In all honesty, I’d only learned about the existence of Guimaras Island during the oil spill incident in August of 2006. I can’t even recall if I’ve ever heard of it during one of our Sibika classes in gradeschool. Perhaps, the oil spill somehow, paved the way for other people like me who didn’t know then about Guimaras, to actually go out and discover the hidden beauty of this island.
How the Guimaras Adventure started?
Actually, my friends and I were really planning to go to Palawan. Lalaine called me early morning of that forgotten day to ask me if I want to go to Palawan, and I immediately said yes. Text brigades happened. Everyone confirmed and were all set for Palawan. Being the ultimate ‘barkada planner,’ I opened Cebu Pacific’s site and tried booking for Palawan. Unfortunately–or fortunate still–only 3 seats were open for the promo fare going to Palawan and we were 6 in the group. So without actually asking for my friends’ consent, I checked for other domestic destinations with promo fares. Then I tried Iloilo and remembered about my friend’s Guimaras trip. So I immediately booked for 6. After I got the confirmation, I sent a group message with this: Okay na! Booked na! Guimaras March 5-7!
As expected, they were shocked, especially Lalaine:-) She went to sleep assured that we will go to Palawan in March, only to woke up with my message confirming our trip to Guimaras:-) Wait! I forgot to note that our departure time from Manila was 4:45am:-)
Now, we’re all set to Guimaras!
Prelude to Guimaras Adventures: Fun Times In Iloilo
We had some problems with the booking of the flights since some weren’t able to pay on that booking day, so they had to re-book another flight and got another schedule. In the end, it was only me and Lalaine who flew to Iloilo early morning of March 5. And Lalaine had a hard time moving on from that super early flight:-)
Despite wishing for a delayed flight, we even arrived at Iloilo 14 minutes ahead of the schedule!
Since we’re still going to wait for the others and Pao will be arriving at 6pm pa, we decided to just stay overnight in Iloilo. I searched for a super cheap pension house which would allow all 6 of us to stay in one room. Good thing I found Ong Bun Pension House.
And Paolo so loved the place.
No he didn’t. That was a lie:-)
Alright, so the place was not as posh as your usual hostel, but still, we were able to get a suite–man, a suite! — for only P1,180 for all 6 of us. I really considered that Ong Bun discovery a gem:-) Imagine, having a two large beds with extra bed and a big TV for only P1,180!
To make the most of that one night in Iloilo City, we decided to go out and have a taste of the famous La Paz Batchoy. We went to Deco’s first since it’s nearer Ong Bun only to be disappointed because it’s already closed. Ted’s La Paz Batchoy beside Deco’s was also closed then. The 24-hour thing isn’t really an in-thing in Iloilo. Even Mang Inasal, Greenwich, and Jollibee were already closed by 9pm. Frustrated because of screaming tummies, we rode a jeep going to wherever there’s an open food joint. Good thing we chanced upon Ted’s La Paz Batchoy near SM Manduriao and it’s still open. And we had the most tasteful La Paz Batchoy ever!
We also had some sweets from Dulgies which I think is the sister company of Ted’s since it’s inside the said la paz batchoy restaurant. Dulgie cheesecakes were yummy–like you’re eating a cake and a leche flan in one.
Iloilo doesn’t really have much gimik and tourist spots so we decided to just go and try the lighted area we passed by on our way to Ted’s. We thought that was already Smallville which is a famous gimik spot in Iloilo. We were actually disappointed since the place was just like the Dampa or Seaside in Manila. I think Smallville is the street next to it.
So since we’re already excited for Guimaras and there’s really not much to do in Iloilo City,we just decided to go back to Ong Bun and have an early sleep so we could wake up early the next day.
Almost Guimaras, but not yet…
Before going to Guimaras, we decided to have our breakfast first. We asked the receptionist at Ong Bun for a restaurant which serves really yummy breakfast. Ate receptionist hanged for a few minutes. 1-2-3. Finally, she told us to try Green Mango. And we so loved her for telling us so. Green Mango made our morning:-) They served really delicioso food for really economic prices. I think their set breakfast of tocino with rice and egg plus tomato is only P45.00.
Pao also had ice blended coffee something from Coffee Break. He bought a mango silvana which tasted really awful–lasang supot ng pandesal.
Now Off To Guimaras
We went to Ortiz Port where we rode a pump boat going to Guimaras. Fare was only P13.00 and the duration of the boat ride was only approximately 15 minutes.
Far from the small island with the beach strait already welcoming you when you arrived at the port (think Puerto Galera) that I’d pictured Guimaras prior to this trip, the island was actually big enough.
When we arrived at the Jordan Wharf, we were asked to list down our names in the Tourist Information Area just so they have a record of the people staying in their island just in case the situation calls for it. After signing up, a number of tricycle drivers beleaguered us, each offering their service to bring us to Sitio Alubihod where the famous Raymen Beach Resort is located. Good thing I was able to talk to Kuya JD–a tricycle driver we met at Ortiz Port and who immediately offered us his tricycle service for a lower fixed price of P500 for all 6 of us. This fee’s already inclusive of a tour to some famous spots if we want. However, since we’re already inching to see and dip into the waters of Guimaras beach, we decided to just head straight to Raymen Beach Resort.
