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
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.