This is a guest post from one of your fellow travelers, Rolan Tañagras. He joined us a few months back in our first trip to the Visayas region, to the beautiful province of Antique (pronounced as [uhn-tea-keh])! Rolan is a weekend warrior, spending his weekends out on the road in some remote province to counter the stresses of his workweek. Read part 1 of his story below!
Down South in Antique
I have been craving for adventure all my life, from wanting to travel the whole world, immersing myself in different cultures and lifestyles to experiencing heart-racing activities that most may find dangerous and reckless. This year was no different. The moment I saw an article for the travel hostel bus by Experience Philippines posted on my Facebook feed, I got curious. The moment I found out they organize random road trips, I got excited.
I forwarded the link to my friends hoping they would join me but like most people, they have reservations. Most people wouldn’t dare to sign up to a road trip with strangers, let alone to an unknown destination. Even my mom was against it. Typical questions were then asked like, where are you going? (I don’t know). Who are you going with? (I don’t know that either). What if you get kidnapped? (Errr… I don’t think I’m too important nor are we too rich for me to get kidnapped so chill). But I’m not most people. Given the possibilities though, I still gave myself a week to think about it.
A week after that Facebook post, I couldn’t hold my excitement any longer. I had to do it. No matter what the risks were. So I looked into my schedule, found the perfect date, filed for a leave, went to their website and signed up. A week has passed and still no response. I got worried that the slots may have been filled up. And I still didn’t know if I should deposit my payment back then or if I should wait for a reply from an actual person (You can never be too careful with online transactions like this.) I even emailed the team if they got my registration. This was back in February. The trip was in April. I was that excited to join. Thankfully I got a reply. I deposited my payment the next day, sent a copy of the slip and got my confirmation. I was booked. I said to myself, “this is it”. I had 5 weeks to prepare.
About a week before the trip, I got the message of what to prepare, what to bring, where and what time to meet. I was so excited. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for more than a month. Even my coworkers were excited for me.
April 8, 2015
This was the eve of the big trip. I just couldn’t contain it. All day I was thinking about where we were going trying to figure out the place from all the clues from the website, the emails, even the Facebook posts on the Experience Philippines’ page. My guesses were Romblon, one of the provinces in Panay or even to as far as the provinces of Negros. Though the chances were slim, the possibilities were there. You can never know with all these randomness. I remember that afternoon time was running so slow. I wanted to be done with work already. As soon as the clock struck 5, I changed into my gear, freshened up, prepared my stuff, got out of the office and walked my way along Ayala from my office to EDSA. There I waited for the bus to pick me up.
I got picked up at around 7:30 by a bus bound for Antique and I started to wonder, are we going to Antique? Anong meron sa Antique? I don’t even know anyone who’s been there or heard about anyone going there. More importantly, there’s a bus going to Antique? Wow.
So I went in and Jeff, one of the organizers of the trip, welcomed me. They were seated at the back of the bus. He introduced me to everyone and Gzon, one of the travel managers. There were eight of us in this trip. Eight strangers who, perhaps like me, have a craving for adventure. I smiled and said hi. As soon as I was seated though I thought to myself, what were their names again? I am just so bad with names. I’m sorry. I eventually learned everyone’s name though before the day ended. And learned even more about them as the trip progressed.
The trip from Makati to Batangas Port took a little more than 2 hours and we had to wait another one or so before we could board the RORO. I never got the chance to board a RORO before. My only experience as far as marine vessels go aside from fishing boats and pumpboats were the Superferries of yesteryears. It was a 3 hour ride from Batangas Port to Calapan and though the view outside was magnificent as the sky was filled with stars that night, it was also pretty chilly that I had to go in. I started reading a book and not before long a stranger started talking to me. He introduced himself and so did I and although I forgot his name, we had a good conversation about volunteerism and community building. He volunteers as a teacher to help and educate children of indigenous tribes. He was bound to Mindoro that night to bring books and school supplies to a Mangyan community. A pretty noble summer activity if you ask me. Wherever you are dear stranger, I wish you all the best.
April 9, 2015
It was a little past midnight when we got to Calapan. I don’t know where we were going but everyone is going somewhere so I just followed suit. We boarded a bus bound for San Jose, Mindoro which got me confused. I thought we were going to Antique but now we’re not going there anymore. At that moment I realized, there’s no point in guessing. This was a random road trip, expect things to be random. While all of these things were running inside my head, sleep finally crept in. I was awoken by a nudge telling me we were here. But where is here? It was 3 in the morning and we were headed to a ticket booth in the middle of I didn’t know where on the way to somewhere. The booth was closed. I highly doubt that it was still part of the plan. With no hope of the booth opening any time soon, we walked to the Port of Roxas so we could wait in peace. The next ship was scheduled to leave at 6am. Given the time and a pretty tiring ride we’ve had so far, we booked a quaint little guesthouse nearby to rest and recharge. Finally a working socket! My phone was about to die.