The tricycles in Guimaras were designed to fit in at least 7 people including the driver. Cristina and I were seated on the back side of the tricycle so we were able to fully capture the beauty of Guimaras–at least those areas that we were able to passed on by. Needless to say, I was becoming more and more impressed with the island. It was a hot weather but because the place was surrounded by trees and green fields, it still felt warm. The only thing I disliked about that tricycle ride was the numbness of my butt after that 1 hour ride from Jordan Wharf to Raymen Beach Resort.
So what can we say about Raymen?
The good reviews about Raymen Resort I’ve read in blog posts prior to the trip were all right. Raymen’s really a good catch. The name might not sound as posh as the other Guimaras resorts such as Costa Aguada, La Puerta Al Paraizo, etc, but still the place was good. It was not yet the official start of summer so there were only few visitors in the resort. If it were only me, I would just get a fan room (man! I’m all for the budget traveling!), but since I was certain that Paolo will averse me if I do that, we decided to get the aircon room with two beds and get an extra bed. The rate was P2,400 per night for all 6 of us–already included the extra person and extra bed charge since the room was just good for 4.
The room was nice but I love the bathroom and the TV of OngBun in Iloilo better:-) Plus the TV had only few channels. But anyway, since we were there to swim and enjoy the beach, TV’s no longer an issue.
After we put our bags in the room and changed clothes, we went down and explored the resort. We weren’t yet hungry that time since we’ve just had breakfast at Green Mango. So we decided to have a pictorial first.
Now comes the much-awaited island-hopping…
Even if Lalaine kept insisting that she doesn’t want to go island hop, she was left with no other choice but to join us. We booked the island tour at Raymen’s for only P400 for the first hour and additional P150 per succeeding hours.
Then off we went to the island hopping adventure…
First stop was the Turtle Island where sea turtles were being kept and taken cared off. They even had a donation box to help buy medicines for the turtles.
Cristina was brave enough to carry the Pawikan that Manong caretaker handed to her. The said Pawikan was wounded and Manong explained that te wound was already in the healing process.
We each had our turn to carry the Pawikan. We then went to the other side where Paolo, Nina, and Alex were able to hold the small fish with a hard body which I forgot to ask the name.
Next stop was the Ave Maria Island. I forgot the details why this island was named as such but I think it has something to do with the form of island which has a resemblance to that of Mother Mary’s form when praying.
Ave Maria Island was really breathtaking–the rock formations around the area, the white sand, and the pristine water. This was where had our first dip into Guimaras water.
And yes, the best jump shots happened here.
After a little while, we then boarded the boat and headed to our next destination: the Baras Cave
Actually, I think it wasn’t really a cave at all but a mere rock formation which happens to have a big hole that boats can come inside. Don’t expect a Palawan Subterranean River when you go here because you’ll just be disappointed. It was just like we made a U-turn from inside the said rock formation. However, since the boat can pass inside the so-called cave, we were able to go down the boat and had some photo sessions on the rock formations inside. Cristina even had her solo session with Kuya’ng bangkero as her photographer.
After Baras Cave, we passed by Baras Beach Resort–where we were originally supposed to stay. The said resort’s a great island hideaway since it’s hidden in a sheltered inlet with cottages built inspirations of Indonesian architecture.
We also passed by Natago Beach which is famous for its landmark of a house built on top of the cliff.
The last resort we passed through was the Isla Naburot which is really a nice resort with a wonderful stretch of white sand. According to Kuya’ng bangkero, however, an overnight stay here is really pricey.
And the island hopping adventure came to an end. It took us just 2 hours to finish the tour. We just gave extra tip to kuya bangkero 1 and 2 since they were nice and patient enough to took our photos–especially with cristina:-)
The Sumptuous Late Lunch and the ‘Payak’ na Dinner
After the island hopping, we were so hungry so we decided to head on to the resort’s cafeteria to have our super late lunch. We had kilawin, buttered shrimp, sinigang na bangus, inihaw na pusit, and two big bowls of rice.
The food was good and quite affordable. For everything that we ate, we only paid approximately P1,200.
After that ‘busog lusog’ lunch, we shared some good laughs at the swing area just outside the cafeteria before finally headed back to our room to take a rest.
And that rest actually took about 5 hours. Perhaps we were just so tired of the travel from Iloilo to Guimaras and then the island hop adventure plus we were so full with what we had for lunch that all of us really dozed off. When we woke up, it was already 10pm.
We decided to go down to have our dinner, but sadly, the resort’s canteen was already closed. The canteen closes at 9pm and no one from us knew about that. Most surprising was when we went down, not even a single guest or any resort staff–aside from the guard– was downstairs. The scene was very far from that of Puerto Galera’s where even at wee hours, you can still people partying, loud noises could still be heard, and there were still some people swimming on the beach. At 10pm, Raymen’s Resort was already very quiet.
