Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sweet Guimaras

Iloilo proved to be not just a mere drop off point to island destinations, but... Guimaras is another story. The best way to describe Guimaras for me is sweet -  I was enchanted by the remoteness and the simplicity of this small island province, the sweetness of the wind and waters that greeted me as I wake up everyday when I was there. I think I'm getting addicted with being whisked at a remote province, the simpler, the better.

The thing is, as most people thought, Guimaras is not all about the beach. The island has islets, coves, waterfalls, mangrove farms, mangoes, caves, mountains and cliffs. Two days is too short to explore all of them but I managed to get a taste. The island's very rich waters, marine life, and land formations can make you one with nature, one with your deepest emotions.

So on a Sunday morning in Iloilo, I took a cab from Iloilo pension house at 7 in the morning, and asked to be dropped off at Ortiz Port which was roughly about 20 minutes from where I was. I paid 50 pesos and walked to a rather rickety, small, port where I rode the cheapest ferry boat ride that I have ever rode. Yes the fare from Iloilo to Guimaras is a whopping thirteen pesos. Haha. So anyway, the person manning the rickety pseudo ticket booth (or more like a little counter or window pane) handed me a little slip of paper that says "Hollywood". A little later I discovered that this was to be the name of the ferry boat that I will board.

So anyway, the fare was cheap, because,  well...the Ortiz port is not exactly some fancy shmatzy port, it is very basic, very simple with houses built just inches from the water. It looks like Manila but doesn't smell like Manila as is most of Iloilo.

After riding that boat for about 15 minutes, I alighted and was attacked by tricycle operators. Good thing I came prepared and somewhat expected for the worst kind of peddling. The guy from the tourism office took a look at me and smiled ruefully with pity, haha. Because he knew that I was being attacked by these transpo peddlers. However I was firm, so I went to the little tourism booth, signed in, got a Guimaras map, asked the tourism guy which multicab (jeepney) to ride to get to the resort,  and shooed the peddlers as gentle and as firm as possible. Didn't realize it would really work. I just told them that I don't mind riding the jeep for 45 minutes and that I was saving my money. The last of the persistent peddlers just nodded his head, and even escorted me to the multicab of my preferred destination. This made me realize that hey, they are not as ruthless as what we think, they're just making a living. And if you try to be firm yet gentle, these transpo peddlers will understand where you are coming from.

So I rode the jeep with the locals. This part I really liked. A bibingka peddler offered her goodies...I wanted to buy one but she can't seem to understand me. (heck we did not understand each other obviously). When I asked how much, she said. "Pulo". Of course I didn't know that. So after the miming, a gracious co passenger translated and it meant ten pesos. Having rode the jeepney, I got a taste of what the local culture was like. And it felt as sweet and calm as the waters around the island.
I was dropped off at the Crossing Alubijod where I took a tricycle to the destination  where I was treated like royalty by the caretakers. I also met the owner, Dr. Lacson who is a marine environmentalist and scientist who is currently studying sea grass for a seminar in Phuket.
The Guimaras daily life, simple, unpretentious, unabashed. They are that way, and it seems that there was no hurry to progress or to change. In fact the province doesn't need to, because therein lies the charm.
After that, I immediately went on an island hopping trip which took me to white sand beaches and coves, turtle sanctuaries, shifting sandbar and Alubijod beach. The island hop is very cheap too starting with 400 pesos plus 150 pesos the following hour. It took me about 7 hours to explore the whole island, pointed to a particular beach and called it my own. 

The night wore on, and some fellas from Bacolod (Marine studies former students and professors) were drinking and asked me to join. It rained that night after the sunset so the time was spent drinking and laughing with new found strangers. Mind you this is the kind of drinking where the only ambient sounds were crickets and the gentle waves crashing on the sand under a star-less sky and lone moon. No annoying dance music, no videoke, no television. How sweet is spending the night unplugged and unjaded? Waking up the next day after roughly two hours of sleep felt like a dream, as I woke up to this dramatic sunrise.

Everything was sweet in here, not cloying, but a dreamlike sweetness as was my stay in Guimaras.

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