Family vacations are part of our annual plans. We always map out a trip every year where we get to bond while exploring and enjoying a new destination. We plan to either to get lost in the maze of a bustling city or go on a day trip by the beach. There is a unique thrill of getting “lost” together as a family.
My previous blog post had me stumbling on one of our pre-pandemic trips - Guimaras. It was an unplanned day trip that we squeezed in when my wife attended a medical conference in Iloilo. Guimaras is an island-province located in the Panay Gulf that is popular for having one of the sweetest tasting mangoes in the world. It is also an island that is blessed with pockets of white sand beach coves where one can enjoy the perfect mix of sun, sand, and sea.
How do you enjoy a day in Guimaras? Read on.
The first attraction to welcome you in Jordan in Guimaras is a 300-sqm plaza that holds the recognition of being the smallest plaza in the country. The plaza was once the holder of the Guinness record of the same recognition. The triangular plaza sits on the fork of the road that connects the Jordan pier to the Guimaras Circumferential Road so it is definitely not hard to miss.
The triangular plaza has a small statue of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, as its main centerpiece. It is properly maintained with small flowering plants to give it an added vibrant touch. I guess the place is a good afternoon spot for locals to enjoy a lazy afternoon.
Guimaras Provincial Capitol
From the smallest plaza, we headed up to the sprawling Guimaras Provincial Capitol. The center of governance of the island is located at the heart of the town of Jordan. The province was initially a sub-province of Iloilo until it was proclaimed an independent province in 1992. It has 5 municipalities under its jurisdiction - Jordan, Buenavista, Nueva Valencia, San Lorenzo, and Sibunag.
The best spot to enjoy at the Capitol Grounds is the huge “Guimaras” sign. I guess most Philippine destinations have this kind is sign where you get to enjoy the tourist vibe. We did not miss this one out and it did help that we had a very creative and innovative guide to take our pics.
Foodstop: The Pit Stop
A visit to Guimaras is not complete without having a taste of their world-famous mangoes. After all, the island is known for this sweet tasting fruit so it is not a surprise that locals have infused the produce into their delicacies. You would be surprised how mangoes give a different twist on normal dishes.
The Pit Stop is one food stop that you should check out when you visit Guimaras. It has managed to use mangoes on popular dishes like pasta and pizza giving it a unique and sweet twist. Most of the dishes they serve have the local fruit fused into usual dishes. Mangoes go beyond fruit shakes and salad at The Pit Stop in Guimaras.
Our Lady of the Philippines Trappist Monastery
The Our Lady of the Phillipines Trappist Monastery is another popular spot in Guimaras. Established in 1972, it is home to 35 monks and is the only Trappist Monastery in the Philippines. The monastery makes and sells local goods from the produce that they harvest in the monastery.
The sprawling grounds of the monastery is very calming. You can visit the church and offer a prayer of thanksgiving. There are also prayer and meditation spots where you can enjoy the tranquility that the monastery has to offer. You can then cap off your visit by shopping for the souvenirs and produce at their shop.
Guisi Lighthouse and Beach
The Guisi Lighthouse is probably my favorite spot in Guimaras. This Spanish-period lighthouse never failed to give me that thrill and excitement with exploring it even if this was my second time visiting the place. I guess my interest and fascination with local history have always kept a hold on me.
The Guisi Lighthouse is an 18th-century lighthouse built to guide ships traversing the Panay Channel. The old octagonal lighthouse stands at a height of 17.5 meters with a keeper’s house made of stone. The Spanish structure is now in ruins with the lighthouse still standing but all rusty. I remember climbing up the old lighthouse and getting awed by the view from its decks.
The lighthouse in ruins gave it a more dramatic vibe in pictures. We were lucky that our guide was creative enough to choreograph our poses for our photos. We enjoyed the views and the story that go with the place. I just hope that they can take on a more proactive approach in the preservation of the Guisi Lighthouse.
Natago Beach and Floating Cottage
Guimaras is also an island that is blessed with beautiful beach spots that make it a good weekend or day beach destination. We did not miss out on this and we hired a boatman for a quick beach escape. Weekends in the province is not complete without a saltwater dip.
Natago Beach is a secluded beach spot that we enjoyed for its cream-colored sand and rock formations. The beach can be reached via a 20-minute boat ride from Alibuhod Beach. You can walk around the sprawling resort grounds before settling in along the shaded part of the shoreline to enjoy the beach.
We had a great time getting our dose of the sun, sand, and sea at Nagtago Beach even if it was only a few hours. We were treated to the wonderful views of Guimaras’ rugged shoreline before we capped off our day adventure with a quick snack at one of the floating cottages on Santa Ana Bay.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Family trips, planned or spontaneous, create opportunities where you get to enjoy exploring destinations and bonding with family members. It creates great memories that the everyone gets to share and reminisce through the years. The destination may be varied but the shared memories stay with everyone.