We were suddenly awoken by a loud knock saying it was time for us to leave. It was five minutes before six. Holy freaking ****!!! The ship was about to sail. Di kami pwedeng maiwan. We scrambled through our stuff and got out of the guesthouse and onto the port in a rush. Hah! We made it in time. We got into the ship.
It was during this ride that I got to know more about my fellow travelers. Long trips like this open up opportunities for meaningful conversations. I also got the chance to explore the ship and while doing so, I found myself at the topmost deck. I wasn’t even sure if people were allowed here. There were no signs saying it was prohibited so I guess it was fine. I invited everyone up because the view up top was pretty sick. We even got to climb a flagpole and take pictures. We had a couple of shots in before we got asked to come down. The roof deck apparently was off limits to passengers. It was good while it lasted.
The trip took about five hours and we were headed to Caticlan. I could see Boracay from afar. I haven’t been to Boracay and if that’s where we’re going, I’d be a happy puppy. And they were trying to convince us that we were. Rrrriiiigghhhtttt. It just didn’t make sense though. If we were to go somewhere, it’d be somewhere less touristy. But how should I know right? They don’t tell us anything.
Fifteen hours into this trip with no decent meal, we were all very hungry. And suddenly, that little Andok’s place just outside the Caticlan Jetty Port was the best thing to happen to mankind. Roasted chicken, pork, barbecue, fried chicken, rice and ice cold Coke. Ahh, we were all full.
We were on the road again after that meatfest. It was already 1 in the afternoon and we were still nowhere. If I were to guess our destination then, it would be Aklan or Antique because there was just no way we would get to Capiz, Iloilo or even Negros given the time we had. If we were, I would’ve been very worried about the way back home. The bus turned a right and I just knew right then that we were headed for Antique.
The bus stopped and we disembarked at the town of Pandan. There we met our guide and she led us to our guesthouse. We got to rest and recharge a bit before heading out again to our first activity. I had no idea what’s in store for us and given the sketchy signal, I can’t get any information in so I was stuck in the hope that wherever we were going, it was going to be fun.
Our first stop was the Malumpati Cold Spring. It was a river turned into a resort in the middle of what seemed like a national park. There were trees everywhere, and the water looked really cold, and deep. There was also a diving board and I can’t swim. So yeah.
We had a short trek up the river to see the spring uphill. It was a really hot day and the beginning of summer so we ended up seeing a dried riverbed and a half empty spring. It wasn’t so bad though because I wasn’t ready to swim into a pit that deep. It didn’t take away the fact though that a diving board was waiting for me down the river.
I was bathing in my own sweat when we got back that made swimming into the cold river a very attractive pursuit and the daunting task of diving into the deep water a little less scary. Boy was I wrong. Stepping into that diving board was scary as hell. I was trembling by the time I reached the end. Not only have I not dived in my life before, I also don’t know how to swim. Well, technically I can swim to the shore, I just can’t tread even if my life depended on it. But that didn’t make the jump any less intimidating. But I had to it. We had to do it. And so I did. We all did. And it was so freaking awesome!
That first jump opened up so many possibilities for me. Not only have I proven that I can do it, I’ve also found myself thinking that I can do it again. And that I can also go higher. The thrill of jumping and falling was so intense that I did it so many times. Nothing could stop me then. Except the cold. I was shivering from head to toe and my leg muscles were starting to cramp up by the time I was done. But it was worth it.
That night Pandan was having its festival so we went to the nearby town center after dinner to celebrate. The festival had a very provincial feel, it was very much alive and thriving with all the locals participating. Something you never get to experience living in the highly urbanized cities of Manila. There was a lot of singing and dancing and even some stand up comedy mixed in. Some foreigners even joined in the festivities while we were drinking Gold Eagle Beer. I was surprise that it tasted really good. Like the middle ground between San Miguel and Red Horse (I later found out that Gold Eagle was made from the same mix that made SMB). The show ended and I had a little buzz going by the time we got back to our room. I would’ve had a long night sleep except that we were to wake up really early the next day.
