Guimaras – Part 2

I had a good night sleep at Raymen. I slept from 9pm to 6am. That nine hours and the good breakfast I had that morning was enough to fuel me for the island hopping tour.

I started the tour at 8am. I had the boat all to myself. The downside was I did not have anyone to help with the fee (P500 for the first 2 hours, P150 for every succeeding hour). But again, I had the boat all to myself! The staff at Raymen also said that they had snorkeling gear for rent but, as you know by now, I’m not a good swimmer, so I did not bother with it.

There were really nice rock formations along the way comparable to those in El Nido.

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Our first stop was the Ave Maria Island. It also had fine powdery sand but Manong Boatman (I had two boat guides with me but I didn’t get their name) directed me to only swim on the right side because the other side was more rocky. The water was shallow enough for me. I think one could reach the nearby island just by walking but I wasn’t that adventurous. You might want to swim here while you can because you might never get the chance to swim again on another beach.

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I think the water was shallow enough to walk to this island. I think!
I think the water was shallow enough to walk to this island. I think!

We then went to the Turtle Island. No one told me it was named as such because of the shape of the rocks on the island (I just read it today on another blog). I only assumed it was named after the turtles on the island. They had a seven-year old turtle on the beach that everyone wanted to see. My guides egged me to hold the turtle. They did not have a name for her yet. Manong Boatman said they were only going to name her when they will release her. It was a female turtle. My guide explained that the females have rounded shells and the males have more elongated shells. The shell of the turtle on the island looked elongated to me and the other guy, but Manong Boatman said it was more circular so it was a female.

They also had baby turtles inside a huge bucket.

I love turtles. I won’t shy away from holding them but I think carrying the turtle was stressing her out. I only carried her because I was too shy to refuse the people egging me on. I won’t post a picture of myself carrying the turtle out of guilt and so as not to encourage anyone. If you can refuse to carry it, refuse.

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As much as I didn’t like them using the turtle as a showpiece, I appreciated their effort to help save these endangered animals.

There was a small cave (more like a huge crack between the rocks) on the other side of the island. From the other blog that I read, the right side appears to be head of the turtle while the left side is the body. I was not aware of this while I was there so I never captured this.

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The small community of people taking care of the turtles on the island.
The small community of people taking care of the turtles on the island.

My boat guides then took me to Baras Cave. He warned me that we could only take pictures on the boat and we could not go down because the water was too deep. I guess my not bringing the snorkeling gear was a sign enough that I wasn’t a swimmer.

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A rock formation outside Baras Cave.
A rock formation outside Baras Cave.

The next and last stop was the Igang Marine Station – a facility of SEAFDEC in Guimaras. I thought this was going to be boring. But it turned out to be a fish heaven for me. My family knows how much I love fish. I used to collect aquarium and pond fishes. When my kois and other goldfishes were struck by a parasite that wiped most of them out, I got really sad and started ignoring them. I only have a dozen of them left in my pond right now and it’s mostly my grandmother taking care of them now because she’s fond of them as well.

Anyway, I was shocked by huge the fishes were. The first fish that the SEAFDEC staff showed me was the giant groupers or kugtong (I hope I remember the local name correctly). Holey moley they were huge! I just wanted to dive right in with them (if only I knew how to dive!). The staff explained to me that these giant groupers are hermaphrodites. They were born females but they become males when they grow up. The groupers in this first cage I saw were clearly males.

Even fishermen get scared by this giant!
Even fishermen get scared by this giant!

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There were lionfishes, angelfishes and other smaller fishes swimming with the groupers that the staff said got into the cage from the wild. The non-poisonous fishes also serve as good for the groupers.

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They have not started breeding the giant groupers yet but they have plans.

There were sea basses, locally called bulgan, on other cages. The staff explained that the males have to be separated from the females, because the females are too aggressive that they would kill the males if mixed, so they have to be careful when breeding them.

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They also have pompanos. The staff said this type of fish is not endemic to the Philippines, but they can successfully breed in warm waters so they brought them here.

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They also have giant bangus here that can weigh as much as 150 kilos, twice as big as me! The staff explained that a female bangus can lay millions of eggs in just one night, so that’s a lot of profit for anyone who has this business.

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SEAFDEC’s goal is to train any interested businessman that cage fishing is better. If I get millions of pesos someday, I will invest in this.

We headed straight back to Raymen after SEAFDEC. I wanted to swim again at the beach but decided against it. It was too crowded and I was short in time. I just had lunch and I was surprised to find Mr. and Mrs. Montero in the restaurant. They were my teachers back in high school. It’s nice to unexpectedly see familiar people while traveling.

Manong Gerald’s father was the one who fetched me from Raymen, since Manong Gerald was probably busy touring other tourists. We stopped by a fruit stand so I could buy mangoes as pasalubong to my family. The best kind was P150 per kilo while the ordinary ones were P100 per kilo. Manong Gerald explained to me the day earlier that these mangoes are far cheaper from March to May when they are in season.

The ride back home went smoothly just like I hoped it would be. I got to pay the ride from Guimaras to Iloilo this time. 🙂

I only got to see a glimpse of Guimaras. I’m hoping to see the other side of the island. If I have enough money, I might a book a night at Isla Naburot.

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