This pandemic hit us hard and I am pretty sure that we had family travel plans that were shelved until better days come. But that should not stop us from creating new memories. A quick trip to a nearby park, movie binging together, or quality family time while dining out can make new ones. This is actually the best time to create these new memories. We all need it. Everyone does. Be creative in finding new spots within the neighborhood. Remember, the destination does not make the lasting memory, the shared experience does.
Getting there: The gateway to Guimaras Island is the City of Iloilo. There are regular flights to Iloilo from major Philippine cities. Once you are in Iloilo, you can proceed to the port of Ortiz where you can take a 20-minute ride via a pump boat to Jordan in Guimaras. There are guides available at the port of Jordan.
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Locked Down Where In Pinas?
Today marks the second time that NCR goes on the strictest quarantine classification in the Philippines. The next two-weeks will be a complete shutdown of the country’s biggest metro effectively halting its businesses and confining its residents inside their homes. The hard lockdown would also mean that only authorized individuals are allowed to go in and out of Metro Manila.
Unlike last year where I spent more than half of the year locked down in Metro Manila, this year I am locked down in Baguio City. Thanks to a bout with dengue a few weeks back that I got locked out in a city with a more relaxed quarantine classification. The latest update had me thinking that, if I were to be quarantined out of Manila, what Philippine destination would I like to be locked in? Here are my top 7 preferred destinations to be locked in.
The northernmost province of the Philippines is probably on everyone’s travel bucket list. The picturesque views are enough to make you want to visit Batanes. But more than its rustic beauty, its rich culture and laidback community life make Batanes a perfect location to spend a lockdown.
Batanes’ land and seascape is hands down one of the most beautiful in the country. I have always described it like a scene from a movie set. It is breathtaking and will hold you in awe for its ethereal beauty. If you know how to bike or drive a motorcycle, it would be an advantage for you because you can take the time discovering each destination while on “hiatus”.
There is a lot to see and experience in Batanes. It is laid back and rustic.
I guess the best “lockdown” asset of Batanes is its homey and warm community vibe. Everybody was friendly and was wearing a smile. Locals make you feel that you are part of the community. I enjoyed going around Basco on a bike because it felt like you’re biking around your village. Getting locked down in Batanes makes you feel that you never left home.
Read my three-part blog on Batanes here: Batanes (Part 1) / Batanes (Part 2) / Batanes (Part 3)
Dona Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan
If I were to get “stuck” in Dona Remedios Trinidad, I would want a bike to be quarantined with me. This would allow me to ride and discover the hidden wonders of this municipality in Bulacan. I get to enjoy exploring and enjoying the laidback vibe of the place.
Dona RemediosTrinidad is this pandemic's biggest revelation.
DRT came out as a winner during this pandemic because it rose to fame when the first strict lockdown was lifted. Who would have thought that Bulacan has a rugged beauty on its eastern borders? Its unassuming but beautiful destinations, laidback vibe, and proximity to the metro made it one of the biggest discoveries during the course of the pandemic. It is still a new destination with a lot to discover.
Dona Remedios Trinidad is a good destination to escape the metro. The laidback vibe gives you a relaxing vibe to enjoy the lockdown without losing out on enjoying the outdoors. You can plan out days where you can bike out, explore, and discover its nature trails and attractions. You are guaranteed to have your days busy exploring.
Read the three blogs about DRT here: Tila Pilon Hills and 13 Falls / Talon ni Eva
San Vicente, Palawan
The beach is probably the most attractive destination to be locked out for me as I am a beach bummer. Hence, it won’t be a surprise that a beach destination like San Vicente is on my list. This beach destination is getting a lot of attention and development but it has managed to keep its rustic provincial vibe.
San Vicente is just one of the many destinations to explore in Palawan. It boasts of the longest white sand beach in the country spanning 14 kilometers from end to end. It also has a lot of beach spots, islands, and inland natural attractions to discover. You get to enjoy a variety of activities and attractions that you wouldn’t mind getting “quarantined” here.
You get to enjoy the simple beach life on this side of Palawan.
Having a beach accessible to you during a lockdown is a very good idea and having 14 kilometers of white sand to enjoy is not bad at all. It would be nice waking up and enjoying a cup of coffee by the beach. I wouldn’t be missing out on the beach and working from the beach would be awesome. I get to enjoy the rural ambiance of San Vicente while enjoying its popular beach strip.
