Breaking away from the shadows of Boracay and Iloilo, the province of Antique created a ripple in the Philippine tourism scene by re-defining the use of the "kawa". An innovative and creative way of a "hot bath" did not only made a mark but also prompted other destinations to replicate it to attract travelers. Of course, nothing beats the original.
Antique is an old settlement that started with the time of Datu Marikudo and the 10 Malay Datus. It was one of the three "sakups"established, together with Akean and Irong-Irong. Its original name was Hantique, from the word Hantik - the large black ants found in the province, and was led by Datu Sumakwel.
The Spanish period ushered in the construction of massive churches to encourage locals to turn to Christianity. Watchtowers were also built to guard the seaside from Moro raids. Some of these structures or the remnants of which still stand to serve as reminders of Antique's rich history. For this blog, let us explore the rich and, sometimes, dark past of the province where the mountains meet the sea.
Rustic and rural, who have thought that Hamtic once served as the provincial capital of Antique. The municipality is said to be the oldest town in the province as this is where the first Malay settlement was established under Datu Sumakwel. Its name is a derivative of "Hantik", the original name of the "sakup".
Hamtic Cemetery Church
The cemetery sits in a middle of a rice field and can be accessed from the highway by a narrow street , beautifully lined with trees. At the heart of the cemetery is a beautiful old church that is believed to be from the Spanish period.
Its design is like a miniature baroque Spanish-period church with its three-layered limestone facade and two belfries flanking both sides of the church. The first layer contains niches that run along the front and side of the church while the second level have columns on the facade and rectangular windows on its sides. The third level has the image of the Risen Christ that also serves as its focal point of the facade. The church's design runs similar to the churches San Joaquin, Tigbauan, and Molo in Iloilo.
You find very limited information about the Hamtic Cemetery Church online. There are stories that associate it to the supernatural and ghost hauntings that are popular in the region. There are also stories that claim that it was once a parish church. But judging from the still standing and ruins of Spanish period churches in the region, it does not fit the mold of being a parish church because the churches in the region are massive in size. A plausible information that can be looked into is that the church may have been a Spanish-period camposanto similar to that of San Joaquin in Iloilo.
Hamtic is the oldest town in Antique with the first settlement taking root at Brgy. Malandog under the leadership of Datu Sumakwel. A marker was installed by the local government to commemorate that fateful event.
The marker is located along the highway, right beside the Malandog Elementary School. A sculpture of two hands carrying a golden salakot is the focal point of the small park. The hands represent the Malay Datu Sumakwel and the Ati Datu Marikudo who forged an agreement with the Malay Datu giving the Ati Datu a salakot that is said to be made of gold.
Artworks adorn the walls of the mini-park's walls that tell the story of how Antique came to be.
San Jose de Buenavista
A few minutes from Hamtig is the provincial capitol of Antique - San Jose de Buenavista. Established in 1733, it was first known as "Tubigon", in reference to the area being underwater, and forms part of the town of Hamtic. It was only in 1872 that San Jose was recognized as a town and subsequently became the capital in 1902. A quick stop in San Jose gives you a glimpse of it rich history and cultural heritage.
Antique Old Capitol Building / New Capitol Building
The old Capitol Building of Antique stands at the heart of San Jose de Buenavista. With its American-inspired design, its squat rectangular facade is higlighted by pillars that give it a sturdy feel. It is now the home of the provincial museum of Antique. Unfortunately, it was undergoing renovation during my visit so I was not able to explore its galleries.
Adjacent to the old building is the new Kapitolyo with its more modern design. This serves as the center of politics of the province.
Evelio B. Javier Freedom Park
A wide open space park sits right in front of the old and new provincial capitol. The Evelio B. Javier Freedom Park is a public park where locals can enjoy a lazy afternoon watching the day pass by or hold peaceful gatherings. The park is complete with a stage for public gatherings and concerts and an open area for sport activities.
It was named in honor of Evelio B. Javier, a Hamtic born politician who was assasinated in 1986 at the the grounds of the park. His murder was associated to his fight against the Marcos administration and his move to contest the election votes in some of the precincts of the region.
His zeal and legacy is very much rooted among Antiquenos that a park, a sports center, and an airport was named after him.
Ruins of San Pedro Roman Church
A 5-minute trike ride from the Provincial Capitol is the Ruins of San Pedro Roman Church. It is said to be the ruins of the original church built by the Agustinian friars. The massive church was said to be shaped like a Latin cross with one entrance on each side and a main entrance at the front.
The thick stone perimeter walls are the only remaining parts of this massive church. Plants and bushes have also sprung out on the walls, with one part of walls being embraced by tree roots. A belfry was installed atop the main door of the ruins. The inside of the ruins have already been landscaped with a grotto at the far end of the navel.
A smaller church was built within the compound to cater to the spiritual needs of the community.
Founded as a visita in 1761, Patnongon was originally under the visita of Sibalon. The town is a treasure trove for those who love history and nature.
