Last March, my friends and I took a 5-day trip to Antique. Traveling to beautiful islands we’ve never been before is our usual activity come summer season. Travel, beach, plus good company — aaah the good life! My friend arranged the whole trip for all of us, the plan was to explore the hidden gems of Antique with the side trip of going to the ever-famous-island-we’ve-never-been-before-but-always-hear-about – Boracay!
Yes, we’ve traveled to quite a few islands in the Philippines now, but we’ve never been to Boracay. We’ve always postponed going because we knew it would be crowded, our group never really liked crowded beaches, we usually go for the natural wonders of nature not the night life or the bars (not that I have anything against it, it’s just not our scene), it was just not a priority for any of us when looking for a place to go. But since we are going to Antique, and it is near, we could drop by and see what the fuss is about.
That was our first stop, and to be truly honest I was…. hmm… underwhelmed. To be fair, maybe I was just expecting a little bit too much, because I always hear about how beautiful it is from people who’ve been there, or maybe a crowded beach isn’t just my thing. But that was the overall feeling I remember of seeing Boracay for the first time – underwhelming. Usually we travel quite a bit just to see a not-so-well-known island and the feeling after seeing a new place for the first time after a bone-tiring journey is usually awe. The awe that I feel after seeing a spectacular scene makes the trip worth it, it just makes me feel like I want to go right into the water even before we put down our bags or check in or do anything else. When I travel, what I am really looking forward to feel is awe, I didn’t really get that from Boracay. Not that it doesn’t have it’s charms though, the sunset was beautiful and the sand was superfine, it was a pleasure to walk barefoot on. Other than that though, it left me feeling dissatisfied and apprehensive to go into the water (there were lots of algae floating around). Its a good thing though that we had a few more stops to go before going home.
The next stop is Tibiao, Antique, if you’ve been reading other travel blogs, Tibiao is famous for their humongous “kawas” where people can soak in a hot bath. I was really excited about it, I’ve seen several pictures and I wanted to try it out, but that had to wait until late afternoon, first we trekked for a bit to see the falls not so far from where the kawa bath is. I thought initially that we’d just go an see it, take pictures, then go to the kawa baths straight away, little did I know that there was some climbing involved. The falls looked really high to me (okay, maybe not that high, but still!), there was a rope dangling from the top that locals use to climb it, we were told there was a small lagoon at the top that we can check out. Our guide was willing to assist us climb it, I was still apprehensive about it because climbing is not a usual thing for me. We had to step directly into the rocks where the water was flowing, it was kind of scary, and there was just this one rope that you’d have to hold on to. After some thinking and some deep breaths I just decided to go ahead with it. Eventually, everyone did, it felt good to be able to do it. The lagoon up top was really small and the water so cold, but we all enjoyed it. Took some pictures and clowned around, we were just all so relieved and happy to be able make it in one piece.
The whole trekking to the falls thing turned out to be very tiring, I was so happy and looking forward to the hot soak in that kawa bath after all that action. There were several sizes of kawas there, filled with water and sprinkled with some leaves and flowers. It looked really nice but it felt absolutely amazing after the tiring trek. According to our guides, the kawa was used to mix large quantities of muscovado sugar before, when they stopped producing it, they turned it to a tourist destination — that’s some clever Filipino ingenuity and resourceful thinking isn’t it? We really enjoyed our time there, we soaked up (yes, pun intended) the experience, at one point we all transferred to just one big kawa, pretended we were all being cooked for dinner and of course took pictures! It was a funny experience – one shared with friends and treasured for a lifetime. I am grateful for having crazy and fun loving friends.
After the kawa adventure, we next went to a nearby barangay and tried our hand at pottery and brick making. It looked easy when the lady who demonstrated it was doing it, but when it was my turn, it took some hard work and focus not to squish the mud to goo, you need to apply just the right amount of pressure for it to turn out just right. Its a fun experience but I certainly wouldn’t win any pottery of the year award for my work.
