Outback Guimaras

From running around Iloilo City from one church to another, we then finish our short half a day stay and ask our tour guide/driver to take us to Ortiz port. I didn’t actually know that it’s called Ortiz, I just look it up on the net! I know though that we were bound for Jordan at that time, which is the capital of Guimaras. I’m so poor at directions. I know quite a bit about Philippine map but put me in one place and then ask me where to go from that point to another, I’d probably get lost! (It’s one of the reasons why I’m contented in being just a fan of The Amazing Race on TV and never in my wildest dreams intended to join. I suck at maps and I will never bungee jump!)

Anyways, going back to Jordan; after a short ferry ride, we did reach the island of Guimaras. From afar we could see a gigantic white Cross standing tall on top of a mountain, I didn’t know at that time that we would be hiking to reach that very same spot as part of our itinerary. Anyways, upon reaching the dock, we sort of register and pay tourist fee I think, I’m not so sure now. So then, we choose to take a tricycle ride to reach our destination which is Villa Igang. I forgot how much we paid for that ride, but that was a long ride! I think nearly an hour? Did I mention I suck at estimates, too? It’s like you can’t believe that such greeneries exist from what seems like forever. You sort of are expecting it to, ooops that’s it, back to reality..houses, traffic, noises, pollutions… but it didn’t, it just went on and on! You’ll see one house and the closest neighbor would be like 5 minutes away. It’s so outback, it seems unreal. But then again, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m having an overdose of greeneries and mountains and plain fields…But it really was as outback as one could possibly imagine. And although it was a fun tricycle ride, it’s quite scary, too! We were going up and down hills! Like, can this tricycle really do this? There are three of us, with luggage plus our driver, poor thing, I thought it would quit on us, lol! And another thing, it’s the first time I heard of it, every time we’re approaching a curve or steep climb, the driver would always honk a few times. They say it’s supposed to warn any vehicle approaching that someone is taking a sharp turn or climbing an uphill. But then again, maybe it’s not news to most of you, to me it is! I kind of find it weird at first, it’s like who are we honking at or what for? I thought it’s more of a ‘pasintabi’, it’s an old Filipino belief to ask permission or ‘pasintabi’ to spirits of some sort whenever you are in a remote place or new to the area. More like paying respects to the nature’s spirit so that it won’t harm you and protect you instead. It turns out it’s driving 101, again silly me.

For our first stop, we went to see the Trappist Monastery. As you would expect a religious place should be, the place is very serene. Like you won’t even dare make a sound fearing it might disturb the monks or nuns (not that we saw neither at the time). We were practically mumbling as if someone’s sleeping or something. You can easily get carried away with the quietness of the place like you know instantly that the place is for a spiritual retreat. I’m even questioning myself if it’s okay to even take photos!

This is the only Trappist Monastery in the country, it is run by monks that follow the rule of St. Benedict and are best known for the extreme austerity or strictness that characterizes their discipline. They say that everything the monks need they have to make themselves, they grow their food, they make their own bread, stuff like that. They earn a living by selling island souvenirs, fruit jams, candies, piyaya, and bread I think. Anyways, it’s all available in a little shop found on the monastery ground.

Right before dark fell on the island, as if it’s on cue, we eventually reach Villa Igang.  At that time, it wasn’t crowded yet, at least not until one more week in time for the Lenten Season.  There’s just us plus one group of local teenagers.  We bade our driver goodbye after paying him, he’s quite nice, I think people here are.  They seem like gentle people, shy but welcoming.  We were actually asking him if he could come back the following day to be our driver con tourist guide, but he seems to be having a hard time understanding Tagalog.  The next thing we know, he’s contacting one of his friends (which we’ve met at the port already) to do exactly that for us.  I think he’s concern about the language barrier, he’s really having a hard time speaking and understanding our Tagalog.

The next day, as early as 8am I think, comes May-may our ever cheerful dependable driver/tourist guide!  And although we’re still riding a tricycle as transportation in exploring the island, at least this time, his ride seems more sturdy than the one we rode the day before.

I’m not so sure now where we went to first.  As the trip from one point to another is a fun activity for me already.  I’m pretty sure we headed first to see the Guisi Light House.  It’s supposed to be the oldest lighthouse on the island, and the second oldest in the Philippines (the other one they say is in Cagayan).  The place is pretty amazing, as I’ve mentioned before, I love old stuff.  Ruins and the likes.  They say, this dated as back as the 18th century.  Now, that’s old-old.

The lighthouse itself is no longer working, well silly me of course, it’s not working anymore. They built another one in close proximity to serve the purpose for the mariners passing Guimaras. We didn’t get to climb the lighthouse since it’s not safe, as what the writings meant to say. Well, it’s quite obvious I think since it’s almost taken entirely by rust. I wonder what the locals are doing to preserve it.

We had fun just going around the ruins, enjoying the sceneries. It was pretty amazing actually, maybe because it really felt relaxing. Just standing there atop what looks like an old building foundation, facing the sea, enjoying the winds, joining my sister, and my cousin’s burst of laughter. May-may from afar I think is also laughing at our silliness!

There’s a winding trail down to the beach from the ruins.  It’s concrete so no sweat really!  Once you reach the beach, it’s pretty amazing! I love the beach facing such an amazing rock formation.  I think one of my sisters even commented on our photos saying it looks like dinosaur’s era, pretty prehistoric-looking, lol!