Ruins of Patnongon Church and Convent
The ruins of Patnongon Church and Convent stands at the heart of the town. The original church was completed in 1895. The church was damaged during the Philippine Revolution and was bombed by the Americans during the liberation of the Antique. The church was no longer reconstructed after the war.
Had the church been saved from the bombing of the liberation forces, the church would have been the biggest church in the province. What remains from the original structure are its walls and the facade of the first level. A school now stands within the walls of the ruins and part of its walls were incorporated to its classrooms.
Ruins of Casa Municipal
A few meters from the ruins of Patnongan Church is the ruins of the Casa Municipal. The structure is believed to have been built during the Spanish period and was the center for politics and governance.
The walls of the Casa Municipal remains standing until today and efforts are underway to reconstruct the structure in its original state.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
For the longest time, Antique remained under the shadows of the more popular tourist destinations in Panay Island and its rise in the tourism industry is an extraordinary feat. It redefined the old into something new that caught the interest of a lot of people. It gave something fresh to a market that is always in search for a unique proposition.
There are still a lot to discover in Antique that go beyond these popular attractions. The province offers a great combination of its colorful history, rich culture, and amazing natural attractions - most of which, are still to be discovered. Its history is embodied with its landmarks, both standing and those that are in ruins, like those that I have explored recently. It tells of stories of mutual cooperation, bloody battles, principled bearing, and some with a touch of the supernatural.
Antique is more than just taking a hot dip or its mountains meeting the sea. It is a province that embodies a character built through time and by the brave men who toiled and fought on its soil.
Getting there: You can take a flight from Manila or any major Philippine airport to Iloilo or Caticlan. I took the Iloilo route. From Iloilo Intenational Airport, you can take a van to Molo Terminal where you can take a Ceres Bus bound for San Jose de Buenavista or Culasi. I suggest that you take the bus as the schedule is more dependable than the van. From Hamtic, you can take either a tricycle or a jeep to San Jose de Buenavista and Patnongon.
Sample 2-Day Trip Itinerary:
Day 1. Arrival/Hamtic/San Jose de Buenavista/Patnongon
7.00a - ETA in Iloilo
8.00a - ETD for Hamtic
10.00a - Explore Hamtic (Hamtic Cemetery Church and Malandog Marker)
11.30a - Proceed to San Jose de Buenavista
12.00n - Lunch
1.00p - Explore San Jose (Old Capitol/New Capitol/EBJ Freedom Park/ Ruins of San Pedro Roman)
2.00p - Proceed to Patnongon
2.30p - Explore Patnongon (Ruins of Patnongon Church and Convent/Ruins of Casa Municipal)
3.30p -ETD to Tibiao
5.00p - ETA at Tibiao/Proceed to Kayak Inn
5.30p - Afternoon Chill
Day 2. Tibiao/Malalison
7.00a - Breakfast
8.00a - Hike to Bugtong Bato Falls
10.00a - Water Tubing at Tibiao River
11.00a - Kawa Bath
12.30p - Proceed to Culasi
1.30p - ETA at Culasi/Lunch
2.30p - ETD for Malalison
3.00p - ETA at Malalison/Find Homestay
3.30p - Hike around Malalison
5.30p - Catch the sunset
6.30p - Chill
While most people radiate towards white sand beaches for a quick escape, the small sleepy seaside town of Lobo in Batangas breaks out from the norm. Its beaches are not the usual fare. It is equally beautiful with its rugged and rough seascape.
A Spanish period lighthouse was Lobo's eyecandy to me. It took months of finding the right time to go out and explore this side of Batangas. And when I finally did one lazy Saturday, I packed my stuff to endure the 4-hour travel capped by its winding roads that cut through the steep mountain terrains that border Batangas City and Lobo.
Welcome to Lobo, Batangas
Dubbed as the "Atis Capital of the Philippines", Lobo sits along the southern shore of the province facing Isla Verde and Mindoro. The town was abuzz at the time of our visit because it coincided with their town fiesta. So the streets were garbed with colorful buntings, parade floats were zooming past, and the locals were in a more festive mood. But I reckon that its laidback atmosphere dominates most of its 365-days.
Exploring the town is relatively easy. At the heart of the town is the community multi-purpose hall, a small leisure park, and its pasalubong center. The Lobo Municipal Hall sits right across the multi-purpose hall while the public market is on the opposite side. Fresh produce are the best finds in Lobo.
Foodstop: Pasalubong Center and Cafe
The Pasalubong Center and Cafe in the town of Lobo is more than just a hub for pasalubong. It is an IG worthy spot and a great place to eat in Lobo.
The wooden interior, the wooden swing, and the 180-degree view of the town center is creatively appealing to guests of Lobo. It is very cozy and homey as you enjoy watching the daily grind of locals. The design is enough to spark your creativity for that IG worthy shot.
