My Panay: ILOILO (Part 1)

8:04 pm

Pronounced eel-o eel-o. Not "o" like "oh", but "o" like the phonetic sound of the letter o.

Long weekends are for travelling! The Philippines has several holidays that allow mini vacations. My latest opportunity was a 4 day weekend, where I decided to tick off another province in my Panay checklist.

☑ Aklan
☐ Capiz
☑ Iloilo
☐ Antique

I left the city in the morning with my cousins. A three hour drive later, we reached Carles port. We still had a two hour boat ride before reaching our final destination but the deep ocean blues, wind in my tangled hair, and lack of conversation had me feeling all ~namaste~.

Our final destination is known by the locals as Islas de Gigantes. The history behind the name comes from local legend that describes coffins found inside the caves that contained "gigantic" sets of human bones. There is also a belief that the islands are protected by spirits; while not all the locals believe in the legend, they take care not to offend -- just in case. There have a been reports of tourists who have littered and later had some boat trouble (one bangka actually capsized). Yikes.

This is still a somewhat hidden gem; although it's picked up more local visitors over the last few years, one of the reasons it's been able to remain unspoiled is because it is not very accessible. Like I mentioned earlier, getting here entails a flight, a 3 hour car ride, and a 2 hour boat ride.

For those who are interested in going there, some disclaimers. Honestly, I was disappointed upon our arrival on the main island. Upon getting off the bangka, you will notice mounds and mounds of shells. Most of where you step will have them - this is because scallops are abundant in the area and (I swear) we had them at every meal. They're good, but after 6 straight meals of scallops, I found myself longing for food with different texture.

I never heard anything of this main island and had actually expected to stay in the smaller islands (seen in the first couple of pictures). Basically all the accommodation is on this main island, and you take a bangka out to the smaller, stunning islands during the day. I'd advise camping on the smaller islands for a more nature-filled holiday - but not during the summer season cause it is HAAWWTTT (even in the dead of night).

Overall, I loved the trip. It had a few bumps but was ultimately an awesome balance of adventure and relaxation. [This post was originally longer, but I decided to split the adventure and relaxation posts. Stay tuned!]

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