April 10, 2015
We were woken by the sound of the alarm telling us that it was time to go. It was still dark outside when we left the guesthouse and walked to the highway to catch an early bus ride to somewhere. Jeff and Gzon were pretty consistent about not telling us where we were going or what we were going to do next.
We got dropped off to a place and walked our way down to the coast. We found some benches by the esplanade and there we waited for a boat that was supposed to pick us up only to find out that the boat wouldn’t be there until later that morning. I knew then that it wasn’t supposed to be like that and that it all came as a surprise, even to the organizers. But then at some point, you just have to let go of what you think should happen and live in what is happening.
As far as I was concerned, I could lie there for hours and wait for the sun to rise. I had a good view of the ocean and the breeze was pretty cold I almost fallen asleep. As I was drifting off they found a hostel for us to stay.
The Anne Sophie Hostel was a short walk from the esplanade. It had several rooms that cater individuals, couple, families and huge groups like us. We were roomed at the top floor overlooking a field at the back. It was still pretty dark and I was half asleep when we got there that I couldn’t see clearly. I drifted off immediately as soon as I hit the mattress.
I was woken by the sun and found myself rising to a magnificent view of Mt. Madjaas. It perked me up immediately wishing I’d risen sooner to watch its beauty unfold at dawn. We were called for breakfast a few minutes later and much to our surprise, the banquet hall was reserved for us and there were more than enough food made for us than we could even finish. Mr. and Mrs. Palacios, the owners of the hostel, really went out of their way to make that morning awesome. Glad we found that place. Spontaneity really has its perks.
We walked back to the esplanade together with Mr. Palacios and boarded a boat bound for Malalison Island (or Mararison Island), a small island just off the coast of Culasi, Antique. The ride to the island took about 30 minutes. Visitors to this island will find themselves walking a long strip of white sand bar leading to a small fisherfolk community. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were no tourists around.
Deeper into the village we found a small little cottage owned by the Palacios. Lucky for us they had arranged everything. From the boat, to the cottage, to the food that we were going to eat for lunch and the guides that walked us through the wonders of that little island.
After settling our things down, we were introduced to two young girls who served as our guide around the island. We left our cottage that morning and set foot to trek the hills of Malalison. The trek would’ve been easy had I known the kind of trail we would be facing, which would’ve allowed me to bring my trekking sandals to the island. The surprise activity left me with nothing but flipflops on my feet, a fascinating feat for the two girls guiding us who breezed through those hills with great ease wearing the same thing.
The hills of Malalison boasts a breathtaking scenery that could rival that of Batanes as I imagine Batanes would be (I haven’t been to Batanes yet). Upon reaching the top, we were presented with a grassy meadow that turns golden during summer season and a 360° view of the island and its surrounding waters. Mainland Antique can be seen from afar crowned by the majestic Mt. Madjaas.
The trek down the hill was even a challenge in itself as the trail got lost under the thick golden grass that covered it. The sun was already blazing when we reached the other side where a beach was tucked away in a cove hidden among the hills. I ran immediately toward it, took my clothes off and doused myself into the waters. The refreshing feeling was instant. The water was cool against my sunburnt skin and the pebbles and sand felt great against my tired feet.
We spent the rest of the morning enjoying the waves by the rocks on a small rocky island a short swim away from Malalison. The sand felt hot on the way back scalding my feet as I ran to a small cottage near the beach. There we had cold drinks to quench our thirst after a morning of trekking.
We then visited a cave that was supposed to be long and deep. At least we thought it would be. We later found out that it wasn’t. The visit wasn’t for nothing though as we were able to pass by a group of teenagers singing in harmony and in unity with nature.
It took us another 45 minutes to get back to the village where we rested for a bit before filling ourselves with an abundant serving of seafood, vegetables and fruits for lunch. It was a breezy afternoon and we spent half of it napping. Indeed, Malalison is a great place to unwind and relax away from the hustle of urban living.
Around 4 in the afternoon we all woke up and went back to the beach. There we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and talking and basking in the afterglow of an amazing day.
It was almost dark when we got on our boat and back to Culasi to wash up and have dinner. The day has been really amazing and I felt really fortunate to have been a part of this road trip. Two days into it and I felt that everything already paid off. But the trip wasn’t over yet. Whatever reservations I had before booking this, I’m glad I got over it.
Hope you enjoyed reading Part 1 of our Antique Adventure! There’s a lot more stories to tell so stay tuned for Part 2 of Rolan’s story where we rappel up and down waterfalls, get cooked in a “kawa” spa, and more!
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