Read my 2-part San Vicente blog here: San Vicente (Part 1) / San Vicente (Part 2)
Tibiao is famous for having pioneered the infamous kawa bath. This unique way of bathing will have you enjoying a warm dip in a kawa or a large wok. Heated through wood fire with leaves and flowers as aromatics, it is a nice experience as you enjoy the relaxing dip surrounded by nature.
I loved the simple and rugged living in Tibiao.
Staying in Tibiao is living the provincial life in its true sense. I stayed in a bahay-kubo in a secluded area along its hillside. The only sounds that you will hear at night are the sound of crickets, the river water flowing, and the occasional sound of the tuko. It was Philippine rural living at its finest.
I have said it before and I will say it again, Tibiao is a perfect destination to disconnect with the fast-paced urban life. The place makes you appreciate simple living and that most things that we have are actually privileges rather than needs. When things get monotonous, you can choose to explore the many natural wonders of Tibiao or enjoy an afternoon of splashing around the river. You get to enjoy a full day passing by that you realize that the best things in life are indeed free.
Read about my Tibiao experience here: Tibiao
The island-province of Guimaras is another destination that is worthy of more attention. It is an island that will keep you entertained throughout the lockdown because of its numerous attractions, both natural and man-made. It is laidback where you will get to enjoy rustic living with the occasional island exploration.
Guimaras is an island that can be reached via a 20-minute boat ride from the city of Iloilo. It is popular for having the sweetest mango variant in the country and the fruit is the province’s primary tourism draw. The island is also a popular beach destination in the region with its pocket beach spots around Guimaras.
Guimaras Island can keep you busy discovering its spots while locked out.
The pocket beach spots make Guimaras a good location to be locked down. The beach strips are easy escapes when things get monotonous and you get to variety of these to explore. The history buff in me will also enjoy the colorful story of Guimaras’ past. Not to mention, enjoying the delectable mango dishes that locals have prepared using the sweetest tasting mangoes of the province.
Read about my 2-part blog on Guimaras here: Guimaras (Part 1) / Guimaras (Part 2)
Siargao is one of my favorite island destinations in the country. I simply love its tropical and community vibe that you get when you walk around town. Interestingly, it has maintained its rustic feel despite the attention and interest that it is getting from local and international tourists.
Siargao is an island of adventure and I love it!
This tear-shape island on the eastern side of Mindanao is THE surfing capital of the country. Surfing is the main tourism draw of the island and most of its guests come here to try out this adrenaline-pumping activity. So you can expect to spend some time at Cloud Nine where you are either enjoying the views of surfers doing their thing or you are riding the waves.
Siargao’s vibe is different and unique. It is a top Philippine destination and yet it has maintained its rural vibe. You get to enjoy the simple provincial life without losing touch on the fun and vibrant nightlife. The island is more than a surfing spot because you can go around and explore its popular and hidden attractions. If I get locked down in Siargao, I would probably end up learning how to ride a motorcycle and the waves of Siargao.
Read about my 2-part blog on Siargao: Siargao (Part 1) / Siargao (Part 2)
I fell in love with Lake Sebu after I visited it in 2019. It was a place that I would not have any qualms visiting again anytime. I loved the subtleness and bucolic life of the T’boli - the richness of their culture and colorful traditions. Lake S’bu is a verdant destination where you get to enjoy their simple ways of living in the midst of its natural beauty.
Located in South Cotabato, Lake S’bu is the ancestral domain of the T’boli tribe of Mindanao. Lake Sebu is at the heart of its tourism draw and the lake is popular for the magical blooming of its lotuses. The place is also blessed with natural attractions that one can explore and enjoy. It is a destination that gives you a perfect mix of Philippine culture and beauty.
The T'boli culture is worth learning and immersing while in Lake Sebu.
Time slows down at Lake Sebu. Its vibe, their way of life, and its natural beauty will make you enjoy getting locked out of Manila. You can slowly take each day learning something new about our culture or exploring the natural beauty of the place. By the time you wind back to the metro, you are coming back with a new appreciation of Philippine culture and beauty.
Read about my Lake Sebu travel here: Lake Sebu
POST TRAVEL NOTES
I know that most of us have grown impatient with this new round of community quarantine mandates. It has restricted our movements and, for some of us, hoped that we were in a place with a more relaxed restriction. I was fortunate that a bout with dengue in mid-July locked me out of Manila and I am sitting this quarantine out in Baguio. This was the very reason why I thought about writing down this blog. I know that we all miss going places so let us visit these places virtually.
Most of us are finding these restrictions difficult. I feel the same way. There are some restrictions that I find unnecessary but I find this current one imperative. Let us all sit this through safely so we can get to travel safely in the future. While we are still waiting inside our homes, let us share our travel memories virtually so we can inspire others through these challenging times.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.