But the beyond the art in its interiors, the food offerings is also worth checking out. A must-try is the adobong tulingan - a skipjack tuna viand cooked in soy and vinegar. It is so yummy that the dish alone makes the 4-hour trip worth it. Of course, there is also the suman and ripe mangoes dipped in tsokolate to cap off a great lunch.
The center is also a one-stop shop for pasalubongs. They have a wide selection of souvenir items and local products - from coffee grains to honey.
A short ride away from the Poblacion is the Lobo River. The water of the river flows down from the mountains downstream and exits to the Verde Passage. The river is also believed to be one of the possible root of the name of the town.
A good vantage point to view the river is the bridge that connects Poblacion and Malabrigo. It gives you a panoramic view of the river with the mountain ranges in its background or the river at it runs towards the sea.
Malabrigo View Deck
Located along the national road, the viewing deck offers a 180-degree view of Malabrigo's rugged coastline.
The park was developed by the local government for visitors to have a quick overview of Malabrigo's famed rocky shoreline. The park was landscaped with concrete benches that one can sit on and admire the view. A staircase leads down to the beach for easier access to those who want to explore the beach below the deck.
Faro de Punta de Malabrigo
At the heart of Lobo's tourism is a Spanish-period lighthouse - the Malabrigo Lighthouse. Declared as a National Historical Landmark in 2006, the Faro de Punta de Malabrigo is one of two Spanish-period lighthouses in the province of Batangas. It was designed by Guillermo Brockman and was built by Jose Garcia in 1896. It guides ships navigating through the Isla Verde Passage.
Its cylindrical light tower and the adjacent pavilion is one of the most preserved Spanish-period structure that I have ever checked on. My mind was fluttering through images of how the compound became a mute witness to the pains and gains of the Philippines as a nation. How many famous people walked through its corridors? I am really not sure but it was a nice thought as I sat in one of its corners and admired its structure and its history.
The Malabrigo Lighthouse is one structure where you don't only get to admire it from afar. It is one historical structure that you can walk its hallways, touch its walls, or sit in one of its corners. Its well-preserved structure allows you to romanticize history while enjoying the peaceful ambiance that the sea and nature offers.
Malabrigo Rock Beaches
Lobo has a very odd way of standing out. While most beaches in Batangas offer sandy beachfronts ranging from white sand to darker shades, its clear and azure waters break on rounded rocks or pebbles along the shores of Malabrigo.
A trail from the Malabrigo Lighthouse leads down to its popular rocky shoreline. Rounded rocks of different sizes are the stars of its shore so wearing protective footwear is a must. The sound of water breaking on the shoreline and the rustling sound of leaves dancing with the blowing wind is enough to relax the mind and the soul. For those intending to stay a little longer, there are huts for rent in the area and it costs Php500 for a day's use. But if you are staying for just a short while, the caretakers are kind enough to use for free provided that there are no other paying guests.
The rocky shoreline is a staple in Lobo. It is the kind of beach that requires a different kind of appreciation. One benefit of its rocky shores is that the beach does not have much guests. It is a good beach spot for those who just wants to get their dose of vitamin sea without the usual crowd.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Two things stand out for me in Lobo - its rustic and tranquil ambiance and the hospitality of its locals. The locals are very accomodating and that they are not afraid to strike a conversation with their guests. They don't try to take advantage of tourists but are more than willing to give information that helped us out while out exploring their place.
Lobo is not the usual kind of beach destination. Like what I've said, it is a destination that require a different kind of appreciation. It is not the top-of-the-mind beach spot unless you have preference for history or off-beat destinations. Its tranquil atmosphere really stuck out for me. I like how time slowly churned while we were out exploring.
With the combination of its tranquil atmosphere and the local's overflowing hospitality, it’s a destination that is worth visiting but this time for weekend.
Getting there: You can take a bus bound for Batangas Grand Terminal in Cubao or Buendia, preferably with the CALABARZON signage (Fare is around Php170 from Cubao). You take a jeep that is headed to Bayan and ask the driver to drop you off at Don Ramos (Fare is at Php9). At Don Ramos, cross the street and take the jeep for SM Batangas. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Most Holy Trinity Parish which is just beside SM City Batangas (Fare is at Php8). Take the jeepney to Lobo Town Proper (Fare is at Php57). The transport terminal for Lobo is located behind the church.
Once in Lobo, you can hire a Malabrigo tricycle to get to the Malabrigo Lighthouse. Fare is at Php120 one-way, special trip.
Sample Day Trip Itinerary:
7.00a - ETD from Cubao to Batangas Grand Terminal
9.00a - ETA at Batangas Grand Terminal
10.00a - ETD to Lobo Town Proper
11.00a - ETA in Lobo Town Proper
- Lunch at Pasalubong Center and Café
12.30p - Explore the town / Lobo River
2.00p - Malabrigo View Deck
2.30p - Faro de Punta de Malabrigo
3.15p - Malabrigo Beach
4.00p - Head back to Poblacion
5.00p - ETD for Batangas City (Last Trip)
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.