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