Our next day in Tibiao, we had to wake up early (around 4am) so we could go to Seco island, it was a 2 hour boat ride so it was best to leave early, the waves are bigger in the afternoon which made travel more perilous. The early morning trip was at first a bit disorienting because it was still so dark outside, we could barely see each other or the boat for that matter, I was busy trying feel my way through the darkness of it all. Once we were settled in though and the boat started to move, I looked up and around, and realized to my astonishment, that the darkness enabled us to see nature’s other beauties. Looking down on the water, I could see something is illuminating the ripples the boat is making as it cut through its path. It was so dark we could see the bright little things glowing in the water, it was a sight to see. I’ve only once travelled by boat at night, and I never saw anything like it before. Looking up is a whole different matter too. The sky was dark but clear, the view was amazing, the stars were out full force, shinning their brightest, it was as if the the gods/goddesses of the dark sky were competing with each other by showing off their each individual stars, determined to have the one that shines the brightest. It was just a spectacular view for me, as I rarely see the sky so clear and so many stars shinning so brightly (it’s usually cloudy or the city lights too bright to see the stars). I now understand those ancient poets and writers who waxed poetic about the beauty of the stars. After that superbly enjoyable boat ride, we finally reached Seco Island, it is a very small island you could walk around the whole thing in a few minutes. It’s surrounded by white sand, with a couple of plants in the middle of it and just a few man made shacks made of wood and dried leaves that some of the fisherman and locals use. There were just a few people in it when we got there, they were on their way home already, so we had the island to ourselves! No crowds! Yipee. We took pictures, swam and had lunch. We were basically just chilling out there.
We went home before noon, because we didn’t want to experience the monster waves going back. When we got back, we were fortunate enough to be invited to participate in (fish hauling) that the locals do, we joined them in this raft, where we all waited for the go signal to finally haul the fishes. The fish hauling is a community effort, so whenever it’s time to haul them in (someone checks the net), the call out everyone to participate ( if the father is unavailable, anyone in the family can go, even kids), everyone who participates gets a share in the catch. My friend who got in and helped with hauling the net was given one too! I thought it was such an amazing concept, because it fosters a great sense of sharing in a community, food is shared, no one starves! It wasn’t part of our trip, but it was a great experience. It must be said that the people there were so warm and friendly.
Next up Malalison Island. After our stay in Tibao, our next stop is Culasi, to meet up with their tourism officer in the city hall before we go to Malalison Island. The tourism officer was so accommodating, he explained what we will be able to do there and showed us pictures of the beach and the mountain that he encouraged us to climb it for the view. We all got so excited about it that we decided to just stay the night in the island rather than stick to our original plan of just to staying for a day, then going back to Culasi and sleeping in a hotel there ( there are no hotels/lodges in the island), luckily our boatman has family in the island where we could home-stay with. If you plan on going, contact their tourism department in Culasi, they could probably get you in touch with someone for a home-stay or you could just bring a tent and camp there (we saw some that were pitched near the beach).
Malalison is just a 15-20 minute boat ride from Culasi, it was a quick trip, but man-oh-man, the sand bar in that island was just jaw-droppingly beautiful. Goodness, it was just gorgeous! This is the part where I was just itching to go down there and just swim because it was so too damn beautiful. Unspoiled and picturesque, it was just there.. waiting for someone to appreciate it in all its glory. Just look at it!
We arrived late in the afternoon, the swimming had to wait because we needed to climb their mountain first before it gets dark. It was a beautiful place, talk about rolling hills! The trek was worth it. Here’s the view partway to the top of it. A friend remarked that it looked similar to mountains of Batanes.
Just as a side note, if you’ve ever heard about that rare meat-eating pitcher plants, there’s so many of them in that mountain. Small ones though (probably the size of your thumb), so we weren’t in any danger of falling into one and being plant chow. It was just interesting to see so many of them in one place, as I read it was very rare.
It was already dark when we got back from the trek, so we tucked in early and set out excitedly to explore the beaches of Malalison the next day. The weather cooperated, the sky was clear and sun was shinning brightly as we enjoyed swimming in the clear waters of that gorgeous beach and just looked at the view around us. No matter where you turn your head in that place, all you will ever see is nature’s beauty, it felt like I was inside of those landscape paintings you see hanging in museums, it was just unforgettable. It was an incredibly remarkable place I wouldn’t mind going back to. A perfect way to cap of our Antique trip!
For our trips to Tibiao and Seco Island, Katahum Tours arranged our itineraries. You can visit their site for further inquiry.