to travel for leisure. I keep telling my friends that when I requested God to take me to different place, I forgot to mention “not for work, but for leisure.”
For that year, there were three places I told myself I’d be going to: Guimaras, Palawan and Anawangin. Unexpectedly, I’ve been to all of them in the first five months of 2012!
Guimaras is an island province in the Visayan region. For years, I’d hear and read blogs about how pristine the beaches are and how sweet the mangoes are.
I took some time off from work and booked a three-day vacation in the dreamy island Guimaras. We kind of had an itinerary: one that involved beaches and an old church. That was it. Not much. We really didn’t plan it out that much. We have friends in Iloilo, the nearby province, that we know could assist us. This was a vacation so we didn’t really want to be so uptight about it. Money, plane tickets, little knowledge of the place and girl-next door charms were all we ever had.
On the first day of the trip, our plane got delayed for almost two hours. We didn’t mind. We’re not in a hurry. We’re taking our sweet time. From Iloilo airport, you can take a cab to get to Iloilo (Ortiz) seaport which would take less than 30 minutes.
This seaport takes you to a 15-minute scenic, aquous ride between the Iloilo island to the Guimaras island. Unfortunately for us it was like a ride down Hades river. The rain was pouring so hard it almost capsized the boat, with less than 100 passengers. I swear, I almost died with a friend and number of casual Iloilo-Guimaras commuters.
We got to Guimaras’s Jordan Wharf and the rain still did not let up. And you’d think that that dampen our spirit? No way! We ran towards the canopy with our handbags carefully tucked under our arms.
From the dock, there’s a passenger jeepney that ply commuters to the southern part of Guimaras where the beaches and little islands are laid out. For convenience, we rented a jeepney all to ourselves.
The jeepney ride to our dream (albeit dreary) is usually 15 minutes. The vacation was such a challenge, the rain poured harder and our jeepney’s engine conked out and we were stuck on the road. Oh, for about 20 minutes or so.
Once doom has passed, we were surprisingly and thankfully alive, we found ourselves in Raymen Beach Resort. We took our bags inside the room which felt like a jail cell. No TV. My iPad’s 3G signal barely there.
We ate our dinner in the resort restaurant silently (I was silent because I was praying that by the end of my meal, the food will finally appeal to me) and head back to the jail cell we call room. Although we did not get a great room with spacious bathroom nor a great meal nor an amazing piece of souvenir, I would still recommend Raymen Beach Resort because 1) this is where the island hopping station is and 2) it is affordable accommodation.
The following morning, I was up early and only too thrilled to start the island hopping. I headed out to the Raymen/Alubihod beach to find where I would register for the boat trip. There was a make-shift kiosk from where I arranged a trip for me and my friend.
After we took our breakfast, we found our boatman and his assistant waiting for us at the far end of the beach – the crystal clear water beckoning us to start the exploration.
Our first stop is at the fish sanctuary. There were ginormous fishes there but the water was murky and I wasn’t able to get a decent shot. Besides, I was too excited to go the beaches and all.
After only 15 minutes there, we headed out to check the Guisi lighthouse, it is one of the must-see’s in Guimaras. Via land, it would take 3o-minute bumpy tricycle ride to get there. We took the long route via the sea. It was a long 45-minute boat ride. But we did not notice it. We were busy ogling at the schools of fish so visible with those clear waters; the mysterious-looking rock formations that seem to act as guideposts; the rich foliage that seems to be looking down on us; the island of Iloilo; and my personal favorite, the horizon where the calm blue sea seamlessly meets the azure morning sky.
Anywhere I point my camera to, natural wonder. So worth the trip.
As we approach Guisi beach, I strain my camera to capture the glorious whiteness of the island’s sands and the glisten of the crystal clear water. Guisi beach is like Boracay Island minus the dirt, the crowd, the noise and the commerce.
After a few unbridled photo op on the beach, we went up to the Guisi Lighthouse. It was old and located along the ruins of the old Spanish fort.
We climbed up the rusty stairs to check out what it is like to be on top of it. All you can is the vastness of the seductive waters of Guimaras. It was magnificent up there.
Below the lighthouse, among the ruins, it was a bit creepy. Maybe the oldness, the desolation and the history of the place give the area a certain scary vibe.
But if you don’t mind that, I noticed a wooden cabin-like accommodation there. I guess the peacefulness of Guisi is worthy of a try.
We hopped on our boat again to go snorkeling in our next stop, which is a no-name spot. The boatman and his assistant guided through the water to go check out the fishes. There was not much then. But the corals below were amazing! I kept trying to go down but my snorkeling gear was not enough. Plus I had a floater on so…
We quickly moved on from this spot and headed out to Ave Maria Islet, a private islet owned by the old-rich, landed and political family, the Lopez clan.
Ave Maria is a gorgeous place of powder-fine white sand, waters that let you see the bottom of the sea and of respite. From here you can just sit and take in the panorama. Or snorkle and discover more of the colorful and vibrant marine life.
I could stay there forever. But I might incur additional charges from the boat ride additional hours. And I might also get hauled to jail for trespassing as it is a private property.
From Ave Maria, you can see the next island they call the Turtle Island. The locals were taking care of this lone huge turtle, that we took photos with.
We went also into a cave but it wasn’t really that amazing (especially so because I had just been in the Underground River of Puerto Princesa a few weeks prior to this Guimaras trip).
After having lunch, we packed our bags and went looking for a decent hotel. We found Zemkamps and soooo glad we did.
This hotel is right in the heart of the city center. However, there really isn’t much in their city center. There’s no fast food chain, big gasoline station nor any mall. People from Guimaras have to go take a boat ride and enjoy all that in the nearby Iloilo.
But at least the Wi-Fi signal is strong and it’s so comfy to spend the night.
The following day, we went to the Trappist Monastery.
We proceeded to go to the island’s oldest church, Navalas Church. It can be found some 30 minutes away from Trappist Monastery. The road is dusty and rough so be sure to restrain your hair if you’re taking those minivans without airconditioning like we did.
After a quick lunch, we went to the highlight of our day – Roca Encantada. This is a historical house. It serves as a viewing deck for the Siete Pecados Islets.
Siete Pecados (or seven deadly sins) are a group of islets. There’s nothing on them except for a lighthouse in the biggest islet. According to local legend, these islets, representing some characters, were cast away because of disobedience. Nowadays, these islets serve as landmark for boat riders. Seeing them means you’re more or less 30 minutes away to your destination. In the photo above, you’d see a boat passing by. That one is plying commuters from Bacolod, a city in Negros Occidental province, to Iloilo City in Iloilo province.
Roca Encantada and the view of Siete Pecados Islets were enchantingly beautiful. They can be seen in the isolated northern tip of the Guimaras Island.
This was already our third day in Guimaras. After freshening up, we drove to the Guimaras’s second sea port, the Buenavista seaport to travel back to Iloilo.
Discover more of Guimaras here.