Category Archives: Guimaras

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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Guimaras – Part 1

My two closest friends got married last week. After having so much fun on that weekend, I felt a little low during the next few days – I really need to get this checked. While I was feeling low, I decided to book a couple of trips for the next couple of weekends with the meager money that I had left. I wanted to go somewhere near where I have not been to before. I was only thinking about Islas de Gigantes in Iloilo first so I contacted someone there (to be featured in my next post), but it was the Raymen resort in Guimaras who responded back to me first by just a mere few minutes, so I booked Guimaras for the November 1 weekend and Islas de Gigantes for the November 8 weekend.

It never occurred to me that November 1 was a holiday and that there would be throngs of people going home. Luckily, they were going the other way. The bus from my hometown Sagay to Bacolod only had five passengers. The boat from Bacolod to Iloilo was half empty (or half full, whichever way you want to see it). The funniest thing was my boat ride from Iloilo to Guimaras was free. I queued up for the ticket booth and when I got near it, there was a man handing out tickets saying to those who got them to just pay in the pumpboat (outrigger in English or more commonly known as motorized bangka in Tagalog). I still attempted to pay at the ticket booth but the man told me again to just go directly to the pumpboat. When I got to the boat, the crew just asked for the ticket and not my payment. I was waiting until the boat docked at the Jordan Wharf but no one came to me to ask for the payment. It was a free ride for me. I know the payment was just P14, but if what happened to me happened to everyone else who got that ticket from the man outside the ticket booth, then somebody must be losing something. I really wish it was just free, and I’m starting to feel guilty now.

When I got to Guimaras, a tricycle driver immediately approached me to offer a land tour, but I told him that I already contacted someone, to which he asked if it was Gerald. It was indeed Nong Gerald, who seemed to be the most popular guide in the province. Everyone knew him there, from the people at the wharf to the people at gas stations to the resort staff at Raymen. His usual rate is P1200, but he gave me a discount without me negotiating (the same discounted rate other bloggers quoted). He knew how to operate my camera and my phone! He even wanted to invite me to his house to eat suman (since it was All Saints Day and every single Filipino household had suman on their table that day), but I had to pass since their house was not near Raymen. I got his number, by the way, from the Travel in Boots blog.  His number is 09084748122.

Note: Cebuanos and Tagalogs might think Nong Gerald is old. He is not old. He’s probably just in his 30s. “Manong” or “Nong” is just the Ilonggo translation of Kuya.

Our first stop was the “Smallest Plaza.” Nong Gerald said that it used to be the Guinness World Record holder for that title, but another plaza in another country just took that title recently. It is still the smallest plaza, he said, in the Philippines. I couldn’t find any direct link to Guinness on the first two pages when I Googled this, but let’s leave it at that.

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I apologize I photobombed my first few pictures.
I apologize I photobombed my first few pictures.

Nong Gerald then took me to a spot on the road where one could see an overview of Iloilo City. Yes, I remember Siquijor also has this kind of spot (not an overview of Iloilo of course).

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We then went to the Guimaras Museum. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovation, so I had to make do with having my pictures taken outside. It was the site where the Manggahan Festival is held from April to May every year.

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We had lunch at The Pit Stop. Nong Gerald wanted to take me to a restaurant that served bulalo with mangoes but it was closed. At The Pit Stop, he suggested I try the Chicken Adobo with a twist. The twist was the mangoes in it. It was a sweeter version of the chicken adobo.

Our next stop was the Trappist Monastery. I first assumed it was spelled Trapeze and those circus performers came to mind. I was thinking what on earth were they doing in a monastery (Har! Har!).

We arrived there while the monks were praying so I felt a little embarrassed while my camera kept on clicking. I also felt the urge to whisper while talking to Nong Gerald. It was at this point that Nong Gerald asked me to set my camera to black and white which I didn’t know how to do, so he set it for me. Embarrassing! I ended up not using those monochromatic pictures not because of embarrassment but because of this blog’s limitations.

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Nong Gerald took me to the gift shop which was just a few meters from the monastery. They had a variety of items to choose from. I bought the Mango Bars (delicious!) and a box of Mango Otap. I also bought a few key chains, which are a standard pasalubong for friends. My brother took them all when I got home so to my friends, I’m sorry, no pasalubongs from me yet again.

We then stopped on another spot on the highway where Nong Gerald showed me the vast plantation of mangoes. Unlike the mango farm in southern Negros Occidental which is mostly owned by the Cojuangcos, the mango plantation in Guimaras (at least on that part) is owned by the government.

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Our last stop for the land tour was the Guisi Lighthouse. There were three lighthouses, the two were old, rusted and non-functional, while the third looked very modern and, well, functional.

Nong Gerald said that the structure was built during the Spanish period. He compared it to The Ruins in Negros. To me, this was much better.

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The biggest, but old lighthouse had a warning not to climb it. But I knew after reading from some blogs that it was not strictly implemented and one could still go up, so I did just that.

The rebel in me. Cheesy!
The rebel in me. Cheesy!

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My first reaction when I reached the top was “Kahawa gali!” – nakakalula in Tagalog or dizzying in English. One of my greatest fears is heights. I wouldn’t ever stand on the edge of a cliff. I thought the top of the lighthouse had guardrails but there was none, so I had to hold on to what was left of whatever it was at the center of the platform. My hands were all sweaty (they’re still sweaty now just remembering that experience) but I had to look cool. It was me who insisted to go up anyway.

In your face! Or in my face!
In your face! Or in my face!

A little after 2pm, we headed to Raymen where I was staying for the night. I knew that one could do the land tour and the island hopping tour within a day, but I just wanted to be alone on a weekend night to get my mojo back so I booked an overnight stay at Raymen. Their beach had fine powdery sand and it was clean so it was nice to dip in the afternoon. When I checked in, I also arranged my island hopping tour which would start at 8am the next day. (To be continued on my next post…)

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