We asked the guard where else can we buy food to eat since we were already hungry. Again. The nice guard accompanied us to the nearest sari-sari store outside of the resort. The store was already closed but manong guard asked the old lady tendering the store to kindly sell us something to eat. Good thing the old lady was nice and patient enough to open her store for us even if it was already late. A bit unfortunate, though, for she only had few servings of rice–just good enough for 2-3 persons, only 2 cup noodles, one pack of mamon, and many asahi sardines and sachets of milo to offer us. Nonetheless, we took it and then we got the two Nissins Cup Noodles and 2 asahi sardines, and I had two sachets of Milo for dessert. We didn’t even know how that asahi sardines taste like but still we took it out of growling stomach.
It was really a ‘payak na pamumuhay’ dinner but we had an abundance of fun and laughter while eating. That was a great dinner experience I’m sure will stay glued in our hearts and mind.
There’s got to be the morning after….
The next day, Nina woke us up by shouting that sun’s almost rising. The night before, we promised each other we’ll wake up early the next day to have a view of the sunrise. So Cristina hurriedly went out to check on the sunrise. Then she panickedly went back to the room to hurry us up so we would be able to catch the sunrise.
We missed the chance on capturing the beauty of sunrise, though, because the sun had already risen on the other side. Nevertheless, we took that early morning time off to enjoy the beauty of the Guimaras beach in front of us.
All of us were sitting on the sand, facing the beach, talking about anything and everything.
We were like that for almost an hour before we finally decided to go to the canteen to have our breakfast.
We had our last plunge on the pristine waters of Guimaras beach after that breakfast before we finally bid Raymen Beach Resort goodbye.
Prelude to Iloilo Comeback: The Trappist Monastery
According to Explore Iloilo site, the Trappist Monastery is a peaceful and sacred enclave in Guimaras run by monks of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance. These monks follow the rule of St. Benedict and are best known for the extreme austerity or strictness that characterizes their discipline. I was also told that monks here don’t really talk as a sign of their strong devotion to their beliefs.
Trappist Monastery also reminded me of the retreat house in Tagaytay where we had our retreat in highschool.
We bought some goodies from the monastery’s ‘pasalubong’ store like Mango Biscocho, Mango candy, and Mango Otap. The otap was good enough but I don’t really like the biscocho since it’s not sweet enough as compared to Biscocho House’s biscocho.
After some photo sessions, we went back to the tricycle waiting for us and rode off Guimaras.
The Iloilo comeback…
We arrived at Iloilo pass 1pm and the first thing we looked for was a place to eat. Was it just us or was touring around Iloilo could really make you hungry many times than usual?
We chanced upon Afrique Restaurant in Smallville. It was the only restaurant opened during that time of the day since most restaurants in the air open at 4pm and close at around 3am.
One of the great things about this trip, all the restaurants we went to to eat didn’t fail us. In fact, they all went beyond our expectations. Afrique surprised us with a good and really yummy serving of their cheese pizza, ribs steak, and their pasta which I already forgot the name. A really nice bonus was that the songs being played in the resto were those of the late 90s, which were the soundtrack of our highschool years. We really felt like highschool teeny-boppers again having fun during recess.
And then the time to say bye-bye to a wonderful place and a really beautiful adventure…
Our flight was moved from 5:40pm to 6:20pm so by 4pm, we were already hurrying to catch the van in SM Manduriao that would take us to Iloilo Airport. The fare, by the way, was P70.
Still many upset shots–not wacky shots–but upset shots were taken and lots of crisp laughs before we capped off the great adventure.
Oh by the way, the total amount I spent for this fun-filled trip was only P3200. ALL-IN! Even the cab fare to and from the airport.
This was not only an early summer hooray, but a celebration of beautiful friendship.
If there’s one great thing about my life that I feel super blessed of, that would be that I found real and great friends during the most carefree and happiest season of my life–high school. I know that most people also found friends in high school, but being able to keep these friends after graduation and until now that I’m already close to saying goodbye to quarter-life, is something that never fails to make me smile and utter a prayer of thanks.
We’ve been with each other in all phases of our lives. We’ve put up with the craziness of each other for more than a decade now. And we never tire of being with each other. We never tire of telling and re-telling crazy stories of our good old highschool–and even elementary days. We never tire of laughing our hearts out whenever we’re together. Genuine laughs that could make us cry and fill the room with so much joy.
We may be living different lives now–far from the warfreak and crazy teenyboppers we were 10 years ago, but the kind of bond we have is still the same. Nothing’s really changed. Just us growing and maturing to be the best person we can be. And a little crazier:-)
We may have various ways of defining life now but we always meet at that common ground of defining true friendship.
I just love being with these crazy people. I’m very much myself when I’m with them. They are a wonderful link to my past and a living reminder of my not-so-distant fun-filled teenage years.
To qoute from Pao: “When you’re with friends who laugh at and with you, you never really grow old.”
Until the next wonderful adventure with these crazy people whom I very happy and grateful to call ‘my friends.’ And I hope in that next adventure, we will already be complete (that’s a shout-out to the rest of the group who weren’t able to join this Guimaras escapade).