We then proceed to Balaan Bukid, that’s where the gigantic Cross is (the one you can see on top of the mountain as you approach the island on a ferry).  It was quite a terrain, I’m not sure how our tricycle could take such a beating.  Anyways, we did reach Balaan Bukid and started our hike at once.  The point is you’re supposed to hike from the very entrance, you need to be on foot as you go through each Station of the Cross (that’s why the place is so popular during Lenten Season).  And then as you reach the final station, you’ll find a church/chapel on top as well as the Cross.  We surely enjoy the scenery!  You can clearly see the whole of Iloilo City from there.

After that, we went to see SadSad Falls. And since, it’s not peak season, there are no people there except the four of us! Scary?! Now it seems like it, but at that time, it was so much fun! Like you can go crazy and all without a care in the world. Anyways, it was fun trekking down towards where the falls are. My cousin even slips and slides on the ground for a good distance, May-may of course, was quick to help her up. We were laughing our butts off! We’re even taunting her saying, now we know why it’s called Sadsad Falls, lol! ‘Sadsad’ in Tagalog means to slip or to fall and slide on the ground.

The trek is quite steep, and do not expect concrete or wooden steps, it’s all dirt and rocks and twigs!  But since we’re in for adventure we didn’t really care we just follow the leader! And did I mention, none of us knew that our tour would involve serious trekking?  My sister and my cousin were even wearing mini summer dresses, at least I’m wearing a pair of shorts!

Anyways, after a long way down, we did reach Sadsad Falls, or at least what’s supposed to be Sadsad Falls!  Drought is pretty bad during that year, that water from the falls is actually almost non-existent!  There’s still water flowing from I don’t know where, you’ll just see them creeping from one pile of rocks to another, but you can’t really see a big body of water flowing, like what you would expect when you say falls.  The pool of green water is still there though, May-may said that is where the falls supposed to ‘fall’ into.  Nevertheless, it’s still fun as it is my first experience to be in a deep foresty, woodsy, rocky place.  Like you could hear bugs, birds, and trickling water coming again from I don’t know where.

The climb back up is quite interesting because it’s harder than we thought it would be.  We’re on our way up, when my cousin’s bottle of water fell, so we listened as it fell and fell and fell and still falling?!?  Now we’re scared, we’re really way too high without much to hold on to just in case.  I kept reminding the two girls to be careful, now nobody’s laughing this time.  We’re just concentrating on our climb back up and by concentrating I meant constantly asking May-may how far are we or are we there yet?  We’re starting to feel the exhaustion, it was summertime, really hot and we’re not exactly in the best shape to do that, lol!  But, alas!  We’ve reached the top!  I thought my cousin is going to pass out.  I’m feeling the exhaustion myself!  Oh boy, that time I realized I better get back to my morning exercise routine again!  But in all fairness to us, we didn’t realize that it’s lunchtime already, so maybe we’re just hungry, as what Pinoys would put it ‘low bat na’, referring to one’s energy, draining already.

But then again, the point is we made it!  May-may is so proud of us.  So proud that he said he knows of this particular cave and he thinks since we were able to do this, then we could do that, too!  And again, since we’re all in the mood for adventure, we unanimously said yes!

Before that, we had our lunch first at Sa Payaw, it was a nice place, loved the food, too!  I remember having fish sinigang, sisig, grilled squid, and halo-halo!  The rest I can’t remember.  I’m hungry, so I just eat, not a care in the world!

Those bamboos make music (at least that’s what it sounds like when you’re in bliss) whenever winds blew, they just sway with it.  The first thing that came to my mind was Angklung.  It’s a nice touch, very unique I think.

So after taking a much-needed rest, we went to that cave May-may is saying a while ago.  I can’t remember what it’s called, apparently, there are a lot of caves in Guimaras.  This particular one, you needed to trek a while after passing a plain field, before a steep climb.  I think May-may seriously take as for a bunch of adventurers for him to even think of bringing us there!  The climb is really steep, it’s summertime so there are no small trees or grass or anything to hold on to!  Like seriously?!  Speaking for myself, I was torn between going all the way up or heading back down!  But then I thought to myself, what the heck!  Might as well just do it!

We managed to reach the cave!  What a cave!  Sadly we’re not able to explore around since we don’t even have a flashlight with us.  When May-may bought matchsticks before we head there, I didn’t realize until then what it’s for.  Apparently, we’re just going to use dried buco leaves he picked up on our way to the cave to light our way inside the cave!  I was thinking, May-may, seriously, you thought that’s going to be enough?  Well maybe it would have been, but we never get to find out ourselves because we told him we don’t want to get too far inside.  I mean, hello, seriously, what if we run out of buco leaves?  How are we supposed to see our way out? With matchsticks?!  Seriously?

Anyways, we did get to see that there’s an opening, a hole up the cave’s ceiling where the sun’s ray can get through.  It’s nice actually, it’s like nature’s very own spotlight.  But then again, we can only appreciate that half-heartedly since the entire time we’re inside the cave, were actually worrying how are we (or can we?) supposed to go down?

And so the inevitable descent!  We did manage to get down safely of course.  A few tricks and prayers did help a lot! Lol! With hearts pounding with excitement and fear at the same time, we did it again! We trek, we climb and we survive!

After that, I think we went to see another falls, I’m not sure now which site we went to first, the cave or the falls?!?  Anyways, as I’ve mentioned before, there are lots of falls in Guimaras, and again just like Sadsad Falls, this one doesn’t quite look like one.  It’s El Nino, so not much water either.

And then we headed back to Villa Igang, it’s late afternoon already.  By the time we reached Villa Igang, as if on cue again, darkness slowly embraces the island.

That pretty much concludes our first day in Guimaras, well technically it’s our second day already.  Anyways, more about our third day on my next post!

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